Greeting: We give thanks to the Lord because He is good and His mercy endures forever.
1) Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “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.” 2) Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah. 3) “leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4) You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to fee you there.” 5) So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerish Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6) The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
7) Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8) 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.” 10) So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, 11) “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12) “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.”
13) Elijah said to her, “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. 14) 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.’ 15) She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16) For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Dear Lord of my life, Your message is clear.
I’ve so many reasons to thank You this year.
You’ve given me life and lengthened my days.
You’ve given me Jesus, His pardon always.
A dear, loving wife, Four children to raise,
And fellow believers Who follow Your ways.
You’ve given me talents I do not deserve,
Ways to be useful, People to serve.
You’ve given me freedom, Income and health.
I truly possess Incredible wealth.
All that I enjoy Comes solely from You. I treasure You, Lord, For all that You do.
I wrote that Thanksgiving prayer-poem a number of years ago. It is just as fitting to offer this year as it has been in years past. Each of us here tonight (today), surely can express similar thoughts of gratitude and praise if we choose to write a prayer-poem of our own.
Many years our Thanksgiving emphasis is on the past blessings we have received and the gracious God who has given them to us. Very often we need it to be that way. You see, many years our future looks so bright and promising that its easier for us to think about what’s ahead of us that to stop and seriously reflect on what had gone one behind us. In years like that, it very important that we be directed to reflect on the past goodness of our God and review our reasons to be thankful.
Then again, some years, we need the focus to be just the opposite. We need an emphasis on the future and the fact that God will be with us to bless us. At times, we may be more inclined to longingly look to the past because it seems so much better than what we envision is still to come in our lives. In years like that, we aren’t too eager to look ahead because the future doesn’t seem all that attractive to us. I believe that for many of us, we are having that kind of year. Our economy is in turmoil. Our country and its people are deep in debt. Big name companies are in major trouble and jobs are disappearing. We have gotten a year older, and for many of us that means we are slowing down. Our health is shakier, our energy is lessening, our outlook is more uncertain. This year we may not be as confident, as capable or as cheerful as we have been for so many years in the past. So this Thanksgiving in 2008, let us take that more difficult look toward a forbidding future and be assured that GOD WILL TAKE
1. In Adverse Times
The place where we want to look for this assurance is the Old Testament story of God’s care for the prophet Elijah. Elijah lived and prophesied during one of the darkest periods in the history of God’s people, during the reign of wicked King Ahab and his even more wicked wife, Jezebel. Although the northern kingdom of Israel had long been on an idolatrous, disobedient spiritual path, Ahab and Jezebel led the kingdom to new depths of defiance toward God and His will. They not only introduced the false fertility cult religion of worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth. They also zealously devoted themselves to eliminate the true worship of the true God through vicious persecution and to spread widely the false worship of Baal and Ashtoreth by an intense missionary effort. Ahab and Jezebel were militant idolaters, who were responsible for the deaths of many faithful priests and believers in the true God and for the ascent of many false prophets and priests in Israel.
God called Elijah to be His prophet to speak out against the idolatry and disobedience of the king and queen. For that Elijah would become very unpopular with the leaders of Israel. In fact, he rose to the top of their list of people to kill and get rid of. In response to Ahab and Jezebel’s wickedness, God decided to send a multi-year drought on the land as a punishment and call to repentance. Physically, spiritually, economically, these were adverse times for the people of Israel and especially for the faithful prophet, Elijah.
I don’t know that we face the severity of adversity that Elijah faced. However, we can make a good case that these are times that have their share of adversity. We are not as wealthy and financially secure as we used to be as investments and savings shrivel and expenses continue to climb. We may be in for a protracted period of economic difficulty and uncertainty. In our culture, we find an erosion of good morals, God-mindedness and sound biblical teaching and confessing around us. Personally, we may be forced to face more troubles and problems with physical and mental health, with family and friends, with community and society. In his adverse times, God was with Elijah. We are to know that in our adverse times, God is with us. The God who is our Savior from sin, our dear Father in heaven, the might Lord of our lives cares for us in all times of life – the harder times as well as the easier times. Through His mercies in the doing and dying of Jesus Christ for us, we have His promises: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “If God is for us, who can be against us. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also gracious give us all things?” As we look to a future that may frighten us, let us take heart knowing that God will take care of us as He cared for Elijah –even in adverse times.
