Monday, May 28, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Drought

Ways to Handle Drought
A devotional by Dana McNeely

If you’d like to read other posts about the prophet Elijah, click these titles: Love in the Time of Drought, In the Waiting Room, A Widow, a Prophet, and Provision from God, and An Intersection of Time and Eternity. Scripture passages are from the New Living Translation.

The specter of death walked the land of Israel. After three years without rain, streams ran dry and wells became mud. Crops failed and food supplies dwindled. The effects of the drought gripped nearly everyone, from the poorest laborer to the king and queen in their palace. But in Zarephath, a Canaanite city far away, three people lived surrounded by God’s comfort. The prophet Elijah, the widow, and her son. And then …

After 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.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. 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.) 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.” So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
~I Kings 18:1-6

It’s hard to imagine facing such a disaster. Hardship and deprivation strip away a person’s defenses and reveal who they are underneath. In this passage, several people face the same hardship but respond differently.

Bold obedience

When God sent Elijah to announce the coming drought, he walked into the king’s presence and told him to his face. When the Lord sent the prophet to Cherith, he waited by the brook until told to go stay with a widow and her son. With the never-empty flask of oil and jar of flour, the three lived in relatively pleasant circumstances while the rest of the country suffered. Yet, when Elijah heard the Lord’s voice yet again, he immediately left this haven in search of the king, walking miles across cracked earth, past rotting carcasses, breathing the stench of decay.

Quietly doing the right thing

While Elijah was a more in-your-face kind of guy, Obadiah worked behind the scenes. He served the king faithfully but not when that service was contrary to God’s principles. At great risk, he hid some of the prophets the queen was intent on killing off.

Later, while assisting the king in his search for grass for his horses and mules, Obadiah unexpectedly met Elijah.

Obadiah . . . bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

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

“What have I done wrong?” asked Obadiah, ‘that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 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. . . 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. 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. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”

Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.” ~I Kings 18:7-15 (NIV)

We feel Obadiah’s panic and listen to the prophet’s calm reassurance. But Elijah’s response to the arrogant King Ahab takes a more imperious tone.

When [Ahab] saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

“I have not made trouble for Israel, Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophet of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

Angry Defiance

The king and queen refused to accept any responsibility for the devastating drought, although the prophet clearly told them it was because they abandoned the Lord and worshipped other gods. But instead of humbling themselves and turning from their sin, they blamed Elijah. And when they couldn’t lay hands on him, they turned to killing other prophets in retribution.

Despite seeing the Lord’s power in bringing and ending the drought, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel continued to defy Him throughout the rest of their lives, until they each met a violent end.

Thoughts to Ponder

· James 5:17 says Elijah was a man like any other, and that his earnest prayers brought about God’s will. To me, Elijah seems a hero of epic proportions, standing up to the rulers and idolatry. Have you come across a bold crusader like Elijah?

· Obadiah “flew beneath the radar”. He saved a hundred prophets, but the king and queen never knew about it. Was he a sneak? Do you think we need to be bold, to do the right thing?

· We might want to blame someone else when calamity strikes, but remember Ahab and Jezebel’s mistakes. Turn away from anger and turn to God for help. He will give you what you need to get through hardships.

Author Bio: 

Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back? 

Dana began research for her novel, “Rain,” which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective.

No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017).

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