Today’s scripture goes from God taking care of Elijah, to God using Elijah to take care of others. God often deepens our walk with him by giving us more and more that we can handle….In the scripture today God sends Elijah several hundred miles from the brook in Jordan to Zerephath in Sidon.
Zerephath means smelting shop, a place where metal was refined. Elijah goes from the frying pan into the fire. Elijah has been prepared by God at the brook to trust for daily provisions and now he is ready for even greater things. Are you personally prepared for a greater assignment from God? It’s a tough prayer: God give me greater opportunities to serve you! The temptation is to not want more: take care of me and keep me safe at the brook, God? God is too big and too amazing and there is too much need in the world that I must pray for more….
To top it all off, God tells Elijah it is a weak, powerless, down on her luck widow that is going to provide for Elijah. A widow in those days has no power, few resources. BTW God says, the widow has a son that is dependent on her. She doesn’t have enough for herself and her son, and she is sent by God to help Elijah (or does Elijah help her?).
Elijah goes to the widow’s home and is blessed by the miracle of the jar of flour and oil that never run dry. When all looks hopeless, it is a miracle of God’s provision.
As I consider the example of Elijah and his incredible faith, the heart of the story is his capacity to TRUST. Issues of TRUST dominate our lives. Trust intersects with risk, how much we trust others, how much we trust God, translates into how free we are, how much we worry. Sometimes I wish the words “In God We Trust” were not printed on all our money because when something is too common we easily take it for granted, but TRUST is a huge issue, it is a great gift to trust another person. It is not easy to let go of control and TRUST God.
Trusting God is put to the test when God moves Elijah from the frying pan of the Brook (his home territory) into the Fire of Zerephath (the enemies home territory). . Here are a few modern nuggets of wisdom about trust:
- A relationship without Trust is like having a phone with no service. And what do you do with a phone with no service? Play games.
- Raisin Cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.
- I don’t always trust people. But when I do they give me every reason not to.
- Two reason we don’t trust people: 1. We don’t know them. 2. We know them.
- Trust is like an eraser. It gets smaller and smaller with every mistake.
When life crumbles, trusting God is hard. Trusting God goes against natural instincts: we like predictability, we like the best case scenario plays out. It’s ok to throw in a flat tire to give us a good story to tell on vacation, but that is often not much more than an inconvience. The greatest trust is when we get to the end of the rope, when there is no obvious solution, and we let go…Elijah learns to Trust. A drought is causing shortages of food and water. God provides for Elijah the widow and her son with oil and flour that never run out. Then the unthinkable happens. The widow is at the end of the rope.
There is a common saying: What do you do when you get to the end of your rope? Answer: Tie a knot and hang on. That is not Elijah’s example. Elijah is tested at the brook. He is tested in Zerephath. He is tested when there is not enough food for the widow and her son. Now he comes once more to the end of the rope. There is no good human answer. The son has died. It’s not a matter of tying a knot and hanging on...
Here is what happens after the miracle of the jar of oil: READ 1 Kings 17:17-18. Many folks see in the widow’s response a lack of faith. I see a woman in the normal grieving process. When facing extraordinary situations, any response is understandable. When we are at the end of our rope, God can take our anger, our depression, our confusion, our doubt. I see a mother trying to understand. She is not denying God. She is not denying Elijah is a man of faith. She simply has a broken heart.
The woman cries out to Elijah for help. Her honest heart felt words are an act of trust, for she is reaching out, trying to find something to hang onto, something to give a spark of understanding. She turns to Elijah to help carry her burden.
When you are at the end of your rope, when you feel hopeless, find those who seem to have a greater trust in God as your world falls apart. Isn’t this one of the roles of the Church, Christian brothers and sisters?
Elijah has been prepared to trust God for his needs. He is then sent to the fire of Zerephath to care for others. The depth of following God does not mean an easy life, you may be called to a hard life. You learn to trust God in small things, so that when the bigger tests come you will still be able to trust. I know a person who turned away from his extreme addictions years ago, his life has come together in a most beautiful way, and now not too long ago I found out he has fallen back to heavy drug and alcohol use. I am NOT giving up on Him. Now that he is at the end of the rope it is decision time to again Trust God. God will not give up on Him, but will he give up on God? Trusting God is a continuing decision to do things his way, to let go of the rope not knowing where you will land. Don’t tie a knot, let go and let God open the parachute.