2. In Amazing Ways
God also promises that He will take care of His believing people in often amazing ways. Let’s look at what He did for Elijah. By calling Elijah to be His faithful spokesman, it seemed as if God had put a big, bright target on the prophet’ back. He was public enemy number 1 in the eyes of the powerful king and queen of Israel. It was not very safe for him to live in Israel any longer. Although God exposed Elijah to great danger, God loved His prophet and was prepared to give Him great protection. God ordered Elijah to leave the land of Israel and go east of the Jordan River to the Kerith Ravine where he could hide for a while and be safe. In order to protect him further, God had an interesting way to provide for Elijah’s physical needs. He could drink water from the brook that flowed through the ravine. His food would be delivered in a most unusual way. God told Elijah that he had ordered raven to feed him. While at the Kerith Ravine, ravens came in the morning and again in the evening to bring Elijah both bread and meat, carbohydrates and protein, on which he could be nourished and live.
Later on when the water in the brook dried up. God sent Elijah to another place. He told him to move to a village called Zarephath, north and west of the kingdom of Israel, along the Mediterranean Sea. God sent his prophet to hard-core Gentile territory, in fact, to the homeland of Jezebel, where her rabidly idolatrous father ruled. God announced to Elijah that He had ordered a Gentile widow to supply him with food. Humanly speaking, this was a most unlikely arrangement. A believing Jewish man, a prophet of the true God being hosted by a single mother in the midst of idolatrous Sidonian Gentile territory. But this was God’s arrangement. Elijah went to Zarephath, found the widow, spoke with her and discovered that she was willing to help even though she was getting ready to prepare a last meal before she and her family starved to death.
God arranged some amazing ways to take care of the prophet He loved. You should know that this same God arranges appropriately amazing ways to take care of you. We know that God can and does perform miracles to provide for and deliver His people. As He miraculously fed Elijah, He can surely do that for you. We also know that God usually provide and preserves us through amazing natural means such as the ones we confessed in Psalm 104 at the start of our service: “You make grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth. You give wine that gladdens the hearts of people, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their lives. All look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.” Whatever ways God arranges to provide for you, they are truly amazing, lovingly thought out and directed by God Himself to meet our needs. They are not to be taken for granted. They are to be taken by faith. Saint Peter urge us: “Cast all your cares on God because He cares for you.” As you and I face a problematic future, let us remember that we face it with our gracious God, a God who will take care of us in amazing ways.
3. With Adequate Amounts
God will take care of us and He will see to it that we have enough. God provided Elijah with safety, food and water at the Kerith Ravine. When the water was gone, God arranged another way to care for Elijah. At the home of the widow in Zarephath, God made sure that the small amount of flour and the small amount of oil used for making bread never ran out. It was replenished to make sure that not only Elijah, but also the widow and her family always had food to eat during the time of drought and famine. Elijah missed no meals and didn’t go hungry. God provided his prophet with adequate amounts of all he needed.
God promises us that He will provide all we need. He surely has the ability to do that. He also has the love and will to do it. When Jesus fed the crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 people with the few fish and loaves of bread, we are told that everyone had enough and that there were good leftovers to save. Saint Paul encourages us when he writes: “My God will supply all you need according to His glorious riches in Christ.” God does not promise to indulge our every whim and wish. But He does promise to supply all we need. He will. That is a promise to carry confidently into our untraveled and uncertain tomorrows.
I believe that Elijah emerged from this time in his life with a stronger faith and greater confidence in His God. God proves Himself to be trustworthy. We can trust a God like that. We can also be thankful for a God like that. This Thanksgiving, take a look ahead and take this truth to heart: Your God, so good and gracious, will take care of you. Amen.