Will God provide what we need? This is a question that we all wrestle with, sometimes unceasingly. To encourage us to trust the God who always cares for His children, let's briefly consider the story of Elijah and the ravens.
1 Kings 17:1-7 "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 feed you there." 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith 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."
The story takes place sometime around 850BC while a wicked king named Ahab was on the throne in Israel. In 1 Kings 16:30 we're told that Ahab "did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him...[and he]...did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings...before him." Ahab was a bad dude.
What did he do that was so bad? He officially replaced the true God of Israel with a poser god named Baal. Baal was believed to be a fertility god who controlled the winds and the rains and the fruitfulness of a woman's womb. Ahab turned the hearts of the people toward this false god, and God raised up a prophet named Elijah to turn their hearts back.
In 17:1 Elijah told Ahab that God was cutting off the water supply. God did this to show that Baal, the false god had no power to provide. It's like God was saying to Him, "Who makes it rain now, buddy? Who makes the crops grow? Who gives life to the womb? Who's the true God that cares for Israel?" Ahab says it's Baal, but Elijah has come to show who the true Provider is—the Lord God of Israel.
As soon as Elijah gave his prophetic message, God gave him a personal message in v3-4 "'Leave...hide in the Kerith Ravine...you will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.'" God instructed Elijah to leave behind his home and all that he knew to go to a place where God would provide for him.
It was at this brook that God impressed upon Elijah's heart time after time that God is a God who can make the rains stop; but just as much, He is the God who opens the floodgates of provision for His children. Elijah proclaimed that God is the true God, but now God will train Elijah's heart to believe it.
There by the brook, in this valley of affection, Elijah was to be trained. His training did not center on giving better prophetic speeches or growing a bigger ministry, but there God taught Elijah to trust Him. To see this more clearly, it's important for us to notice what God gave Elijah when He sent him out to the ravine.
Look again at the text. Did you see what God gave him?
God gave him nothing.
Nothing, but a promise. "I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."
It's like God has said, "Elijah, you've spoken of me. Now, you will learn to trust me. I am the God who commands the heavens to be shut by you and I am the God who commands the ravens to sustain you."
Why did God do this to Elijah? Because Elijah was not just a prophet or a preacher or a famous guy who made it into the Bible. Elijah was the Lord's child. And God always cares for His children. Always.
And this is what the Lord taught Elijah each day that He fulfilled His promise to him. Listen again to 17:6 "the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook."
Every morning and every evening, as faithful as the rising and setting of the sun, God ordered His winged servants to come to the aid of this man on whom the Lord has set His affection. Every morning and every evening, God supplied Elijah with food along with a freshly flowing brook of cold water to quench his thirst.
As God's children, we too can have great confidence that the Lord will care for our needs. Let's reflect on a few truths that will encourage us to trust our Lord's faithful provision.
Rest in God's Promises.
The Lord won't always care for you in the same way He cares for others and He won't always care for you in way He has in the past. But He will care for you—because He promised that He will.
In Philippians 4:19 Paul reminded us that "God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." And in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus told us to "look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?...Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you."
The ravens in our story were cared for by God so that they could care for Elijah. God will also care for you if you are His child. This is the foundational lesson that we learn as God's children.
2. Remember God's Past Faithfulness.
I don't think it's insignificant that God taught Elijah this lesson of trust early in his ministry. I wonder how often he thought back to his days with the ravens and was encouraged to trust God once again. How has God provided for you in the past? How has He shown His faithfulness in days gone by? Have you considered them recently?
Philippians 4:6-7 says "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I believe that the phrase "with thanksgiving" is often they key to ousting our anxiousness with the peace of God. God's past faithfulness gives us present peace to trust that He will fulfill His promises in the future.
This lesson is essential for us because there will certainly be days when God's provisions will appear to cease. Elijah experienced that when the "brook dried up" (v7). God doesn't train His children to trust Him in just one situation. He often changes our circumstances to teach us to trust Him in new ways.
So when you face the uncertainties of tomorrow, call your heart to rest in the memories of God's faithfulness in days gone by. He has been faithful and will be faithful again. Spend time today writing down ways He has been faithful to you. Mark those moments and then share them with others. Ask others to share their own remembrances of God's faithfulness with you. Encourage one another to remember that our God is always faithful.
3. Be Ready for God's Peculiar Provisions.
It may also be good for us to notice that God's provision often comes in peculiar ways. God made Elijah homeless in a gorge with a bunch of buzzards bringing him scraps from who knows where. That is weird.
Why did God send him to a ditch with a stream rather than to the mighty Jordan River with its deep and abundant waters? And why the birds? And not just any birds, but unclean scavengers? That's the last way Elijah, a Jewish prophet, would have suspected provision to come.
But isn't that like our God? He often puts His people in peculiar situations so He can be glorified in His peculiar supply. Elijah never missed a meal in the valley. And through that peculiar provision God taught His servant that He would care for him, just like He promised He would.
So, when you feel hemmed in and you see no way that what your need will be provided; remember that our God is a God who keeps His promises, even if He does it in peculiar ways.
4. Rejoice in God's Present Provision.
In your current struggle, be careful to not overlook the table that the Lord has already set before you. Has He given you provision today? Do not push His plate of grace aside to make room for worry about the future. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Are you rejoicing in Him for the provision He has given today? Or are you fixated on what you fear you will lack tomorrow? God may not always give us everything we want, but He always gives us everything we need. He promises daily bread, not daily bounty. It is very true that He often gives both, but there are seasons we are called to travel through the valley before we enter the green pasture.
Elijah didn't get chubby in that valley outside of Jerusalem. His pockets weren't getting full. His prophetic portfolio wasn't improving. But his faith was being strengthened. Each time his belly growled, his heart was being trained to say in faith—the ravens are coming, the ravens are coming—because God said He would provide.
So we must make sure to guard our heart in days when the bounty is slim. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us to "be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." The Lord is our bounty and the tempter will always call us to doubt His love and promises to provide for us.
When we are tempted to doubt the Father's faithfulness, we have no further to look than His provision of Christ. All of God's gifts of grace in our lives are intended, like bread crumbs, to lead us down a path to a hill called Calvary where we see God's ultimate gift in the person of His Son Jesus who lived, died, and rose to give us the gift of eternal life. In Christ we have the promise that One day we will be in that place where the river never runs dry because it flows from the throne of God Almighty. May we forever rest in the God who provides for His children.