Tony Evans - Seeking God's Provision
What depression, discouragement, despair often brings is distorted information. Elijah is by himself. Depression gets worse if there's nobody in your life to change your thinking. See, if you're feeling sorry for yourself and you're talking to yourself, that's a bad conversation for yourself. You're already feeling sorry, and there's nobody to talk to but you, about you, regarding you, to tell you what you ought to do. And you aren't in a place to even hear you correctly, then your discussion with yourself is helping yourself to become worse off about you. So, God then enters the picture and tells him, "Elijah, tell me how you feel. Stop talking to yourself 'cause when you talk to yourself, you were getting depressed, you were suicidal. Start talking to me, okay?
Now, I'm going to show you the wind and the rain and all that stuff. Now, y'all talk to me because you talking to you is killing you. Since I don't want you to kill you, stop talking you to you, and y'all talk to me". God has an angel for you, he's got a person for you, he has himself for you. He gave Elijah all three of those to give him a supernatural experience to lift him out of his depression. And one of the reasons that the church exists is to have people available in your life when you are down who can embrace you, minister to you, lift you up, and he can use you to do the same thing for somebody else. Because when we are depressed, we need another perspective. That doesn't deny the reality of how we feel, but what it does is, doesn't let you live there.
We are looking at the life of Elijah to discover the supernatural. And I don't want you to miss the point. I want you to get this. And today, we're going to be introduced to him and learn about a lesson about God's supernatural provision. The context in which Elijah appears on the scene, he appears in 1 Kings chapter 17. We're told in verse 1, "Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead". Tishbe, or if you were from there, you'd be called a Tishbite, was the place Elijah was from. Now, we don't know a lot about Elijah. He just kind of breaks in on the scene, and he comes like out of nowhere. His name means Yahweh is my God. That tells us a little bit about his mother and father, who named them. They were obviously people of faith that they would name him that way.
Prophets, as Elijah was, showed up because there was a spiritual issue among God's people that needed to be addressed. Prophets were there to bring God's message in the midst typically of spiritual decline. Well, the scenario that brings Elijah on the scene is summarized for us in chapter 16, verses 32 and 33. "So he erected an altar", that is King Ahab, "erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. This Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him".
So, the context that brings Elijah on the scene is idolatry. Ahab the king has begun worshipping Baal, and he brings the rest of Israel to worship Baal with him. He not only worships Baal, he worships Baal's girlfriend, Asherah, because Baal and Asherah are kind of like boyfriend and girlfriend, work together to bring fertility to Israel. They looked to this idol to bring fertility to Israel. Let me define an idol again so that you understand its meaning. An idol is an unauthorized noun, person, place, or thing. It's an unauthorized noun that you look to to meet the needs in your life. You're looking to it. Idols weren't just something that was there. It was you looking to that something that was there to do something for you.
So, in places around the world, people will worship the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the water, and the trees. But they're not just worshiping that to worshiping that, they're doing that 'cause they're hoping their worship of that thing brings something to them. Now, you and I over here, we don't worship those kind of idols, we worship American idols. We worship people, and popularity, and power, and prestige, and possessions because we look to it to meet a need. When you look to an unauthorized noun, or when you look to an authorized noun in an unauthorized way, you have an idol. You don't need a tree, they could be an actor, an actress, an entertainer. It could be your bank account. It could be your house. It could be the people living in your house. When you look to them in an unprescribed way from God, you just created an idol.
So, before we go any further, are there any idolaters in the house? So, Elijah comes in verse 1 and he says to Ahab the king, "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word". "Ahab, God told me to tell you heaven's gonna close. No dew, no rain, and it's not going to be for a day, a month, or a year. It's going to be for years. There's going to be a downturn in the agriculture economy. Okay, who's your daddy now? Who's your God now"?
Let's see what Baal can do now. Let's see what Asherah can do now. God attacks Israel at the place of their idolatry because they were looking for Baal and Asherah to bring about fertility even in the land, so that whatever you are worshiping because it's unauthorized, or it's authorized and you're worshiping it in an unauthorized way, don't be surprised when God shuts it down to let you know that is an idol. So, he removes the provision.
Now, the Word of the Lord comes to Elijah in verse 2, saying, "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself at the brook of Cherith, which is in the east of Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there". There's our word "provide". So, I'm going to use the natural provision of a brook. But I'm going to provide for you another way supernaturally. Because I'm going to call on the raven catering service to supply you food morning and evening. They're going to give you bread and meat, that's called a sandwich. They're going to give you bread and meat morning and evening.
