God's Grace Doesn't Run Dry

From Elijah's account in 1 Kings 17:1-16, we'll learn what God has in store for you when you are dried up and weary. What a beautiful lesson and reminder that no matter how dry your world and life might become, "God's Grace Doesn't Run Dry." August 6, 2017.

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            Today I’d like for you to step out of this kind of wet summer and the green lush landscape and imagine that you are in a desert region that hasn’t seen rain in months. And enter into a setting where God’s promises are rejected, places of worship are destroyed, prophets are put to death, and the few believers that remain are in hiding. This is the setting of today’s lesson from 1 Kings chapter 17. This is the setting of the life and ministry of Elijah. A place that was physically and spiritually dry was the place that God would show that his grace doesn’t run dry. As we explore this account of Elijah we’ll learn what God has in store for you when you are dried up and weary.

            This setting is Israel. This is the promised land in which God’s chosen nation of Israel lived. How did it get to this point? The nation was divided by rebellion and the kings of the northern section of Israel forsook God and none more than, Ahab, the king that reigned during Elijah’s ministry. Ahab is described this way in the Bible – “Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him...he did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:30,33). Ahab married a woman named, Jezebel. You know the name Jezebel, right? It’s not a top 10 baby name – not even top 10,000 and for good reason. It carries the connotation of a wicked, manipulative, promiscuous person. All those connotations stem from this Jezebel of 1 Kings. She was a wicked and godless woman who introduced to Ahab and to Israel the worship of the idol called Baal. Baal was believed to be the god of fertility who controlled the rain and caused it to fall and produce fruitful harvests. The people of Israel turned away from God and got rid of all that reminded them of him and they embraced Baal and worship of him.

            This was the battle that God called his prophet Elijah to fight. Elijah’s first words recorded in Scripture are not nice, rosy gospel promises, but the proclamation of punishment. “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.” Not only was this drought the punishment that God promised would come to Israel if they followed idols, see Deuteronomy 11:16-17, but this was also a direct challenge to their false god, Baal. See if your god, Baal, is really the one who sends the rain. The true Lord God will show you what’s what. The truth is, the physical drought upon the land was a picture of the spiritual drought that was in place in the people’s souls.

            Now step away from the time of Elijah and think about the current setting that we live in. We live in a time where more and more people are turning away from God and his promises and chasing after idols. They may not call the idols, Baal, but doesn’t much of the world chase after, dedicate their lives to the things that make them prosperous? Things like careers, money, philosophies. Sexual promiscuity reigns. Churches once filled with God’s people stand empty or converted into centers of worldly affairs. Don’t you as a Christian sometimes feel like you need to hide to avoid confrontation for your beliefs? While not as open in our country, but in other places in the world, Christians and their leaders are driven away and sometime put to death. There’s a spiritual drought taking place in our own world. Has God’s grace run dry?

            You live in it. Some days are easier than others. But how often don’t you find that you are affected and suffer because of the sinful world that you live in? Do you find your soul dried up with cynicism towards the world, with frustration, with doubts? Do you find yourself worn out and weary by health issues, by temptations that overwhelm you, by dealing with hypocrites and unbelievers, by troubles in life that don’t seem to go away? How often haven’t you prayed, “Come quickly, Lord!”

            Elijah still had to live in the drought. God didn’t take him away from it. But God did care for him and carry him through the drought. God did it by using the unexpected to provide for Elijah. God used ravens, that are much better known for being selfish scavengers who hid food and steal from others, to bring food to Elijah twice a day. It might not have been filet mignon and fine wine, but God sustained Elijah with what he needed. God led Elijah to a ravine whose water supply came from melting snow and falling rain, which in a drought meant that the water would eventually dry up. When it did, God used a gentile woman who lived in the heart of enemy, idol-worship territory to provide food for Elijah. God sent him not to a wealthy benefactor who had food stored up for the occasion of a drought, but to a poor widow who had the last remains of flour and oil. And God made that flour and oil last until the rain once again fell on the land.

            Elijah couldn’t have planned it this way. He couldn’t have imagined that it would work out this way. But what do you see? You see that he went along with every seemingly crazy instruction of the Lord. “So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine…and stayed there.”  “He went to Zarephath.” He followed the Lord with a heart of faith. He trusted the Lord.

            Elijah’s faith was built upon the fact that God was faithful to his promises. When Elijah went to the remote and lonely ravine, God actually did provide him with water and the ravens, as unbelievable as it is, actually did bring him food. When Elijah went to Zarephath, where God said he’d find a widow who would help him, Elijah actually found that widow. When God promised that the jars of flour and oil wouldn’t run out in order to make bread to feed Elijah, the widow, and her son, lo and behold, they never saw the bottom of the jars. God’s grace didn’t run dry. God cared for his faithful believer and he used Elijah to continue to fight for the souls of the people of Israel. Even though the Israelites love for God had run drier than a drought stricken river, God never gave up on his people but chased after their hearts time and time again.

            God’s grace for you doesn’t run out either. No matter what troubles and temptations may seize your life and your soul, God doesn’t forsake you. No matter how dry your spiritual life can get, God doesn’t turn from you. No matter how challenging living in a sinful world can be, God continues to care for you and keep you close to him. God may not make every trouble disappear from your life. He may not heal the aches and pains of your body. He may not magically make all your debt disappear. He may place you right in the middle of a drought and hide you next to a lonely river bed.

            But God will provide you with what you really need in this life. How do I know that? Because God has taken care of your greatest eternal need. He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). In other words, if God would go to such great lengths and costs to rescue you from sin to make you forgiven and right with him by sending Jesus to be your Savior, God’s going to be able to give you the “little” things needed for this life too.

            God still chooses to work in miraculous and unexpected ways. He uses the miracle of baptism, the miracle of holy communion, the miracle of his Holy Spirit breaking apart sin-calloused souls to be opened up in faith to know and believe in the Savior, Jesus. God works the miracle of a change of heart in you to leave behind the idols of the world and to follow him in faith, even when it is a hard and is sometimes a lonely path in this world.

            God often uses natural means to provide for you in this life by providing you with skills and jobs to use them in to provide for your needs. God works through the medicines and procedures that doctors prescribe to heal your body.

            But sometimes God uses the unexpected to provide for you and to show you that his grace doesn’t ever dry up. Have you seen the ravens or continuously filled flour jars in your life? Have you experienced how God can use a tragedy, a death, an illness, to renew the faith of a person? You wouldn’t expect anything good to come out of those events, but the powerful God works good out of even evil. Have you ever been down to the last pennies in the bank with more bills coming in and received a timely and unexpected check or gift to keep you afloat? It shouldn’t have been that timely, but it was. Or maybe the unexpected card or conversation that picked your spirits up.

            Sometimes God still uses supernatural means to care for his people. I’ve known people who miraculously recover from a sickness or disease. I’ve heard the stories of people that should have died in an accident who were somehow spared. I’ve seen the pictures of devastation all around the one standing, unscathed building. We cannot always explain or understand what God does and how he does it in your life. But you can have the same heart of confidence that Elijah had. God is faithful to his promises. His grace doesn’t run dry. God gives you eternal life through Jesus. God cares for you through good and bad times of this earthly life.

            While the physical and spiritual world of Israel suffered a severe drought, God’s grace didn’t run dry. Elijah lived it. What a beautiful lesson and reminder that no matter how dry your world and life might become; God’s grace stilldoesn’t run dry. May he fill you with the refreshing and life-saving water of life and sustain you through seasons of life.  Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on August 6, 2017

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