[Last weekend I attended a Bible Conference, and the teaching was so good, I have written up my notes to share over the next three weeks. I hope you find them helpful too. You will need to read the chapter as it would make this post too long to put it all in.]
Sometimes life can be like a roller-coaster: ups and downs, unexpected corners, and if you don’t like it, you can’t get off. But surely our lives are about more than that. Elijah experienced in a few years what we experience in a lifetime, but he found out that God was faithful. In the famine he learned that God speaks, God supplies, and God saves.
In 1967 the English band The Tremolos had a hit record with Silence is Golden. The lyrics ask whether silence really is golden, when you see something wrong and don’t say. Silence is also not golden when it is God who seems to be silent.
1 Kings 16 tells of a succession of evil kings in Israel, but God seemed silent. Yet even at this time a prophecy came true. Joshua 6:26 records a curse on anyone who rebuilds Jericho after it fell. This is fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34.
Then chapter 17 begins ‘Now Elijah‘ – the name Elijah means ‘the Lord is God’. So the chapter says ‘Now the Lord is God’. James tells us that Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17), but God used him in mighty ways. He wants to use us too, if we will listen when he speaks.
God spoke to Elijah and he spoke God’s words to Ahab, even though he knew it would be dangerous for him. God kept speaking to Elijah and telling him which way to go, first to the Kerith ravine (v2-4) and then to Zarephath (v8-9).
God spoke to nature (v4). He arranged for ravens to feed Elijah. Ravens are scavengers and therefore unclean, but God used them to bring bread and meat twice a day. (Where did they get the bread and meat? It is nice to think they may have scavenged from Ahab’s table to feed Ahab’s enemy!)
God spoke to a pagan woman (v9). He was preparing the way for Elijah, using someone who would be regarded by Israel as unclean.
It is the same today. We are all called to be truth-tellers. We need to hear God’s word. God chooses to use us even though we are not perfect and he doesn’t need us.
Through the famine caused by the lack of rain, God supplied what Elijah needed. Most of us today have enough to eat but we can all experience famines in other things: loss of income, loved ones, esteem.
The ‘health and wealth’ gospel is wrong but we all want to live a rich, healthy and easy life. We don’t glorify God when we pretend everything is okay, but when we love and help each other through the hard times.
God gave Elijah two safe places – in the desert (the Kerith ravine) and in the land ruled by Jezebel’s father ( Zarephath).
God gave Elijah and two staple diets – bread and meat (from the ravens) and flour and oil to make bread (from the widow of Zarephath). Both were unclean, but God used them.
God provided water from a brook that didn’t dry up, even when there was no rain.
And my God will meet all your needs (Phil 4:19).
But God didn’t provide for everyone in Israel. Is God more faithful to those he saves than to those who suffer? No. God had a job for Elijah so he provided. What about those who suffered in the famine? Even those who died, God provided for in a different way.
How did Elijah feel as the brook dried up? Did he panic? Did he wonder if God was letting him down? God needed him to move on. It may be hard, but it will always be better to obey God.
God bypassed all the widows in Israel.
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. (Luke 4:25-26).
Jesus talked of her and offended his hearers (Luke 4:14-30). He also went out of his way to meet the woman of Samaria and not one of his own people (John 4:1-42).
God extended his kingdom and had already prepared the widow.
Then in the midst of blessings her worst nightmare happened. Even Elijah could hardly bear it.
Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”(v20)
But he didn’t give up, three times he prayed. The boy received life, but the widow was saved. When she first met Elijah she said, “the Lord your God” (v12). When her son is returned to her she says, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (v24).
When hope is lost we need to get back to God and his word. Count the blessings God has given you. Not just material things, but eternal things, especially Jesus. Remember back to when you saw Jesus in others and trusted God to save you.
[From a talk by Jane McNabb at the Women’s Bible Study Conference, Hebron Hall 20-22 March 2015]