1 Kings

1 Kings 17:7-16 – Elijah: Moulding goes on and on and on and ….

1 Kings 17v7-16

 

Elijah: Moulding goes on and on and on and ….

 

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.: I grew up at the sea on the East Coast of South Africa – Durban. The surfing capital of Africa. Started off with rubber ‘lilos’ {name?} then used flippers for body-surfing and eventually graduated to a surf-ski – like a kayak but you sit on it, not in it. Different types of waves – depends on tide, winds etc. Some crumble from the top – great! Others curl, suck back at bottom and crash – dumpers!!! In rough conditions come is quick succession. Dumped, churned – surfaced for air only to be dumped and churned again and again and again…HOPEFULLY just before you drown you are unceremoniously dumped onto the beach, spitting sand!!!

 

Life can sometimes feel like that. A wave hits you and you get dumped and churned and as you come up for air, breathing a sigh of relief that you made it through that, another wave hits you, and another, …

 

I wonder if this is how Elijah felt as the next phase of God’s moulding process kicks in?

 

  1. 1.     The brook dries up!

 

1 Kings 17:7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (NIV)

 

God had sent Elijah to the Cherith Brook. NOW the water dries up. The God who gave the water in the first place now withholds it. Has God forgotten Elijah?

You see our human response is that once God gives us something he shouldn’t take it away!

Once God gives us a child he should never take it away, should he?

Once God gives a spouse he should never take him/her away, should he?

Once God provides a good ministry and growing church he has no right to stop that, does he?

 

When times are tough has God forgotten us?

Had God forgotten Elijah? Was he unhappy with Elijah and punishing him? NO! – on both counts.

He was not unhappy with Elijah – Elijah was where God wanted him to be – he had sent him there. [not always the case but was so here!!]

 

A dried up brook was a result of Elijah’s own prayer. He had prayed that it would not rain and ultimately it did not rain for 3 ½ years. A dried up brook was an indication that the very thing he had prayed for was beginning to happen.

James 5:17           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. (NIV)

 

Has this ever happened to you? “Lord, make me a godly man! Make me into the woman you desire me to be?” BUT in your heart you are thinking “…but don’t let it hurt too much!”

 

ILLUS.: My brother Leigh as a young man going off to Bible College prayed – and wrote in the front of his Bible – “Lord, anywhere, any time, any cost!” Some years later his wife Esther, together with my sister Jayne were killed in a motor accident – part of the cost? Yes!

 

Lord, teach me faith, make strong, BUT don’t let me suffer to much!”

We sang “… give us compassion we pray, melt our cold hearts…” For something to melt the heat needs to be turned up!! Are we prepared for God to do that in our lives?

 

God’s desire is to make us into what he wants us to be – to be like Jesus. He is relentless in his purpose.

 

So for Elijah, and for us, a dried up brook is not necessarily a sign of God’s disappointment in us, but may be a sign of his pleasure.

ILLUS.:Abraham was told to sacrifice his son.

Joseph was sold as a slave and later thrown into prison  – unjustly.

Paul was stoned, beaten. Imprisoned etc.. for the sake of Christ.

Jesus went to Gethsemane and the cross – God was well-pleased with him!

 

A dried up brook – the God who gives water can also withhold it! And it is not necessarily a sign of his displeasure.

 

2. A Change of scenery.

 

1 Kings 17:8-9 … 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. …

  • God knows where Elijah is.

Then the word of the LORD came to him…

God speaks to Elijah where he is – he knows exactly the place and the circumstances. When we are in tough times, feeling forsaken, lonely, afraid – angry with God and not wanting even to speak to him. He knows where I am!

And his word will come to us if we will hear – sometimes God reminds us of his word through a friend, a song, a memory, a reading of his Word – promises like

Isaiah 41:10         10 So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

However difficult Cherith was – Elijah had daily reminders of God’s care. The ravens brought his food twice a day for about a year – +700x.

