The following message is taken from 1 Kings 17 and tells how wonderful of a provider the God of the Bible is. It was given on September 15, 2013
Where do our blessings come from? Do we stop and think of God’s activity in our lives? Can we attribute all that we have as coming from His gracious hand? A young boy went to the local store with his mother.
The shop owner, a kindly man, passed him a large jar of suckers and invited him to help himself to a handful. Uncharacteristically, the boy held back. So the shop owner pulled out a handful for him. When outside, the boy’s mother asked why he had suddenly been so shy and wouldn’t take a handful of suckers when offered. The boy replied, “Because his hand is much bigger than mine!”
Do we see how big His hand is? the blessings in our lives, whether they be people, places or things, as coming from God’s hand, or just the product of coincidence or from our own doing? It is like the old saying, ask a city kid where milk comes from, he may say: “The store.” Do we understand that these things are in our life as gracious acts of God? And then, what are your needs? What has He already given you? What is the purpose of prayer? Recognizing both!
As we continue our study in the life of Elijah, our passage this morning teaches us of one of the qualities of God. Among the many names of God, one is Jehova-Jireh, which means: “The God who provides.” Examples of this are in Genesis 22, when God provided the ram in the thicket, to take the place of Isaac, as Abraham’s sacrifice. Or when Joseph was in Egypt, how God put him in Pharaoh’s cabinet of leadership, so that many lives could be spared. Or when David said in Psalm 37:25: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
Not only do we rely on the Lord for our physical needs, but He has abundantly provided for our spiritual needs. This made Paul say from a cold prison cell in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1 tells us that we have been lavished with grace. Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. … 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Jesus talked of receiving blessing that is “…pressed down, shaken together and running over….” How is your cup running over? In our story today, God provided on several fronts. First of all, let us consider God’s hand in Elijah’s life.
GOD’S HAND GAVE ELIJAH THE THINGS NECESSARY FOR HIS MINISTRY.
In 1 Kings 17:1-7, Elijah speaks a word of judgment to Ahab, and then is drawn into the wilderness to spend some time alone with God. During that time, we are told that the ravens fed Elijah. Miracle #1: God using His creation to perform His purposes! He provided Elijah food and water, and peace after He withdrew him to the wilderness alone for a time of prayer and preparation for what lay ahead. He had a tough task- to speak to wayward Israel and especially their wicked king and queen: Ahab and Jezebel! Elijah needed to be alone. In a similar way, Jesus often withdrew to pray.
Elijah was known for his prayer life. Look in James 5 and see how Elijah’s life is a testament to prayer. James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain. God is concerned for us. He uses us. Psalm 121:1: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” The Psalmist wrote, the nearness of God is my good (Psalm 73:28).
Not much is known about Elijah. He kind of just shows up in the setting of sin and pain. But God called Him to do great things. We can learn a lot about the impartiality of God. Hear the words of Ray Dillard: “God looks not for fame but for faith, not wealth but willingness, not renown but reliance.” (REPEAT!).
But God was preparing Him for the future. This would not be an easy career for Elijah. His life would be in jeopardy. He was on the run for a time. Next, we see…
GOD’S HAND GAVE THE WIDOW WHAT SHE NEEDED FOR FAITH AND LIFE.
After this time in the wilderness, God sent Elijah to the town of Zarephath, about 60 miles from the Gilead region. Notice verse 8: “Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 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?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” Secondly, God provided the widow Elijah. 1 Kings 17:8-16 tells us that Elijah would be the instrument used as a catalyst for food, when the widow and her son were about to die. None of us have experienced a famine. People sometimes have to go days without eating. The widow is from a town called Zarephath, which is located on the Mediterranean coast, between Sidon and Tyre. Interestingly enough, where Jezebel is from and where Canaanite worship is its strongest. Jezebel is the daughter of the king of Sidon. So what Elijah is about to do, will eventually get back to the queen.
