Sunday, August 8, 2010

LIFE IN TENNESSEE // Elijah ate ravens; where does that leave me?

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." And the word of the LORD came to him: "Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:1-7)

This was the scripture used in church this morning. Aaron is speaking about provision for a couple weeks. This week was about provision in famine.

[Here I'm combining some of what Aaron said in service and some of what I took in from seminary.] Aaron pointed out that in verse 1 God is challenging another god, Ba'al. Ba'al could refer to various gods like a title "lord" and in some texts it can be a substitute for Hadad who was a god of rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture. Hadad might also be known by other names, depending on your scholarly source. The point being, Elijah gives the LORD's word to Ahab that the rain would stop. The LORD, one true God among many other gods in the land, gave the word that he would stop the rain, the domain of the god Ba'al or Hadad that Ahab worshiped. And then the LORD sends Elijah away to hide by a brook....

Now, Ahab was the king over Israel in Samaria, a no-no in that the LORD was to be worshiped only at the Temple in Jerusalem. Ahab was worshiping this other god, Ba'al, Hadad, a false God, which was pretty much a failure of the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy repeatedly makes the point, "Do not follow any other gods. Do not follow any other gods. Do not follow any other gods." Ahab is in violation of that command of the LORD's. Way to go, Ahab. So here in verse 1 we see the epic set-up for this famine that the LORD is sending to show, once again, that he is the one true God in a land of many, many false gods.

Here Aaron made the point that famine challenges which god or God we trust. To which I make the note, God started the famine. Or did he not? Did he just withhold the rain and their lack of foresight brought the famine? Either way, moving on.... Aaron noted that every story needs a hero and a villain, and oftentimes we blame others for what we've caused ourselves, and when faced with a challenge, what role is God going to play in your life/story?

I'll admit it. Here Aaron started talking about the god of wealth and I turned my brain a different direction briefly. I asked myself, "Over the past 12-18 months, what god have you been trusting?" My current though probably still unclear answer is that I've been trusting God but allowing other distracting voices into my head. Maybe that other god is self, thinking that I could handle the day-to-day knowing that God had the bigger picture in mind and I'd learn more about that when he was ready. But I see what kind of burden you end up carrying even when you think you can handle the day-to-day. Especially when you're hiding the weight of it from those who love you and can help you. I was the villain in my own story.

The second point Aaron made was that famine changes the old rules. He pointed out that in Leviticus 11, the LORD gives a list of birds that are unclean to eat and verse 15 says, "every raven of any kind." The people of Israel were to have nothing to do with ravens of any kind, and in 1 Kings 17:4 it says that the LORD commanded the ravens to feed him. In verse 6 it says that the ravens brought Elijah bread and meat. They were the meat. That was something left out of the flannel graphs in Sunday school growing up. I remember the story of Elijah and the ravens and the bread crumbs they dropped at his feet. But what wasn't in the flannel graphs was the killing of bread-offering ravens. And Elijah had permission to eat the unclean birds because God changed the rules in the famine. 

Point being, in a famine you will find that ways of provision have changed. God sent a new, unexpected source for food but he was still the same God. I didn't completely check out from Aaron's message at this point; but I did think to myself, "Yes, the ways of provision have changed, are changing and will change." And this has been one of my concerns in recent weeks. Not a major concern, but one to be considered. I'm nearing the end of my degree and would like to actually use it as a means to pay the bills. But I have example after example after example of God providing me with work and jobs and money over the last 12 years. I have never been in want and while I've accumulated some more debt in the last three years, I've never been behind in any payments. That said, I took much hope from this point. It confirmed what I already knew. The times, they are a'changin' and God has that next phase worked out and I'm confident he knows the amount of many money I need to make - and how I'm going to make it.

Aaron's last point was that famine points us to the Provider and not the provision. Because when you're down to nothing, where else are you going to look? Again, I think my brain went in a different direction here as Aaron talked about when the paycheck doesn't arrive on time (which has happened to me). 

As he talked about that, I mused in my notebook about the season approaching that I need to be at home, in Nashville. Aaron mentioned that God directed Elijah to a brook, likely a seasonal brook that was filled with previous rainwater run-off, until it dried up from God's withholding rain and dew. Not to say that Nashville is a seasonal brook that will dry up (or maybe it will and I move elsewhere) (Pssst! God, NYC!) but come December/January, I feel like I'm supposed to stay put. And by stay put, I mean get involved in life again in Nashville, at my church, with volunteer work, etc. That doesn't rule out a trip to Portland or L.A. or Michigan or elsewhere but it does mean, when I'm here in Nashville, which will be most of the time, I will be seen. Kind of back to my old self but a more educated, more understanding, new old self.

I still have so much more to a blog on the need for friends, a blog on the recovery of my father, a blog on fear and anxiety, a blog on seasons, a recap blog of this seminary journey (that'll be fun)....

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