God’s moulding process is sometimes slow – painstakingly slow. He took 40 years to teach Israel the consequences of lack of trust!

 

  • God knows where Elijah is going.

Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there

Maybe Elijah had got used to Cherith and was comfortable there. God changes the scenery to teach new lessons and continue the moulding process.

Zarephath – Why there?

Plenty of reason why not.

  • It is on the opposite direction to Samaria.- Capital of Israel – where action is – King and Queen there!
  • It is about 80-100 miles away – a long trek through the drought ridden country. Through territory where he is the nation’s no.1 wanted man.
  • It is a foreign country – in fact it is right into the region where the wicked Queen Jezebel came from – the woman who was after his life. And it is into the heartland of Baal worship – The god against whom Elijah is protesting.

 

The name Zarephath means to melt / smelt. God sends him from Cherith [possibly meaning drought] to Zarephath [smelting furnace] – talk about turning up the heat!!!

 

And stay there… same as Cherith – live their in dependence

 

  • God has prepared a place for Elijah.

1 Kings 17:9 .. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.

 

It is one thing to have God-directed-birds miraculously bring food. That’s the stuff of miracles – looks good in a biography. But it is very humbling to have a poor, destitute widow be your means of provision.

 

Who is this woman?

We don’t know her name or the name of her son. She is a Sidonian, almost certainly not one of God’s people – she refers to Elijah’s God as “your God” [v.12]. She is most likely a worshipper of Baal – possibly at this stage a very disillusioned follower of Baal who was supposed to be the god of the wind and rain and at present wasn’t doing a very good job!!

Had her husband died as a result of the drought? ??

A woman in that time and place had no status without a husband and her son was still dependent. She is about to eat her last meal and then lie down and die!

A picture of disillusionment and hopelessness.

 

What must Elijah have thought when he first saw her. “This women Lord? You cannot be serious. Are you sure it is not some wealthy widow on the seafront – maybe I need to look around a bit more?”  — “No, Elijah, this is the one!!”

Welcome to Zarephath, Elijah!!

 

The circumstances seem to contradict what God had said “I will provide for you!” BUT he is confronted with a woman who has an empty bowl of flour and an empty jar of oil – or at least it will be if she feeds him!!

 

3. God’s faithfulness and human obedience.

 

Elijah had obeyed God and confronted King Ahab, then gone to Cherith Brook and experienced God’s faithful provision, now obeyed again and journeyed to Zarephath. God said “go!” and Elijah “went”.

NOW he is tested again – in faith to believe and declare to this woman that God would provide flour and oil for her and her son and her uninvited guest until the next rains!

 

What is this woman’s response? – 1 Kings 17:15 … 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. ..

 

In the midst of this crucible of Zarephath this widow believed Elijah and His God and obeyed. Was this bold, brazen faith striding out in confidence; or was it stuttering feeble faith, that was at rock bottom and thought, “I have nothing to loose maybe I should try this God – nothing else seems to work!”

I suggest it was probably the latter.

 

Humanly speaking it was desperate situation – humanly speaking this widow would have been the last person we would have looked to, to provide food and shelter for Elijah.

 

There are times in our lives when we take faltering steps not sure if our decisions are in faith or foolishness. May be we are at rock bottom – maybe we don’t even bring the situation to God is pray – maybe we are so stressed out // so feeble // so at the end of our tether that we are too numb to say how we feel.

AND then God because he is gracious and good works things out in ways we could never expect. AND then in the midst of our weakness works through us.

 

ILLUS.: When we first arrived in the UK 11 years ago [next Sunday in fact 1st July 1990] God provision was through a single man we had never met – who lived in a house that was about to be repossessed and we were able to stay there for 3 months. We had very little – we had been very hurt and disappointed by the organisation we worked for and resigned. God used this single man who had very little himself to meet our needs. And through our weakness spoke to his heart and he became a Christian and was baptised – we could take no credit. I don’t recall in that time praying passionately for him or trying to ‘preach the gospel’ to him. BUT he testified that through us being there God had got through to him – in spite of us.

