From the time He called Abraham to begin a new relationship with people, God has established Himself as our ultimate Provider. From our daily bread to our jobs to our eternal salvation, gifted to us through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we lean upon the Lord and His promises to provide for all of our needs. We look to Him for the wisdom and guidance we need along the way, and seek to obey His will in response to His goodness. As Abraham himself discovered, recorded in the book of Genesis:
14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:14 (NKJV)
Many centuries later, near the end of Moses’ life, he reminded the people that they were still dependent upon the daily blessings God had promised to Abraham and to his descendants:
2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
6 “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. Deuteronomy 28:2-6 (NKJV)
Today, Christ-followers are also eligible to receive these promised blessings of Abraham for food and security:
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13 (NKJV)
So, what does God ask of us in return for these ongoing blessings that He provides? He wants us to have faith in Him as the One True God, and in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to worship no other gods, and to seek Him and obey Him in our daily lives.
God does not expect perfection from us – only Christ, God Himself, was able to walk the earth without sin. But He does expect us to recognize our sin, to do our best to turn away from it, and to follow Him as closely as possible as we seek to learn and follow His will for us.
Under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was not doing any of these things. So God sent them a severe warning through the prophet Elijah – His blessing would not continue if they continued to walk away from Him to worship and serve other gods. To make matters worse, the unbelievers there were misleading and corrupting many of the remaining God-followers in the nation.
The Lord’s first warning shot to them was to take away the “basket and the kneading bowl”. A severe drought would fall upon the land lasting three and half years, drastically cutting into their food and water supply. Call as they might upon Baal and their other false gods they worshiped, this judgment would not be withdrawn until God chose to remove it, and that turned out to be three and a half years later.
Rather than inflict this severe consequence all on His own, God chose to use a human being to help implement it. He called on the prophet Elijah, a man of deep faith and prayer, and instructed him to earnestly pray for the drought to happen. Elijah complied, and God heard his prayer. A severe drought and a resulting famine fell upon the whole land, bringing great hardship.
Word of Elijah’s role in the matter reached the king’s palace. As a result, Elijah became a public enemy in the eyes of Ahab and Jezebel, and as Jezebel had already killed many of the Lord’s prophets for much lesser reasons, the Lord instructed Elijah to flee to a remote brook. Under God’s provision, ravens would bring him bread and meat to eat each morning and evening.
Elijah rested there and watched as the water level in the brook continued to drop, and the seriousness of the drought began to further grip the land. Yet, even with this hard judgment, the people did not turn back to the Lord, but continued to follow after Baal, who they regarded as their key provider for bountiful harvests and security.
Baal was unable to free them from God’s judgment and the water level in the brook continued to drop as the the severity of the drought intensified. The daily bread provided by these idols and false gods was non-existent.
Times of trouble come into all of our lives. Mostly, bad things happen simply as a consequence of us living in a fallen world. Trials will continue on the earth until all is restored at the time of Christ’s return.
But now and then, God will let us know that a particular trial is actually being used as a warning from Him. He is not doing it to punish us or reject us, but is permitting trouble to come to help us turn away from some false god or idol we are chasing, and to encourage us to return to Him. It is being done in love, not in vengeance. If this should happen, may we all hear His message clearly, and respond in a faithful and constructive way.
Father God, help us to recognize the times when you are trying to get our attention through a trial, and help us to give up any false gods or sinful behaviors we are chasing after, and to turn back to You in humility and repentance. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.