5 Then he [Elijah] lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.I Kings 19:5-9a
Over recent years there has been much debate about in the British media about the presence of foodbanks in many of the largest urban centres in Britain, including in our own city of Dundee. Should they even exist in the twenty-first century in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? In the current Covid-19 virus pandemic the question has changed to not should they exist but how many are required to take care of the people who need support with food provision in our city or any other context. I thank God we have an excellent network across the city providing for those in need.
Elijah has got himself into such a state that he has not eaten for some days and is possibly also dehydrated having spent so much time exerting himself under the Middle-Eastern sun. How did God deal with His servant who had run away from the line of duty? Did He shout at him to pressure him back into action? Certainly not!
God knows each one of us intimately and treats us very much on an individual basis. He is our heavenly Father and knows that each of His children are different and what might work and be best for one child may not be the case for another. Each of us who are parents love our children equally (I hope!), but we may express that love in slightly different ways to them reflecting their different ages, interests and needs.
How much more God is able to work in the lives of His children for our good and His glory when we are committed to living for Him. In Elijah’s case his big need was sleep. By temperament, some of us may be allergic to work and struggle to fit it into the schedule! Others by nature find it difficult to take time off, knowing that there is always more to be done.
We can feel, sometimes, profoundly guilty taking time off, even if we are entitled to it. I suspect this was the way Elijah was wired. God graciously provided food and water and encouraged him to build up his strength before he was allowed to move on to complete the rest of his journey.
There were serious warning signs here for Elijah. A man in need of sleep, but was sleep deprived; he was a man so stressed that he was not taking in the nutrition his body needed to function properly; all of us need some pressure to get out of bed in a morning and get started on the working day, but too much and we accomplish far less than might otherwise have been the case, as was happening with Elijah.
At such times like Elijah we can feel guilty, a failure and condemn ourselves, even if others are not doing so. The devil is in the condemnation business, not God! Some people sadly think that criticism and condemnation is their primary ministry as well. They can be very efficient at it too. There is something wrong with such a mind-set that is lacking an adequate understanding of the grace of God.
If God measured each one of us against His perfect standards we would all be in difficulties! Elijah here needed food and water and encouragement. Later God would speak with him about his struggles. But in this place God gave him space to rest and be refreshed with the things he needed. Food provision then and now is an unconditional act of kindness to those who need it. We give because God has first given so much to us. It may be to a foodbank or as a gift to thank NHS and Social Care workers or in some other way, but we remember Jesus’ words in Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give than to receive… Amen
Our song for reflection today is: ‘All the way my Saviour leads me’