1 Kings 17:1-7 - God's Powerful Provision

June 23, 2013 Speaker:

Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: 1 Kings 17:1–17:7

Fifty years ago Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was published. It begins:

The night Max wore his wolf’s suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him wild thing. Max said, “I’ll eat you up,” so he was sent to bed without eating anything.

In his bedroom Max’s imagination takes him to the place of the Wild Things. There he reins as king over the wild things, who roared their terrible roars, gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws, only later to announce:

'Now stop!' Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all."


Living with the wild things was exciting for Max, but left him empty, thus crafting a moral tale for children of all ages. Unfortunately, it is a lesson we seldom learn when we are five or fifty. Instead we embrace the wild things as we make mischief of one kind and another. So when our Heavenly Father calls us to conform, we retort with insolence denying His authority, seeking to cage and tame that which is most powerful while we run wild.

Fredrick Nietzsche criticized the Church, when he said:

You have caged God, tamed him, domesticated him, and the priests have pliantly lent their aid. The roaring bull has become a listless ox. You have gelded God!


We all know what it's like to domesticate a wild animal: confining a creature to prescribed limits and a routine that serves the owner's schedule, the once free and roaming animal has become an obedient pet. Now, of course, God is God whether we realize it or not. He cannot actually be tamed by us, but when enough people think they've done that, it is just as if we had turned the Maker of Heaven and Earth into a mascot for our own private or corporate games.[i]


We love a tame God, one to whom we feign our respect, keeping a short leash, permitting enough authority so that we admit our shortcomings, but not overwhelmed to abasement.

That is the condition of our lives, but also that of Israel in the 9th century before Christ. Like Max, Ahab was nothing but a wild thing, whose mischief was of one kind and another, of whom, we are told in 1 Kings 16, sinned greater than all the kings before him. He married Jezebel, from Sidon, who increased Baal worship, so that now Baal, not Yahweh, become the god of Israel.

It is a mistake to think that Ahab’s sin was so over the top, that his wickedness was measured solely in the increased numbered sins. It is never so much the forms of sin, but the heart that justifies and finds pleasure in that which displeases God.

We love to paint sinners large, their wickedness written in bold script. Not only do their deeds make us salivate, but they are so distant from us if only because we don’t have the money to finance such indiscretions. But into a world in which God is tamed and the wildness of the human heart reins, God’s power comes.

READ 1 Kings 17:1-7


God’s power is seen in the powerlessness of our idols

God’s power comes to the forefront in a rather inauspicious prophet. With no fanfare and not much of a pedigree, we informed of the words of Elijah the Tishbite from Gilead.

Gilead means “a rocky region” and this northern region would mean Elijah is a backwoods kind of guy, wearing flannel, and perhaps missing a few teeth. He was not the kind of guy you would expect to gain an audience with the king. 

But as the story of Elijah unfolds and as we read the rest of Scripture, we know the power of this prophet. He and Moses are with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, considered the greatest of the prophetic tradition.


His words are stunning, frightening…and to those of us unfamiliar with his day, perplexing. From the previous chapter we know Ahab is a wicked king (16:31-33), but why cut off the rain for three years?

We live in a temperate climate in which there is some form of moisture year round. But in Israel, the dry season may seem interminable. Janet and I were in Israel in late October and witnessed the first storm clouds forming. We were by the Dead Sea as the dark clouds rolled and the first droplets fell. Our hosts were almost giddy. There was a text or a call from friends in Tel Aviv sharing the exciting news. That night at their Bible Study, one couple explained how their kids danced outside as the first drops bounced off their faces.

Baal was the storm god who provided the rain without which the crops would shrivel and die. But there is more than that. Each year, in early May, Baal was captured by Mot, the god of death, and while death held him, there was no rain. Eventually, in late October, Anat defeated Mot whereby freeing Baal who would then pour rains on the earth, restoring fertility.

So by withholding the rain makes a huge statement about Baal. Mot, the god of death has not released him. Baal is not as powerful as we thought.


There are times God’s greatness directly challenges the shallowness of our idols. There are other times, like this, in which God clearly makes known the emptiness of our petty gods, when we realize that our false gods of pleasure do not satisfy.

God’s power is shown indirectly when we are left disappointed by what we thought would satisfy. You thought gratification would be realized as you devoured that dessert, with each bite you melt into your chair, a feeling of bliss overwhelms you… how long does that sensation remain? It may be as innocuous as a brownie sundae or as dangerous as sexual immorality. In time we are left empty. Whatever you think will fulfill you, make you complete, happy…will not satisfy.  

Ask yourself, “Is my Baal empty, powerless? If it does not deliver what was promised, then should I not conclude that there is something more?

When the let down comes, you have two choices. Dive back in further and deeper, constantly seeking a new experience or change your gods, move away from the appetites you seek to satisfy to the God who made you to long for something eternal.

