The words are simple but explosively powerful: Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word (1 Kings 17:1). We are examining the parallels that exist between the downturn caused by the drought, and the economic meltdown of 2008 which began in the U.S. housing market and quickly spread to the entire earth. Parallel #2 states that God Shut off the Money Supply. When Elijah proclaimed a drought not one more drop of rain fell. In the agricultural society of Israel, rain was the primary ingredient that produced growth and economic increase – without it the economy collapsed.
The parallel with the modern meltdown is striking – if we had to answer the question “what is the source of economic supply in the global economy”, the answer would be credit. The word comes from the Latin word credere, meaning “to believe”. That concept is centered on wider social relations, primarily the view that people will act with moderation, balance, and common sense. Credit, and especially the belief that companies were good for their debts, was stopped in one day. Just as rain stopped on the day Elijah prophesied, the credit supply stopped on September 15, 2008 when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. Conditions that caused the crisis had been brewing for years, but it was Lehman’s collapse that is the equivalent of “no more dew nor rain”. The next day all lending dried up and the meltdown began.
In an interesting play on words, one financial analyst could have been describing Elijah’s closing of the heavens when they wrote that “Almost overnight, liquidity dried up in a host of different debt markets. Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley suddenly found it impossible to raise funds in the capital markets. So did a host of European banks in Ireland, the UK, Holland and elsewhere. The implication was brutal: across the Western world, the senior managers of a host of the world’s largest banks and brokers quietly told their central banks that they could collapse within days.”1
As panic rippled across the global financial system, one senior banker in London noted that “If this continues, the next logical step is that the cash eventually stops coming out of the ATM machines – if that happens, God help us all.”2 Unbeknownst to the banker, God was helping already – helping to crash a financial system just as he crashed Israel’s centuries early.
Practically here is how it worked. Every financial institution carried bad debt in the form of subprime mortgages which had been packaged and sold as Collateralized Debt Obligations or CDOs. The CDOs mixed the bad debt in with the good debt which all became toxic when some homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. Because every bank and financial institution carried at least some of the bad debt, they didn’t trust other banks because they didn’t know how much unserviceable debt they had. Therefore, they didn’t make loans to one another, or buy one another’s financial instruments, for fear that the loans would be defaulted on thus dragging them down with the bad loans. Every institution was afraid that every other one was about to fail just as Lehman Brothers had.
Thus the credit market froze and money was cut off. That in turn affected the markets and businesses, which had to lay off people because they couldn’t get loans for operational expenses. Getting a loan for a mortgage became extremely difficult, and remained so for several years. Lending practices have since loosened up, largely because the Fed has kept the cost of money (interest rates) near zero since the meltdown. The recent plunges in global markets caused by China’s instability revealed that the economy is not fundamentally healthy, which is why fear and instability are the norm.
Initiation of a Divine Sequence
Elijah’s life is put forth as a metaphor for the End Time Church because it was prophesied “I will send Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5-6). Elijah’s proclamation of a drought began a series of events in the nation that led in one direction – Elijah’s being taken up in a whirlwind. There is no reverse gear in God – when He initiates something it moves towards the point of completion He intended. Thus the point of initiation indicates God is moving Elijah towards one place – being taken up without seeing death.
The graphic represents a beginning point of God intervening in the systems of the earth through crisis. There was an ongoing process of 3 ½ years of drought after which God instructed the prophet to open the heavens again. The economy recovered but Ahab never repented or put his house in order, and Jezebel continued to oppose Elijah until finally one day Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. The series of events have two explosive moments – the day the prophet proclaimed a drought, and the day he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. In between was an ebb and flow of events in which the economy got better and then worse, and political situations continued to deteriorate (stealing Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel killing the prophets, feeding false prophets at the king’s table, etc.).
