Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Power of God's Word in Times of Famine

Reading: 1 Kings 11 – 17       

The books of 1 & 2 Kings are a study in the power of the word of the Lord to be fulfilled. A valuable exercise in understanding these books would be to read through and mark every time you read something about the word of the Lord, whether it is being given or being fulfilled. So for instance, you might read, “the word of the Lord came through...,” when it is given, or, “according to the word of the Lord given through...” when it is fulfilled. This exercise will open up the theme of the book to you. Of course, the whole book is the word of the Lord given to us about His kingdom and is ultimately fulfilled when “a Son is given” named Jesus.
Examples abound throughout the book of how God's word is fulfilled. God's promise to David is often raised, and God continues to honor that promise. Ahijah is a fascinating character in chapters 11-14. In chapter 11, through the word of the Lord, he proclaims Jeroboam king of 10 tribes of Israel.
About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, 30and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. 32But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.... 38If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39I will humble David's descendants because of this, but not forever.'" 1 Kings 11:29-39
These events, the tearing of ten tribes away from Israel and Jeroboam becoming king over the northern tribes (called Israel), came to pass shortly after this. But Jeroboam seems to have forgotten the foundation of his kingdom. He was king because of the word of the Lord, but he soon forgot the Lord and worshiped other gods. So the Lord sent Him another word, this from an unknown, unnamed prophet. This time to inform Jeroboam that a king from David, the opposing nation (Judah), would sacrifice human bones on Jeroboam's idolatrous altar. Jeroboam wasn't real happy as he realized this was a word against his dynasty.
In fact, this unamed prophet got to demonstrate the detrimental power of disobedience to God's word in his own life. When the king invited him to eat before returning he said,
"Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. 9For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: 'You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'" 1 Kings 13:8-9
However, though not compelled by the king, he was compelled by a religious man claiming he had an opposing word from the Lord, and ate with him. Then a lion ate him on his way home. Not even prophets are exempt from obeying the Word of the Lord. And this act demonstrated the accuracy of the word he heard from the Lord.
Chapters 14-16 relate some great examples of the word of the Lord through prophets coming to pass in the life of kings. But then there is an interesting note at the end of chapter 16.
In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun. 1 Kings 16:34
Not only is the word of the Lord through these extraordinary prophets sure; but the historic, written word of the Lord through men like Joshua which was written over 500 years prior was sure.
And then in chapter 17, we find that not only does the word of the Lord to kings, or heads of state come to pass, but the word of the Lord to provide the needs of his faithful people is equally powerful. During a time of serious drought and resulting famine we read:
Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3"Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." 5So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:2-6
God's word even controlled the behavior of ravens and he used it to feed Elijah. And then when the brook dried up we read:
Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9"Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." 1 Kings 17:8-9
So Elijah went to this Gentile town and there saw a widow gathering some sticks. He, trusting God's sovereign guidance, asks her for water and a piece of bread. Her response might make me wonder that God's sovereignty had led me to the wrong woman.
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." 1 Kings 17:12
But Elijah was not so easily dissuaded. Here in his time of drought and famine, in this widow's time of lack and need, Elijah had confidence in the clear word of the Lord. So he said,
"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. 14For 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.'" 1 Kings 17:13-14
The word of the Lord is powerful enough to provide through times of complete scarcity. The word of the Lord puts kings in power (even wicked kings), takes them out of power (and even righteous kings). The word of the Lord is sure even if it is written and has been around for centuries. The word of the Lord is sufficient to provide through times of shortfall and even destitution.
Some might say, “Yes, but Elijah had a specific word from the Lord.” Indeed he did. But we have a word from the Lord even more sure. I cannot help when I read those verse (13, 14) but to think of the word of the Lord in Matthew.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34
During times that should mean shortage, we can pour our lives and provisions into Christ's kingdom first, and we will not come up short. And this word is more sure: This word was confirmed by the prophet who gave it! And this prophet's words came to pass. He too died (just as the unnamed prophet we spoke of earlier), and in accordance with his words, and was raised to life. And he promises us, in times of economic woes, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” God's word will endure forever!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel

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