Elijah: Prophet Of Courage And Confrontation
Sermon #3 (Elijah – 1 Kings 17:8-16)
EMPTY BARREL GRADUATE SCHOOL
1 Kings 17:8-16 (NKJV)
Elijah and the Widow
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”
15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.
Prophet Elijah holds in his hand a degree from the “Dry Brook University”. He has trusted God to take care of him even in the most desperate of situations. He trusted God to send the ravens to feed him, and he trusted God to supply him fresh water using the little brook Cherith. He watched as God met his needs day in and day out. He also watched as God allowed his brook, the only source of water he had, to dry up before his eyes. Surely, enduring this kind of trial would count for something! Surely, things would get better for the prophet now!
Yet, when God speaks to Elijah, it is to send him into another difficult and testing situation. You see, the prophet’s training isn’t over just yet. God is creating a man of God! Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook University, but now he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet’s flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At Zarephath, God will break Elijah’s pride. Here, he will learn that God, not Elijah calls all the shots of life. He will learn that things are never like they appear. He will learn that God can use the humblest of means to train His children for His glory. Amen!
Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty way! When we get to 1 Kings chapter 18, we will see why God put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is building a man of God!
Now, with that in mind, there are times when it seems that our trials come back to back to back to back. That is, it seems that before one trial can end, another begins! When these times come, we may be tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing. Simply stated, God is getting you in a position where He can use you in a much greater way. I will remind you that before He can mold us, He must first melt us! After all, God’s goal for every saint of God is that we be made into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”, Eph. 4:13.
Therefore, let’s join the prophet Elijah as he continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School. There are lessons here that we can glean from as well. These lessons will help us when we face our times of trial and testing.
I. V. 8-11 A FRESH PATH
A. V. 8 The Call – As Elijah sat there beside that dried up brook (Cherith) it must have felt like he had been abandoned by God. Have you ever felt that way? It is a terrible feeling! However, God had not forgotten about Elijah! God knew exactly where he was. God knew all about that dry brook and God had something else in mind for the man of God!
Let me just remind you that the dried brooks of life are merely those things which God uses to move us along in His will. He will use the dried up brooks you face to teach you fresh lessons of faith and obedience.
(Ill. There is a lesson here for us, and it is a hard one to swallow! That lesson is this: genuine faith WAITS for God to reveal His plans. Friends, this is where we get into trouble when we are impatient with the timing of God! We have this tendency to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Yet, God’s will is that we learn to wait on Him, even when He doesn’t move on our schedule! If your brook is dry this morning, do not fear! God has not forgotten about you. He knows just where you are and when the time is right, you will hear His voice calling you to a fresh arena of service! “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”, Isa. 40:31. We are action oriented people, but sometimes God’s command is that we just be still and wait on Him, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.” Exodus 14:13.)
B. V. 9a The Command – when the Lord does speak to Elijah, He commands him to go to Zarephath. This is a strange command considering the fact that Zarephath is in a Gentile (pagan) nation. It is country of Jezebel. It is a land of idolaters. It is a wicked place filled with wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the Lord sends His prophet! To top it off, to get to Zarephath from Cherith will force Elijah to march over 100 miles through territory ruled over by king Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere. It seems like this command of the Lord makes no sense at all! Of course, one of the reason for sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly illustrate the impotence of Jezebel’s wrath and power!
(Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us in this verse: Often, the life of faith will lead through difficult pathways. Folks, God never promised that this way would be an easy way. In fact, just the opposite is true! God has promised us that life will be filled with trials and troubles, Job 14:1; Job 5:7; John 16:33. Yet, that is the path of faith! Yet, even when the command of God makes no sense, faith simply obeys God without regard for the consequences, v. 10!
You can see this truth displayed throughout the Bible.
•Noah and the ark – Gen. 6
•Abraham and Isaac – Gen. 22
•Daniel and the 3 Hebrews – Dan. 1
There are times when the commands of God seems harsh and strange. However, faith recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd and follows obediently wherever He may lead!)