The same progression of events is now being played out in the earth, begun by the economic meltdown of 2008. That event serves as an initiation of a Divine sequence in our time in which God seized the economies of the earth and began to shake them like a dog with a rag in its mouth. When He began that process it put us on a direct course towards the End of Time. Let me be very clear that I have absolutely no predictions of when that will occur – Jesus said plainly that no man knows the day or the hour. We have no idea (and neither does anyone else) how many years or decades God will deal with the systems of the earth. But we do know where things are going: the Church is moving decisively towards immortality and the return of Christ. Therefore our emphasis must not focus on economic recovery, but on God’s purpose.
I Will Dry up Her Springs
Many other Scriptures affirm that economic calamity is central to our movement towards the End of Time. Jeremiah predicted that God would destroy Babylon, and that His Sovereignty would be expressed in economic chaos: “ The LORD has opened his arsenal and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Sovereign LORD Almighty has work to do in the land of the Babylonians…I will dry up her sea and make her springs dry” (Jer 50:25, 31). The Hebrew word for spring is maqowr, it means a source and it is translated elsewhere as a source of water. The people had forsook the Lord, the spring (maqowr) of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jer 2:13). Man’s system of economics is a broken cistern that cannot hold water. It is filled with injustice, hoarding, greed, competition and oppression.
Rebellion against God has manifest as man building his own economic system which is broken and cannot hold water, and God is drying up any water that has been in the spring. That is why the earth is running out of money. Several things are important to note:
a) God takes personal responsibility and declares “I will dry up her seas and make her springs dry.” Economic catastrophe is not a result of human conspiracy or the ineptitude of the nations. Those things may be present, but our focus is not on Greece’s incompetence, China’s manipulation of its currency or Obama’s policies, but on God moving in the earth.
b) If God is crashing the global financial system it means they can’t be fixed by the efforts of man. The presence of economic chaos in the earth is an indication of the Sovereignty of God – for “the Sovereign Lord has work to do in the land of the Babylonians” (v 25). The global economy is not stable. There will be an ebb and flow of the markets and ongoing shocks to the financial system between now and the End of Time when it finally crashes. Don’t listen to voices, even in the church, that declare the markets have returned to normal. The new normal is crisis.
c) Elijah and Jeremiah lived in times where God drastically intervened in the nations, and they understood what God was doing and walked with Him through the crisis. Both Elijah and Jeremiah saw the Sovereignty of God in an actual operational context. Therefore, the greatest need is for the Church – you and I – to come to a place of maturity and enhanced partnership with God.
Seeing God’s Operational Sovereignty
These prophets didn’t have a theological or a conceptual view of God as Sovereign. Theories or man’s best attempts to explain God as Sovereign only lead to unending questions such as “If God is Sovereign, then why…?” (fill in the blank). We don’t need Bible school definitions of Sovereignty, or even worse – seminary. Those concepts of God are argued endlessly and end up being academic exercises; they don’t produce hearts filled with faith. Like our ancient brothers, we must come to know the God that is at work in the earth, superintending all things as He deals with the nations right before our very eyes.
The need for sight of God’s Sovereignty is greater for those who have lived in affluence, and who have equated economic status and lifestyle with God’s goodness. That is a sort of schizophrenic faith, because our brothers have been living in difficult conditions across the nations the entire time while we assumed that being saved meant being comparatively wealthy and living in an empire that had a dominant status among the nations. Living in the first world distorted our view of God as the One that blesses, and we are unfamiliar with how God’s goodness is played out through crisis, difficulty and downturn. We must come to know the God who is completely in charge of the political, social and economic crises in America, a knowledge that:
✔ Removes all questions of “why” something has happened (or is happening)
✔ Redefines our history as we see God present and working in the low moments of our lives
✔ Moves our eyes off of the political or economic conditions as points of stability, and
focuses our eyes on Christ and His purpose
✔ Produces in us confidence and boldness while everything around us is shaking and unstable
✔ Allows us to rise up and partner with God as He breaks the systems of this world
✔ Puts inside of us an internal longing for immortality and a confidence that it is achievable
1 Gillian Tett, Fool’s Gold, The Inside Story of JP Morgan and How Wall Street Greed Corrupted its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe, (New York, 2009), p. 238