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1 Kings 17:2-6 & Philippians 4:14-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:51 mins 21 secs

Biblical Thinking not Positive Thinking. 1 Kings 17:2-6; Philippians 4:14-17

In Gods training program there are two things that are emphasized as foundational. One is volition: that we have a responsibility to obey God's command, and secondly, thinking. The spiritual life of the believer is grounded upon thought upon an understanding of what God says and a knowledge of His Word. It is a study of God's Word that entails principles of interpretation, of grammar, of word studies, etc., so that we can have an accurate understanding of just exactly what God says to us. It is through God the Holy Spirit working in our lives that we see these principles apply to our lives. The foundational training is addressed to these two elements. We have to learn to think according to God's Word, to think according to God's will. But it is not just some academic thing, it moves towards a transformation of character. As we study God's Word and as we learn about what he has done for us, as we accumulate that academic knowledge, then as we apply it, it is God the Holy Spirit who uses that to transform who we are into the image of Jesus Christ. It is ultimately about transformed character and preparation for future ministry. Just as Elijah was being prepared for his future ministry we are being prepared for our future ministry.

The key idea that we see here is the idea of training. And when we reach a mastery of those skills and abilities the Bible uses a word to describe that: wisdom. The Hebrew word is chokmah which is a word to describe the craftsmanship of those who worked on the tabernacle. That is where our spiritual life is headed, so that our lives become a work of beauty and skill that is produced by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. That beauty that we acquire with the transformation of our character glorifies God.

We see this exemplified in some passages in Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 11:2 NASB "When pride comes, then comes dishonor. But with the humble is wisdom." The second clause there, "But with the humble is wisdom," connects wisdom, that skill in applying God's Word, to a foundational mental attitude which is humility. Humility is an orientation and submission to God's authority. It is contrasted with pride. Pride is this sort of natural orientation or default position of the sin nature—self absorption, self-reliance, and the whole focus is on self. It is only through the process of God's training that he begins to knock all the rough edges off of our pride and our arrogance. We have to reach a point where we are willing to submit to Him and orient to His authority and the Bible uses that word humility to describe that. Humility is the idea of someone who is completely oriented to authority and operates under that authority without letting his own desires and will interfere with the accomplishment of the mission. The Scripture says that Moses was the most humble of all men. He ran a nation of somewhere between two and a half and three million complaining and rebellious Jews and took them through the wilderness for forty years. That was an extremely tough thing to do and demanded strong leadership, and it demanded somebody of strong personal character traits, not somebody who is not just a door mat. He was oriented to God's authority. So before God can use us in any kind of ministry or service He has to begin to deal with our pride. If we do not deal with our arrogance, orient to His authority and develop humility, then there is no spiritual growth. Humility is wisdom, a part of grace orientation. In grace orientation we are learning to depend on what God provides and not what we provide.

Two other verses in Proverbs connect another idea. "The fear of the Lord is the instruction [or training] for wisdom." The word for training is a Hebrew word which has the idea of instruction or discipline or training. The primary meaning that is found in the better Hebrew lexicons is the idea of discipline. Discipline is really training. Whenever we are training we are training for some job, some mission or some ability. It entails discipline. We have to discipline ourselves, we have to learn to think in terms of priorities and not do things that we otherwise would like to do because it is a distraction from accomplishing the objective. We have to learn self-discipline. Sometimes it is imposed from the outside. The starting point for understanding the kind of discipline we should have in the spiritual life is orientation to God's authority—the fear of the Lord. This word "fear" isn't just the idea of a respect for His authority but it also has the idea of recognizing what can happen to us in terms of divine discipline if we are disobedient. There is a certain level of fear or anxiety associated with disobedience. Proverbs 29:23 echoes the same idea. NASB "A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor."  This is ultimately exemplified in Philippians chapter two in the Lord Jesus Christ. Proverbs 22:4 NASB "The reward of humility {and} the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life." If we want to have real life that is related to subordinating our will to God's will and learning biblical humility which is orientation to God's grace. Even the Lord Jesus Christ who was sinless had to go through that training procedure that every one of us goes through. The difference is that he did not have a sin nature to distract Him, but He still had to grow and mature in His humanity and learn to trust God and be strong in His own spiritual life. That prepared Him for His future ministry on the cross. Hebrews 5:8 NASB "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."

This was foundational in the life of the apostle Paul where in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he stated NASB "…for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!" So God works to wipe out our arrogance. "Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." So we have to orient to God's authority and that comes through a process of testing. James 1:2-4 NASB "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." So there is this ongoing process of training that takes place and the purpose is to teach us humility. We can never have success in our spiritual life or in serving the Lord if it is not grounded on humility.

