Day 177

Three Things God Wants to Give You

Wisdom Psalm 78:9-16
New Testament Acts 17:1-21
Old Testament 1 Kings 16:8-18:15

Introduction

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were middle-aged Christian women in Holland when World War II erupted. They resolved to conceal fleeing Jews from the Nazis. They rescued many. But they were eventually arrested and taken to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Betsie died there. Corrie miraculously survived to bear witness to the way in which God can save, heal and forgive.

When asked how to prepare for persecution, she used to tell this story about her childhood:

‘When I was a little girl, I went to my father and said, “Daddy, I was afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.” “Tell me,” said father, “When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?” “No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.” “That is right,” my father said, “And so it is with God’s strength. Our Father in heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need just in time.”’

Wisdom

Psalm 78:9-16

9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
  turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
  and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
  the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
  in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
  he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
  and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
  and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
  and made water flow down like rivers.

Commentary

1. Continual guidance

God will give you all the guidance you need. As the psalmist continues to recount the history of the people of God, he recalls how, ‘He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night’ (v.14). In other words, he guided them continually.

You have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Expect no less. You are ‘led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit will provide you with all the guidance you need.

God will also satisfy your spiritual thirst: ‘He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers’ (Psalm 78:15–16). Jesus promises you that, through the Holy Spirit, streams of living water will flow from within you (John 7:38).

Prayer

Lord, I really need your Holy Spirit and your guidance. Please fill me today with your Holy Spirit and may streams of living water flow from within me.

New Testament

Acts 17:1-21

In Thessalonica

17When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

In Berea

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Commentary

2. Good news

In a world that desperately needs good news, God has provided you with a message of good news. The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. The good news is ‘about Jesus and the resurrection’ (v.18). All you need is in Jesus. It is all about Jesus.

Every time you give your testimony or speak about your faith in other ways, ask yourself, ‘Is it good news?’ Every time we preach it should be good news; otherwise it is not the gospel. Your message should always be good news because it is about Jesus, his death and resurrection.

God will provide you with the appropriate words for every occasion. Your words are powerful and life-changing. The good news of Jesus is dynamically relevant to all generations, cultures and situations. People’s needs are always the same. The message of the gospel is always the same.

  • Explain the good news

When Paul went into the synagogue in Thessalonica, he ‘reasoned with them from Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said’ (vv.2–3). His careful explanation of the gospel resulted in a number of people being ‘persuaded’ (v.4).

The fact that your message comes from God does not stop you receiving unfounded criticism. It is often one of the costs of following Jesus. Paul’s success led to jealousy (v.5). Interestingly, he was perceived already as having a global impact: ‘These men who have caused trouble all over the world [the whole ‘known world’] have now come here’ (v.6b).

  • Study the good news

God gave Paul and Silas the appropriate words for the Bereans. They responded well to what they heard. They received the message with ‘great eagerness’ and then ‘studied the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (v.11). Once again, the message bore fruit and a number ‘believed’ (v.12). I would encourage you too to set aside a regular time to study the Scriptures every day.

Once again, Paul and Silas’ success led to opposition. Some began ‘agitating the crowds and stirring them up’ (v.13). Do not be surprised if you find agitators and stirrers today.

  • Reason the good news

Paul moved on to Athens. The Athenians ‘spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas’ (v.21). They were more interested in what was new than what was true.

Again, God provided Paul with the appropriate message for the Athenians. He ‘reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market-place day by day’ (v.17). These were two entirely different audiences.

Speaking to the first audience would have been like preaching in a church. Speaking in a market place would have been more like speaking in the workplace. But, at its heart, Paul’s message seems to have been exactly the same – ‘preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection’ (v.18).

Prayer

Lord, would you give me the words I need for the conversations that are ahead of me today. Please supply the message. I ask for life-changing words in all my daily conversations. May I be led by the Spirit.

Old Testament

1 Kings 16:8-18:15

Elah King of Israel

8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years.

9 Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah. 10 Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king.

11 As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha’s whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. 12 So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu— 13 because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.

14 As for the other events of Elah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Zimri King of Israel

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned in Tirzah seven days. The army was encamped near Gibbethon, a Philistine town. 16 When the Israelites in the camp heard that Zimri had plotted against the king and murdered him, they proclaimed Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that very day there in the camp. 17 Then Omri and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah. 18 When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him. So he died, 19 because of the sins he had committed, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.

20 As for the other events of Zimri’s reign, and the rebellion he carried out, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Omri King of Israel

21 Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. 22 But Omri’s followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king.

23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.

25 But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him. 26 He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.

27 As for the other events of Omri’s reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 28 Omri rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.

Ahab Becomes King of Israel

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.

34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

Elijah Announces a Great Drought

17Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Elijah Fed by Ravens

2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

Elijah and Obadiah

18After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. 4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” 6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”

15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”

Commentary

3. Material needs

Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3). Look to God to provide for your daily needs. He will not necessarily give you all you want, but pray that he will provide you with all you need.

In a society that continued to sin and split into factions (1 Kings 16:8–34), God raised up a prophet who spoke with authority and power.

The New Testament tells us that Elijah was a human being ‘just as we are’ (James 5:17a). And yet, ‘He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three-and-a-half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops’ (vv.17b–18).

Elijah’s prayer resulted in problems for Elijah himself. However, God provided for all his material needs. Initially, ‘The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook’ (1 Kings 17:6). God can be very creative in providing for you. Your part is to obey him and then trust that he will provide for all your needs.

When the brook dried up (v.7), the Lord said to him, ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food’ (v.9). When one door closes (the brook dried up), it is usually because God is about to open another door in your life. He was relocating Elijah so that he could be the answer to someone else’s prayer and need for provision.

The widow was put to the test. Elijah asks for food. She tells him that she and her son were about to eat their last meal and then die. Elijah promises that if she is generous with what she has, God will provide for all her needs. He says to her, ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought’ (v.14, MSG).

The widow did exactly as Elijah asked. And it turned out exactly as he said (vv.15–16). The woman showed great faith. She was prepared to give all she had. She risked everything. And God supplied all her needs. They had enough, but never a surplus. They remained utterly dependent upon God to provide their daily needs. If you obey God and give generously, you will discover that you cannot out-give God. God will do amazing things for you and through you.

This does not mean life will be easy. In spite of her faith she faced further battles. Her son became ill and finally stopped breathing (v.17). Elijah exercised huge faith when he cried out to the Lord for the boy who had died (v.20). ‘The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him’ (v.22).

How amazing for Elijah to be able to pick him up, carry him down from the room into the house and give him to his mother saying, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ (v.23).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your amazing love, power and provision of enough food for the entire world. Forgive us when we fail to distribute what you have provided. Give us your guidance, your words and your courage to do all we can in our generation to change this terrible injustice. Lead us by your Spirit to change our world.

Pippa adds

1 Kings 17:14

‘For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”’

I love this story of the unknown widow sharing her food with the greatest prophet. God turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 78:13

He divided the sea and led them through…
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References

Corrie ten Boom (in a letter, 1974).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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