Today we begin a series on Elijah. Not much is known about where the prophet came from except he comes from the mountains east of the Jordan (modern day Jordan). He bursts onto the scene when he is sent by God to speak the Word of the Lord to the King of the northern tribes. READ 1 Kings 17:1.
Ahab is in a long line of evil Kings. He sends Elijah to confront the King. It seems a good time for God to put everything back in order. It seems our day is the same: wouldn’t it be awesome to have Jesus rise up so the whole world would see! We long for God to do something amazing, something miraculous to get the world’s attention.
I would like God to let me write the story starting with 1 Kings 17:2. I would say, “and God spoke to Ahab through Elijah that you have 24 hours to change your evil ways or I’m going to knock your block off.” And if God would only let me write the script for tomorrow I have a great idea for Aug. 15, 2016: “Lord, Do things I’m not used to doing and do it now, and make it spectacular, and amazing, so that the whole world will see and repent and find the peace of Christ.”
If I dare to pray the prayer, “Lord, Do things I’m not used to doing,” the first thing he’ll do is make sure I am prepared. I love the insight of A.W. Tozer: “It is doubtful that God can use any man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” God gave Elijah a season of preparation. Elijah came from the mountains, he gave one word of the Lord to Ahab, but then he whisked him off to a lonely brook with Ravens to prepare his heart.
Depth comes from spending time with God. My mother tells me when my father was in school they taught him the principle: “If you have ten years in ministry, spend five of it in preparation.”
Some time after today’s scripture, Elijah sees an amazing miracle; when it is over it says in 1 Kings 19:3: “Elijah was afraid”// He runs. God finds him and speaks to his fear by sending a great wind, then an earthquake, but Elijah does not hear. Then a gentle whisper from God, a still small voice. I believe Elijah learned to hear the quiet voice of God through his time by the brook. Preparation is important. When you pray “Lord, Do things I’m not used to doing,” that means you are willing for God to change/prepare you.
Maybe Elijah needed that time at the Brook to learn to be able to stand himself. Maybe you need preparation time to get over yourself. To learn what is important. To figure out priorities. To be able to hear God.
There are many lessons in this story: God will provide enough, always, but he may choose to provide you with a bus pass instead of a Cadillac. Enough is all God ever says, not luxury. God used Ravens to provide for Elijah. Noisy, ordinary ravens. If God decides to seclude me, I would much rather have majestic eagles bring food, or peaceful doves, or a fun loving otter. God sends ravens.
I read about ravens. (here's fascinating facts http://mentalfloss.com/article/53295/10-fascinating-facts-about-ravens.) The Bible says ravens fed Elijah, morning and night, bread and meat. In all likelihood it was the same Ravens each day. Did you know people keep Ravens as pets? They can develop a huge vocabulary. When God provides enough for you, look for the good. Perhaps Elijah’s ravens become companions like a dog or cat? But they are scavengers. If Elijah’s ravens stay true to their character, some of the food they brought was messy, hard to swallow (pun intended). It is also true Ravens are declared unclean by God (Lev. 11:15).
God chooses Ravens to feed Elijah, not an eagle. That is enough. When you open yourself up for God to use you, he may put you in uncomfortable places. He may stretch you. God is not a sugar daddy waiting to fulfill our desires, rather, we are called to be his servants, submitting to His will.
Maybe God will use the spectacular when you invite him to do that which you are not used to. In the weeks to come we’ll see he gave Elijah a front row seat for many miracles. Here’s a miracle from today: For 20 years Jerry S. has had muscles in his neck pull making his neck crooked. Jerry and Norma found a doctor in Tacoma they have visited every 3-4 months for injections in his neck to counteract the pulling. Last November they left to head to their home away from home in Arizona stopping in Tacoma for the usual injection. The doctor looked at Jerry and said, Mr. S., your neck muscles aren’t pulling, you don’t need an injection. Praise the Lord. Off they went to Arizona. Christmas eve last year Norma had her major stroke. You know the story. They are back here, living in Lynden Manor. Norma is doing well recovering from a recent seizure. It’s been about a year since Jerry’s last injection and still his neck muscles are fine. Last week Jerry reminded me what had happened, “Imagine what it would be like if I still needed injections… stress causes the muscles to pull….” In my book, that is a miracle, that is God’s perfect timing.
