lamb-of-god.jpg

Switching gears this morning. Looking at a story of the prophet of Elijah, a story important enough to be used by Jesus centuries later, with enough power that it almost got Jesus killed.

ELIJAH-AND-THE-WIDOW-OF-ZAREPHATH
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. Apparently this woman had been recently widowed, because she was immediately known and recognized, presumably by her mourning garment. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, 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 quick background of this story is that a severe famine had come upon the land, a famine which Elijah himself had prophesied. “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “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.”” ‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭17:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Just as Elijah said to Arab, there was no rain for three years, resulting in a severe famine (these people had very little fresh water suitable for irrigation).

pot-of-oil-and-flour
So when this woman says she and her son were about to share their last meal together, that really was her expectation. Food production had ceased because of massive crop failure. I’m sure, however, this is not the response Elijah was expecting. He had the word of the Lord that this widow was going to feed him. What we have now, then, is a huge test of faith for Elijah. Will he faith in God to trust in his provision?

(c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But 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.'” Do you see the near ridiculous, audacious faith at work here? “Ok, I hear that you and your son are about to starve to death. But go ahead and bring me your last meal anyway, and the God of Israel (a God this gentile woman did NOT believe in) will feed you.” Both the prophet of God and this gentile woman are walking on crazy faith here. They are running on faith, trusting in God, and does God let them down? Of course not! And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. Didn’t Jesus tell us something about a prophets reward? “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:41-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬. And so the widow of Zarephath received her reward from God, she and her son survived through the great famine. She might even be in Paradise right now, I think.

scroll

This teaching was straight out of the Hebrew Scriptures. But does that mean the Hebrew people really understood what it meant. No…after all, no one had been worthy to unlock the scroll!! “And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” Revelation‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. But, worthy is the Lamb who was slain, amen!! “And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So, Jesus does unlock this scroll for us, to see the true, hidden meaning of the story which was locked away for centuries. “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Luke‬ ‭4:25-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus unlocks the scroll and shows us that the point of this story is  is not simply a miracle showing the power of God (amen and hallelujah!), but that this is a story showing God’s people (Israel) that the love of God is not just for them, but also for the Gentiles. God had many widows in Israel he could have chosen, but he chose this woman, a foreigner, an outsider, an unworthy recipient, to receive sustenance through the prophet.

lamb who opens the scroll
We have many groups ourselves whom we think are not worthy to receive the blessing of God, do we not? We think the love of God is for us only, we forget that “…he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  Matthew‬ ‭5:45‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  Sometimes, we don’t actually want to see the truth of Christ. These people from his hometown of Nazareth did not want the scroll to be opened in such a way – “And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬. They didn’t want to hear his word, so he simply passes through their midst and goes away. Much as I think, when we pull all the promises of the Bible to ourselves and throw it’s curses upon everyone else, he might just pass through our midst and go away. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Jesus to pass through our midst and go away.

worthy is the lamb

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is amazing grace!! Can we stand it?

 

“Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, 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.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But 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.'” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭17:8-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/1ki.17.8-16.esv

John Lewis

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