Elijah

The Miracles of Zarephath

God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a small town outside Sidon, on the Phoenician coast, which is now the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to this journey, Elijah was miraculously fed by a raven, and drank from the Brook Cherith, which streamed down the east side of the mountains and flowed into the Jordan River. When the brook dried up, God told Elijah to move. He moved to hide from King Ahab, because Elijah prophesied, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Therefore, God tells Elijah, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

King Ahab had been eagerly seeking to apprehend Elijah in order to find some way to convince him to end the drought. However, it is not God’s will for that to occur, and what happens next in Zarephath turns out to be very miraculous itself.

It was apparently very hot and dry, even on the coastline; I am sure these people knew of some humidity during their lifetime living in a coastal town. It sure was dry enough to gather sticks for a fire, her last fire she thought, as she mused as to how she would use the last little bit of flour left in the jar. She had all but given up, and as the good mother, she was, and also a father to her son since her husband died; she would prepare their last meal, and wait to starve to death.

Oh, how many times have we come to the point in our lives where it just seemed so dry and lifeless? As Christians, we are bearing no fruit in our lives worth mentioning. We seem to be just gathering kindling for our last fire, thinking up ways to make it happen one last time, one last fire, one last reason to be a witness for Christ! We become sullen, looking down at the ground, crunching underneath our feet; they burn to remind us of the fire that once was aflame in our hearts for God!

She stands at the gate of the city. Why did she wander out? Were there no trees left in the city? Had everyone cut down the trees for firewood? Now, this widow has to go outside her city to find sticks, not a log or two, but just sticks, the remnant of what used to be flourishing. Why is it important to look at this widow gathering sticks at the gate? The Kingdom of God has a gate, and the Bible tells us that the only entrance into the Kingdom of God, or as St. Augustine said in his book, The City of God, is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you are part of the Kingdom of God, the Rule, and Reign of God through Jesus Christ, Who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, if you are not a Christian, or maybe even doubt that you are, you stand outside the gate. The city is behind you. Maybe, in your Christian life past, you flourished in your faith; you bore the fruit of righteousness. You may have walked through the gate into the city, but since you were a widow, without a husband, you have been outcast, alone, with no one to identify with, no one to care for you. Sometimes, I am sure we can feel widowed because we feel our faith died. The Bible says we can taste of the heavenly gift, we can see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of others. We can even be witnesses to the miraculous and still never experience faith for ourselves. I can confidently tell you, that even if you were baptized as an infant, you may not be saved. Do you stand outside the gate of the city? Do you stand outside the Kingdom of God?

The Bible tells us that God has already spoken to this widow woman to help Elijah. That adds a new twist to our story this morning. This place, this city, on the Phoenician coast, away from Israel, is a place where God is not worshiped. It is a pagan land, a land of idolatry. Yet, God spoke to her, commanding her to help the prophet. Therefore, Elijah sees this widow woman; I believe he knew her to be the one God told him about. Elijah asks her for some water. Remember, there is a massive drought going on in the land. Perhaps there was a well where fresh water was retrieved. As the widow woman goes for the water, he yells at her something like, “Oh, and by the way, bring me morsel of bread, I’m hungry!”

Brothers and sisters, have you ever had God tell you to bring him a morsel? Morsel is an interesting word the author of First Kings uses to describe what Elijah is requesting. Morsel – a crumb, as if it is rubbed off an actual piece of bread. Maybe a mouthful and that is a relative statement because I know some people that can put a bunch of bread in their mouths! So let us just stay with what it really means, a crumb, a little piece of bread. What was it that God asked you to do? Was it something very minute? Was it something so small, yet so demanding of you that you would say, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now 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.” The point here is that God does not command us to do something that He cannot provide us with the means or the ability to do it. She had already had her mind made up, that God could not use her anymore because she just does not have what it takes. There is only a handful of faith, or she can barely sense the anointing of the Holy Spirit in her life. She is just trying to find enough kindling to keep those fires burning in her heart – but she is ready to die because of the despair she has fallen into. She feels there is no hope. God, how can you call upon me to help others when I just do not have the ingredients anymore?

Then Elijah tests her obedience saying, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. First, make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.”

First, when God calls you to Himself, He says fear not! When God calls you to do something for Him, He says fear not! Why? Do not be afraid! Do not despair! God is in control! Brothers and sisters, God is there when the crops do not grow! God is there when a pestilence destroys your crops! God is there when the rain does not come. God is there when the ground dries up. God is there when the flood waters rage. God is there when your husband or wife dies! God is there when you lose a loved one! God is there when your tractor breaks down! What did Elijah tell the widow woman? Fear not. Go, make me a little piece of bread, and bring it to me with what you have already in your jar of flour and oil. Do you remember the parable of the mustard seed that Jesus taught? How such a very small seed was able to grow in a huge tree that looks like a gigantic bush? God tells us even the smallest amount of faith can get us through. We must learn to trust in Jesus, we must learn to trust in God with the little bit of flour and oil in our jar.

But wait, there is more! God just did not leave the poor widow woman with nothing after she makes Elijah something to eat. Elijah tells her that God says her flour will not be spent! God says that her jug of oil shall not be empty!

Brothers and sisters, God is not done with you yet! God is telling you that your flour jar is not empty. The bread of life is Jesus Christ and you should feast on Him. Get your nourishment from Jesus Christ. He is the Bread that gives life. His life is the light of men. He is your portion and your provision. You still have something to give! God is telling you this morning with what is still within you, you have what can feed multitudes.

