Suggested Reading: 1 Kings 17
The life of a prophet had to have been incredibly difficult. Imagine waking up every day, discovering what God wanted you to go and do and then just going to do it. Think about that in terms of modern society. There’s no advance planning, no Google searching, no checking the schedule – just get up and go. And if that’s not bad enough, consider the exotic destinations God chose. Prophets weren’t sent to many tropical resorts or vacation hotspots. It seems to me that a big part of being a prophet was walking the fine line between devotion and delusion.
Consider the ministry of Elijah. In many ways, he is the poster child of what I’m describing. Imagine if he’d shown up at your elementary school’s career day…
Teacher: “Class, allow me to introduce Elijah. He is a prophet of God. Tell the boys and girls what you do Mr. Jah.”
Elijah: “Uh, ok. Good morning boys and girls. I am a prophet of God. Since taking up this occupation I have experienced many interesting things. I’ve had several run-ins with the king and queen whose wicked actions have led to God telling me to challenge them. One time, I informed them of a severe drought God was bringing to the nation. That made them angry, but not as much as the time I challenged their idol-worship by exposing their god as a sham; that got a bounty placed on my life. And did I mention the time I survived an earthquake, a massive fire, and hurricane force winds while I was hiding in a cave waiting for God to tell me how my life would be spared? Any questions?”
Yeah – Betcha he didn’t have too many of his brochures fly off the table. In fairness, being a prophet is not something that just anyone can go and do. It requires a special calling from God. But while most of us will never have Prophet listed on our business cards, we can still learn a great deal from Elijah when it comes to living out our faith at maximized levels every day of our lives.
So what was it that set Elijah apart? Obedience.
1 Kings 17:1-4 prefaces the story of how God was going to bring drought to the land and Elijah is getting the instructions of what God wants him to do. Verse five tells us Elijah’s response: “So he went and did according to the word of the Lord.” Pretty simple, isn’t it? And the results? God delivered upon His promise to Elijah. While the people suffered through the drought, his needs were met by ravens that brought him food and a spring of fresh water. Praise God for He is good!
Until the spring dried up.
Seriously? What is this? Why would God go and do something so cruel; providing and then taking it away? I can see how Elijah would be frustrated by this – after all, He did exactly what he was told to do and God’s plan turned into an epic failure. We feel that way sometimes. As believers, we try to walk where God has called us. We hear His plan. We feel that gentle yet unmistakable tug at our hearts that tells us it’s time to set out on the journey, trusting Him to make a way for us. Then the spring dries up. The provision we had relied upon is gone and we are left wondering what to do next. So what do we do when God takes it away?
Allow me to apologize because that was a bit of a trick question because the answer never changed. We go back to God. “But wait,” you say, “if God gave the stream, only for it to dry up? How can you count on Him again? After all, God’s plan failed?” Well, the simple answer is to realize that God’s plan didn’t fail – the stream did. God never promised that the stream would provide water indefinitely. It too fell victim to the drought. But when we remember that all things on earth and in nature fall under the power of God, we can maintain a clearer perspective. We also learn from Elijah’s response. Did he panic? No. He listened for a Word from God, which he received – telling him to go to the well and wait for a widow whom God had commanded to supply him with food.
Of course, she was also obedient to the calling of the Lord by being at the well and providing what little food she had left to Elijah, instead of keeping it for her and her son to eat. Again, it doesn’t make sense to give away your last meal to a total stranger, but God promised her abundance for her obedience. The flour and oil used to make the bread never ran out for the duration of the famine in the land. Once again, God had presented a supernatural solution.
But take note of the method God used. The Bible says that the flour was never used up and the oil never ran dry. What it doesn’t say is that her pantry was stocked with cases of flour or gallons of oil. She never had an excess, but she never ran out either. Her abundance came in small doses of blessings that did not end. I think we hear the word “abundance” and we mistake it for surplus. While we may never have more money than we can manage or more stuff than we have places to put it, we must remember that the abundance of God can and will be found even in the smallest morsels of the daily bread we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. So like Elijah with the stream, the widow could offer thanks to God for His great gift!
Until her only son fell ill and died.
If Elijah got frustrated, imagine how she must have felt. She did what God instructed so God spared her and her son, only to take him anyway. But once again, in this moment of tragedy and grief, the response was the same: Go back to God. Elijah prayed for the restoration of the boy’s life and God brought the boy back from the dead. Again, God’s mighty hand shows true to those who demonstrate their faith in obedience in Him.
Give thanks to our great and powerful God for meeting our every need even before we know the need exists. May we always seek Him with the expectation that He puts us where we need to be, gives us what we need to have, and blesses us with abundance beyond our comprehension.