Summary: Just because some gods fail, doesn't mean there is no God... because there is One you can trust whose provision is sufficient for where he lead and for what you need.
201306016 4th Sunday After Pentecost C
Series: How Much Is Enough and Who Do You Trust for It? Part II
Title: “Trusting a Predictably Unpredictable God in Unpredictable Places”
Text: I Kings 17:8-9 (8-16)
Thesis: Just because some gods fail, doesn’t mean there is no God… because there is One you can trust whose provision is sufficient for where he leads and for all your needs.
Back-story and Introduction
God had sent the Prophet Elijah to let King Ahab in on what was about to befall him and the nation of Israel. This was the message, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives, the God I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain during the next few years until I give the word!” I Kings 17:1
We read about the reason for this impending prophecy of doom in I Kings 16:29-33:
A. Ahab had come to power and was the new King of Israel.
B. Ahab did more evil in the sight of God than any of the kings before him.
C. Ahab married Jezebel, a pagan princess from Sidon and began to worship Baal.
D. Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria and set up an Asherah pole.
Then again, in the brief span of just four verses Scripture says, “Ahab did more to provoke the anger of God of Israel than any of the other kings of Israel before him.” (I Kings 16:29-33) So God sent his prophet, Elijah, to confront King Ahab and inform him that there would be consequences for his idolatry, i.e., a severe, extended drought.
The reason Ahab’s idolatry was such an affront to God is that Baal was a pagan god that was believed to be a fertility god who enabled the earth to produce crops and people to produce children. There are many variations but all are very connected to controlling the weather. That is why Elijah challenged Ahab in 17:1 with a drought, i.e., God vs. Baal. God is going to send a drought to show the King that Baal does not control the weather. The idea carries over into chapter 18 where Elijah the Prophet of God challenged the prophets of Baal to see who could who could call down a lightning bolt from heaven to consume an offering. Ultimately, despite their dramatic and over-the-top appeals to Baal, Baal failed to respond but when Elijah prayed lightning flashed from heaven consuming the bull, the wood, the stones and the dust. I Kings 18:38. Elijah then prayed and God sent what we call “a gully washer” rainstorm.
God was confronting Ahab for having placed his trust in the pagan god, Baal, for rain to water the crops that would produce a bountiful harvest.
So when the King of Israel and the people of Israel went to the temple and worshiped at the Altar of Baal they, i.e., the King and the people of Israel, were praying that Baal would grant them great weather, plentiful rain and a bountiful harvest… their trust was in the pagan god Baal rather than the One and Only, Almighty God of the Universe.
So essentially… God drew a line in the sand and asked, “Who do you believe controls the weather, Baal or Me?”
As we come to our text today, I Kings 17:8-16, the devastating drought had gone viral. It had spread well beyond the borders of Israel and everyone, including surrounding nations, were feeling the effects of no rain, no crops and no food. That is hard for us to imagine, given the abundance and availability of food for us.
One day last week Bonnie called me and said, “I’m going to Costco, is there anything you would like for me to pick up?” And I said, “I would like one of those big bags of frozen chicken breasts, some fresh baby asparagus, fresh string beans and a bag of those frozen mixed berries… not organic!”
There were no Sam’s Clubs or Costcos. There were no neighborhood 7- Elevens. There were no supermarkets. There were no backyard gardens flourishing with fresh vegetables or apple orchards laden with Honey Crisps. It was a widespread drought.
There are three kinds of droughts:
1. Meteorological Droughts are simply prolonged periods of less than average precipitation.
2. Agricultural Droughts occur when a lack of precipitation is exacerbated by poor agricultural practices like over-tilling, failure to practice land and water conservation as in terracing, strip farming, alternating crops and fallow farming.
3. Hydrological Drought occurs when there is a lack of precipitation and run-off resulting in drop of water tables and levels in aquifers, lakes and reservoirs.
My guess is that the meteorological drought had fed into an agricultural drought which resulted in a hydrological drought throughout the land.
One of the most devastating effects of a prolonged drought is migration. During the Dust Bowl in the 1930s farmers migrated to work in fields and orchards of California… if you lived through it or have read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath you know the story well.