Experiencing God’s Provision
Text: 1 Kings 17
Introduction: “We Sent Two Boats and a Helicopter.”
Here's a great story about God’s provision. During a terrible flood, volunteers risked their lives to rescue victims stranded in the deluge. One old Pentecostal preacher was up to his knees in the fast-rising waters when a rowboat came by. "Hop in, we'll save you!"
"No thanks, the Lord will take care of me."
A short while later, the water had risen to the roof and the man had climbed there for safety. A motorboat was sent to save him. Again, he declined: "No thanks, I have faith. The Lord will save me."
Soon the water was up to his chin, a helicopter was dispatched at the last minute. "Climb aboard, this is your last chance!"
"Thanks anyway, but I have faith. I don't need you; the Lord will save me."
Before the helicopter returned home, the old man drowned and went to heaven. He was bewildered and mad, banging on the Pearly Gates. He bitterly complained to St. Peter, "I never doubted, I had faith why wasn’t I saved?"
Peter looked at him and said, “I’m not sure. Let me check our records.”
After looking at the books Peter shakes his head and says, "Now wait just a minute! We sent two boats and a helicopter!”
Elijah and the Ravens 1 Kings 17:1-7
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
First Principle of Provision: Obedience
The first priniciple we see in experiencing the provision of God in the example of Elijah, is simply that Elijah obeyed God.
At the risk of his life he obey God and prophesied that there would be a seven year famine before Ahab, the King of Israel who along with his wife Jezebel had turned the northern tribes into a pagan nation. A nation that practiced the most vile and inhuman practices of worship, including the sexual immorality and the slaughter of innocent babies.
After Elijah obeyed God, we are not told how but Elijah escaped from Ahab and fleeing to the wilderness brook he dwelt by the brook Cherith. In his obedience to the word of God he had to leave his home, his family and his friends.
He obeyed and believed God who told him, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. He waited upon God, drank from the brook and ate what the raven brought him.
Ravens of course were an unclean bird, an animal that was a scavenger, an eater of dead flesh and yet God chose them to care for his faithful servant. God provided for the needs of Elijah in ways and means that were beyond Elijah’s understanding but not beyond his faith.
Provision begins with Obedience
If we are to experience the provision of God, we must begin just as Elijah began, with faith expressed through our obedience. God will not bless our lives, he will not begin to supernaturally provide for us until we determine to be obedient to His word and will.
We need to quit ignoring, pretending and excusing why we can’t obey the simple and direct application of the Bible to our everyday experiences and begin acting, working and exercising our obedience to God.
Do you remember what Samuel the prophet told Saul, after the king had disobeyed God? 1Samuel 15:22-23 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
We are not kings but when we reject the word of the LORD we also reject His blessing of provision.
Illustration: The Man With the Suicidal Daughter
I once visited in the home of a man whose daughter had just attempted suicide, she still wore the bandage on her wrists. He called me to give him answers as to why this had happened. He wondered aloud while his daughter sat in the back room why she would do such a thing. "We sent her to Sunday School." he exclaimed. "Where was God in all this?" He seemed to blame the girl, God and even the church but he never thought he was a fault. I sat there thinking about this man, that I barely knew, but I knew this much, he had left the church over an offense with the former pastor. He had spent many more hours in a bar than in the Lord’s house. He had also been caught cheating on his wife.
I didn’t say it out loud for it was not the time or place, but I couldn’t help but think. “How can you ask me where God is? He is everywhere He is welcome but will not bless those who disobey and dishonor Him.” God’s provision in my life both of the simple things and the great things begins with obedience to His word and that blessing is lost in disobedience.
God now begins to move Elijah from simple obedience to greater faith. He is working in Elijah’s life moving him into greater areas of faith. How does he do this? Does he send fire from heaven? Does he take Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot? No, these provisions are still to come. What does God do to make Elijah stronger in his faith? He dries up the creek. No miracle, in fact it is the stopping of the miracle, no more ravens no more water, and it is when the miracle ceases that faith begins to grow.
Quote: Watchman Nee, “Because of our proneness to look at the bucket and forget the fountain, God has frequently to change His means of supply to keep our eyes fixed on the source.”
Elijah and the Widow 1 Kings 17:8-16
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
Second Principle of Provision: Priority
God sends Elijah to Zarephath to the home of a starving widow and her son.
Once again notice God says “I have commanded a widow.” First God commanded the ravens and now it is a widow. First it was an unclean birds and now it will be an unclean Gentile family from the Phoenician city of Sidon. Once again Elijah obeys God and goes to the widow.
What a poignant scene takes place. Elijah finds the widow gathering sticks to make a fire to prepare a last meal for herself and her son. There is only enough meal and oil for herself and her son. Yet God has sent Elijah here, to this poor nearly starving widow.
Once again we see the obedience and faith of Elijah, who knows that God would not send him to this woman just to take her last meal.
So he audaciously asks her to serve him first. He tells the woman, “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.”
How did he come to that decision? Had God spoken? Had he received greater detail than we are told in scripture? I don’t think so. Elijah did what you and I have to do everyday when faced with difficult even impossible decisions. Elijah through faith was placing God’s will, God’s man and God’s plan before this woman’s will, her family and her plan. He was making a hard decision in the midst of an impossible situation based upon the priorities of faith.