C. V. 9b The Challenge – Notice that again Elijah is told to “dwell there”. He is to go to Zarephath and stay there until he receives new instructions from the mouth of the Lord. Often, God’s times of testing do not come with a time limit attached! He merely sends unto it and leaves us there until His work in us is finished!
However, the real challenge is in what God told the prophet next, “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” That must have been a serious blow to the pride of the prophet. You see, in those days, widows were the poorest of the poor! In times of drought and want, the widows were the first group to die off. Instead of God telling Elijah, “I have a widow over there in Zarephath and I want you to go take care of her.” God says, “Elijah, I am sending you to another place of testing where you will have to look to me for all you receive, every day.” For Elijah, Zarephath was a place that would live up to its name. The name Zarephath means “smelting furnace, or refining”. It refers to the furnace into which metal is placed so that it can be heated up and have any impurities removed. Cherith was the place where Elijah had been cut off and cut down. Zarephath would be the place where he would be refined. It would be here that the last vestiges of Elijah’s pride and self-reliance would be stripped away.
(Ill. We are a self-reliant people aren’t we? We always want to believe that we can “handle it” ourselves. We would like to think that we are in control of our lives and that we are calling all the shots. However, when the Lord begins to work in your life to reveal Himself in you more clearly, He will send you to a Zarephath where you have to depend on nothing but Him ALONE.
When you have been brought to the place where you can lean on nothing but God Himself, He has brought you to the greatest of places that life can afford. For it is in that place that you will learn Who is in control. That is the challenge we all face in our faith life. We all face the challenge of getting to the place where we are trusting God and Him alone for all the needs we have in life! That is where He wants each of us, “The just shall live by faith.”, Rom. 1:17.)
D. V. 10-11 The Comfort – When Elijah receives this command, he does not hesitate, he just gets up and goes where God tells him to go. When he arrives at Zarephath, he sees “the” widow picking up sticks. Evidently, the Lord lets him know that this is the vessel He has chosen to sustain Elijah. When he sees her, he calls to her to fetch him a drink of water. It must have been a comfort to him to see her turn to fetch his drink! It must have appeared like God had things lined up for the prophet.
(Ill. There is a lesson here as well. Our God is a God Who works on both ends of the line. Let me illustrate. When Jacob and his sons needed food, God provided a Joseph in Egypt. When the children of Israel sent their spies to Jericho, God gave them a Rahab. When the Jews faced a Haman, God raised them up an Esther. When an Ethiopian Eunuch needed salvation, God sent him a Philip. The point is this: When your time of need arises, rest assured that your Father has already gone ahead to spread the table of provision in your behalf, Phil. 4:19.)
I. A Fresh Path
II. V. 12-15a A FANTASTIC PROMISE
A. V. 12 A Doubt – When Elijah asks the widow for a cake (morsel) of bread, her fear is brought to the surface. God had already commanded her to care for His prophet, v. 9, but she is trapped with the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on the circumstances and not on the God Who controls the circumstances!
(Ill This is the place where many people are living this morning! When we look at our problems and our needs, we feel like we are trapped in a hopeless situation. We are guilty of looking at the problem (circumstance) and not at the Provider! As much as Elijah was sent to Zarephath for his benefit, he was also sent for the benefit of this widow. She needed to learn the value of faith in God as well. Hallelujah!
My friends, are you trapped in doubt this morning? Does it appear that your situation is hopeless and that you are helpless to do anything about it? The answer lies in looking beyond your problem and getting your eyes on the Provider, Heb. 12:1-2! If you are saved, then you are in the family of God. God is your Father and He has promised to take care of you, Matt. 6:25-34. Therefore, when you doubt, you are saying that God cannot do what He has promised to do! Is He God or isn’t He? Your doubt says that God is dead! Your faith recognizes His power and position!)
