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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU
I Kings 19:1-8

To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Our Bible text for today comes from the Old Testament book of First Kings, chapter 19, beginning with the first verse, as follows:

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" 5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat." 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you." 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. Thus far the holy Word.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, who gives us our food in due season, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

What is the perfect food? You may think that's a question no one can answer, but the Ballard Fish and Oyster Company would disagree with you. On their website they give an impassioned and rather compelling argument that there is a perfect food, and that it's clams. Many nutritionists agree. This native of northwest beaches is low in carbohydrates and fat, and high in protein. A portion of twelve clams is only 135 calories. And they are relatively inexpensive, at least compared with other seafood.

Clams notwithstanding, I think most of us realize that there's no single food that is perfect for everyone. Different people need different kinds of food. And if that's so in the physical world, it's even more true in spiritual matters. Have you ever been hungry for something but you weren't quite sure what it is? Perhaps your spiritual nutrition has been suffering a bit lately. Or maybe it's worse than that - maybe you feel like you've reached the end of the line, like you've completely run out of spiritual energy! Either way, you'll be encouraged by our text for this morning. In it, the prophet Elijah discovers that even when we think we can't go another step, our Lord is always there to provide us just the nutrition we need for the journey He has in mind for us. That's why our theme for today is:

CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU

I. It will always come at the perfect time.
II. It will always be the perfect kind.
III. It will always be the perfect amount.

Have you ever noticed that life's lowest points often come right after life's highest points? You have some kind of great success, you're riding high and life is good. Everything's going along great! And then seemingly out of nowhere falls the blow. The heart attack, or the cancer diagnosis, or the huge financial bill you weren't expecting. Well, think about Elijah. Here he was; he had just had the best day of his life. We heard in our Old Testament lesson about his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It was like winning the Superbowl. He was on his way! He was strong, God was with him. I'm sure Elijah thought he was unstoppable. He was going to eradicate the false worship of Baal once and for all. Nothing could slow him down, he was Elijah, the mighty prophet of Jehovah!

Then the blow fell. As so often happens in the lives of believers, one of his best days was immediately followed by one of his worst days. Jezebel was the most powerful queen the northern kingdom of Samaria had ever seen. She personally supported the prophets of Baal, they were a pet project of hers, and now suddenly there were 450 fewer of them thanks to Elijah. The queen was not happy. "Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.'" You know what you did to those prophets of Baal at the Brook Kishon? I swear by all my gods that I'm going to do the same thing to you within the next 24 hours!"

This was not an idle threat, and Elijah knew it. He was marked for death. As far as Jezebel was concerned, he was a dead man walking. Elijah panicked and ran for his life, far to the south of Israel, to Beersheba. There he left his servant behind, and set out a day's march into the wilderness of Sinai. Then he came and sat down under a broom tree. This was a large shrub - closely related to the Scotch broom that you see along the freeway, only the Middle Eastern variety has white flowers instead of yellow. Elijah collapsed under the shade of that shrub, with no energy to go any farther. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Those last words are very expressive. In Hebrew rav atah, in Spanish no mas!, in English "That's it, I'm through, I can't handle this, I haven't got the energy to go a single step further." Now, LORD, take my life, Elijah said, for I am no better than my fathers!" And he lay down under the broom tree and slept.

It looked like the end of the line for Elijah. In his weariness and his exhaustion and his hunger, he was ready to give up. But CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD, and it always comes at the perfect time. So it did for the prophet. Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat."

Have you noticed that God's timing is always perfect? He knows exactly what you need and exactly when you need it. The Lord didn't come to Elijah while he was in Jezreel, and He didn't come to him in Beersheba. Christ came to him now, a day's-walk into the desert, exactly when Elijah was at his lowest ebb, exactly when Elijah needed Christ the most.

And by now you might be wondering why I keep using the name "Christ" in this context. After all, this is the Old Testament, isn't it? Didn't Elijah live 850 years before Jesus was even born in Bethlehem? But when our text mentions "The Angel of the Lord," it uses a very specific Hebrew term, one I've mentioned before - Mal'ack Jahwe. The Mal'ack Jahwe was more than simply an angel. It was the Mal'ack Jahwe who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. It was the Mal'ack Jahwe who stayed Abraham's hand when he was about to sacrifice Isaac. It was the Mal'ack Jahwe who sent Gideon to defeat the vast army of the Midianites. Since he frequently identifies Himself specifically as God, many scholars believe that the Mal'ack Jahwe must be the second Person of the
Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. Personally, I agree with Martin Luther who said, "You can't find Christ too often in the Old Testament." We can be confident that it was the the eternal Son of God Himself who came to feed Elijah in the wilderness. And it is Christ who comes to you, and SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU, as well!

Why perfect? The second reason it's perfect is because the food your Lord Jesus gives you is always the perfect kind. It's just right for you!

As Elijah lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat." 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank.

