Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 18; Psalm 4, 65, 68
By the time we get to 1 Kings 18, Israel has experienced three years of drought. The drought has now caused famine – as was the situation with the widow God used to provide for Elijah (yesterday’s morning coffee). The people of Israel were running out of food and at a point where they were ready for some relief from someone. This was part of their problem. They were not just looking for relief from God. They were looking to other sources than the God who provides.
Looking to other sources than the God who provides – that sounds like something we are guilty of at times. Perhaps we can benefit from what happened on Mount Carmel:
So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent (1 Kings 18:20-21).
Just as we sometimes are, the people of Israel were pulled between the things of this world and the One True God. Right before their eyes, a battle ensued between the false prophets of Baal and the prophet Elijah. Each side had everything they needed to prepare a sacrifice – everything but the fire they were to ask their god to provide. As the prophets of Baal tried hard to produce something from a false god unable to give them what they needed, Elijah mocked them with humor:
“You’ll have to shout louder for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be awakened!” – (1 Kings 18:27)
I think it is time for us to be awakened! There is a battle ensuing before our eyes – a battle between serving a world that daily lies to us, saying it has everything we need to find true happiness, vs. serving the God who is able to provide everything we need. We need to see the ridiculous humor of trusting in the world for what we need. We need to see God respond in a powerful way as the people of Israel did, and then we need to respond as they did.
Now, as you read this, remember they were at the end of three years of drought. Water was in short supply and used sparingly, yet Elijah asked for water to be poured over his offering and the wood. They used so much water that it ran around the altar and even filled the trench. Then Elijah called upon the God who had provided for him over and over again. Elijah prayed with confidence that his God would provide again (1 Kings 18:30-37).
Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord – he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!” – (1 Kings 18:38-39)
Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer…
You can be sure of this:
The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
The Lord will answer when I call to him…
Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord. – Psalm 4:1,3,5
God, I lay my life before you as a sacrifice. My Lord, who provides, please send fire down from heaven to burn up my sacrifice along with the wood (the things of this world I use to try and start my own fire), the stones (the heavy burdens), and the dust in my life (the corners of my life that need cleansed). All of the “water” or things of this world that I have depended on for sustenance lick up and leave me with only the living water that comes from you. Rain down on me. Show me even a small cloud in my life today as evidence that you are about to end the drought. Amen.
Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!”
So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees.
Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”
The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”
Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”
Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!”
And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. Then the Lord gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:41-46).
…When you marched through the dry wasteland, the earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain before you, the God of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.
You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land.
There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest,
O God, you provided for your needy people. – Psalm 68:7b-10
I pray you see the small cloud today – the evidence that the drought is over and God is pleased with your sacrifice. May you know God to be the God who provides generously and may that knowledge cause you to shout and sing for joy!
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our Savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.
You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy! – Psalm 65:5-13