Amid a year of loss and grief, where we now try to return to school and have fires raging round, much is unsettling and frightening. Remember Elijah, that great prophet of God, who was afraid. Tonight’s passage is between two dramatic scenes. Just prior, there’s the showdown between 850 false prophets and Elijah. Their gods didn’t answer the requests for fire. When Elijah prayed, God sent an astounding, consuming fire.
Elijah tells King Ahab to eat and drink because it’s about to rain after the long drought. When Ahab rides off in his chariot, and Elijah miraculously runs ahead of him. Queen Jezebel soon says: You’ll be dead by tomorrow. Elijah runs again to flee, afraid. Elijah is afraid even though God sent dramatic fire, brought back the rain, enabled him to run ahead, and provided in many previous ways recorded in scripture. Even this great prophet of God who has seen provision quite recently and over a lifetime, gets worn out, doubts, and fears. We do too.
An angel comes twice pointing to food provided in the wilderness. Elijah told Ahab to eat before his journey. Now God provides food for Elijah with similar encouragement. God provides in our deepest struggles, where life is killing us. God provides when we doubt, question, and are afraid, no matter how much we have received before. God provides when we can’t see or imagine how life could get any better, when we’re afraid and tired, and when we’ve lost hope.
God does not come nor answer as we may expect. The drama right after this passage is God appearing before Elijah on Mount Horeb. God is not in a great wind, fire, or earthquake, but rather come in the sound of sheer silence. God comes in surprising ways.
At their last supper, Jesus comforted those who had with him for a long time, who had received much provision and miracles. Again, they were afraid. Jesus gave many words of encouragement, including: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9). Abide can mean to live in, to make yourself at home. There’s a gutsy quality to it, a commitment to remain through challenge. Jesus says: the Father stuck with me. I’ll stick with you no matter what. Make yourself at home in me.
When crying for help, we may think we’re getting God’s attention, yet God is already attending to us. God is waiting for our attention. It’s good to cry for help, to pray our desires, pain, and anger. Scripture, especially the psalms, give many examples. It’s easy to over focus on self, and miss listening.
In the great hymn “Abide with Me,” we address God, yet as in John 15, Jesus says “abide in my love.” Loren Wiebe, the father of one of my dear friends, adapted the words to the hymn as we sang it tonight. Listen to Jesus speaking this to you.[i]
As winds blow, fires rage, and storms churn around and within, pray your heart, including your fear. Listen for God who is here in the midst providing, especially providing God’s own self. Jesus is already looking at you with tender love. “In life, in death my child, abide with Me.”
[i] Abide with Me, fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; come, with Me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
My Love will never fail, abide with Me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s every day;
Earth’s joys are gifts, although they pass away;
Change and decay in all around you see,
I will not ever change, abide with Me.
You need My Presence every passing hour,
What but My grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Myself, your guide and stay will be?
Always remember, come, abide with Me!
Fear not, no foe can curb My gift to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
You’ll triumph still if you abide with Me.
Hold Calvary’s cross before My loving eyes;
See how I shine, look up into the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death my child, abide with Me.
Text: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)
Adapted: Loren Wiebe (b. 1940)
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