Friday, March 11, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 40. Elijah And The Miracle Of The Flour And The Oil

Prophets And Kings
Day 40
Elijah And The Miracle Of The Flour And The Oil

The Lord lets the brook dry up so that Elijah haves to move on. Theres a Gentile widow in Sidon that the Lord wants Elijah to stay with.

1 KINGS 17:7-16
Elijah has been hiding in a ravine, drinking water from the brook and being fed twice a day by a raven. But it's time to move on and the Lord arranges it so that Elijah has to move on. "Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land." (1 Kings 17:7) I think Elijah might have stayed safely hidden there for a very long time if the water hadn't dried up. King Ahab wanted him dead because of the prophecy pronounced upon the nation for idolatry. We will learn later on that Elijah feels like he's in the minority for standing up for God and I think he probably dreaded the thought of facing down the wicked people in power. 

Have you ever stayed somewhere too long? Have you ever known the Lord was sending you to do something else but it was just so safe and comfortable where you were that you didn't really want to go? I think that's where Elijah is. He's in a place of calm and quiet, being personally cared for by the Lord, enjoying sweet fellowship with Him, safe from opposition. He's in his comfort zone and that's a difficult place to leave. Because he's so entrenched in his place of refuge, the Lord forces his hand by letting the brook dry up. Now Elijah has no choice but to go where the Lord tells him to go. And the Lord's request probably surprised him because he's to go to a Gentile widow, not to his own people. "Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food." (1 Kings 17:9)

When the people of Jesus' hometown lacked the faith to believe in Him, he pointed out that a prophet is never accepted by his own people. You will find this passage in Luke 4. He uses the example of the prophet Elijah and says that the only miracles the Lord sent Elijah to do were for the Gentile widow in Zarephath and for the Gentile leper Naaman. This angered the people tremendously, so much so that they threw Jesus out of the city intending to kill Him. What He was telling them was that His miracles were real and His words were true but they insisted on remaining in unbelief and ignorance, just as the people who heard Elijah insisted on remaining in unbelief and ignorance. Because Elijah's own people rejected his preaching, the only personal miracles he was ever able to do were for the Gentiles. Because Jesus' own hometown and eventually His own nation would reject Him, salvation was going to come to the Gentiles. 

Elijah obeys the Lord. "So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, '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.'" (1 Kings 17:10-11) This is a divine appointment. We are going to learn that the widow is so poor she and her son are about to starve to death. She's about to make their last meal. Elijah no doubt recognizes she is poor, which was common in families where there was no male head of household, but he doesn't yet realize the depth of her poverty. He's exhausted from his journey, thirsty and hungry, maybe suffering a spiritual low at being an exile from his own country, feeling like he's the last faithful prophet in Israel. This woman is down to her last meal, exhausted and about to collapse from worry, facing the death of herself and her son from starvation, almost certainly at a spiritual low because of her circumstances. But the Lord is about to strengthen Elijah's faith and the widow's faith in a mighty way.

"'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 olive 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.'" (1 Kings 17:12) The widow makes an oath in the Lord's name so Elijah will understand she's telling him the truth. She doesn't claim God as her Lord but wants the prophet to know she isn't withholding bread from him out of stinginess. She simply doesn't have any to give him. There's only enough left for her and her son to share one small meal together before starvation removes them from the earth and no doubt she's reluctant to share this meager meal with a stranger, and understandably so. I can't really blame her for that. She wants her son to have food in his belly and giving some of it to this foreigner isn't in her plans.

Elijah asks her to take a leap of faith. "Elijah said to her, 'Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 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 sends rain on the land.'" (1 Kings 17:13-14) The Lord is asking the widow to step out of her comfort zone too. She's settled on a course of action, preparing to die, and is defeated in spirit. Although she doesn't want to starve to death or her son to starve to death, in her mind it's a foregone conclusion and somehow she's stuck in her thinking. She believes she and her son will enjoy one last meal together and it takes a great deal of faith to share some of that meal with a stranger. It goes against everything that's going on in her head right now but somehow she finds the strength to do it. Something about this man of God inspires confidence. Something about the God of Israel commands her respect. The Lord has already been working in her heart because He previously told Elijah He had instructed the widow to feed him. Her heart is soft toward this stranger because God is dealing with her. 

God rewards us when we obey Him by stepping out in faith. "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. 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." (1 Kings 17:15-16) Elijah and this widow woman are examples of faith in action. Elijah left the brook, stepping away from a place of comfort, and went to a poor Gentile widow at the command of the Lord. The widow made a huge leap of faith in trusting the words of this stranger who came in the name of the Lord, sharing the last of her food with him, daring to believe something great was about to happen. Both their lives were changed simply because they were willing to believe the promise of the Lord was true. This miracle and the one we will study tomorrow are exactly what Elijah needs to give him the boldness to face down 850 pagan prophets on Mount Carmel. The miracles probably caused the widow to convert to the God of Israel, because tomorrow she will proclaim that Elijah is a real prophet and that the word of the Lord is true. 

What a great lesson these unlikely friends have taught us today about doing what the Lord says even when it doesn't make sense to us. As a Jew, being sent to a poor Gentile widow probably didn't make much sense to Elijah. As a starving woman, feeding a prophet of another nation's God probably didn't make much sense to the widow. But they obeyed the Lord anyway and He blessed them for it.

Below is a song link that reminds me of what we've studied today about stepping out in faith.

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