Now, that ain't normal. A brook that you can drink from, that's normal. But having birds fly in with a sandwich twice a day, having waiters fly in on schedule every day in a drought, that ain't normal. Oh, but it's worse than that. You see, in Deuteronomy chapter 14, verses 11 to 14, God tells his people, "Don't mess with ravens, they are unclean birds". Deuteronomy 14:11 to 14, Ravens are unclean. You may not eat them, you don't mess with them 'cause they're unclean. Well, what does that tell you about God's provision? That ought to tell you that God can use hell to bring heaven to you.
See, you never want to box God in because while God does not sin and God does not tell you to sin, he often uses sin and uses sinful people to provide for his people. So, the beautiful thing about God's provision is that you never want to box him in, and you don't want to be so spiritual that you miss him using ravens to address the need in your life. Those are unclean birds. They were prohibited birds. But God is so God that even the devil has to be under his rule. He says, "I want you to go to the brook 'cause I got some birds that got your back. I got some birds that are gonna cover you at this place called Cherith".
Now, this ought to free you up a little bit because that means the sky's the limit, the world's the limit. Now, what this means, in order to have a supernatural raven feeding you and to have birds listening to God to feed you, that means that God must be your only source. Your job is not your source. Your bank is not your source. Your employer is not your source. God is your only source. Everything else is a resource, a mechanism that God uses, and you must free him up to use whatever resource he wants to use, even if it comes from something you wouldn't normally understand it coming from. So, he's there at Cherith eating two meals a day, drinking some fresh water. I mean, he's doing okay in a bad situation. Ah, but now we come to verse 7. "It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land".
So, now he becomes a recipient of the very judgment everybody else is experiencing. So, follow this. When he first gave it, God provided supernaturally. But now, the economy is affecting him. The circumstances in the land are affecting him. The downturn is affecting him. And things dry up. So, don't have anybody tell you serve the Lord and things don't get dry. Serve the Lord and you don't lose your job. Serve the Lord and your bank account doesn't get drained. Serve the Lord and things don't break down and dip into the savings that you didn't plan to use for that. Don't let anybody tell you that if you're in God's will, he was in God's will, that things don't still dry up. Said the brook dried up. It was judgment on the land, and he lived in the atmosphere of the judgment, so he was affected, too. Verse 8, "Then the word of the Lord came to him".
When did the word of the Lord come to him? When things dried up. Okay, the word of the Lord came to him and told him where to go for the catering service, the raven catering service. So he's, you know, eating sandwiches every day, twice a day, he's drinking his water. All of a sudden, what's happening in society is now affecting him. And now, the word of the Lord comes to him again. Okay, let me explain something. When God allows things to dry up in your life, it is because he's moving you to a different provider. When God allows things to dry up in your life, it is because he has a different plan.
So, God says to him, "Go to Zarephath. Arise", verse 9, "go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you". Okay, I have problems with this. First of all, Zarephath is the Baal belt. You know, this is the Bible belt? That was the Baal belt. That was the center of Baal worship is Zarephath in Sidon. God will often test your faith by sending you places you don't prefer to go 'cause it doesn't make sense. How is a widow who's down to her last meal, as you're going to see, going to help me? She can't help herself. But God said, "I commanded the widow, as she's gonna be your new provider". But he was close enough to God to hear his voice. Hmm.
"So he arose", cause Elijah is a man of faith, so he's not going to just listen to God to say amen. He got up, "He arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a woman was there gathering sticks. And he called out to her and said, 'Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.' As she was going to get it, he called and said, 'Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand'". So, why does he say this to a woman? Well, God said there's going to be a widow. He comes to the city, he sees a woman. But is this the woman, or are there other women? How do I know that this is the one?
So he says, "Well, give me some water, give me some bread", to see if this was the one that God had to provide for him. "But she said, 'As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar. And behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die'". Wait a minute, I'm confused. Didn't we just read, God had commanded the woman? In fact, Elijah says to her in verse 13, "Do not fear", so she's scared. I don't see the command 'cause she's scared to death 'cause she's down to the last meal.
Here's this man asking for stuff. He says, "Make me", verse 13, "A little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son". He tells her, "This is what I need you to do. I need you to make me my bread first, and then, and then you take care of you and your son. And when you do, this is what God's going to do". He says, "For thus the Lord God of Israel says, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth'". He gives her a promise from God.
All this woman has is a promise and a final meal. The question is whether she going to believe the preacher. But now because he's a preacher, but because he's saying thus saith the Lord. what he challenging her to do? He was challenging her to put God first. He was challenging her to faith 'cause all she had was a promise from a preacher. But his job was to get her to act in faith for her, 'cause she was going to be the beneficiary of her faith. He was going to be too because she was going to make a bread cake for him.
