God Cares For Us

Sermon 1714 1 Kings 17 September 27, 2020

These are the days of miracles and wonders. This is the Sunday School you remember--the way the believers are persecuted and followed; the way they looked to the Lord.

God cared for all his Old Testament believers. We would expect that. We depend on that, because we rely on God to care for all his New Testament believers as well. But you don’t put courage into the hearts of your troops by telling them stories of the mundane and ordinary. You don’t encourage your believers by telling them how Mr. Aufdemaugen prayed for a one-time bonus, and the Lord gave him a sizable pay raise instead! No, you tell them about impossible situations that the Lord got his people out of. You tell them of incredible odds the Lord’s people beat. You tell them stories of the prophet Elijah.

God Cares for Us

  1. Believe in God (17.1-6).

  2. Believe in his Word (7-16).

  3. No matter what (17-24).

About 825 years before Jesus was born things were going very badly for many of God’s Old Testament people. There had been a civil war. The north (Israel) had broken away from the south (Judah) and formed its own nation. Let’s just say Israel’s kings were not very good. They fired all God’s priests and invented false gods for the people to worship. Then things got real bad. Ahab became king and Jezebel was queen. Jezebel was so wicked no one today would ever name their little girl after her. And only villains or madmen are named after Ahab. Ahab made sure everybody worshipped Jezebel’s false and filthy gods and goddesses. The true God, our God, didn’t give up on his fallen people. He sent his prophet, Elijah, to the new king.

“As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word (1).” Sure enough, no rain or dew. It was like the water department turned off your water because you hadn’t paid your bill.

This did not go over well with godless and murderous Ahab. Elijah had to hide. God led him to a desert wash on the eastern border, across the Jordan River. No one would find him there. But what to eat and drink during the famine?

“The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook (6).” The cantankerous ravens were so generous because the Lord had promised Elijah, “I have ordered the ravens to feed you there (4).”

It is apparent Ahab is not a believer. No believer would act as he did. He used his power as king to lead his nation even further away from the Lord than it had been. His unbelief showed by God’s judgment upon him, almost from the start of his reign. God knew the heart and the heart of Ahab was bottomless unbelief.

If you just turn down the volume on Ahab’s unbelief, it might be startling what we’d see. Here was a man who put his family first. His wife wanted to worship her gods, so Ahab gave in to preserve family unity. Here was a man who didn’t want to cause problems. Israel had a tradition of not worshipping the one, true God. Ahab thought it best to follow that national tradition. A traditional, family man. That’s Ahab! But when we put family ahead of God, that’s sin. That’s unbelief talking. “Sunday is the only day he/she has off, so it’s sort of hard to spend a morning in church.” “The family has always been (name a denomination), so I just feel in times like this I need to get back to my roots,” says a member of church on their way out to join a church that teaches some questionable doctrines. Jesus told his followers, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Ahab was not worthy of Jesus. Neither is that part of us which finds a nice, comfortable Sunday morning at home easier than the hassle of getting kids ready to go to church alone.

I could point to Jesus as an example of someone who always put God first, but we’ve got someone in our text I could point to—Elijah! Here’s a man who lives on the kindness of strangers. He preaches the Word of God. Freely he has received, freely he gives. In a country rapidly falling away from its faith in the Lord, he doesn’t have a lot of people pushing his cause. Antagonizing a new king is not the best way to ensure a steady paycheck. But he has been given his orders. The Lord comes first, even if it means death threats, an empty stomach and living in an undisclosed location. While some find it hard to follow Jesus even when it costs them nothing, Elijah followed Jesus when it cost him everything. Be an Elijah, not an Ahab.

The drought continues. The brook dries up. The Lord commands Elijah to leave the country and go to the region of Sidon (modern day Lebanon). He comes across a widow gathering firewood. He asks her for a drink of water, and as she is turning to get it, he says, “and bring me, please, a piece of bread (11).” It sets her off.

“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread-only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die (12).’”

Believe in the Lord’s Word. That’s the way to overcome a hopeless situation. “‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land (13-14).”’”

And she does. And the Lord does. She believes in the Word of the Lord spoken by a stranger, this prophet, Elijah. God cares for his believers.

Some of our members have not worked since March. Some are ready to move out of town because their businesses have no business without the casinos and airlines. Early retirement is a stretch when you are in your early 50s. With a collapsing tax base, even stable government jobs may not be safe. What is left?

