The 22th Sunday After Trinity October 23, 2005
1 Kings 17:1-16
2 Thessalonians 3:6-12
793 [TLH alt. 15], 243, 276, 51
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that 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, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.
In Christ Jesus—the name in which we trust—dear fellow-redeemed:
Matters of trust are many and difficult. Whom can you trust for help with homework when you “just don’t get it” or don’t know the assignment? Whom can you trust when stranded on the highway with a disabled vehicle? Whom can you trust when searching for a reliable doctor, or trying to decide between multiple doctors who give varying opinions? Whom can you trust with your most personal confessions of sin and still find him to be your friend the next day?
Whom can you trust when even friends seem to be turning away from you, disregarding your feelings? Whom can you trust on a date so that you can be confident that it will remain God-pleasing? Whom can you trust to marry so that you can be confident of an equal view toward marriage and commitment to it?
Whom can you trust when you get to a point in life when you can’t do everything that needs to be done? Whom can you trust when you reach a point when you have to put your earthly affairs into the hands of someone else? Whom can you trust when you’re young and inexperienced, or older and inexperienced, and need to rely on someone to teach you, to show you the way?
Trust is not something that we manufacture. The trust we have is created by the trustworthiness of those whom we are trusting. We know can have the greatest of all trust in God our Savior because of His great faithfulness and willingness to help.
There is so much reason to trust in our Lord in every possible way in every possible situation for every possible thing, and yet it can be so hard, and we can be so poor in doing it. Trusting in the Lord completely is letting go of worry, stress, strain, and knowing that He will take care of us. Trusting the Lord in this way is hard for us sinners to do because we tend to hang onto things at least a little bit because, we say, “I can do it!” Trusting in the Lord completely is hard because there is so much that we can fear if we look at it and forget about Jesus. In this way we become like Peter who was walking on water when he was looking at Jesus, but when he looked at the waves, he lost his trust and sunk (Matthew 14:22ff).
We all need reminders and encouragement that everything is going to be OK—and more than OK. We need encouragement that everything is going to be wonderful, because our God is caring for us and always will. Today we seek encouragement from the words of our text as the Lord says to you: “I WILL CARE FOR YOU—TRUST ME!” I. God preserves in times of judgment II. God provides with or without resources III. God calls for the trust created by His promises.
God controls all things in the earth. This includes all the workings of what is loosely called “nature.” Job said, “If He withholds the waters, they dry up; If He sends them out, they overwhelm the earth” (Job 12:15). God’s control includes all the events and happenings on the earth. God has unlimited power and authority at His disposal to use in order to accomplish His purpose.
At times, God’s purpose requires judgment upon sin. Such was the case at the time of wicked king Ahab, his wicked wife Jezebel, and the wickedness of the Israelites who followed them. Through Elijah, God told Ahab that the rain would stop coming as a result of his sin: “Elijah…said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’” [v.1]
This was not the first nor the last time that God used earthly events to bring judgment upon the sins of Israel and other nations. At the dedication of the temple, King Solomon expressed the realization that there would be times when God would bring judgment upon the sins of the people. He said, “When (not if…when) Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You…When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You…When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities…” (1 Kings 8:33ff).
There would be times of judgment and consequence for sin, but God would preserve His people through those times of judgment. When God withheld rain from the earth during the days of Ahab, He sent Elijah first to the brook and then to the widow to provide for his bodily needs. God destroyed the earth with the Flood because of the people’s wickedness, but God preserved His people by safely tucking Noah and his family in the ark and preserving them there. When God judged Pharaoh and Egypt with the plagues, only the first three plagues affected Israel. The remaining plagues had no effect in Goshen. When God judged the people of Judah and had them carried away into Babylon 70 years, God still preserved His people. Throughout all the years of captivity, God provided for His people—sparing Daniel from the lions, sparing the three men from the fiery furnace—and brought them safely back to Judah at His chosen time.
Our nation may seem ripe for God’s judgment upon our sin. Our prosperity has led to materialism, our promiscuity has led to abortion on demand, and our selfishness leads to murders, rape, and abuse. God is not given glory—not even when speaking of the marvels of the universe which He created. Can a people who so freely and willingly kill children escape God’s judgment? Can a society which in so many ways thumbs it’s nose at God and His law be spared from God’s judgment much longer? Only God knows the answers to these questions. What we know is that it is purely from the Lord’s mercy that we have not seen judgment. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22).
God will judge all sin on the Last Day. Whether or not He will see fit to bring a wide spread judgment upon our nation before that time, does not need to be a fearful thing for us. If God should see fit to bring judgment upon our nation, we have the confidence that He will preserve us just as He has preserved His people in other times of judgment. Many times, the believers suffer right along with unbelievers in the hardship, but we have the confidence that God will preserve our souls, and that He will bring us to our heavenly home.
If God sees fit to send hardship as a rebuke to wide open sin in our society; or if He allows hardship to come into our lives as chastisement, we need not fear because we know that the judgment for our sins was taken out upon Christ. No matter what earthly consequence God sends as a result of sin in this life, we know that when Jesus died on the cross He was bearing the full and true judgment of our sins upon Himself so that we might live. We need not fear God’s judgment upon sin, because our sin is taken away through Christ; and God will preserve us through the consequence of sin .
