Read 1 Kings 16:29-34
Here we have the beginning of the reign of Ahab over Israel. He was the worst of all kings, and there were some very bad ones. He did more to provoke the Lord than any of the other kings put together. He married Jezebel, who was a real piece of work herself. She was an enthusiastic idolater, a chief manipulator and malicious without conscience. The Bible tells us about her core. She was addicted to witchcraft and sexual immorality.
“Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” So he answered, “What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?”” (2 Kings 9:22, NKJV)
Together, they didn’t only allow idolatry among God’s people, they evangelized for it. Wickedness spread through the Israel like a plague. The Lord will now send a judgment across the land to awaken Israel from their sin.
Friends, know this: His judgments are faithful. It is His goal to save and not to destroy.
His purpose is redemptive.
“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75, NKJV)
It is in this backdrop of Ahab, Jezebel, idolatry and immorality that the Lord will visit his people with a backbreaking drought and a subsequent famine. But there is mercy behind it. Some of us have been awakened to the Lord when our lives were shaken and things we trusted in were stripped away from us. It is a merciful act of God to strike a sleeping soul to save one.
See Christ here: When Christ came upon the scene of the woman caught in adultery. She had certainly stepped into a place of legal punishment that would cost her life. The judgment was right. Deuteronomy 22:22 But Christ saved the woman from cataclysmic justice. There was a redemptive purpose at work to save her soul. He told her, “Go your way and sin no more.” If this woman was cloudy on sin before, she knew what sin was now. The judgment proved to be a mercy to her. In the wake of her experience, along with Christ’s merciful words, it is unlikely that she ever took sin lightly again. And from that point forward, she would have made much of Christ in her life.
Read 1 Kings 17:1-15
Elijah seemed to come out of nowhere. He was an upright man thrust into the way of a crooked people. One would think that God would cast the king and the people away because of their corruption. Instead, he sends a prophet to fix them.
“The function of a prophet”, as T. Austin Sparks once noted, “has almost always been that of recovery.”
And Elijah goes right to work by confronting the king:
“As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”” (1 Kings 17:1, NKJV)
He met that king who was bold in sin with a bold rebuke. He announces from the mouth of the Lord to the king’s ears a drought that will produce a famine. It will only be broken by his word, which is God’s word.
“As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…” See how Elijah stands alone from all men?
He was intimate with God and therefore
he was not intimidated by any man.
Friends, we must stand alone with God. Though your mother may disagree with your faith-filled decisions. Though your brother may look down on you for your devotion to Christ. Though your friends think it strange that you no longer go with them into the reckless life.Let them heap abuse on you. It doesn’t matter. 1 Peter 4:4-5 You aren’t called to please the audience of this world. You are called to please an audience of One. You will not stand before them on Judgment Day you will stand before Him on Judgment Day.
Elijah said, “As the Lord God Israel lives, before whom I stand.”
See Christ here: Christ has five thousand followers at one point. After he fed them, he had five hundred. When they were eventually offended, Christ had twelve. When he went into the garden with the twelve, three went closer. At the cross there was only one left. The closer you get to the cross, the less there will be around you. See the focus of Christ. He lived for One:
“And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”” (John 8:29, NKJV)
Read 1 Kings 17:8-15
It seems cruel to ask a widow with her last cup of flour to make him a pancake; yet that is exactly what Elijah did. Was he selfish? No, he was obedient.
““Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”” (1 Kings 17:9, NKJV)
By involving the widow in his faith, he spread faith about the Lord who is the Lord; he also involved her in the rewards of faith, which saved her and her son from certain death.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
All of the so-called gods of Ahab and Jezebel were powerless in the drought and its famine. The religion of this woman and the land she came from, Sidon, had failed her miserably.
“The sorrows of those who run after
other gods shall multiply.”
Thanks to Baal, the god of storms and weather, she was now on the edge of death in a perpetually dry land. But now, salvation is at her doorstep with this camel-haired prophet. And what does he ask her for?