(Ill. It must have been a discouragement to Elijah to hear the widow express her lack of faith. If he had focused on first impressions instead of on the word of God, then he might have lapsed into despair. However, he believed God more than he believed even what he saw! Real faith knows that God is greater than what the eye can see. Real faith knows that God can make the impossible possible, Heb. 11:1!)
B. V. 13-14 A Demand – When Elijah hears the widow’s sob story, he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first! On the surface this appears harsh and cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and surrender to the will of God.
1. Involved Encouragement – “Fear not!” Elijah comforts her heart in this matter. She is told that she can trust God.
2. Involved Enlightenment – “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” She gets a direct word from God concerning her situation. She has God’s word that she will be taken care of.
3. Involved Excitement – “Neither the barrel of meal nor the cruse of oil will fail until God sends rain upon the earth. This widow hears the news that she is about to be center stage for a miracle designed to care for God’s man. She is about to be caught up in a manifestation of the power of God.
(Ill. The point here is that God’s calls on our lives often make demands that are difficult to understand. Why would He call me to do that? Why would the Lord allow that to happen? Why this and why that? However, when God’s demands are accompanied by a clear word of God, then we need have no fear, but we can respond in faith, knowing that God will take care of us. Remember Abraham? He was called on the sacrifice his only son Isaac – Gen. 22. It must have been the most difficult demand he faced in his life! Yet, he responded in faith and came to know God is a brand new way. Abraham learned that God is Jehovah-Jireh! That is, He is the Lord Who will see to it! That is what you learn when the demands of faith are placed upon your shoulders.)
C. V. 15a A Decision – When this widow heard the word of God, she went and did as Elijah had commanded her. it must have took great faith to use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare bread for a total stranger. Yet she did it by faith!
(Ill. This is the place that God wants to bring us all to. He wants His Elijahs and His widows to learn to trust Him in every circumstance, regardless of what outward appearances may suggest. Have you reached that place in your walk with God? If not, then don’t be surprised when God’s paths lead through dark valleys and uncertain ways. He is in the process of training His servants. We can do not better than to learn to obey Him promptly, just like Elijah and the widow did!)
(Ill. God wants us to get to the place where we can give it all away! Read below of an inspiring story :
Legend has it that a man was lost in the desert, just dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old shack–a ramshackled, windowless, roofless, weatherbeaten old shack. He looked about this place and found a little shade from the heat of the desert sun. As he glanced around he saw a pump about fifteen feet away– an old, rusty water pump. He stumbled over to it, grabbed the handle, and began to pump up and down, up and down. Nothing came out.
Disappointed, he staggered back. He noticed off to the side of an old jug. He looked at it, wiped away the dirt and dust, and read a message that said, “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug, my friend. P.S.: Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.”
He popped the cork out of the jug and sure enough, it was almost full of water! Suddenly, he was faced with a decision. If he drank the water, he could live. Ah, but if he poured all the water in the old rusty pump, maybe it would yield fresh, cool water from down deep in the well, all the fresh water he wanted.
He studied the possibility of both options. What should he do, pour it into the old pump and take a chance on fresh, cool water or drink what was in the old jug and ignore its message? Should he waste all the water on the hopes of those flimsy instructions written, no telling how long ago?
Reluctantly he poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump, squeak, squeak, squeak. Still nothing came out! Squeak, squeak, squeak. A little bit began to dribble out, then a small stream, and finally it gushed! To his relief fresh, cool water poured out of the rusty pump. Eagerly, he filled the jug and drank from it. He filled it another time and once again drank its refreshing contents.
Then he filled the jug for the next traveler. He filled it to the top, popped the cork back on, and added this little note: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.” That is the essence of genuine faith! It is not a risk, but it is a challenge to human reasoning. Faith will call on us to do the unthinkable so that we might receive the impossible! Amen!)