Everything in this life is so limited. Our God is so unlimited. We can see how true this is in the way by which God provided for Elijah. God first provided for Elijah’s earthly needs by sending him to the brook, Cherith. The brook provided water for Elijah and God sent ravens with bread and meat to provide food. Having the food brought by the ravens was extraordinary and unique, but beyond that God was first providing for Elijah with very natural resources—food and water from the earth.
God did not spare the brook, Cherith, from the effects of the drought. So, after a while, the brook dried up so God provided for Elijah with a new resource. God sent Elijah to the widow of Zarephath and there provided a never ending supply of flour and oil out of nothing—they simply never ran out.
God can and does provide for His children either with or without ordinary resources. Most of the time, God provides through the natural, but He can also provide for things in ways that are unexpected and out of the ordinary.
God’s providing is not only for our bodies, but also for our souls. For our souls’ needs God has given us the resource of His Word. The Good News of all that Christ Jesus has done is the resource which God has given us for our faith and eternal life. This resource comes to us through the Word of God also through the Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
God provides for our needs of body and soul, even if it seems to us that there is no way in which those needs could be solved. At different cross-roads of our lives we might say, “I can’t!” It may look impossible to continue on in life, or it may seem impossible to follow God’s will. In those situations God says, “I will provide.” With us such things seems impossible, but with God all things are possible (cf: Matthew 19:26).
At times we might find ourselves caught in the if onlys. If only things were different, then I could succeed in this situation. If only she were here then everything would work out just fine. If only I could do this then all things would fall into place. If we believe the if onlys in our life we are confining God. When we say, “if only it could be a different way” we are supposing that only in that way with those resources could God help us and make things work out for our blessing. We might see only one possible way for a positive outcome and that is because we are limited to seeing present resources. However, our God who loves us and is working for us, can accomplish things without those resources. God simply is not bound in the way He will provide for us! Regardless of the need you are facing, you can be assured that God has done far more with far less than what would be required to supply that need. He created the universe with nothing except the power of His Word! He created faith in your sin-darkened heart with nothing except the power of His Word! He can and will provide for your needs by the authority of that same powerful Word!
The widow of Zarephath provides an amazing example of trust. When Elijah came to her, he said: “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. “For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah [vv.10-16]
The widow was preparing to starve to death with her son and God called upon her to trust that she could give her last bit of food to Elijah and still live. Through Elijah, God called upon the widow to trust, but His Word also created the trust she needed. “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, your flour and oil will not run out.” That promise of God was all the widow needed. On the basis of that promise, she did what Elijah asked and she was not disappointed.
God calls upon us to put our complete trust in Him, but when He calls for that kind of trust it is a trust He has created by His promises and His faithfulness to them. We can look back on God’s track record and see how bountifully He has provided in the past. Surely we too have to conclude with Solomon, “There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised…” (1 Kings 8:56).
There are times when we might feel like the psalmist did when He asked: “will [the LORD] be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?”
The psalmist also provides the solution “…I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old…You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people…” (Psalm 77:7-12,14-15).
God calls upon us to trust Him, and when that trust seems hard to have we need to go back to His Word where we find His “trust-creating” promises. We need to look back at His faithfulness and bountiful blessings to be encouraged that He is indeed worthy of all our trust and will not let that trust be left disappointed or put to shame.
A lack of trust develops when we are uncertain as to the intentions of the “other person”—whether or not he has my best interest at heart. God’s intentions are clear, He desires YOU and all people to be brought to faith and preserved in that faith unto life everlasting. God’s intentions are to use everything in this life to strengthen you for your journey and bring you safely home to heaven. Trust Him!
A lack of trust may develop even if someone has the best intentions for your good, but lacks the knowledge or ability to bring those intentions to pass. Your all-knowing, all-powerful God can bring every one of His good intentions to pass for you. Trust Him!
A lack of trust can occur even if someone is devoted to you, knowledgeable, and able, but unreliable. Even the most reliable of human beings fail at times because they can’t control everything. Your Savior is unchanging and 100% reliable in all things. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8). Trust Him!
Each of us needs to take these truths and this confidence that we have in the Lord and use them to overshadow our individual worries and trust issues. It is very easy to know that God provided for the widow of Zarephath but then conclude, “God, my problems are so different.” But they are not different. Each of us does have our own particular problems that no one else will be able to fully understand. But in essence your problem is not any different than the individual things your fellow Christians are likewise facing.
The widow’s concern regarding food for herself and her son is your concern when the checkbook doesn’t balance. The widow of Nain’s concern as she was following in her only son’s funeral possession is your concern of “how can I go forward alone.” One by one, whatever the individual twists and turns might be for each one of us, we are ultimately the same weak sinners with the same needs, the same fears. Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will take care of you.
While sitting in the pew and standing in the pulpit this all seems so simple…so straightforward. Here in the confines of God’s House with His Word its not hard to evaluate ourselves and say: “Yes those are my weaknesses, and I don’t need to act or think that way. Yes, of course my Savior will take care of me! I’m ready to go!” And then we go out there to meet the world and everything we have going on in our lives and cry out: “I am trust…ing—oh, oh!” and all of a sudden the world’s reality is staring me in the face. The knees get a little weak, the confidence wobbles, and how soon we forget that we have nothing to fear and find ourselves “stressing out” all over again.
This will happen “out there” but we can’t stay here all the time—we have work to do in God’s kingdom. We need to get out into the world and testify to the Savior. But when you do face the brick wall of reality, the pitfalls of worry, and the pools of sadness that seem like they will surely drown you, remember what the Lord says: “I will take care of you—trust Me!” Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.