Believe in the Word of the Lord. “Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear, for the pagans worry about all these things. Look at the flowers of the field. Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap, they neither spin nor weave, yet Solomon never wore finer clothing than the flowers of the field and not one bird drops from the sky without my Father’s knowledge,” Jesus says. “Will he not take care of you? Do not worry. You are worth more than many sparrows.” The Lord knows. The Lord cares. The Lord has spoken. Believe in his Word.

Believe in his Word. Hasn’t he shown himself to be trustworthy? He promised to bring a Savior into the world. He promised to do it through a Virgin Birth. He promised the Savior would be true God and true Man, Immanuel. He promised that he would rise from the dead. He promised he would ascend into heaven. None of these are run of the mill promises. Every one of them is impossible beyond the ability of the most starry-eyed to even imagine. Yet the Lord brought all his good promises to fulfillment in the life of his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Just as he said.

We are a cautious bunch. We like to see the details before we sign up. My wife always told my son never to be the first one to jump off a cliff into a pool of water. Cruel, but it proves my point. Look before you leap. Trouble is, we’d like to know more about the leap the Lord is asking us to make. How will he take care of us? If only he would tell me to put the house up for sale and downsize without a mortgage. Should I take early retirement? How long will this COVID-19 last? Will it be safe to have the kids drive down for Thanksgiving? When it comes to other people, these concerns are well-founded. People are fallible. People are limited. Sometimes they can’t deliver what they promise. But our Lord has none of those limitations. He is the Truth. He is almighty. He acts and no one can stop him. When it comes to the Lord, those concerns almost turn into excuses as to why we can’t take the Lord at his Word. We are like Moses at the burning bush, coming up with all sorts of reasons he couldn’t go and deliver the Children of Israel from slavery.

God cares for us. Believe in God. Believe in his Word. No matter what.

If this were a Disney movie, the story would have a happy ending. The widow gives Elijah some bread and water. Her flour jar never goes empty. The oil jug never runs out. They are saved from the severe famine gripping the whole land. The End.

But the Lord knows life isn’t always like that. Many times life is one disaster after another. Pandemic, hurricanes, fires, riots, financial stress, all that on top of private setbacks and difficulties.

Oh, the flour jar never does go empty. The oil jug never does run out. But the lady’s son dies. Her guilt kicks in. “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son (18)?” We often react that way to personal calamity--God is getting even with me. In sixth grade I had myocarditis, the same thing one-third of college football players have contracted from COVID-19 infections. I was hospitalized for nine weeks. When my pastor first visited me he asked me if I knew why I was there. I did. “God is punishing me.”

How to show this faithful woman God was not punishing her? “‘Give me your son,’ Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him (19, 21)!’”

The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer. The boy came back to life. Look what the mother said. “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth (24).” Didn’t she know that before? Hadn’t the word of the Lord from Elijah’s mouth kept her and her son alive for these many months? But now she knows.

There is a difference between knowing and knowing, though you wouldn’t know it from the English language. Other languages are a little more discriminating. They have a word for knowing something in the abstract. I know giraffes are tall. They have an entirely different word for knowing something by experience. Giraffes are tall—look at the arm I broke when I fell off the giraffe I tried to ride. A first time expectant mother knows childbirth is going to hurt. A mother knows the word hurt doesn’t even come close to expressing the pain she felt.

“Now I know,” the woman said. She had the awesome proof that God cared for her no matter what.

It is one thing to believe in a good and loving God who is always watching out for us when times are good. We even have that sentiment in the Bible. “Give me neither poverty, that I may steal and so dishonor the name of my God, nor riches, that I may disown you (Proverbs 30.8-9).” But in days like ours, we are looking at lack, a great deal of lack. There is uncertainty about our health, about our financial well-being, about, well, I can go on and on and on, but my list is the same as yours. How do we know we believe in the Lord because he is the Lord and not because he often richly rewards his people on earth with a happy life (as he promises in the Fourth Commandment, “that it may go well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth”)?

Now I know.

God Cares for Us

  1. Believe in God (17.1-6).

  2. Believe in his Word (7-16).

  3. No matter what (17-24).

We are not in a world where getting a table at that new restaurant matters all that much. Gone are the days we spend the week arguing about which show to see come Saturday night. These are the days of impossible odds and unprecedented threats. Now we know. After it is all over, we will know even more. God cares for us.

These are the days of miracles and wonders. This is the Sunday School you remember--the way the believers are persecuted and followed; the way they looked to the Lord.

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