Why do I think that enough is too little? Do you ever feel that way? I’ve been thinking about my own heart and my tendency to think that enough is too little. Obviously, I have a greedy heart. That explains a lot. And I’m thinking, let’s talk first of all, I’m thinking of food. Enough is too little. I grew up in a really big family. If you didn’t have leftovers there was a good chance somebody didn’t get enough or anything. So, I still have that weird feeling. If there aren’t leftovers, then there wasn’t enough.
When my wife and I were first married, we were up in Chicago. I was the youth pastor of a big youth group with some big teens. We’d have them over to our house, and I remember so many times in the kitchen kind of looking at the food, and I’m like well, I can go to the grocery store and get some food. She’s like, we have food. And I’d look at it and say, Troy could eat that alone – one guy in the youth group could devour all that. See she grew up with one sister, and I grew up with a huge family. My wife is very different now, by the way. last night late at night we fed the entire Furman soccer team, university soccer team and had leftovers. Leftovers are beautiful because it means everybody had enough, and snacks are available.
I don’t like to have just enough food. I’m increasingly realizing that I don’t like to have just enough money. You know how it is when you lay out your budget to the penny, and everything’s got its spot, and you feel like finally our mouth is above water, and then sure enough a wave comes. Something breaks. Someone breaks. You’re in the emergency room, and all of a sudden, you’re under water again.
So, there’s something warm and fuzzy about having a full pantry, having an emergency fund. And there’s a part of that I think that can be good. It’s a good thing. The Bible puts a huge accent on planning. So, it’s a good thing not to consume everything you have today in order to save a little for tomorrow. Go to the ant, you know, prepare for the winter. It’s not a bad thing. Remember the old marshmallow test they used with kids if you don’t consume all your marshmallows now, you’re actually going to have some marshmallows tomorrow. So that that can be a good thing.
But it also can be a bad thing where it becomes idolatrous to where if I can’t see how it’s going to work out for tomorrow, then I can’t be fear free or anxiety free. And I’m actually trusting in my ability to predict the future. That’s what anxiety is, right? One form is if I can’t predict the future, I can’t feel good about where I am today. So therefore, we worry about tomorrow because we don’t have enough or more than enough today.
In 1 Kings 17, God puts the prophet Elijah on an extremely unpopular diet. Have you noticed new diets come out daily? Every day, and they’re all magic. And I have a new one. But it’s not magical. It’s called the total dependence diet. The TTD.
So, why did God put Elijah on the total dependence diet? Well, it seems as though the physical drought that was going on was to picture the spiritual drought. God’s covenant with Israel was linked to a specific land with specific promises. For example, he promised to provide rain for that land, and a lack of rain was indicative of Israel’s covenantal unfaithfulness. Look at Deuteronomy 11:13.
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.
Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you.”
So, in 1 Kings 17 when the prophet Elijah stood up and announced that there will be no dew, no rain for years to come, he was announcing a physical condition that was reflective of the already existing spiritual drought. Now rain in Israel was central to its identity. Even today if you look at the language of Hebrew, they have a specific word for everything to do with water, a specific word for early rain, later rain, severe rain, everything from dew, drizzle, downpour has a very specific word.
I’m reading a book right now called Let There Be Water by Seth Siegel. It came out last year. It’s not a Christian book, but he has fascinating research highlighting Israel’s solution for a water-starved world. The nation of Israel today is 60% desert. And so, water is as much a part of the culture as it is the climate. For example, think about it culturally. Americans don’t have, we generally don’t have, every once in a while, maybe certain areas out west, but generally Americans don’t have a desperate valuation of water. Think of our nursery rhymes.
“Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.”
Why? Because rain tends to fall on our parade. Rain delays the game. Rain gets in the way of our plans. Israelis don’t think that way. Look at this one example of a modern nursery rhyme in Israel.
“Rain rain from the skies, all day long drops of water, drip drop, drip drop, clap your hands.”
Children are raised from when there were very tiny to view water as a vital commodity, something extremely valuable. So, if you research water in Israel way, decades before Israel actually became, modern Israel became a nation, Jewish engineers were already busy studying how they could provide water for a nation that was about to have an influx of millions of people in 60% desert.