Basically humility involves three aspects. 1) a submission to God's Word. The Word is the representative of God's authority; what His Word says we are to do. As we study God's Word we learn about God's plan, God's procedures for taking us through spiritual growth to spiritual maturity. So we have to submit to that plan. 2. We have to learn to accept His provision. He supplies for us that which we need to accomplish His will in our lives. It is that provision of His Word and the spiritual resources that is based on grace. So ultimately, humility has to do with understanding the grace of God, understanding what God has supplied and provided for us. If we don't learn to rest in His grace provision then when the real battles occur and the opportunities to serve Him occur we are not prepared to engage in those battles and opportunities on the basis of supplying God's provision, we end up trying to do it our own way.

That is the situation we find Elijah in. 1 Kings 17:2, 3 NASB "The word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan'." He is taken out of the way and taken to a place which is traditionally understood to be in the Trans-Jordan area across from Samaria. This was an area that had little habitation, place where God could hide Elijah. There weren't a lot of "grocery stores" there and so Elijah was going to have to rely on God's grace and provision for each and every circumstance that he faced. 1 Kings 17:4 NASB "It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there." Each day the brook would get a little lower and Elijah would have to learn to trust God. This happens in each of our lives.

He responds in obedience. 1 Kin 17:5, 6 NASB "So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook." Unquestioned obedience. Notice how God provided for him. Part of the provision was based on the natural, normal course of events. God may provide for us through a job, through the normal means by which he supplies most of our needs. But there are other times in life when that is not necessarily enough and God provides for our physical needs through other ways. And we learn to trust Him. God is teaching Elijah that even in the most desperate circumstances out there is the economic crisis that He was going to supply everything for him and He would do it in many different ways.

1 Kings 17:7 NASB "It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land." The brook dried up, then God told him where he was going next. Elijah has to trust completely in the Lord that when the time comes God will continue to take care of him. [8] "Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, [9] 'Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you'." This is the area that is the heart of the enemy territory. Remember that the enemy at this time spiritually is the religion of the Sidonians, the religion of the Phoenicians, the religion of Baal worship, and this is what Elijah is opposing. Now God says He is going to take him our of Israel and put him into the heart of enemy territory and tells him that He will provide for him. It is about 100 miles from where Elijah was to Zarephath, so God has to provide for him along the way as he walks there. He is being hunted by Ahab at this time and so he has to trust God to keep him concealed and to provide for him water and food on a day-by-day basis. All of this is passed over rather quickly in the text and so we have to think about it. He has to recognize that God is the one who is going to provide for him, just as we do. It doesn't matter what shape the economy is in, what the stock market does, because God still owns the cattle on a thousand hills and His stock has not gone down. He can still provide for us with the same resources that He did for Elijah. Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3, 4.

Elijah learned about grace partially in the first test; now he has to learn a few other things. Grace orientation means that we align our thinking and actions with God's policy of grace, which means we understand that all that we are and have in this life comes from the kindness and benevolence of God and that nothing is due to our inherent abilities, talents or efforts. There are a lot of extremely talented, hard-working people who have nothing. Ultimately everything that we have comes from God. In the process of grace orientation there are four things that get developed. The first is humility. We have to learn to orient to God's authority: it is not about me, it is all about God. We have to learn to submit to His authority and His direction in terms of His Word and to put into practice that which he commands. When we do this and we are oriented to His grace and provision, and we understand that he supplies everything for us, and that it doesn't matter what is going on around us is because we are totally provided for by God, then we can have a relaxed mental attitude. This gives us the ability to rise above the details of life, where our mental attitude, our emotions are not shaped by our circumstances. No matter what the circumstances do or how they change we are going to be relaxed, happy and have peace because of what God has provided for us. The essence of this is that we are going to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.   

Elijah applies the lesson. 1 Kings 17:10 NASB ":So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, 'Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.' [11]  As she was going to get {it,} he called to her and said, 'Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.' [12] 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'." Often people mistake boldness for arrogance, but when you are resting in God's provision then you can be bold and confident without being arrogant. When he then asks the woman for a piece of bread that is too much for the woman. She said: "As the LORD your God lives." She is going to prepare a meal and die. Elijah's response is not to empathize and he doesn't apply many of the modern principles of pastoral ministry to the circumstances, he just goes straight to the Word of God.

1 Kings 17:13 NASB "Then Elijah said to her, 'Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me 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'." She is thinking she has enough for herself and her son and if she gives it to Elijah there will be nothing left for her and her son. Then Elijah focuses on God's revelation. [14] "…'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.'" His confidence is in the power and provision of God, and so he is going to start off with an object lesson for her—feed him first. Elijah is showing that he understands that he can trust God even in hostile territory. God is going to build upon that in the development of Elijah, especially for the next chapter.    

Illustrations