Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4
Scripture reading: Matthew 3:1-12; 1 Kings 17:1-7
Talk about a short-term ministry! No sooner does Elijah begin than he is sent away. What is God doing? He’s judging his people. They refused to listen to His Word. Now He refuses to speak it. He’s sending a famine, not only of food, but of the hearing of the Words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). Sobering, isn’t it? But in God’s judgment, we see grace. In the midst of the famine, He preserves Elijah by feeding him with ravens because God has a plan to send him back. He has not completely deserted His people.
Prophets communicated God’s message both by their lives and their mouths. We hear God’s judgment in “Neither dew nor rain these years.” That’s God’s response to incessant rebellion. But even this announcement is gracious. First, God is going to showcase the incompetence of the storm god, Baal, so that Israel would abandon him and return to the Lord. Second, threatened judgment is always a call to repentance so that we might experience God’s forgiving grace. Notice how John the Baptizer warns in preparation for the coming of grace in Christ. What a mercy when your engine temperature warning light brightens your dashboard! Imagine if God had abandoned them to their sin like He had the other nations.
Jesus, the greater Prophet has come. We have heard the warnings from His mouth and have seen the seriousness of God’s wrath in His death. What have we learned? Though not soft on sin, our God is gracious in His judgments. How much more gracious is He in His grace!
Suggestions for prayer
Pray for His Spirit so that we would cherish the Word of God we have, both as we read it and hear it preached. Praise the Holy God that He is gracious and forgiving.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.