God’s power is seen not in a full frontal assault, but His power is seen in privation, in our emptiness to fill our lives as we desire.

God’s power is felt in our privation, in our poverty

In our passage, what is the privation? What did they lack? Rain, that’s important. A drought means no crops and people die. Is there anything else? The lack of rain, as bad as that was, is but a tangible reminder of a greater privation, poverty.

Elijah delivers the news to Ahab in v1 that it will rain only by my word. Then in v2, the word of the Lord comes to the prophet and tells him to do what? Depart. Why?

Certainly after delivering bad news Elijah will be persona non-grata in Israel. If the weatherman predicts your family picnic will be rained out and you get mad at him, imagine how the people will respond to this kind of forecast? The recent tornados in Oklahoma certainly get our attention that we are not as powerful as we think we are. We are not in control of our lives the way we imagine. Now, what if you lived in tornado alley and said:

Thus saith the Lord, tornado season will last not just 3 months, but 3 years!

I doubt you’d be invited to the neighborhood pig roast, unless it was you they were going to put over the fire. So Elijah enters God’s witness protection program because he gave a tough message.


However, it is not just the absence of rain that proves Baal is not a god to be feared, since he remains silent for so long. Rather, the rain is a reminder of what happens next…heaven is silenced, both the rain and God’s word.

God commands in v3 “Depart from here” That word means hide away, do not be present. “Elijah, make your self absent.” The one who brought God’s Word that the rain would cease, he himself will be silent, God’s Word will not be heard. In that ravine, a few miles from the Jordan, where the mountain snows melt into underground rivers, springing up in the desert, he is to hide.


As horrible as a physical drought, a spiritual drought is far worse. God’s judgment is not just the temporary absence of rain; it is God’s silence.

This is more than Max’s mother giving the ornery five year old a time out, separated from his mother’s affections, this is any hope of knowing God’s tender care, any confidence that you are accepted. If you have ever endured that dry spell in your life when it is as though the heavens are brass, that God is silent at best, perhaps absent, uncaring, unloving…without a voice…that should shake us to our core.  

Ahab made his choice; he did not want to hear God’s Word and God obliged. Ahab, and all Israel, equated holiness with their personal happiness. They were dissatisfied with God’s plan, so to break God’s Law to obtain what they longed for was preferable. God’s opinion mattered not, so the prophet was absent.   


There will be times your assurance of God’s tender love will be shaken, diminished. It may be your own negligence to attend to God’s Word preached or privately read. There may be sin for which you love more than God. God withdrawals His smiling face from your view, leaving your depressed, groping in the dark.[ii]

You may be at this point, longing to hear God’s voice, but there is a drought. God’s may be graciously withdrawn, His voice silent, so that you see your need of him all the more. God’s power in that time of privation is the time in which God’s provision comes with so much more power.

God’s power is experienced in His provision

When God’s power is shown to us by the withdrawal of his Fatherly affection, we may fantasize what his provision should look like. We know what is best and may be quick to outline how God should provide. If we are unhappy, then God should give us joy. We expect, God to remove the unpleasantness of life.

The US Parks and Forest Service, in an effort to ascertain how to better serve the millions that make use of the public government lands has collected suggestions over the years, of which these are a few. How to better enjoy our national parks:

  • Trails need to be reconstructed; please avoid building trails that go up hill
  • Too many bugs, leeches and spiders. Please spray to get rid of these pests.
  • A deer came into my camp and stole my pickles. How can I be reimbursed?
  • A McDonalds would be nice at the trailhead (w/ EMT at other end)
  • Instead of a permit system or regulations, the Forest Service needs to reduce worldwide population growth to limit the number of visitors to wilderness.
  • The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.


God does provide…yet in ways not expected…or fully appreciated.

Drinking from the brook is fine, nothing like cold mountain water. But in time God’s provision will end, and well before Elijah would have wanted. If God can provide it at the beginning, why won’t He do so later?

What we see here, we are taught elsewhere. Life and joy does not consist in the abundance of our possessions (Lk 12:15) or better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of the wicked (Ps 37:16) or godliness with contentment is the greatest gain (1 Tim 6:6).


God’s food delivery service makes no sense. According to the dietary laws, ravens are unclean. To think of these dirty birds bringing a morsel of bread or a piece of fruit in its beak or claw, or worse if you consider how a bird feeds its young…that is a rather strange way for God to provide. There was no menu, no choice.

But God’s provision for Elijah, just as His provision for us breaks us of our demanding, self centered existence. This is what the cross of Christ is all about. It is there God shatters all human pretensions to strength and wisdom.

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our needs.[iii]


Remember how Max was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all, so he returned from where the Wild Things were. Do you remember what he found? He sailed back to his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him.

And it was still hot.

[i] The American Religion, Michael S. Horton, © 1996 White Horse Inn

[ii] WCF 18.4

[iii] D.A. Carson's book The Cross and Christian Ministry 14-15



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