1 Kings 17:7—16

Elijah had a long rest in the Lord’s secret place—maybe up to a year.  During his stay there, the Lord cared for the prophet and he was kept safe from the evil king and He provided for his every need.  During the national drought, Elijah had all the food and water he needed, at least as long as he remained in that secret place.

But Elijah was human, just as we are.  Though we are not told so, both the prophet’s faith and patience must have been tested.  Nobody likes to wait.  Nobody likes to be left “out of the loop.”  But we, like the prophet Elijah, must learn to wait on God before we can hope to “walk by faith, not by sight.”  Moses, if you will recall, had to wait 40 years in the deserts of Midian before God could use Him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt.  One reason so many Christians today seem to fail in living by faith is because they refuse to sit still and wait on the Lord.  The curse of the 21st century is that we want everything right away.  Service is everything; we want our phones fixed fast.  We want our cable installed right away.  We want our food immediately.  But God is not our servant; we are His.  If we would “stand in God’s presence” as Elijah did, then we must learn to be patient as He speaks to us through His word.  We must realize that we did not receive everything the moment we were saved—God wants us to grow in our faith and work out our faith, and the requires, among other things, waiting on Him.

Faith, like gold, must be refined in the fiery furnaces of life.  After these many months in hiding, Elijah was about to receive another call.

1.  When the call came, verses 7, 8

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the LORD came to him.

How Elijah must have been surprised the morning he got up and saw his brook no longer flowed!  Had we been in his shoes, we might have gone off on some kind of tangent, railing at God.  Why would God lead a person to live by a flowing brook, only to take that brook away from him?  We might accuse God of playing some kind game.  But God does not play games.  Remember what happened to another prophet?

Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.  (Jonah 4:6, 7)

As we say during the funeral service, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” God gave both prophets something and then He took them away.  But He did so for a purpose.  In the case of Jonah, we read this—

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:10, 11)

In other words, Jonah was all concerned about something he no part in.  He was all concerned about a plant when he should have been concerned about what God was concerned about:  sinners and their need for salvation.  Jonah needed perspective and God gave it to him as only He could!

Elijah no doubt had gotten comfortable in his seclusion.  He was completely safe there; safe from the evil king out to get him and safe from the drought that was afflicting everybody else in the country.  But while Elijah may have been obedient to God in staying by the brook, there was work to be done and God needed to prod the prophet out of his comfort zone.

People who are comfortable will seldom put themselves out for anybody, even God.  God understands this quirk of human nature, so He has a way to move us:  He makes us uncomfortable!  God might take something away, like He took Elijah’s water away; whatever door God may close, we may be sure He will open another.  God may dry up our brooks of prosperity or health or the brook of self-confidence in order that He move us along in His will for us.   The old saw holds true:  Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.

2.  God’s command, verse 9a

“Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there…”

When the water became silent, God spoke.  This incident might be considered the “second stage” of Elijah’s preparation for what was to come.  It is noteworthy that God would want Elijah to go to a place called “Zarephath,” which means “place of fiery trials or furnaces.”  Here God’s man would undergo a fiery time of testing; his faith being purified.  This was also Jezebel’s homeland—the wicked wife of the evil king!  It must have taken some faith indeed for Elijah to walk purposely into the land of Jezebel!  Think about it;  would you walk headlong into a fiery trial if God asked you to?  Before you answer, remember what you’d be giving up to do that.

Zarephath was about 100 miles from the Kerith Ravine; Elijah would have to walk through 100 miles of famine and drought stricken land, possibly encountering representatives of the king just to get to his fiery furnace.

Elijah must have been a remarkable man of faith, even at this early stage of his career.  God had asked the prophet to something that, on the surface of it, defied common sense and seemed to go against the plans God had already revealed to Elijah.  If keeping the prophet safe was the plan, then walking 100 miles out in the open made no sense; if hiding the prophet from the king was the plan then making him live in enemy territory certainly made no sense either.  Elijah could have dickered with God like Lot did back in Genesis 19:20—

“Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

But Elijah was not like Lot; Elijah was a man of God and he simply obeyed the Lord and got up and went to his fiery furnace.

3.  God’s promise, verse 9b

I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

God is ever gracious, and to help Elijah out, He gave the prophet this promise.  We may be sure that when God moves on our hearts to step out in faith, we may given a promise of provision, as well.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

We may also be sure that when God calls us to a task, He has not called us alone.   Somehow, we are not told how, God must have communicated to this widow her part in His plan.  And, of course, she had to be obedient in order for God’s plan to work out.  There is a real lesson here.  Not all believers are called to “front line” ministries.  In fact, most of us will probably serve the Lord in a “support” capacity all our lives, like the widow helped to support the prophet.

When he heard God’s promise, Elijah must have felt a sense of relief.  Surely this widow must be wealthy if she is going to keep him for a time!   Another surprise awaited the prophet.

4.  A test of circumstances, verse 12

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Once Elijah arrived in town, he was led to the widow God had mentioned.  Immediately, he put her to the test—

“Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”  As she was going to get it, he called, And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”  (verses 10, 11)

Circumstances must have appeared confusing to the prophet.  A widow out gathering sticks couldn’t be rich!   Why would God send him to her?  And her response to his request for food and drink must have appeared as though either Elijah had made a mistake or God did!  How could this woman take care of Elijah when she couldn’t even take of herself?

But Elijah was faithful to his God and his mission, just as Abraham was.  Life’s circumstances didn’t affect his faith—

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.  (Romans 4:20)

Stepping out in faith is what strengthened Abraham; it strengthened Elijah; and stepping out in faith will strengthen your faith, too.

5.  Obedient faith, verses 14, 15

For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ ”  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.

The widow’s response to Elijah indicated that she was a believer in Yahweh, so Elijah gave her this astounding promise.  The promise was astounding, yes, but before the promise could be fulfilled, she had to submit to simple test:

“Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.” (verse 13)

For a woman on the brink of starvation, this was quite an audacious request to make!   But the promise was unmistakable:  God would honor her faith with a supply of flour and oil as long as the drought would last only after she took God at His word.  She had neither precedent nor example for such an act of faith, but she had hope and she had faith in the Word and power of God.

As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”  (John 20:29).

6.   God keeps His promise, verses 15, 16

So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.  For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

For at least a year, this was the case.  Like the manna that miraculously appeared and sustained the Israelites, and like the ravens that fed Elijah, so God made sure this woman, her family, and the prophet were looked after.  But remember:  God provided after they had stepped out in faith and obedience.  There is nothing quite as rewarding as living by faith!

The problem with modern believers is that they want the miraculous provision with first offering to be obedient.  God has not changed and He is more than willing and capable to meet all our needs, but the cost of such divine provision is our complete obedience.  Sadly, that is too high a price to pay for so many believers in need.

What happened to this widow must have been a source of great comfort to her, this simple, godly non-Jewish woman.  It also served to strengthen Elijah’s faith in God’s ability to both keep him safe and provide for his every need.  It reminds us of what Isaiah wrote—

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


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