And the solutions they came up with are fascinating and amazing. Today modern Israel not only doesn’t have a water shortage, but they export water. Every year 60 billion gallons of water they send to the Kingdom of Jordan. Massive amounts they pump out for the Palestinian Authority. How did they do that? A couple of big ways. One is seawater desalination. They take the ocean and turn it into drinking water. Another way is they dig really, really deep wells that go all the way through the earth to our lakes over here. No, they don’t do that. But go super deep, and they pump up water and purify it. Another way is really nasty. They recycle their sewage. Isn’t that amazing? Good for the garden.
The Israelis invented drip irrigation so that not a drop of water is wasted. That’s how valuable. It’s a capitalist society, but when it comes to water, it’s not private property. If you have a bucket on your roof and it rains, the bucket is yours. The water is not, because they keep track of every drop and make sure it is used wisely. So, what’s the point of that? Well it’s reflective of thousands of years of valuing water. And for people who live in a place where rain is so vital, we can understand that. So, when Elijah in 1 Kings 17 announces, and this is 800s BC, announces no rain, not even dew for years, anyone in that region would have concluded he was announcing a death sentence. To be waterless is to be lifeless. So physical drought is reflective of spiritual drought.
What do we mean spiritual drought? If you look back a few verses in 1 Kings 16:29-34 we’re introduced to Ahab, who was the king of the northern kingdom in Samaria for 22 years 874 to 852. And the end of Chapter 16 is kind of like the punctuation, exclamation mark on a line of kings that has been unfaithful, but Ahab is described doing four things.
Number one, he increased evil. Verse 30 and 33, “he did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.”
Number 2, he married Jezebel. Never do that. Daughter of Ethbaal, King of Sidon. So therefore, Ahab was way more interested in political alliances than spiritual faithfulness.
Third he served Baal, he erected an altar. Verse 31-33 for Baal in the House of Baal. Baal was the god of guess what? Rain. He made an Asherah, verse 33, which was a Canaanite fertility goddess, represented in sacred trees and rocks. Put on poles often associated with cultic prostitution.
And then finally he rebuilt Jericho. And when Joshua led the people of Israel into Jericho and the walls crumbled, Joshua said this in chapter 6 verse 26, he
“laid an oath on them at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city Jericho, at the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.”
So, the end of chapter 16 is revealing the fact that the physical drought that Elijah is announcing is just the physical manifestation of a spiritual drought that has been going on for some time. That’s the why. God called Elijah into total dependence diet. So, what is that like. What exactly is this TDD. Look at verse 1.
“Now Elijah the Tishbite of Tishbe in Gilead said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, [Yahweh] the God of Israel, [Elohim of Israel] lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word.’”
Notice all the references to word and God’s speaking. “And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Depart from here, turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. “You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So, he went and did according to the word of the Lord.”
So, the total dependence diet is very simply, Elijah says what God says. Elijah does what God says.
There are references to God’s word in verse 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 14, 15, 16, phrases like “the word of the Lord came to Elijah,” “Thus says the Lord,” “Elijah said.” All of these highlight a total dependence on God’s word.
Like Jesus said when he was tempted by Satan in the midst of drought to turn stones into bread, and Jesus said no. “Nan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” That’s the total dependence diet. And we got a vision of that last week.
Did you notice that with Gene? If you weren’t here and you didn’t hear the testimony, get online and listen. It is life-changing. As Gene was sentenced at 17, and as he came to Christ ten years later in prison but then year after year, decade after decade, filing for them to commute his sentence, which should have happened. Each time he got a “no.” 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 35 years. And each time he went back to his cell. How do you keep going in that kind of drought?
And he said it very clearly. He clung to God’s word. His promises. He would say what did God say in 1 Thessalonians 5:18? “In every circumstance give thanks. Every circumstance, give thanks. “This is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
And so, what do he do? He went back to his jail cell and he did what God said. What is Elijah doing in the midst of a drought? Okay God. I don’t understand what you’re doing here, but you said this, so I’m going to believe that, and I’m going to do that. That’s what we see here. So, what exactly did he do? He did two things depart and depend.