The food Christ gave Elijah was actually the perfect kind of travelling food. So much so that it's still made in exactly the same way by desert nomads today. A cake baked on coals was a round, flat cake of bread. They would mix the flour and water into a dough and place it on stones or pebbles that were heated in the ashes of a campfire. And there it would bake. It tasted good, it was high in energy, low in fat, the perfect kind of food for someone who had to travel and couldn't be weighed down.

That was important for Elijah, of course, because he had a long way to go. But even for Elijah, the spiritual food was more important. In the depth of his despair and depression, he needed to be reassured that the Lord was still with him, that God was still on his side, that his Redeemer - the promised Messiah - was still there to forgive his weakness and lack of faith, to support him, and to go with him on his journey. So this episode provided the perfect kind of food - both physical and spiritual - for Elijah.

What kind of food do you need the most? If you believe the "food pyramid" put out by the USDA, then it's fruits and vegetables you need the most, followed by proteins, - meat, eggs and dairy products, and lastly sugars and fats. But those of us who have been Christians for a while realize that the nutrition we need the most doesn't come from physical food at all. We believe our Lord when He says, "Therefore do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. -- Matthew 6:33.

What is the perfect food for us? You should know the answer by now, because it lies in a passage that's been repeated twice in the Gospel Lessons over the last two Sundays. John 6:35: Jesus said, I am the bread of life. Jesus IS the bread of life. He's the perfect food for you. He satisfies the very deepest need you have in your soul - the need to get rid of your sins. The need to unburden your conscience. The need to know that your past misdeeds have been atoned for, and that you are truly right with God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the perfect food for that. Our Lord said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." -- John 6:51. How was this "bread of heaven" prepared for us? The recipe was simple. The perfect, sinless Son of God was offered up upon the altar of God's wrath on Calvary. There on the cross He suffered for your sins. There on the cross He atoned for all your guilt. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. -- Colossians 2:13-14. Thus was the Bread of Life provided. Thus was the perfect food provided that will allow you to stand among the saints on the Last Day. Thus was that perfect food provided that will save your soul for eternity!

CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU. And by the way, it's always the perfect amount, as well.

And that's important, because you don't know how much you need. You may think you do. I'm sure Elijah thought so. I imagine he said to himself, "Great! I've had some of this terrific bread, I've had something to drink, now I'm all set! That's plenty, thank you very much. That's all I need." That's what he thought, and he lay back down to sleep. But the Lord knew better. The Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you." You think you know how much energy you need, but you don't. I do. And I'll give you the perfect amount!

If you've ever been a runner, you may be familiar with "carb loading." It's a strategy used by endurance athletes like runners to maximize the storage of energy in the muscles. They deliberately store energy by eating high-carbohydrate, low glycemic foods like fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta and grains. That's why many marathoners or triathletes have large pasta dinners the night before a race. They know exactly how many calories they have to have onboard for the particular course they have to run. Too few and they'll run out of energy. Too many and they'll be weighed down.

The problem is, as Christians we don't know how long our race is. That hasn't been given to us. How far can you see ahead in your life? Maybe to the next bend in the road. Maybe not even that. But it's different for Jesus. He sees your whole journey, every twist and turn included. He knows exactly how far you have to go. He knows exactly the tasks He has set for you to carry out, and exactly what obstacles you will encounter along the way. And CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU, in exactly the perfect amount. The most important way that you receive the Bread of Life, of course, is through the means of grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. You receive it when you hear the Word preached here in church, or read it in your home. You receive it in a very special and personal way in the Sacrament of the Lord's body and blood.

And of course, everything else you need in life will follow those most important gifts. The writer of the Proverbs offers a prayer that each of us would do well to imitate: Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion -- Pro 30:8 NAS. Literally, Feed me with food that is appropriate for me, food that You decide - not I decide - is the correct portion for me. Our God is good at portion control. Everything He does in our lives - indeed, everything He allows to happen in our lives - is precisely calibrated to provide the maximum spiritual benefit to His beloved children. Even the hard things, you say? Even the painful things? Yes, even those. Christians throughout the centuries have comforted themselves with the promise that appears in Romans 8:28, a promise that many of you have already committed to memory - We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Yes, God has prepared your food for you. And you can rest assured that it will always be in the perfect amount!

Longtime area icon Ivar Haglund thought he knew the perfect food. Founder of Ivar's Fish Bar, Haglund said that no one can be unhappy here in the Pacific Northwest, because we're "…surrounded by acres of clams." The perfect food? Maybe not. We've learned today that it's impossible to say that there's a single food that's perfect for everybody. But one thing you can say with absolute confidence - CHRIST SUPPLIES THE PERFECT FOOD FOR YOU. On your own, the journey is too great for you. But never fear - you're not on your own! The Lord will be with you. He will give you the "food" you need - the specific supplies that you need for whatever situation you find yourself in! It will always come at the perfect time, it will always be the perfect kind, and it will always be the perfect amount. God grant that our eyes may wait upon Christ, our gracious Lord, for He will give us our food in due season! AMEN.