I. A Fresh Path
II. A Fantastic Promise
III. V. 15-16 A FABULOUS PROVISION
(Ill. The Bible tells us here that until the rains returned to the earth, the meal barrel and the jar of oil did not run out. Every time the widow went to get meal and oil to prepare a meal, there was more to be used. When she decided to bake that cake for Elijah, she traded the certain for the uncertain and received the impossible in return!)
A. The Grace Of It – Because this widow took God at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God allowed the widow, the widow’s son and Elijah to enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds starved to death. That is grace! The difference in the widow’s home was that she learned to live by faith and she was supplied by the hand of God. God honors faith because faith honors God!
B. The Greatness Of It – For years, until it rained, every meal time was a miracle. God worked a miracle in that barrel and in that jar every single day. He took nothing and made it last until it was no longer needed. Friends, we serve a God Who specializes in doing the impossible! It may look hopeless to us, but we must never count God out! He can take the little that is dedicated to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous proportions! (Ill. See The 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed a multitude – John 6:5-13.)
C. The Glory Of It – The glory of this story resides in this fact: that barrel of meal and that cruse of oil were never full! Elijah and the widow were taught to live day by day. Everyday she scraped the bottom of the barrel and everyday there was just enough meal to fix their food. Everyday she watched the last drop of oil drip from that jar, but the next day there was always more. The glory in the story lies in the fact that Elijah and the widow were taught to trust God day by day! As the days passed, their faith was strengthened as they saw the Lord provide! You see, the difficulties of life are to faith what barbells are to muscles. They will strengthen its very fiber!
When God has brought you to the place where you are forced to trust in Him for today’s provision, He has brought you to the best place you can be. He has blessed you beyond words! You may not think so at the time, but when His path leads to a greater trial, it is a blessing to know that God always takes care of His children! Hallelujah!
George Mueller, born into a German tax collector’s family, was often in trouble. He learned early to steal and gamble and drink. As a teenager, he learned how to stay in expensive hotels, then sneak out without paying the bill. But at length he was caught and jailed. Prison did him little good, for upon release he continued his crime spree until, on a Saturday night in 1825, he met Jesus Christ.
Mueller married and settled down in Bristol, England, growing daily in faith and developing a burden for the homeless children running wild and ragged through the streets. At a public meeting in Bristol on December 9, 1835, he presented a plan for an orphanage. Several contributions came in. Mueller rented Number 6 Wilson Street, and on April 11, 1836, the doors of the orphanage opened. Twenty-six children were immediately taken in. A second house soon opened, then a third.
From the beginning, Mueller refused to ask for funds or even to speak of the ministry’s financial needs. He believed in praying earnestly and trusting the Lord to provide. And the Lord did provide, though sometimes at the last moment. The best-known story involves a morning when the plates and bowls and cups were set on the tables, but there was no food or milk. The children sat waiting for breakfast while Mueller led in prayer for their daily bread. A knock sounded at the door.
It was the baker. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 A.M. and baked some fresh bread.“ A second knock sounded. The milkman had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he wanted to give the children his milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.
Such stories became the norm for Mueller’s work. During the course of his ninety-three years, Mueller housed more than ten thousand orphans, “prayed in” millions of dollars, traveled to scores of countries preaching the Gospel, and recorded fifty thousand answers to prayer.
Friends, where does this message find your faith? Does it seemed that God is moving you from one hard place to another? Does it seem that things just get harder and harder for you as you journey through life? You must remember that God is refining you! Just like fine wine is transferred from vessel to vessel to remove the “lees” so God will pass His servants from one difficulty into another to remove from our lives those things that are not pleasing in His sight. Don’t fight Him! Your best course of action this morning is to surrender to His will now!
Others of you who are lost and do not know Jesus Christ, you need to be saved today. Some are not walking in close communion with the Lord, you need to be restored to a closer relationship with the Lord. Whatever the need, this altar is open for you and there is help to be found in Christ Jesus. Will you come and trust God for whatever your need may be?
Lord, you can do it again in our generation! Amen!