Elijah goes to this Gentile woman. When encountering ridicule from His own countrymen, Jesus mentions her in Luke 4:25 as a special recipient of God particular grace: “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” God picked her and was about to change her life.
But she had to trust God and trust Elijah. As a result, a family was made whole again. She essentially had to tithe to Elijah. Notice 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.” 13 Elijah said to her, “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. 14 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.’” God honors those who place Him first. Through Elijah, the Lord is invoking this woman to place Him first. It is a test of faith. This reminds me of the accounts of Jesus feeding the four thousand and the five thousand. From something so little, came something so much! He can do the same thing with our lives! God not only provided them with food, but in just a while, something greater would take place.
God also provided life for the widow’s son. Elijah would be the vessel employed to bring her dead child back to life. What Elijah is about to do will completely change this woman’s theology. In Elijah’s day, Baal was the god of the storm, and also the God of life. Only God can raise the dead. He did it on many occasions: Jesus raised the centurion’s servant, the girl who had died, his dear friend Lazarus, and Jesus Himself was raised from the dead. We sing songs about the resurrection and we celebrate Easter, but do we stop and think about the power of God to raise the dead!?
If the son dies, the widow was about to loses everything. If you do a study of widows in the Bible, you discover that they are particularly needy, dependent upon others. To be a widow was synonymous with being poor. Widows lost all hope when their spouse and children were gone. No welfare system; no government programs to help them. That is one of the things that makes the story of Ruth and Naomi so endearing. Naomi had no one, except Ruth.
In 1 Kings 17, God was putting this widow’s faith to the test. It hadn’t been too long before that Elijah supplied her with food. Now her son had stopped breathing. Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times and prayed. Three is a significant number in the Bible. Jesus was in the tomb a portion of three days. But in this story, God, through Elijah, gave the widow her son back. Miracles are meant to do two things: to manifest the glory of God and to invoke belief. This is what occurred after Jesus turned the water into wine in John 2:11: “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” Notice how the widow responded: “Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ELIJAH AND THE WIDOW?
What can we learn from the life of Elijah in this text? One, we must be willing to obey; willing to be used of Him. When there is an opportunity, we need to see how we can provide for it because, after all, we’ve been given MUCH!!!! God is sovereign. He rules. He is in control, regardless of the circumstances.
This passage teaches us that we need God. More than we need things or people, or prosperity, we need God! Jesus said “what good is it if a man gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul.” He also said: “Your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
We cannot approach God as if we are entitled, or that He owes us something. We are to submit to Him in all things! A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow who had a post card in his hand. The old man said, “Sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the post card, and he even signed it for the man, too. Finally the man doing the writing said to the older man, “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?” The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and he said, “Yes, at the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'” We must be thankful! Enjoy the blessings of God because you never know when they will be taken. That’s not to invoke fear, but gratitude!
And, we need each other. God provides people in our lives to minister to us. The Lord knows it all!! God used Elijah in this widow’s life. After God gave the widow food and her son back, I want to draw your attention to her response in verse 24: “Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”
Have you ever prayed for something, only to be given it, then to move on to the next thing you need without recognizing God for His goodness and grace? Have you ever prayed for something and it not work out quite the way you wanted? Sometimes we need to redefine what blessings are? Are blessings just good health? Enough money in the bank? Circumstances just right? What if you don’t have good health? What if money is tight? What if life has been a train wreck lately?
Maybe there are other ways that God is blessing you. Maybe you have overlooked some right in front of you. Have you read the story about the teacher who asked her pupils what they thought the Seven Wonders of the World were for today? The highest vote count was for the great pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Great Wall of China. As the teacher gathered the votes, she noticed one girl had not finished. The teacher asked if she was having trouble making up a list. She said, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Tell us what you have and maybe we can help.” The little girl said, “I think the seven wonders of the world are to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to feel, to laugh and to love.” Whatever the situation, we must trust in the sovereign love of God.