Provision. More specifically God’s provision. It’s presence looms large in the story of Elijah. Last Sunday, Jim mentioned it, Josh had his own example of it, and other Trademarkians brought it up. But for me, the idea of God’s provision has always brought with it a mutiny within, so-to-speak. Outwardly, I say I trust and believe in God’s provision while on the inside I struggle mightily to have faith when it doesn’t seem like any provision is coming my way.
When you think about it, God’s provision seems to peak out beneath everything. My co-worker recently had another pet die, three pets in a few months span. Why, she said, is God doing this to me? Beneath her question is another, life is not going well, why isn’t God making it go well? Why isn’t he providing for my well-being?
I often have a similar question. Why, God have I not found a career that can support my family? Not only that, but when I look to the future I don’t see a way forward. I get scared. Will I ever be able to support my family? Why, God, aren’t you providing for our well-being?
Why is it we struggle with God’s provision? Is it because we have a faulty theology of what God’s provision means?
Perhaps the story of Elijah can give is some insight for in it we see, at least, four aspects that can lead us to a better theology of God’s provision.
1) God will provide for his promises.
Elijah is told, by God, to go live by a brook and that he will provide for him there via sparrows bringing bread and water from the brook. Later God tells him to travel to a widow who will provide food for him. God promised, God delivered. The question is: are the things we think God should provide us with something that God has promised us? Does God necessarily promise us a house or food? If so, why are there many Christians, say in Africa, that go hungry each day?
2) God provides for his mission.
Knowing that God’s mission is to put all that is wrong with the world back to rights, we see that God provides Elijah with what he needs to make this happen. God wants people to return to him so he gives the people proof by sending fire from heaven, consuming Elijah’s altar. Something the false-God Baal could not do for his multitudes of false-prophets and In response the people return to worship the One-True God.
Not only was this God’s mission but it was also Elijah’s mission. Like Elijah, we believe we have God-given missions that fit within God’s ultimate mission. Josh gave his example Sunday of how he believes God wants his family to move into the West End neighborhood to live incarnationally. We are all praying that they would be able to sell their house to enable them to do so. The question in these circumstances is: why is it that God sometimes doesn’t provide for the things that seem to be about His mission?
3) God provides through community.
While God amazingly provides through any source he chooses, even sparrows, the most source may be through each other. When Elijah visits the widow she provides food for him and later on Elijah provides for the widow by bringing her son back to life. God being behind it all. This question is huge: Why does God choose to provide through people when more often the not, we are more selfish than giving?
4) God provides in response to prayer.
Interestingly, Elijah prays differently and God responds each time. First, Elijah calls upon what he knows of God’s character. “Surely you haven’t brought me to this widow to only have her son die!?” The death seems out of character and Elijah calls upon God to act in character and resurrect the boy.
Second, Elijah calls upon the the mission of God during Baal’s beat down. “Show these people your glory! Show them your might! Bring them back to you!” God’s mission is to bring people to repentance so Elijah called upon God for the means to do so. The question hear is: why is it that sometimes God doesn’t answer favorably when we know something is certainly in God’s character and a part of God’s mission? Why does God heal certain people and not others when we know that he not only has the power to but that he cares and loves everyone as well?
As we have seen, each of these aspects of God’s provision also come with many questions. Why? Why? Why? We ask. Why can’t the formulas be simple? A+B=C? Consequently, at least for me, the mutiny within begins. The doubt starts. Lack of trust creeps it’s way in. Faith falters. Are there any clues to give us more confidence? To keep the mutiny at bay?
To find such confidence we need to look deeper than merely theology, we must taste and see theology…
To taste and see that while Elijah was given bread as nourishment, we are given something better, the Bread of Life, Jesus. Our deepest need is not food but communion with Jesus and the life he brings. God knows what’s best for us.
To taste and see that we have nothing to fear because God has power over death. Isn’t it odd to you when Elijah “stretches himself out over the dead boy”? Perhaps there is symbolism in spite of the oddness: Elijah, the one with life, taking upon himself the death of the boy. And while Elijah doesn’t suffer any consequences of that death, there is One who did suffer, taking our death upon Himself and resurrecting us with Himself to new life as the widow’s son was. We no longer have anything to fear.
To taste and see that we are often wrong about what ultimately matters. We are like the priests of the no-god Baal who spill our blood for the idols of our lives when, as Sam said on Sunday, our blood isn’t enough. Our sacrifices to try to attain what we think we need isn’t enough. Only Jesus’ blood is the sufficient sacrifice. And his blood enables us to demolish idols and return to worshipping God. Now we can begin to see why God doesn’t always let us have our way.