God’s Word for You
James 5:17-18 Fill my empty basket, Father
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 4, 2020
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three and a half years it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Malachi said that Elijah would return one day (Malachi 4:5-6), and the Jews weren’t sure what to make out of this. “Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch… By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens. How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours?” (Sirach 48:1; 48:3-4). “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” the disciples asked Jesus (Matthew 17:10). Remembering that Elijah never died, but was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot, added to the confusion and the questions. Jesus answered all of these by pointing out that Malachi’s reference to “Elijah” was to the coming of a great prophet like Elijah, and this was John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13-14).
Questions remained, though. Was Elijah a man like other men? Did he have a special resistance to sin that we do not have? James, always the good coach, puts such questions to rest. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” James’ word in Greek is homoiopathes (ὁμοιοπαθὴς), “like; having the same feelings or circumstances.” “We are only men, human like you” (Acts 14:15, see also Wisdom 7:3). Elijah was no different in nature from James or you or me. He suffered things we suffer, he fell into temptation and even depression (1 Kings 19:3-4). And yet when he prayed, he prayed with complete faith in God, and his prayer was answered. God withheld rain from the land for more than three years because of Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 17:1, 18:1).
The point James is making is that Elijah’s prayer was effective because of his faith. He believed that God hears, that God answers, and that God cares for us, as Nahum says: “He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). Peter takes this up as well, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We can set all of our cares before God and be certain that he hears us and cares about us. He listens, and he also acts on our behalf. Some of God’s answers to prayer take a long time, as in matters of healing. Some of God’s answers take mere moments; God sometimes answers a prayer while it is still being prayed. But whatever time the Lord uses to bring about an answer to our prayers, we wait with faith. Always remember that he has the condition of your eternal soul in mind, and the health of your body as well. He provides, he gives, he cares, and all he asks is that we trust.
Fill my empty basket, Father,
Give me all my daily bread,
Shoes and clothing, food and water
Roof above my humble head.
Give my children lifelong faith,
To serve in everything they do.
Dearer than my final breath:
A spouse who shares my faith in you.
Fill my empty basket, Father,
Worthy gifts from you are sent
Fill my faith like sails with wind
From pulpit, Scripture, sacrament,
Leaders, peace and weather fair
Godly friends like grain are stored
To fill my life and more to share
My overflowing basket, Lord.
Pastor Timothy Smith