First of all, to depart. In verse 3, God says “Depart from here, turn eastward, hide yourself.” I think it’s important for us to understand this wasn’t just a personal departure Elijah represented God’s word among God’s people. So, when God says to his prophet, leave, what is he saying? The word of God is moving from among his people. Is there anything more terrifying than that? Is there anything more terrifying than thinking of the fact that God ceases to speak to us? That doesn’t just mean you burn your Bibles, and you don’t come to church I know my own heart. I have tons of Bibles, and I can be around the word of God but not changed by it. I can hear sermons. I can read daily, and yet it’s like it bounces off. His words not speaking. That’s the picture here.
When he says Elijah, hide yourself, there is a hiding of the word of God from pressing in, from actually being soaked in by God’s people. And so even right now as we begin this series I think it’s important for all of us to say God, I don’t care if I’ve heard the story of Elijah since I was little. I don’t care if I’ve been in church oh my whole life or this is my first time ever. I want you to speak to me. I don’t want to assume I know. Teach me, Lord. When you say I receive, and that defines my actions, no matter how simple or basic the promise may seem. He said to give thanks, so I’m actually going to do that right now. That’s the total dependence diet. Depart.
Depend. Verse 4. I have commanded you. Notice in verse 4 and in verse 9, I’ve commanded the ravens, I have commanded a widow to feed you. Let’s talk about the ravens first. Verse 4, “You shall drink from the brook, and I’ve commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So, he went and did according to the word of the Lord.” God said, he acted. “He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land.”
Now at first read that sounds pretty attractive I’d loved to quit my job, sit at home, drone comes through the window, drops off breakfast. How cool would that be? But think about this. A raven. What do they eat? They’re scavengers. So, they steal some good bread maybe some days. Some nasty throwaway bread some days, and they love roadkill. So, you could just see Elijah’s face when it shows up some days… eeeh. I’ve got to cook that thing. A lot.
But doesn’t this show the power of God? God can move in the heart of a creature that’s designed to be a scavenger to consume everything it finds and actually motivate that raven to not consume but to bring and deliver and drop off for Elijah exactly what he needs, just enough, no leftovers. Provide for him one day bread, another day bugs. Ancient form of drone delivery.
The second way he provides, Elijah is depending on God is through a widow. Look at verse 8.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, ‘Arise, go to Zarepath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold I have commanded a widow there to feed you. So, he arose and went to Zarepath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and said, ‘Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.’ And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.’
And she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives,’ [Notice Lord your God. That’s going to change by the end of the chapter.] ‘I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.’
Elijah said to her, ‘Do you not fear.’ [God loves that command. Don’t fear.] Go and do as you have said. But first, but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and for your son.
For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”‘ And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”
So, first of all he sends Elijah to Zarepath. Do you realize how significant that is? That’s Sidon territory. That’s Jezebel’s dad’s home turf, that’s home territory of Baal. In that day, it would be unthinkable because ancient people thought of regions as being ruled by different gods. So, you might have Yahweh in Israel, but you’ve got Baal up over the Sidonians. God says let me just, Elijah, go up to Baal’s turf. He claims to be the god of rain. There is no jurisdictional authority for Yahweh. He rules and reigns over all areas and all people.
So, he sends him right up to Baal’s turf. And this is so mysterious. Why did he send him to a widow? He could have brought a food truck. But he sends him to a widow, and a widow who had just enough to eat to feed her son and herself, and that’s it and then she’s out. Dead out. And so, Elijah shows up and says, “Could you get me some water, could you get a cake?” She’s just like well, you know she’s got this big jar that flour should go in, and she reaches in there and she’s just like, one scoop. That’s it. And her jug of oil, just enough to get the flour to stick together. To cook that and Alijah says, “I’ll have that.” It just makes me feel kind of squeamish. And you can see the widow like really? You call yourself a prophet of God, and you’re going to suck the last meal out of a widow and her boy?
