Taurin Wells has a song called “Hills and Valleys.” It’s about how God gives us the good times and is with us in the bad times. We are never alone because He is always there for us. The message is both true and beautiful, but it doesn’t accurately capture the meaning of the phrase “God of the hills and valleys” from the Bible story from which it came. The actual story takes place in 1 Kings 20 and involves a serious miscalculation by the enemies of God’s people. The tale is fun to read, but it’s also sobering to realize that so many of God’s own people today are making the very same mistake. They are putting limits on God and quenching the faith necessary for God to move in their lives.
King Ahab’s First Great Victory
King Ahab of Israel is rarely the hero in his own Bible stories. And, when he gets together with his wife Jezebel, together they make a villainous team. But in the story from 1 Kings 20, he is the human king of Israel who carries out the supernatural victory by God over King Ben-Hadad and the people of Syria. At the time, Syrian forces were many and powerful. They made demands for Israel to hand over all the gold and silver, women and children to them in order to avoid war.
King Ahab, again, not usually the upstanding-hero type, agrees. But when Ben-Hadad gets bolder and demands entry to every house to take what he will, Ahab calls the elders together to see what they should do. Giving away women and children was fine, apparently, but house-by-house looting crossed the line. The elders agreed, and he sent his message of refusal. Ben Hadad then prepared for war.
Just then, an unnamed prophet of God told King Ahab not to fear. God would give the victory in the battle. All he had to do was to take the young leaders of the provinces to war. The Syrians were celebrating their win a bit prematurely at a nearby command post. The province leaders went man-on-man and each killed a drunk commander. King Ahab made a great slaughter of the Syrians as they fled. Ben-Hadad escaped to fight another day, and as the battle ended, the same prophet came to Ahab again. He told him to get ready because the Syrians would attack again in the spring.
The Syrians Underestimated God
Back in their war room, the Syrians were strategizing. They understood that the Israelites had been victorious, not of their own hand, but by the power of what they supposed were their plural little “g” gods. They reasoned that their loss had simply been the result of fighting in the hills where those gods had power. If they would just attack in the valleys, they could beat the Israelites, no problem. So, that spring, they took great provisions and a massive number of horses and chariots so that they filled the valley with troops. The people of Israel stood before them “like two little flocks of goats.” From the natural, all looked lost, but then the prophet came to Ahab again.
“And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said. ‘Thus saith the Lord, because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.’”1 Kings 20:28
Needless to say, Israel once again had the victory. In one day, about a hundred and twenty-seven thousand Syrians fell at the hands of King Ahab, courtesy of our big “G” singular God. He is the God of the hills and valleys, and there is no limit to His power.
God’s People Today Are Guilty of the Same Thing
But how many of God’s own people today make the very same miscalculation? They believe in God’s great power on one hand but assume that He is ineffectual on the other. Of course, it isn’t intentional and often happens when we allow a fiery dart of doubt to penetrate our minds instead of deflecting it with our shield of faith. We forget the times God has done great and wonderful things and, instead, lower our expectations of both His willingness and ability to move on our behalf. The problem, of course, is not just that it’s insulting to God and His mighty power and majesty. It’s also self-defeating as God’s great power is only allowed to work where there is great faith to believe it.
He Was a Powerful Healer Then – But Not Now
The Bible is full of stories of mighty miracles of God. In both Testaments, God healed the sick and raised the dead. He healed lepers in Numbers 12:10 and 2 Kings 5:10-14. He healed King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 27, and He healed all the Israelites with snake bites in Numbers 21:9. In fact, healing was somewhat of a policy. Exodus 23:25 says, “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” And, when Isaiah prophesied about our Lord Jesus Christ, healing was part of the deal. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
During His time on earth, Jesus healed the multitudes, but it didn’t stop with Him. He imparted that same power to His disciples. Peter and John healed the lame man in Acts 3. Paul healed a lame man in Acts 14 and many people on the island of Malta in Acts 28. In fact, the only time when healing was not accomplished during this time was when the people didn’t have the faith to believe it. Jesus and His disciples did miracles all over the country, but when it came to His own hometown, Jesus marveled that He could not do many mighty works there simply because of the people’s unbelief (Matthew 13:58).
