And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word”. 1 Kings 17:1
Elijah brought the word of God to King Ahab. A time of drought was coming. There was going to be food shortage, water was going to become scarce and there would be suffering and death in the land. It was not an easy word for Elijah to bring. What was God up to?
This prophetic word cut to the very heart of the nation’s problems. Elijah was confronting the central issue of the day. King Ahab had allowed false worship to enter Israel through his pagan wife Jezebel. She introduced a form of ancient nature religion to Israel which involved the worship of Baal and Asherah, the male and female gods of a pagan fertility cult. Elijah was challenging the false gods of this evil system.
All recorded miracles of Elijah were designed to defeat the demon gods operating in the land of Israel and to demonstrate that the Lord was the true and living God of Israel. He controlled the climate of the land and therefore its economic destiny belonged to him and not to the false gods of Baal worship. There could be no lasting peace or prosperity while this false religion was being embraced by the people. Israel had to repent and acknowledge that the Lord is God.
In the same way today, God is challenging the futile things in which the nations are putting their trust. He is shaking our modern institutions showing us how frail and unstable they really are. Everywhere politicians and economists are feeling the pinch as they struggle with the problems of the world economy, national budget deficits, international debt, monetary crises and failed economic programmes. God is shaking the false idols of today. He is calling the nations to forsake the worship of all false gods, and turn back to him.
People today are relentlessly pursuing wealth and happiness within the context of a value system that excludes God. This pursuit shows us the heart of the problem of our society and I believe it is the result of a misplaced and idolatrous expression of the fundamental needs of the human heart. We are all looking for security, protection and provision. But we are looking for them in the wrong places. God wants to tear down the false god of Mammon from the heart of every child of his.
The Bible warns us against the love of the world. God knows that we have physical and financial needs, but he wants us to get the emphasis right. He wants us to reintroduce into our thinking and understanding an unshakeable confidence that the Lord is God.
He is the giver of all good gifts and he is our provider. This is a matter for the human heart because, even as Christians, we struggle with economic and financial issues as we learn to depend on God for our supply. We are often driven by anxious thoughts in these troubled times, asking, “How are we going to survive?” Jesus speaks directly into these worries when he says, Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33).
I am going to share with you some powerful principles of God’s provision. In order to survive financial and economic uncertainty, you need to know thoroughly and to be walking daily in the principles of divine provision. There are no short cuts or slick answers but, as you begin to apply these principles to your life and live by them, you will be amazed at how miracle after miracle of divine provision will come your way!
I have selected seven principles of divine provision from the story of Elijah which show how the prophet moved in miraculous provision, even in a time of extreme lack.
Principle One: God knows your every need, even before you tell him, and he promises to provide for your every need!
God knew all about the drought in Israel. He initiated it and he knew that it would bring its own problems for the people of God. We often pray, “Oh God, bring prosperity!” But God may want the financial shaking to continue so that nations will fall on their knees and cry out to him.
God knows your need – he knows about your bills. God knows what you need even before you ask. He understands more than you can possibly know. He knew Elijah’s need and was ready to make full provision for it.
It is impossible for a loving father, who has the means, to refrain from meeting the needs of his children. God has the means to meet your every need. He is a loving Father and if he knows your need, he is prepared to meet your need. Paul the apostle says to the Philippians, “And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Principle Two: Blessing comes through obedience
Imagine what it was like for Elijah at this point. James says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17).
This is true of all the great men and women of God in the Bible. We can wonder what Elijah was feeling – the drought was on and a time of extreme lack was upon the whole land. Obviously, Elijah was looking to the Lord. But surely he would have gone through the same kind of human emotions that we have to face today. We must be careful not to rush ahead or to act hastily out of fear or anxiety. If we wait on the Lord during times of pressure he will show us what to do next.
Finally the word came to Elijah: Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. (1 Kings 17:3-4). Elijah obeys God immediately. He goes where God sends him and does what God tells him to do. Obedience to God is essential at all times – but in a time of lack it can be a matter of survival! Elijah did not strive – he just waited for God to speak and then acted on it. Hearing and obeying God are the twin keys to success. To walk in blessing, you must walk in obedience.
Principle Three: Your faith will be tested
Being in the centre of God’s will does not mean a trouble-free existence! God said to Elijah, “Go to the brook. I am going to give you bread and meat in the morning and in the evening, and as much as you want to drink all throughout the day!” This was all very good until the brook dried up! I can imagine Elijah saying, “Lord, you told me to come here. Am I in the right place? The brook has dried up!” It can be confusing, but you have to trust the Lord even if it seems as if he has led you up a cul-de-sac.