Can you imagine the faith it took for her? “Take this. It’s yours.” Then to watch her face when she reached into the jar, and there’s just enough, and just enough oil. And again. And I think each time it was empty. Each time she’s scraping the bottom. But each time she went back in for another one there was just enough. God put them on the total dependence diet. There’s part of that that sounds so cool and then part of that that’s so frustrating. When God meet your needs at the last second every time it’s like, God, can you give me some extra? I want to know ahead of time how you’re going to meet this need. I don’t want to just slide through. I mean for those of us who like a little control, this is a nightmare. Our worst fear.
So, what are a few takeaways from this story? Big one would be, we refuse to put our confidence in other gods.
We refuse to put our confidence in any other god but Yahweh. See in our culture you’ll notice even on secular college campuses, Jesus is okay. Christianity is fine. Jesus is acceptable as long as he’s not exceptional, as long as he’s not exclusively God. Our religion in America is pretty much the same as Israel in that day. It’s like we are good with Yahweh, but we really need Baal for rain, Asherah for fertility.
You know all ways kind of lead to the same place. You don’t want to be exclusive, close-minded, narrow thinking, a bigot. So just add all the gods together and use different ones for different things. Then you’ve got all of your bases covered. You’re not totally dependent on God, because he might not come through in the way you think he should come through.
Elijah stands up to say no, no. We are all in. We are all in. Yahweh, God is Lord of heaven and earth. There is no region where his authority does not extend to. There is no area in creation, whether you’re talking rain or whether you’re talking a bird or a brook or anything in all of creation that does not fall under his authority. We worship him alone. As Jeremiah said in chapter 14:22,
“Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.”
So right from the beginning, Lord we don’t have backup gods. We’re not going to look to you on Sunday and then trust in some other god throughout the week.
Secondly, we will trust God’s word even in drought. This is so hard because when it seems like God is not coming through, we instinctively turn in other directions and question God’s promises. Jeremiah again 17:5,
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed it is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream and does not” [get this] “does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Not anxious in the year drought. Do you notice Elijah is not panicking? He is not freaking out. God’s got this. Just like Gene, year after year, decade after decade, still in prison. God’s got this. He has me here for a reason. I am not I’m not going to panic. Clinging to God’s promise in the midst of drought. Trusting that he leads us to green pastures. He leads us to green pastures. So, either I can’t see that this is green, or clouds are on the way. But he will fulfil his promises.
Thirdly, we will gratefully receive God’s provision even when he uses unlikely means. And I think this is a big message from this passage because what do you do when God leads you to a brook that dries up? Has that ever happened to you? It’s like you pray for God’s leadership. He leads you down a particular road and then sure enough you come to the end of the road and you realize this is a dead end. God, I thought you were leading me. Or in Elijah’s case he leads him to a brook. Drink from that. And then the next day, or after a while it dries up.
Why don’t you lead me to it like a river? Why a brook that is about to dry up? Or why a raven? Couldn’t we get something a little more sanitized? And then why a widow? She can barely stay afloat, and I’m asking her to keep me from drowning. The blind leading the blind. Here’s the big one.
Why a cross? Why would God provide for our greatest need to a bloody, brutal instrument of death? And many today say no. If God’s provision is a raven, I won’t worship a God like that. If God’s provision is a cross, I’ll find my own way. Like Naaman. Don’t tell me to wash in the Jordan. I’ll go find a better river. We miss God’s provision because we reject his means.
And some of us God is providing in miraculous ways for us right now and we can’t see it because we’ve decided if he’s going to work in my life it’s not going to be through my wife. No way. Not giving her that thrill. It’s not going to be through my husband. It’s not going to be through my children, my job, my boss, my stupid car that keeps breaking down. I don’t know what the means is God is using, but he has a track record of using unlikely means. Don’t reject that. C.H. Spurgeon, a great British preacher on April 7, 1864 in a message entitled “God’s Care of Elijah” said this.
