I was just a few feet from the mall bookstore, trying to muster up the courage to go inside. I needed a job but was afraid to ask. “Go ahead and ask,” my wife urged with a smile. “The worst they can do is say no.” The assistant manager grinned widely when I nervously inquired whether the store needed any part-time help. “Can you start tonight?” she said. “We need help so badly that my manager told me this morning to hire the next person who applies, whether they are qualified or not!”
“Go ahead and ask” is the same advice in today’s reading. Specifically, the Lord invites His people to ask for rain in the springtime (v. 1). The request almost seems out of place, since most of this chapter and the next have to do with leadership. Is this prophet being literal or figurative? The request is probably literal, pointing to God’s promised blessing in the Messianic kingdom. But the reminder that it is the Lord who sends rain is probably aimed at past leadership who tended to turn to idols in their time of need.
Nothing is more fundamental to our human existence than food and water. These verses remind us that God is master and provider of both. He sends the rain that enables crops to grow. The gods of idols do not exist. Those who claim to represent them are liars. But that does not mean that there are no spiritual forces in play. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul warned that food sacrificed to idols is really offered to demons (1 Cor. 10:19–21). The deceit of idols is often false teaching by those who claim to speak for them. But it can also be demonically inspired teaching intended to mislead God’s people.
Paul warned: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). Idolatry can also mean relying on anyone or anything that is not God for that which God alone can provide. What are you relying on?