Don’t blame the devil for all your trials. Remember God is allowing the tests to come in order to develop your faith. The devil wants to destroy your faith, but God wants to strengthen it. There is only one way to develop your faith and that’s to exercise it! You need the resistance that comes from opposing circumstances in order to develop your faith.
Principle Four: Financial provision is for God’s purposes and not for mere personal gain
This doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to bless you personally, but the blessing is not there for your personal gain. God’s financial provision is to enable you to fulfil the purpose of God for your life. Elijah’s motive in seeking God for his provision was so that he could be true to the call of God upon his life. That can sound like language that is reserved for those in so-called ‘full time Christian service’. But we are all in full time Christian service – whatever our circumstances.
God has put you where you are to witness for him and influence others around you for the kingdom of God. Dedicate your life to Christian service wherever he calls you. God’s provision will flow into your life, if you are serving his purposes. The provision of God follows the purposes of God.
God could pour hundreds of thousands of pounds through your account but you must establish this right from the start. God’s prosperity is not for personal gain or for sheer indulgence but to serve the purposes of God.
Principle Five: God’s provision does not come according to human reasoning
There is a supernatural element at work here. Provision does not come in line with human reasoning. When you are controlled by human thinking and worldly wisdom, you limit God and exclude him. God works in strange and unexpected ways. It is exciting, even though it can be extremely uncomfortable! Can you image what this meant to Elijah? God said to him, “I am going to provide for you throughout this time of drought. Go and prophesy, and the drought will come – but don’t worry, I am going to take care of you”. God fulfilled his promise through ravens and widows! The raven was an unclean bird to the Jew! And taking food from a poor widow? I can imagine Elijah recoiled at the thought of taking something from a woman who was worse off than himself. This is human thinking. God had to teach Elijah not to reason according to his natural understanding. God often uses extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary people – most unusual sources and most unusual instruments!
Sometimes it takes a great deal of faith and a rejection of normal human reasoning to grasp what God is doing. You can easily miss the provision of God if you don’t take time to listen to his promptings and discern the hand of God in your circumstances, no matter how bizarre they appear to be.
Principle Six: Provision comes by putting God first
I know that some people are really struggling and giving presents a very real dilemma for them. But God must come first in your finances. There is no other way to flow in God’s provision. If you are in debt, or if you have other financial difficulties to resolve, make sure you honour God first with what you do have.
Begin with God. If you don’t, you’ll never have enough for him when you come to the end of the list of other commitments. I’m not going to say how this principle should be worked out in your present circumstances, but it is a principle that you cannot afford to violate. Our debt is first of all unto the Lord. We must minister to God, first of all.
When asking the widow to give up what was to be the last meal for herself and her son Elijah was not being selfish or greedy. He was following God’s instructions to the letter. It looked like the sheer manipulation and exploitation of a vulnerable person, but God was in it. He provided for his servant and also saved the life of the widow woman and her son.
There was a divine principle involved: God’s house first. If you put God’s kingdom and his concerns first in your life, everything else will fall into place.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33) Get this principle straight in your life and then you must come before the Lord and seek his wisdom to work this out in your specific situation. There is no easy or instant quick fix. These are principles that you have to start to apply and it may take time, but it does work!
Principle Seven: Prosperity means having the ability to fulfil God’s destiny for your life and to bless others in God’s plan for them
That is what biblical prosperity is all about. In a sense the widow provided for Elijah, but really it was Elijah who provided for the widow! Biblical prosperity is having more than enough for your own needs so that you can supply the needs of others. Malachi chapter 3 promises you abundant blessing when you are faithful in giving – both in your tithes and your offerings.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10 The plain fact about God’s provision is, the more you give, the more you receive! I am not suggesting that you should give with the selfish motive of gaining more yourself. But when you do give you receive back more and this means that you have even more to give next time. This is the principle of sowing and reaping.
What farmer sows seeds it is in order to reap a harvest! In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that giving is like sowing, and when you sow you should expect a harvest of righteousness. This is not just the righteousness of doing the right thing, but it means taking care of the needs of others and providing for God’s work.
Notice it is the sowing of your finances that brings you both a financial harvest and the further harvest of righteousness that comes from blessing others out of God’s abundant provision for you.
As you read these verses from 2 Corinthians, notice the words that I have underlined:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (2 Corinthians 9:6-11)
These seven principles will help you flow in God’s provision. Follow them as a lifestyle, and God will release his supernatural provision to you. You will never lack. The God of Elijah is with you and he is faithful. He never fails!