In our weakness // need // when we only have God to lean on he often works in amazing and unexpected ways. – sometimes when we don’t even consciously lean on him or ak him.

 

This destitute widow was God’s means of providing for Elijah – and he no doubt tired and weary from his long, hot and dangerous journey was the means God used to meet the need of the widow and her son.

 

Elijah is a Prophet of God with a message – BUT Prophecy is more than just words – it is often picture language. Here is Elijah, God’s prophet, in the crucible of Zarephath – the heartland of Baal worship, the fertility god who supposedly controlled the sun and rain and crops but who had failed. Elijah’s God, and ours, demonstrates that he is in control and can provide directly the oil and flour in unending supply.

 

In the process of working through Elijah, God is at the same time working in Elijah moulding him into the man of God he wants him to be. Teaching him faith, humility, obedience and trust. It is exactly those things that God wants to develop is each of his children.

 

Maybe like Elijah you feel that life has been very tough – maybe there are times when you question this Christianity – God seems to respond so slowly to our prayer OR not at all it seems – is it all worth it? Don’t give up God hasn’t forgotten you! Isaiah 49:15-16 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;…

Maybe like the widow you feel that you have nothing to give – what can I do for God? Your bowl seems empty and the jar is dry! BUT what is so amazing is that out of the need – in that situation were you feel weak and helpless God can use you IF like the widow – and Elijah – you [we] will ‘go’ and ‘do’. Trust and obey!

Can you imagine what the widow and her son must have felt when years later the rains came and they hear the story of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel? And how Elijah’s God, who had become their God had sent rain?

Imagine what she must have felt – thank you Lord for allowing us the privilege of host Elijah as guest in our home. For allowing us to be part of your plan to restore your people.

 

Can you imagine what it will be like on that day when we get to heaven and because we have trusted God and faithfully obeyed him we will see what he has accomplished and that we had the privilege of being part of his purposes?

 

BUT we don’t have to wait for heaven – God is working in this world to establish his kingdom. When we reach out in love and compassion to the hurting around us and their lives are enriched by God as a result, that should give us great joy – and fulfilment and purpose.

 

Elijah’s Cherith experience was in isolation – alone with God.

We asked “Am I as willing to be set aside as I and to be used?”

NOW “Am I, like Elijah, willing to be humbled and to live in humility?”

The widow was herself a social welfare case and God’s sends Elijah to her to find help! And to stay there for 2 ½ years.

 

Zarephath was a hard lesson – and there is more to come!!

We said last week how we would all like a Mt.Carmel-type experience where we see bold faith and dramatic miracle. –

 

– but that the road to Carmel led through Cherith [drought – alone with God to learn dependence] AND that same road also leads through Zarephath [smelting – furnace] where dependence is deepened and humility is learned.

 

The God who leads is also the God who provides – often just enough and just in time – often in unexpected and unorthodox ways – but always faithful.

 

No doubt Elijah felt like a weary pilgrim in a drought-stricken land and cried to God for strength and guidance – and we need to do just that.

Guide me o my Great Redeemer,

pilgrim through this barren land,

I am weak but thou art mighty,

hold me with thy powerful hand,

Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven

feed me now and ever more ,

 feed me now and ever more!


Elijah: The Moulding goes on and on and ….

 

1 Kings 17v7-16

 

1. The brook dries up!

  • The God who gives water can also withhold it.

 

  • A dried up brook was a result of Elijah’s own prayer.

 

2. A Change of scenery.

  • God knows where Elijah is.

 

  • God knows where Elijah is going.

 

  • God has prepared a place for Elijah.

 

3. God’s faithfulness and human obedience.

  • God can and will use us IF like Elijah and the widow we will ‘go’ and ‘do’. Trust and obey!

 

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