Thursday, July 12, 2007


The last several weeks I've been thinking about Elijah. He was in my Sunday school class. And he visited my mom's 4 and 5 year old class, too. As I studied for my lesson, I was caught by how the message at the end of 1 Kings 19 is the same as the beginning. In the beginning (verses 6-8), God provided food for him in a miraculous way, taking care of the physical needs Elijah was ignoring. God didn't just give instructions for the mighty deeds. He provided a cake and water. The Lord is my shepherd. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Give us this day our daily bread. Simple things.

The climax of the passage is when God reveals Himself to Elijah. The story is famous. I don't know why preachers and Sunday school teachers are so fascinated with the still small voice. (Ok, when I was a child in Sunday school maybe the teachers just wanted us to be quiet, so they told us God talks in a quiet voice?) No one ever pointed out that the still small voice goes right along with the simple meal. God isn't just to be found in earthquakes or tornados, or in miraculous mountaintop experiences (1 Kings 18). God is part of our lives. He is interested, Lord over, everything. He is God of the small things. And He gives good gifts.

Finally, after God has revealed Himself (which however quiet, is never insignificant), He goes on to give Elijah some simple, everyday (for Elijah) instructions. Anoint this guy. Anoint such and such as king. Pick a replacement prophet. Little things. No more massive confrontations. No more raising children from the dead. God's will was accomplished just as much through the little things as through the big.

Which reminds me - side note here - of Esther. I'm reading Esther right now for my devotions, and looking for how God was at work even though He isn't mentioned. Do you see all that happens that brings about God's plan? Especially vivid in application to me is that Esther found favor wherever she went. She submitted to Mordechai. She followed advice. She was good. And the culmination of all her little acts of obedience and kindness and wisdom is that she was queen, in a position to be used of God to deliver Israel. Or was that just another little obedience like all the others she had trained herself to do?

Back to Elijah. Mom was saying that her class has studied two times when Elijah was fed by God. When first the drought was declared against Ahab and his country, Elijah was fed by ravens and watered by a mountain brook. Then when the stream inevitably dried up (though think of this, God was bringing him food by ravens; what was to keep God from providing water to fill the stream?), God sent Elijah to a widow with a son. She had a handful of flour and some oil. In rational wisdom, this was all she had, she had no hope of more, and so she would die with her starving child. God maintained a continuous supply of flour and oil, however, to feed not only the woman and her boy for many days, but also Elijah as their guest. Finally, God provided for Elijah again at the end of the drought, in the story I recounted above (chapter 19).

God called Elijah to ministry. Elijah didn't have to worry about his meals. Even in the bleakest circumstances (when almost no one had food or water), God was able to provide. So Elijah could go wherever he was sent, keep going on the faith journeys (in other words blind journeys, not knowing where or why) without stopping to earn a living as a farmer or tentmaker.

So if God asks me or you to do something, if He calls us to unconventional lives and choices, we can trust Him. We don't have to worry even about sensible concerns. When Jesus said all that about sparrows and the lilies of the field, and God giving us what we need just like a father who gives his son bread... when Jesus said those things, He wasn't just expressing sweet metaphorical sentiment. He knew. His audience should have known. If we really believe that Elijah lived, that God sent Him, that God took care of Him, that his God is our God, that God sends us... Why can't we take the final step and believe God will take care of us as well?

I'm not saying we should sit at home praying and wait for the milk truck to break down outside our door (like George Mueller's famous orphan story) - wouldn't work, hardly any milk trucks now days. At least one of the times God provided for Elijah, the prophet had to go somewhere, do something, talk to someone. God told him how to get food. So God may tell you to get a job here or there. He may guide you to the best supermarket deal. Or it might be extreme, like calling you to move. He might send you to an orphanage in Haiti or the underground church in China, and He can provide for you there, too.

Here's one final thing. Elijah in 1 Kings 19 was so self-focused that he wanted God to just let him die. The reverse can be true. God doesn't promise any of His followers easy or immortal life. Many have suffered for their faith. There have been martyrs throughout history. And other Christians have just endured hardship like drought or political instability. God doesn't promise to always provide. Christians can starve to death. But what a God-centered Elijah would have recognized is that God has the right to provide for us. He will do what is best for us. He can be trusted. And He ought to be worshiped because of that. ...our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us... but if not, be it known... that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image... Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

To God be all glory.

PS: About ten years ago Charles Swindoll was writing a series of biographies of Bible characters, and the last one was about Elijah. I read a few, but not that one. Did anyone read it?

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