Carmel and Lebanon
H. Beattie, Bury St. Edmunds
Carmel means ‘the fruitful place’, and speaks of that spiritual condition envisaged in John 15. 1-8 and Galatians 5. 22-23, where fruitfulness is produced by the Spirit through the Son to the Father’s glory. Hosea 14. 8 reminds us of the wonderful source, ‘From me is thy fruit found’. This mountain was wrested by Joshua from one of the kings of Canaan and became part of the territory of Asher, Joshua 12. 22; 19. 26, the happy one, the man of the Beatitudes. This territory was beside the sea. All this suggests that spiritual abundance comes from conquest, leads to true joy, and opens up unlimited horizons.
Carmel, the place of fruitfulness, is often attacked by the enemy or abandoned by the people of God. The record of spiritual experience, whether in the Minor Prophets or in the letters to the seven churches, bears this out. Saul, impatient and acting in fleshly self-will, leaves the mountain, 1 Sam. 15. 12. Sennacherib, menacing Hezekiah, threatens the occupation of the forests there, the seizure of what had taken years and years to produce, 2 Kings 19. 23. Sometimes, as the result of disobedience, Carmel is visited in judgment resulting in barrenness, withering and languishing, Isa. 33. 9; Amos 1. 2. Those who take refuge in seeming fertility are driven away; all hope seems lost.
But there is also linked with this peak a message of restoration and a return from backsliding and fruitlessness. Blossoming, joy and singing, nourishment, loving ordering of life and service (see Isa. 35. 2; Jer. 50. 19; Micah 7. 14) renew that salutary nostalgia in all hearts for the true Carmel experience - ‘brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold’.
The delicate balance between activity and passivity in fruitbearing (see Col. 1. 9, 10) is seen during the reign of Uzziah. Depending exclusively on God, and being marvellously helped by Him, he sent husbandmen and vinedressers to the fruitful place, 2 Chron. 26. 10, so that it might produce in even greater and more orderly abundance.
Persevering prayer and moral courage are evidenced in Elijah’s wonderful experience on this mount. He challenges the forces of doctrinal error and the enemy is routed, 1 Kings 18.17-46. The cloud like a man’s hand is the precursor of the abundance of rain. Can fruit abound where there is not on the one hand a deep, burning zeal for the glory of God, and on the other a spirit of earnest, effectual, persevering prayer? Here is the secret of revival showers.
Elisha, the successor of Elijah, not only comes to Carmel after the departure of his master, but lives there, 2 Kings 4. 25, and brings from Carmel resurrection power into the scene of tragedy and death in the Shunammite’s home. Here is divine intervention through an abiding servant.
The renewed mind of the consecrated believer, Song of Sol. 7. 5, and the love that abounds more and more in knowledge and in all discernment, producing the fruits of righteousness, Phil. 1. 9-11, justify the lovely exclamation of the Bridegroom, ‘Thine head upon thee is like Carmel’.
Lebanon, meaning ‘very white’, brings to mind the strength of purity and holiness. Spiritual strength in sanctification, providing a dwelling place for God, forms the very framework of communion and worship, 2 Cor. 6. 14 to 7. 1; 1 John 1. 6, 7.
Moses, the representative of the law, gazed on this territory that he could not occupy, and realised that Joshua would lead the people there, Deut. 3. 25; 31. 2-8. Lebanon was captured by Joshua in the face of long, sustained opposition, Joshua 9. 1; 11. 17; 13. 5. It remained to be fully taken over by the people, Judges 3. 1-3, and the enemies entrenched there continually tested their spiritual vigour (compare Eph. 6. 10-18; 2 Cor. 10. 3-5).
The fruit of Lebanon, the goodly cedar, Ps. 104. 16, is full of sap and the righteous are compared to it, Ps. 92. 12. The sustaining power of right Christian living surges through roots firmly embedded in the ground of holiness. Moreover, the structure of the temples, 1 Kings 6. 16, both before and after the captivity, was assured by those same goodly cedars, even in the most holy place (see 1 Cor. 6. 19-26).
Some of the cities of store and abundance built by Solomon were found in Lebanon, 1 Kings 9. 19. Does this not remind us of the riches that the Lord has found in His sanctified ones, Eph. 1. 18?
In the house of the forest of Lebanon, all was of gold, 1 Kings 10. 16, 17, 21. The vessels, targets and shields were all of that precious metal that recalls the Lord’s deity, and they speak no doubt of the expression of His character in the holy living and warfare of His believing people. All the sustenance and strength for this comes from the Holy One, who is the mighty God, who also overcame.
The fragrant freshness of Lebanon is mentioned as a source of delight to the Bridegroom, Song of Sol. 4. 11. ‘The smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon’ reminds us of Revelation 19. 8, ‘for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints’. These garments are impregnated with the perfume of the sanctuary itself.
‘Streams from Lebanon’ and ‘the snow of Lebanon’, Song of Sol 4. 15; Jer. 18. 14, speak of refreshment - the pure upsurging joy of sanctification. ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning; thou hast the dew of thy youth’, Ps. no. 3.
Thus Carmel, the fruitful place and Lebanon, the very white, continue to inspire us, calling us from the arid famine of the materialistic cities of the plain with all their grey mediocrity to the pure, clear air of the walk with God. ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth’, Ps. 121. 1, 2.