Because he put God’s will first, God blessed Elijah’s faith and the widow’s obedience and the meal and oil never failed. Together they experienced the provision of God.
Beyond Simple Obedience
I believe that God wants our faith to grow, because as we grow in faith, we grow in our relationship to Him. We must grow to a place where our faith involves more than just a simple action and consequence. Our faith must grow enough to accept setbacks and overcome obstacles and it must grow to also include others as it did with Elijah the widow and her son. Our faith must grow enough to understand that God expects us to have priorities in our faith.
These are acts of faith and obedience that require us to order our actions and our commitments according to the will of God. It is not simply a yes or no but a way of ordering our way of living in light of God’s revealed will.
Scripture: Matthew 6:25-33 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
In order to grow in our faith and in our relationship with God we must live our life according to the priorities of God's will, putting Him and His kingdom first in all our decision and commitments, then we will experience more His provision.
Illustration: Jesus and the greatest command of all - Mark 12:28-30
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Jesus said, this is the first commandant, first in importance to our faith and our experience with God transcending the everyday elements of our life and showing Himself to us through His providence.
Now if we had been fed by ravens and saw the miracle of a never ending food supply, I think we would be happy to call it a day and tell the Lord, “This is wonderful, thank you so much. I’m now ready to live my life in the new found faith You have shown me.” Elijah probably would have felt like that too, but God isn’t finished growing Elijah’s faith.
So lets go on to Elijah and the Son and the third principle of Provision.
Elijah and the Son 1 Kings 17:17-24
And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.
Third Principle of Provision: Prayer
Now Elijah is confronted with the greatest test of his faith.
The family that has opened their home to him, this family that has trusted him and trusted God, this family that has obeyed and even sacrificed for the cause of God is now stricken by the touch of death and sorrow.
Also notice that he is not told anything by God. No voice of comfort tells him what was going to happen, what is happening or what will happen. Now in the midst of this silence from God, Elijah must trust in God’s provision more than he ever has.
What does he do when confronted with the harsh reality of sin and suffering? What does he do when he doesn’t know why this death has taken place? What does he do when all he is sure of is the pain and sorrow, in the life of this mother who has cared for him and the pain and sorrow in his own heart? What does he do when those he cares for are suddenly in the darkness of despair?
What he does couldn’t have been done before he experienced the provision of God at the brook. What he does next, he wouldn’t have had the faith to do unless he had seen God at work in the home of a starving widow.
What he does… what he does…is pray. Oh but not just any pray. It is a prayer like he has never prayed before. It is prayer filled with hope and faith and also doubt and despair. He prays to God with a heart shrouded in fear but with a soul filled with faith.
He takes the breathless body of this child to a place where he can be alone with God. He covers the lifeless body with his own body and three times he cries out, “O Lord, my God. I pray thee let this child’s soul come into him again!” Put an exclamation point on that prayer. He is crying out, the Bible says. His heart is tearing and he dares not quit or let the little body grow cold, by everything in Elijah’s body and spirit he reaches out to God. And God hears the voice of Elijah.
The Power of Prayer
Have you ever prayed with your whole being, your body, soul and spirit, as we read Elijah did that day? Most of us haven’t. And do you know why? Because our faith hasn’t grow to the place where we can.
You see, we haven’t obeyed God in the simple things. The yes and no, the right and wrong of God’s commands. Nor have we ordered our lives according to His revealed priorities and therefore we don’t really have the faith required to pray with our whole being.
To experience the greatest blessings of God, to understand the deepest depths of his provision for us we must come to a prayer that encompasses all of us, body, soul and spirit just as it did Elijah.
Scripture: Psalms 109:21-27
But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads. Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
I am beginning to think that this is what fasting and prayer is about. Not just a self-righteous attempt to draw attention to my piety but the true response of faith that incorporates all of me. So much so that my body and my soul is given over to the overpowering need of prayer and I have no time for food or anything else because my greatest need is prayer.
Illustration: David’s Prayer in the Wilderness
When David had fled from Saul and was hiding in the deserts of Judah, running from one place of isolation and loneliness to another. He wrote Psalms 63, a prayer that reveals his dependence upon God’s presence and His provision.
Psalms 63:1-2, 7-8 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
Our theme for the month is Experiencing God
To most of us that probably brings up ideas of just coming to church, singing a few hymns or listening another sermon, but it means so much more as we’ve seen from the experiences of Elijah this morning.
Are you truly willing to experience God?
It begins with obedience, simply doing that which He has commanded us to do.
But even greater blessings await us as we begin to give not just simple acts of single obedience but our entire lives to God, living those lives according to His priorities and will.
Finally, through those lives of faith we will be brought to a place where we can see the hand of God blessing us in ways we never thought possible. Blessing and provision unleashed through prayer that has been tempered and intensified even by sorrow and fear. A prayer that is prayed with all of who we are and in that intensity it releases the overwhelming power of a greater faith. A faith grown by experiencing God’s unfailing provision in every step of our lives.