“Remember, too, the prayer which I quoted just now, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Not ‘our weekly bread,’ not ‘our monthly bread,’ not ‘our annual stores’ but, ‘give us our daily bread.’ God is pleased to give some of his servants in the bulk” [a lot at one time] “but there are many others who only live from hand to mouth” [or beak to hand] and perhaps though not best for the flesh, it is best for faith, for we are apt, when mercies come regularly, to forget from whence they flow!”
That’s a lot I know, a mouthful. But just think of that last part. Mundane mercies tend to evolve into merited mercies, where we think we deserve it, we’re owed it, and we forget it doesn’t come from us. It doesn’t come from anything we’ve done.
Whether God provides for your needs through a miraculous provision like in Chapter 17, or whether if you look at 18:4, he provides for the prophets through a man like Obadiah, just bringing him bread and water like whichever means whether mundane or miraculous, they all flow from the same provider. So, don’t despise God’s means of provision.
Finally, we will give when we have a little or when we have a lot. I just love this widow did it. I don’t know how she did that. If I have one little bit of flour and a little bit of oil and somebody’s coming near me I’m running. I’m packing. Wait! This is all I’ve got. And some of us live under the delusion that until we get filthy rich, God would never call us to be generous. Because it’s you filthy rich people that are supposed to be generous to me, is the way we live.
It’s looking at everybody else who has more and thinking, yeah when I get to be like them and I have all this extra, then I’ll share. No that’s a lie. If you won’t share your little, you won’t share your lots. So, start where you are. Say God, I don’t have much. There may be part of this that could really bless somebody. I want to begin with a habit of generosity. I don’t deserve anything. Everything I have is from your hand.
And I want to be ready to share whether it’s little or lot whether you whether some of you God has given in the bulk and you say God, I just want to use it for you. And I don’t want to trust in your provision. I want to trust you. Others, he’s got you on an I.V. of dependence, one drip. Could we open that up a little more? But he has you in this season like Elijah, total dependence diet. We’re all actually on the total dependence diet. Do we realize that? Yeah, every breath. We just we just need our eyes open to that. Let’s ask him to do that.
Father we thank you for this quick journey through this part of Elijah’s life. And we know you have good stuff for us here. We just want to first of all acknowledge that you are the only source of life, the only means of our breathing another breath, living every day. It’s all a gift from you.
So, we pray that you would fill our hearts with gratefulness. Take away the bitterness. Take away the cynicism. And wherever we are, if we’re in a season of drought right now where you’re just keeping us alive, minute by minute, meeting our needs giving us grace to help in time of need, never any extra grace, not grace for tomorrow’s need but grace for the moment. If you have us in that, Lord let us be thankful. Let us see your provision. Let us speak with grateful hearts and share, share it with others.
Lord a part of my heart really pushes against that because I’ve got that self-sufficient delusion thinking I can do it. I can’t do it. I need you. I can’t change my own hard heart. I can’t grow my own faith. I can’t love my wife as Christ, you loved the Church. I can’t live out the gospel.
We abide in you, and you abide in us. We can do nothing apart from you. We’re coming to you, Lord, on the total dependence diet. Recognizing whether we are wealthy or poor, whether we can see it or not, we need you. Thank you in the midst of a generation, Elijah’s generation, in the midst of a generation of skepticism and doubt and infidelity, you moved the camera really close to your prophet and you said this is my desire for my people.
I love to meet your needs. I love to satisfy your souls. I love to come through for you. So, Lord as we respond now in prayer, let’s just revel in that, revel in who you are.
We would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of our God, we would rather have little with you than lots without you, Lord. Let us just cry that to you. We would rather have you than to have everything that the world says could actually satisfy the soul, which it can’t. We would rather depend daily on your provision than to live in the deception.
Kind of like modern Israel has turned to where if we can just fabricate our society in such a way where we don’t depend on you, then we will be satisfied. And then we end up reaping just a flood of woe and hopelessness. Lord, hear our cries now. We call out to you. Spirit of God move among us, we pray, first of all giving us an awareness of our need of you, and then filling our hearts with joy that you love to give good gifts to your children. Thank you.