How many of us today are missing or limiting our healing because of similar unbelief? We pray for momentary comfort, but we doubt a miracle. Or, we pray for protection from illness but still spend our days in worry over germs. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” And Malachi 3:6a says, “For I am the Lord, I change not…” The same God in Psalm 103:2-3 is alive and well today. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” We still believe in His ability to forgive. Why don’t we believe He will heal?
He Was a Provider Then – But Not Now
Miracles of provision happen all throughout the Bible as well. The widow received oil to sustain her and her son in 2 Kings 4. Elijah was fed by the ravens in 1 Kings 17:4-6, water came from a rock in Exodus 17:5-8, and manna came from Heaven in Exodus 16:13. In fact, Proverbs 10:3 has a promise. “The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.” But it isn’t just God’s people who will be taken care of when we live in right relationship with God. Our children will be sustained as well. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
In the New Testament, Jesus provided bread and fish to feed the 5,000 and the 4,000. Even so, Jesus anticipated our worry to have what we need in this life. He tells us not to do that in Matthew 6:31-32. He says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.’” And, Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
But how many Christians today still worry? Some wonder what will happen in unstable job markets. They fret over the number of hours they work and spend sleepless hours pondering the “what ifs.” In effect, instead of boldly trusting God in His provision, we limit His ability to provide. We don’t remember that He is the God of the hills and valleys. And, we forget that “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,” so then “how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”(Romans 8:32)
He Answers Other People’s Prayers – But Not Mine
But sometimes we limit God, not just because we believe He has somehow changed His desire to care for His children over time. Instead, we allow insecurity to take hold of us and believe that somehow God’s promises and provision belong to others, but not to us.
Maybe it’s because we have gotten older or feel we aren’t as strong or as smart as others. Our strength to go and do for God is limited. We might even remember the saying that “God helps those who help themselves.” But that’s not from the Bible at all. It’s from Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac published in 1757.
God’s motto is a little different and happens in Isaiah 25:4. “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.” And, Isaiah 46:4 reminds us that God will always be with us. “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
Maybe it’s because our ministries and/or our problems are small we think He probably couldn’t be bothered with us. We think that because we don’t seem to have a lot of influence, God has more important people and things to worry about. Or, we think our problems aren’t as great as others, so they couldn’t possibly matter as much to God. But, no matter the size of our ministries or our problems, they matter to Him because they matter to us. For a God who has numbered the hairs on our head, nothing is too small for God’s care. God is the God of the hills and valleys. He answers prayers for the least of all His saints and for the least of all their troubles. It’s only up to us to pray and believe, and it will be ours (Matthew 21:22).
Why Do Some People Put Limits On God?
Part of the reason some people limit God, whether they know it or not, is because they don’t know enough about Him to realize His mighty power. Think about those poor people of Nazareth who were denied their miracles by the hands of Jesus Himself. They were face to face with the God, but they didn’t know it was Him. They didn’t believe He had the power to help them. The solution to that is in Romans 10:17. It says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Getting to know God by reading the Bible is the first step to remembering what He has done and ingraining His promises into our minds.
Another reason some limit God is because they doubt His good intentions. Lots of people clearly understand that in this life we will have tribulation. We’re not always going to get things exactly the way we want them. And being a Christian doesn’t mean we will never have sickness or live without things we want. But the test, sometimes, is not in how we handle the hardship itself. It is in how we will believe God to rescue us from it.
God wants good things for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” If we know that He wants good things for us, we should believe that He will provide them when we ask. But the inverse is also true. If we assume that we won’t get what we pray for – we won’t get what we pray for!
God is Limitless When We Believe
God is the God of the hills and valleys. The only limit to His power is the one we place on it from unbelief. Today, you and I have a choice. We can choose to believe the doubt, insecurity, and worry that the devil tries to shoot at us, or we can believe what the Bible says is true. After all, He is for us, not against us. And, all things are possible for the one who believes. All we have to do is have faith, and He even gave us a prayer to help us do it. It’s found in Mark 9:24, and it works on all occasions. “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
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