The Lord never asks for anything less. He will have no competitors for the heart. This woman is at the end of her self. She literally has a cup of flour and little oil and then it is all over.
Her life plan is in that jar and the Lord asks for it.
See Christ here: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33, NKJV) If you want to have life, give your life away. The only way for us to have anything is to give everything. Would you be lifted? Give up your pride and humble yourself. Would you have increase? Give up your rights and your self-importance and get smaller. Would you grow? Give up what you think you know. Declare yourself ignorant before the Lord. Would you be comforted? Give comfort to others. Would you have mercy? Give mercy away. Would you be loved? Give love.
Christ taught that life is found in giving your life away.
““Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39, NLT)
Read: 1 Kings 17:8-15
When the brook dried up and the ravens quit feeding him, the Lord sent Elijah to Zarephath in Sidon to be provided for. Sidon was a foreign country and a source of stumbling to Israel. Her gods now populated Israel and had brought them to this spiritual low point. If you were looking for a root of evil in Israel, you need look no further than Sidon. Yet Elijah goes there to be provided by a widow. God shows that he has a variety of ways to provide for his people.
“We should never be afraid, ashamed or hesitant to receive from the unclean, whether it unclean ravens or immoral Sidonians, when God has commanded it. It might be for the man of God to be supplied by the world, an unbeliever or even a wrong living man.” Art Katz
Yet more than Elijah’s provision is at work here. There is a mission of mercy.
Elijah is the first prophet to the Gentiles. Christ takes notice of this in his early days of ministry where he is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth after sharing the Word with them in the synagogue. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Since he grew up under their eye, they had a low evaluation of him. “He is one of us. How could he be touched by divinity?”
Jesus answered them:
“But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” (Luke 4:25–26, NKJV)
After that, they tried to throw him off of a cliff but he walked through them.
See Christ in Elijah: Elijah was hated and driven out by his countrymen. So, he turns to the Gentiles. He came to the hated, the low living and the spiritually immoral and begins a work of redemption. Isn’t this many of our stories? What grace is found in Christ! He didn’t come to cure the healthy, but the sick.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, NKJV)
Read 1 Kings 17:17-24
This woman and her son are both survivors by God’s grace and yet now, her son dies. It is confounding to her as it is to many of us. This is a dark hour for this woman. Why would God save them to have him die? When things like this happen, we are like Lazarus’ sisters who wondered where God was.
“Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, NKJV)
“There is no doubt that most of those who have been called into some of the most vital expressions of “the eternal purpose” have been trained in the school of apparent Divine contradiction, delay, withdrawal, and darkness. In the darkest hour God’s greatest glory shines.”
T. Austin Sparks
Where do we see God in this story? We see Him in the cross, crucifixion and resurrection.
There are many antique tintype images of resurrection in the Bible; snapshots of death impossibly reversed into life. They cast their sepia-toned photographs in history but they foretell a greater full-color resurrection in the future—even Jesus Christ!
Adam and Eve ate of the tree and death began to work. Yet Christ is prophesied immediately. Upon the cross, He is the Tree of Life to the dying human race.
Abraham gave his son Isaac over to death and God gave him back.
Moses was bravely let go in basket upon on crocodile infested river only to be returned alive to God-fearing parents.
Now, this widow and her son.
This is where God is in this story: He is at work in death. Weren’t the disciples confounded by the death of Jesus? Their experience took them to the end of themselves. They had to get out of the way and lose all confidence in the flesh. Yes, they had to die too! Suppose to accomplish this, God must remove every trace of Himself, even at the risk of appearing to be considered unfaithful? Yet, it is in this place exactly that we sense our own death very literally. But let us be encouraged. In such a dark place is where bright resurrection soon follows.
See Christ here; The son of the widow of Zarephath, lying dead in an upper room, was revived by a prophet who 'stretched himself’ over the dead boy and raised him.
Wasn’t Christ stretched with arms open
wide over us to raise us?
These all are pictures of “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” Romans 4:17