God may choose to send us eagles, but sometimes it is Ravens. An encouraging person to me is Jim J. A week ago Jim told me a most ordinary story of perfect timing for God to send the right person at the right time for the right purpose. That is surely God at work too and if our eyes are open to the moving of God among us, it is every bit as amazing. We take a step forward in our spiritual growth when our eyes can no longer tell the difference between a raven and an eagle, and we are equally amazed and thankful for all God provides, big and small.
Another Lesson: God’s timing is not the same as our timing. There is never a good time for a wilderness experience. Never a good time for sickness, or death, or any distraction. Yet God guides us through it all. In God’s perfect timing it was to Elijah’s advantage to hide himself. He just told the king there will be a drought in the land. But at that moment, they had water in their cisterns and food in their storage rooms. It would take a few months for the full force of the drought to take effect in the nation. Elijah needed to hide so God could do his work. God is the one that orchestrates our lives.
Right now we are watching two political presidential candidates beat each other up. I have made the personal decision to watch much less news the past 3-4 months because I get weary… but this know: God knows and God is in control. God’s timetable and mine are not the same.
Chad H. is coming in a week and a half. I would have chosen different timing for him to get here, and the fact that he is coming at the end of the Summer is a huge message to me from God in how to go forward. I would have had him earlier and made more detailed plans for the fall, try to get more things in place for youth…. But God is orchestrating this, and I have no choice but this Fall to be the introduction time…. It’s all God’s timing
Lesson: God’s power works even in our absence. It’s easy for us to get an inflated sense of our own importance. I can imagine Elijah saying, “Lord, you need me. Ahab needs me. The nation needs me. I’m a preacher of your Word. I’ve just barely gotten started. You let me say one sentence and then you make me go off to the brook. Lord, you need me there”.
Here’s an idea if you ever want to make God laugh ~~~~~~~ Tell him your plans. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, said that he learned to pray a simple prayer each morning: “Oh Lord, I give you the right to change my agenda anytime you want, and you don’t have to inform me in advance.” You grow in your spiritual life when we come to understand that God doesn’t need us to do anything. He will use us, or not use us, whenever, however he wants or doesn’t want!
When you ask God to do things with you that you aren’t used to doing, if that is secretly a request for him to use you in a central role of importance in some great work, he will not answer your request. God continued to work on Ahab, Jezebel and the nation without Elijah. God does not need me or you for his will to be done on earth. He was doing just fine as God before we showed up. His power works even in our absence. He said to Elijah, “You spoke for me. Now go and hide. The power is not in you; the power is in my Word.”
Lesson: Life in the Ravine with the Ravens is not wasted time. How many people look back at early years when life was a struggle as the best time of life. I remember the Crouse family in the 60s when we northeasters would bring heavy snow and drifting closing school two weeks every year. We played Monopoly, drank hot chocolate, a whole lot of nothing time, yet the best time. Life in the Ravine is not wasted time. 65 years or so ago a young man named Horace was transferred to the ends of the earth with his U.S. Customs job to a place named Sumas. His wife Mari said to him, “I can’t stay here.” Horace said, “you will.” And the wilderness of Sumas was transformed into an oasis where a full life of abundance and joy and family and friends was created.
Elijah found the depth of God at the brook. He learned to trust God for daily provisions, depend on God for his timing. You are more likely to sense God’s presence when life is simple. Elijah stayed at the brook until the water ran dry. Elijah was reminded of God every morning and every evening when the Ravens brought one more meal. The Ravines of life are never a waste ~ they are a growing time of faith as you figure out what is most important and as you draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Lord, Do things I’m not used to Doing.” It’s a great prayer. It is a scary prayer. It makes you vulnerable. God sent Elijah from the mountains of Jordan to the King of Israel, with a message that the land would have no rain, and then Elijah was directed to go and hide. Undoubtedly nothing like this had ever happened to Elijah. Pray the prayer in humility ~ God may break you because you are submitting to him and his will. It may be through an eagle or a raven, but God will provide enough. “Lord, do things I’m not used to doing.” Amen.