1 Kings 19:4-8
August 12, 2012
Bread is used symbolically and literally throughout the bible. For our purposes today, I want to focus on the idea of bread as daily provision – physical provision – money, food, clothes, shelter…
Enter our friend Elijah in 1 Kings…
This stark passage is powerful both in what it says about provision & grace and it what it does not say about provision & grace. It is a scene stripped down to its basic elements to make a point about God’s role and our role when it comes to “our daily bread”…
Elijah has just come off a mountain-top experience. I mean it. An actual mountain-top experience. At Mt Carmel, he was amazingly “God-confident”. He defeats the priest of Baal, prays to end a three-year drought, and outruns King Ahab and his chariot going the 20 miles to Jezreel. He’s unstoppable! He is confident in God to the point of brashness; he is a cocky, loud-mouthed, in-your-face Elijah who knows that God is here and is ready to do business. Doubt is not in this picture…
He arrives at Ahab’s palace in Jezreel. Jezebel, the queen, hears of Elijah’s exploits and sends him a message –
“Elijah, you’re a dead man.”
Elijah freaks out and runs for his life – he runs 100 miles to
What happened, Elijah? What happened to that God-confident prayer, slayer, and runner?
I don’t think that it is Jezebel herself who scares Elijah. I think that Jezebel’s threat in 1 Kings… wakes Elijah up to the reality that his life has been in danger since he showed up at Mt Carmel. Elijah realizes that at any point during his mountain-top experience he could have been easily killed. In fact, some bibles translate the phrase “he was afraid” as Elijah “saw” – he saw how fragile his existence was and instead of turning to God and thanking Him for His protection and care, he focuses on himself and his vulnerability – Elijah’s inadequacy - and turns tail and runs and runs and runs…
It is a self-centered, sorry-for-himself, Elijah we meet in today’s passage.
Elijah throws himself a pity party under a shrub in the desert outside of
- PAUSE -
Look how God responds.
He doesn’t wake him up and shake him and slap him and say “Get over yourself, Elijah!”
He doesn’t take Elijah “up in His lap” and coddle him. “Poor Elijah. Ahh…you’re scared. It’s okay, Elijah, it’s okay…Daddy’s here, I won’t hurt you…”
He wakes Elijah up with an angel and a miraculous meal. “Get up and eat, Elijah”
Which Elijah does and sleeps again.
A second time, an angel, a miraculous meal and the words “Get up and eat, Elijah. You need this food for the journey”
- PAUSE –
What’s the significance of the two meals? It’s miraculous food - wouldn’t one meal do?
I think Elijah has two needs in this scene.
One – he needs to RECOVER. Elijah’s exhausted. Exhausted from his victory at Mt Carmel, exhausted from literally running himself ragged in fear. His first meal is given to him to replenish him.
Two – he needs to be PREPARED. Elijah’s got a 200-mile journey ahead of him. His second meal is prepare him to ACT.
Two meals. Two needs. He is given what he needs to RECOVER and he given what he needs to ACT.
- PAUSE –
What is noteworthy in this scene is that God makes no mention of Elijah’s attitude.
It is also significant to note that at no point during this desert encounter is there any mention of Elijah’s attitude changing. In fact, when Elijah completes his 40-day, 200-mile, journey to Mt Horeb he is still self-centered and full of self-pity.
At Mt Horeb, God asks “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
Elijah says – “I have been full of zeal for you… I’ve done this and that… I’m the only one left…” - I, I, I…me, me, me…The self-righteous victim who deserves your pity, Lord…
- PAUSE –
What does God’s response and Elijah’s attitude say about us and our “daily bread”?
First, it says that God’s provision is complete. We are given everything we need everyday to RECOVER and to ACT in God’s will. We can enjoy the material things that are given to us for our recovery. There is a spiritual need being met when we receive our daily bread – daily bread for daily needs. In addition, we are given what we have in order to act – daily bread to do God’s daily work.
Second, it says that God’s provision is not dependent on us and our attitudes. We don’t earn it. Our place at God’s table has been EARNED by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – there are no additional dues to pay. Provision is not about deserving it. It has been given to us and cannot be taken away. End of story.
God’s daily provision – food, clothing, shelter, money - is miraculous because it IS from God. It may seem like we’ve earned our pay, but the pay is from God for God’s purposes in our lives and those lives around us. For recovery and for action.
Ok, so, I know the Lord’s Prayer, I know how it goes…
“Give us this day our daily bread” is about grace, I know it is a gift…but is it easier for God to give us what we need if we’re grateful?
No. Gratitude makes it easier for us. It makes it easier for us to recognize and receive and distribute God’s daily provision.
When Jill & I feel like we don’t have enough, we often start making a list of all the things we’re grateful for. By the end of the list (assuming we get to an end – once you start a gratitude list, it’s hard to stop), by the end of the list the inventory of our things – our money, food, clothing, shelter – hasn’t changed. Our perspective has changed. We enjoy what we have been given because it has been put back into the light of the miraculous and our focus has been put back on God
It is easier to pray for what we need when we are grateful for what we have. We spend less time “making our case” to God and more time simply asking for what we need. There’s more hope involved.
So, am I saying that we can go through life with a nasty, selfish attitude and still receive everything we need from God?
Sure. People do it all the time.
Well…why not change?
Why not trade bitterness, resentment, entitlement, jealousy, greediness – an overall self-righteous existence…
for gratitude, contentment, joy, graciousness for ourselves and graciousness for others – an overall peaceful and generous existence?
Why not change?