Pentecost 11 – 1 Kings 19:1-8
A healthy human body can go 7 days without water. That same healthy human body can also go 40 days without food.
Think of all the extra time you would have if you cut out all those meals and water breaks and just kept going with whatever you were doing. What would you do with all that new found time? How much more productive would you be?
But of course, just because the body can do something, does not mean that you are going to go out and do it. Just because you can go 7 days without water and 40 days without food, does not even mean that you should do so.
And very few of us do. You might fast before a doctor’s appointment, or skip a meal when you are sick or too busy with work, but for the most part, we all partake of 3 meals a day. It is probably safe to say that we all ate yesterday, we will all eat today, and we will all eat again tomorrow.
Because while the body can go without for certain periods of time, the reality is that the body does better when it takes in regular portions of food and water. You are more productive, more able to meet the challenges of the day, and less likely to succumb to sickness and disease when you drink plenty of water and eat substantial amounts of food.
And so when we look at our text from 1 Kings, and see that the angel of the Lord comes to Elijah twice and gives him water and food, it seems completely natural. Elijah has a big trip ahead of him going to Mount Horeb, and he will not eat again for 40 days and nights; so the food he eats today is vital to him having the strength for what lies ahead.
And that seems perfectly logical to each of us. Before a big trip, you would obviously want to eat some food.
And so we come to this text in a very worldly way: viewing it through the lens of proper eating habits. It is so obvious to our ears that it hardly seems worth mentioning in the Bible, and we wonder if people in Biblical times had to be reminded of when to eat.
But there is more to this than that.
We assume this text is only about proper eating and drinking habits, because that is what we concern ourselves with today. You would never willingly consider going more than a day without food or water. We shudder to think that the ancient church used to fast for weeks on end, especially during Advent and Lent. How could these people do such a thing?
Food and water are very important to us, and the thought of skipping either, is completely foreign.
What is not so foreign is the other aspect of this text that we are not so eager to admit that we need.
Yes, the angel of the Lord came and gave Elijah bread and water for the journey that lay before him, but that was not the only thing that sustained Elijah along the way. Elijah also had the Word of the Lord.
For while you would never think of skipping a meal, skipping out on the Word is a little different.
After all, what happens when you skip a Sunday? Or miss a devotion? Or do not receive the body and blood of Christ when it is offered?
If you skip lunch, your stomach is right there growling at you, demanding a candy bar; if you skip the Lord’s Supper, you barely notice. Skip a devotion and the world keeps spinning. Miss a Sunday, and it does not even make the newspaper.
The devil comes to you and lies that what is given at the altar of God is meaningless, just a show for others, and as proof, you missed a Sunday, or two, or four, and nothing changed. You could skip a year, and nothing would change. The chief liar tells you that you could never go again and you would not even notice a difference, let alone anyone else.
After all, who is going to miss a piece of bread, or a sip of wine?
You would never skip one of those 8 glasses of water a day, or one of those three square meals; but worship? Morning and evening prayer? Time in the Word? Who is going to notice? Not you. You feel the same today as you did yesterday, and chances are good you will feel the same tomorrow.
But there is more to the Elijah diet than just water and cake every 40 days.
The Elijah diet also includes prayer and meditation on God’s holy Word.
For Elijah has a hard life, a life where he will question if he is the only one in all of Israel who still confesses the name of the Lord. Elijah needs more than cake and water to make it through the day; he needs more than a protein bar or a glass of milk to stand up to Ahab and Jezebel; he needs more than a bowl of Wheeties when dueling the prophets of Baal.
Elijah needs to hear the promises of God; Elijah needs to go the Lord daily in prayer and meditation; Elijah needs time in the word, more so than he even needs time in the kitchen.
The Elijah diet is not three square meals a day and plenty of water; the Elijah diet is coming here, to hear the Word of the Lord spoken into your ears; the Elijah diet is to receive the forgiveness of sins; the Elijah diet is to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ.
Will the Elijah diet give you the energy needed to run a 5k? Will the Elijah diet help keep the pounds off? Will the Elijah diet add years to your life?
Not necessarily; but that is not what the Elijah diet promises to offer.
A diet of prayer and meditation, a diet rich in the body and blood of Jesus, a diet that inwardly digests the Word of the Lord is a diet that will keep you firm in the faith unto life everlasting.
For the Elijah diet is a diet that keeps the promises of God close to you in your mind and on your heart. It is a diet that assures you of the presence of Christ literally coursing through your system each time you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. It is a diet that creates in you a desire to be in the house of the Lord where you might receive His gifts each time they are offered.
The Elijah diet does not send you to the gym, rather it sends you to the baptismal font, where you are reminded again and again that you are a child of God, washed clean in the blood of Jesus. It does not desire to crush cravings for salty snacks; rather it desires to create in you a hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness. The Elijah diet does not just want to add years to your life, this diet wants you to have eternal life.
For the primary benefit of this diet is not shed pounds or lower cholesterol; instead it is a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when Satan comes seeking to devour you, you may resist those temptations, and seek the things of God as opposed to the things of man.
Why does Elijah use this diet plan? Why should you use it?
Because this is a sinful world, filled with temptations on every side; the journey through this valley of the shadow of death is too great for you to go it alone. You need the Holy Spirit, you need the Word of the Lord, you need the body and blood of Christ to give you the strength and energy to face the attacks of Satan and his hordes. You need a diet that is rich in the forgiveness of sins.
Like Elijah, the journey before you is great and fraught with perils on every side, for we are indeed living in grey and latter days, when we ourselves may ask one another if we are the only ones left who have not bowed the knee to our modern day Baals.
And so the promise is made to you today, that a diet rich in the Word of the Lord, a diet that regularly partakes of Christ’s gifts, is a diet that will not just carry you through the coming forty days and nights; but is a diet that will carry you throughout this life and into eternal life in the presence of Christ for eternity.