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Of Ravens, Lilies, and God’s Providence


It is not unusual for our Tulip and me to enjoy the backyard together. I sip my morning cuppa while gazing at the flowers; our pet cat watches the birds. Even when it’s raining, an assortment of winged neighbors are prone to gather there–some for insects and worms, pigeons for seeds, and an occasional raven or seagull for an offered snack.

Neither cat nor bird knows of God’s sustaining power and His determination to provide for them.

It strikes me as noteworthy indeed that God once provided for Elijah’s sustenance by the brook Cherith with ravens, for I’ve never witnessed any raven offering to share with anyone–even fellow ravens–a McDonald’s french fry or a kernel of popcorn. Yet God enlisted ravens to bring bread and meat to His prophet twice a day to enable him to survive the severe drought (1 Kings 17:1-7). And when the brook went dry, God had the widow of Zarephath waiting in reserve with a small portion of oil and flour that never ran out (vv. 8-16).

Usually God provides through normal and natural means. His sun supplies light and warmth. His laws of nature provide for seedtime and harvest, for rain and bountiful seas. Normally we humans are sustained by using and working with the resources God has given us.

But if necessary God can enlist His lesser creatures–against their every instinct–to do and provide what He wills. Oh, praise the Lord for His providential care! God’s people should be ashamed if they are led to believe that God will let us run out of energy, food, and other essentials of life. God has assured us of His providence, and He has never failed. As the psalmist said: “O Lord, You are preserving man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness” (36:6). “Trust in the Lord and do good…I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread” (37:3,25).

Another aspect of God’s providential care is His guidance and control over human history and individual destinies. As He has controlled the past and present, so He will control the future–for the specific welfare of His beloved Church of believers on Earth.

Once again the experiences of Elijah instruct and comfort us
(1 Kings 17 and following). God decided when best to send severe drought–to bring about repentance. God provided fire from heaven
for Elijah’s altar on Mt. Carmel–to bring shame to hundreds of idolaters and to promote reformation in Israel. God told Elijah whom to anoint as kings in Syria and Israel; God then decided the destinies of individuals through the swords of Hazael and Jehu.

Nothing happened apart from God’s will, control, and permission!

Do we sometimes think that the unchangeable God has changed His ways in modern days?

And when Elijah allowed himself to sink into a grand funk, thinking himself to be the only believer alive in Israel, God showed Himself, not in the spectaculars of nature, but in the ‘still, small voice.’ With that whispering voice of grace and mercy God had protected and preserved for Himself yet 7000 souls in Israel who had not bent the knee in worship of the idol god Baal.

God has recently shown His nature-power in the Midwest’s tornadoes and Colorado fires. The next earthquake is near, and the hurricane season is almost upon us. And while such events will play their part in shaping human destinies on Earth, it is still the voice of God in His Word that brings sinners to repentance, comforts them with the mercy and grace of His forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and preserves His elect amid never-ending worldly temptation and the poisonous traps
of false prophets.

Always God provides for and protects His people.

Always He controls events of human history, which is really His Story in Christ Jesus.

Always His Word endures while worldly philosophies prove themselves vain and fleeting.

Always His elect in Christ are being gathered and enlightened.

Always and continually God is working all things together for good to those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).

What a thought: to be found like lost sheep, to be fed by ravens, protected by she-bears, and finally carried aloft to our God on the wings of an eagle. How amazing and wonderful are God’s sustaining power and saving grace!