The beautiful thing about the widow turning to Elijah is that while she is doubting her own worth/her own faith, she turns to Elijah and His powerful capacity to TRUST GOD. When we are at the end of our rope, we need people who are stronger than us to keep pointing the way to Jesus Christ.
Here is what Elijah’s TRUST IN GOD looks like: Elijah is calm. READ 1 Kings17:19. Even though he is confronting death and a baseless accusation, Elijah is the picture of calmness. He calmly asks for the widow to give her son to him.
What a great example. How often the storms of life blow and we react badly. we worry. We fret. We curse. We wonder why. Someone attacks us we get upset and attack back. To Trust God brings peace. Let us learn to calmly take our burdens to the Lord. He never gets excited, why should we? He never loses sleep, why should we?
Many times when people have come to me with an overwhelming burden that seems. I listen to them explain the situation, I ask questions. Then I say something like this: “I will make a deal with you. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know there is an answer. I know that somehow God will work it out. It may be a game changer, your world may never be the same, but you will find a new normal. Here is my deal: I know you are worried, but I will go ahead and not worry for you. I am going to stay calm. I am going to keep trusting there is a resolution.
It helps me to surround myself with people that aren’t panicking. Great men and women of faith. It’s why I like Church. It’s why I like the elders. It’s why I like my family. Calm, peaceful trusting people. When I am at the end of my rope I don’t need others to worry with me, I need Elijahs to not worry and tell me all will be well. Amen.
Elijah's Trust shows itself in Compassion READ 1 Kings 17:20-21. Elijah's heart has been touched by the pain of the widow. He has watched her grow in her faith and felt her generosity. He has enjoyed her hospitality, and his heart is moved. His compassion causes him to pray for the women and her son. Elijah knows God and he cares for others. He is bearing the widow's burden in the presence of God.
I do not know why Elijah was moved to pray for the son to come alive, but somehow God spoke to him. There is no record of any dead person ever being brought back to life up to this time. Elijah trusts God for the unseen.
Elijah’s prayer is answered. When you are at the end of your rope, Trust God, if you need someone to share your burden then find those friends…. When you come to the end of the rope, let go and let God safely land you on the bottom.
Here’s a live example? It’s a small thing in my mind but real. Maybe some of you have noticed the past few months I easily get lost in the sermon notes. I’m losing more and more sight in my right eye. I went to the eye doctor. It’s cataracts. Do you remember one of the stories Riley Sanford told last week: the medical ship removed a 17 year old boys cataracts so he could see again…. It’s just cataracts, they do amazing things, so not a big deal….right! But it’s strange to find myself almost overnight getting worse and worse vision. I have a simple request for you: Would you go ahead and not worry with me? Cataracts is a small thing… let’s go ahead and not worry for people who are facing that which is much bigger. Or to say it in a positive way: TRUST GOD.
Elijah’s prayer is answered. He watched as God did the impossible. READ 1 Kings 17:22. This is the first recorded resurrection in scripture. God chooses to use a widow, her son, and Elijah to cast a shadow of the greatest resurrection that will unfold centuries later when Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. As God raised this young boy from the dead, we have assurance he is able to raise Jesus Christ from the dead, and we, too, shall be raised to life in the last days to live with God forever. For those of us on this side of the resurrection, we can have complete confidence even in death that God’s promise of eternal life is the greatest reason to Trust God. What do you do when you are at the end of the rope? Let go and trust God who has the power to raise the dead to new life. The way the prophet Ezekiel said it, “Let these dry bones live.”
For those who trust God, when prayer is answered, there is always a testimony of God’s grace and glory. READ 1 Kings. 17:23-24. Sometimes it is a testimony of complete restoration, sometimes an unmistakable miracle, sometimes a new normal. When you are at the end of your rope and you turn to God, in time there will always be peace and calm assurance. When the widow reached the end of her rope, she turned to the man of God to help assure her that God hears and answers our prayers. When you are at the end of your rope, let go and trust God. Amen.