Brothers and sisters, God says your jug of oil shall not be empty. In the Bible, oil is used to describe the substance used to anoint someone, or pour over someone who is being consecrated for a specific office or task. Oil in both the Old and New Testament represents the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian, the blessed Holy Trinity of God dwells within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit! What joy! What solace! What a relief! God is within us, not just with us! His anointing teaches us all things, gives us wisdom, gives us power, love, and a sound mind. The oil of God gives us strength to resist temptation. The anointing of God sanctifies us by His Truth; His Word is Truth, hallelujah! Your jug of oil shall not be empty! It will remain full until you each go home to be with the Lord or He comes back in glory! Either way, His Holy Spirit has taken up residence within you; He has regenerated you, declared you righteous in God’s eyes, sets you apart as holy unto the Lord, and gives you His gifts, and enables you to bear fruit unto Christ-likeness. You do not have to be a barren tree! You can bear the fruit of a holy and righteous life. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans! I will not leave you fatherless, comfortless, parentless, and bereaved, I am coming to you!” Jesus also assures us by saying, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Fear not, for the Holy Spirit is your oil of gladness!

Dear friends, as the Holy Scriptures attest, God accomplished what He said He would do. Elijah, the widow woman and her children ate for many days. In verse 16 it says, “The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.” God is not like a human being, who will lie, cheat, steal, and not keep the promises they make. No, God is God, Who cannot lie, and He cannot contradict Himself, nor go back on His Word, because His Word is Truth, for He is Holy, Just, and Righteous.

Consequently, there comes a time as we go through our Christian lives, our flour jar full to overflowing, and our jug of oil never fails, then something catastrophic or tragic happens. We get the diagnosis, or the telephone call, or the report of an accident. What happens then? What happens when we, full of faith and hope for the days ahead hear the news of the sudden death of a loved one?

For this widow woman, one of her children, a son, comes down so sick that he dies. The first thing that we do is tell God, “What have I done to deserve this?” Why is it that we come to the immediate conclusion that God has something against us when tragedy strikes? On the other hand, like when our home is hit by a tornado.  Do we realize that we hold on to our loved ones? Do we realize that we hold on to our homes, our tractors, our pickup trucks, our snowmobiles, our sports cars? Do we realize that we idolize things in our lives, or maybe we even idolize experiences in our lives? Elijah says to the widow woman, “Give me your son.” We must give all that we are, all that we possess, all who we love, to God. God has given us many great gifts, some of which you are sitting next to right now. Nevertheless, we must surrender them to God. We must put God above all of them. We must put God on the throne of our lives. He is Lord. Jesus is Lord. God is King. We serve in His Kingdom. God is on the throne of His Kingdom. We must love God so much, that it would seem that we would hate these things or father, mother, sister, brother, wife, husband, and child. God says, “Give Me all of you – so I can give you all of Me that you can contain.” The Bible does not say much of the widow woman’s faith or trust in God through the words of Elijah. However, she did trust in God, but blamed Elijah for some reason.

What does God say when this happens? Sometimes He will test us and try us as the Refiner of gold and silver. Seeking to view Himself in us, He heats up the gold or silver to a temperature that separates the dross, the dirt, the sin, that has mingled with the new creation in Christ Jesus that we are. Once the dross has reached the surface, God skims it off, gently, to not push down, or mingle again the dross with the pure gold or silver. When the process is finished, the Refiner can see His own image in the gold or silver. The Bible tells us that we will be transformed into the image and likeness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by the renewing of our minds in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God hears the cry of the widow woman, her heart saddened that her son, probably because of malnutrition has succumbed to a disease that took his life. We say to ourselves in cases like this, “if only I did thus, and so.” If only. If only. Nevertheless, God says, wait, there is more!

Elijah took the child into his arms and took him up to his room. The number three has significance in the Bible. The Trinity is one example for God, the Three in One, and the One in Three. Then Elijah, it says in verse 21, “stretched himself upon the child three times.” The Hebrew word for stretched is “madad” which means to stretch or to measure. The Greek text for 1 Kings 17, to me, gives us a bit more insight into what Elijah did. The Greek word is emphusaō, and this is a word that means to puff, blow on, or breathe on. I believe that Elijah breathed on or breathed into the child three times and he was resuscitated. Sounds like Elijah gave the child artificial respiration. I do not think that was the case though, for man did not know of this life saving technique at this time in history. What this scene does represent is Elijah, the prophet, representing God breathing life back into the child. That is just what happened. The Bible says in verse 22 that “the soul of the child came into him again.”

God can infuse life back into us again, when we think there is no life left in us. God can breathe newness into our lives when we believe that we have grown stale. God tells us this, even when we go through very hard times, with words that mean, “see, your son lives.” The son can represent an area of your life that you consider dead or dying. It could be a sinful behavior that you cannot seem to shake. On the other hand, it could be you are ill, and you are having a hard time reconciling your condition. In any situation, God comes to us, He carries us through, or He delivers us from it, all based upon His sovereign will. God can prove to you that His Word is Truth. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to provide for the redemption of our souls. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem us from bondage to sin and death. Jesus Christ was the atonement for our sins, once and for all.

God can infuse His life into you today. The Bible says that anyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. Have you entrusted your life to God? Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Word of God, our Savior, and Lord, that God has raised Him from the dead, and that He now is at the right hand of the Father in heaven? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. Can it be any more plain? Can you say like the widow woman, “Now I know that you are the Son of God Who has taken away the sins of the world.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, receive what the Word of God is giving you today. Charles H. Spurgeon once wrote, “The word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us to sift a mountain of chaff and only find one grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn – we have but to open the granary door and there it is. Scripture grows upon the student. It is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye it glows with splendor of revelation, as if a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of gems. There are no goods like the merchandise of Scripture truth.” Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of me.” No more powerful motive can be urged upon you than this: he who finds Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy is he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Savior.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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