So, what does the lady do? Verse 15, "So, she went and did according to the word of Elijah", which was the word of the Lord. And what happened? It says, "And she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted, nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke through Elijah".
So, now let me give you the secret of your provision. Elijah, we got to leave here 'cause this is dried up. I got a widow. I know, I know this doesn't make sense, but I got a widow over there. She doesn't have much, but she's going to take care of you. So, you do what I told you, you go over there, and you minister to her. You create faith in her. And when you create faith in her, she going to take care of you. But when she takes care of you out of obedience to me, because you excited faith in her, I'm going to take care of her. Or to put it in the words of Scripture, Luke 6:38, "Give and it", the thing you give, "will be given back to you pressed down, overflowing". 'Cause it says, "And they will return it back to you".
The secret to your provision is to be a provider for somebody who needs what you need so that God can use what they need that's what you need to bless them and return it back to you. The question is, do you need what God has to offer? That's the question. And this is not just about money. It can be relationships, it can be helping hand. It can be God pricking you to reach out to somebody who's sad because you need encouragement, so you decide, "Well, you know, I need encouragement, so let me find somebody who needs encouragement. God, led me to somebody who needs encouragement so when I encourage them, you'll bring somebody to encourage me. And you'll work this thing around, and so God".
This is not just about tithes and offerings. It is about God being able to work through you to benefit somebody else so he can come back to you and give you the miracle you've been looking for. It's the supernatural circle of provision. He invoked her faith. If I can ever get you and me and us to move in faith, not talk in faith, but to move in faith, then heaven opens up and God blows your mind. That somebody who makes less than you can feed you and almost retire at the same time. We got some folks here who are living by faith, who are on bare incomes, who God has blessed. We have one sister who she just lived on subsistence, she had three kids, she's a widow, and God brought a man who gave her his house.
You never know how God's going to come at you. You never know where it's going to come from. But you'll never see it, if he sees idolatry, you'll see a famine in the land. And it may not be a famine of money, it could be a famine of peace, it could be a famine of confidence, it could be a famine of stability. It could be all kind of famines because you are doing what the land does, worshiping another God, an unauthorized worship. So, the question on the floor is, who's your source? 'Cause I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "That's Old Testament. That's in the Old Testament, I don't believe that works today. I don't believe that principle applies today".
So, let me close by quoting you Luke 4, verse 24. When Jesus is rejected in his own hometown, he says, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his own hometown", talking about himself. "But I say to you the truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the skies were shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. And yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow".
Girlfriend had made it from the Old Testament all the way to the New Testament with a new prophet, whose name is Jesus. And Jesus said, "Let me reach back to the old prophet". He said, "There were a whole lot of widows in Israel, but God sent to only one. And the one he sent it to didn't even go to church. She was the widow of Zarephath, she was a Gentile. But because she was willing to act in faith, she was the only one who got the miracle, even though there were a lot of widows who could've gotten the miracle. But they were living as idols. But because this one foreign woman was willing to believe the prophet, a greater than Elijah is here. I am the prophet".
So, the question on the floor is, are you going to be that unique person that God supernaturally provides for? Does he have somebody over there, or over there, or over there, and over there, and over there? And the rest of y'all just go home. How many widows who are willing to trust him does he have in a crowd? And guess what? Jesus said, "One good one will do".
You only have one source, one provider, and that's God. He uses many different resources or mechanisms through which he makes the provision. But never confuse the resources that he uses as your source. When you do, you've made your resource God. One source. That's why, in the life of Elijah, he shifts sources. One minute, he uses an unclean raven. The next minute, he uses a widow of Zarephath. Because God can shift sources anytime he chooses. That's why when you get disappointed because he didn't use the same source that he used last time, it's because we've gotten confused that resources can vary.
If this job doesn't work out, God can create another opportunity elsewhere. If this person doesn't come through, he's got more than one person he can use. If this bank doesn't cooperate, he can come up with another scenario. I mean, God has the world of options open to him. So, make sure you don't make as an idol your resources, but you keep focused on your provider, and that is God. And when you keep focused on him and watch his provision of meeting your needs, like he says in Philippians 4: 19, "My God is able to meet your need", because Paul understood God alone is the source. So, thank him that he is your source for every area of your life. Keep your focus on him. Thank him for the resources he's currently using, but always leave that door open for new resources he chooses to use.