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1 Kings 17:8-16

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ ”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.


We now come to Elijah’s next test. It’s not highlighted in the text, so we won’t spend too long on it. Can anyone guess what that was?

Elijah had to live with a heathen woman for three years.


It’s one thing for him to be holy and to demonstrate a strong faith when he was standing alone in front of the King, or while relying totally on the Lord at Kerith, but living with someone can be quite a different test.


For us, we too can be in communion with God in some solitary retreat, or we can be zealous for the Lord in the presence of other Christians, but it is quite another thing to be consistent in our daily walk with him when we are at home. It’s there that we often fail miserably.


Of course it’s natural to want to forget all the pressures that surround us in our public lives and to relax at home among those who trust us and who don’t expect us to be superhuman. It’s at home that we can ‘be real’.


It’s as if the shield of faith is too heavy to hold up the whole time and at home we can let it slip. And with our guard down Satan attacks.

We have probably heard of one or another who was greatly respected in their public Christian activities but who let themselves down when it came to their private lives. It’s said the bigger they are, the harder they fall. But how about us ordinary people?


Will we be the same person when we have to get up on Monday morning as we were in church on Sunday?  Possibly

Is our behaviour at home – by ourselves, or among other members of our family, always the same as we demonstrate here among Christian brothers and sisters this evening?  Unlikely

Is there a danger here?  Yes

What is the danger?  We fail to allow Christ to be Lord

So what can we do to guard ourselves against that danger? Make contact with the Lord even before we get up! And maintain contact at all times!!

 

The law of gravity controls not only the planets in their orbits, but guides the course of the lightest grain of pollen on the breeze. Our walk with Jesus should be like that. Everything must come under his influence - each look, each word, each trivial act. Otherwise there is a danger that our relationship with him could be like a coat, put on and off when we choose, instead of become a living part of us.


Someone suggested that our Church should hold a ‘Quiet Day’ in someone’s home where we would simply meet together to read scripture and pray, spending quality time with the Lord. We wouldn’t do this in silence but we would share prayer topics and discuss any passages of scripture that had made an impact. It would be ‘come when you can, leave when you must.


What would be your reaction to this idea? For me the first reaction was to ask questions: What are we going to do all day? Read our bibles? Meditate? Pray? Then what?


Why was that my reaction? Because I was not used to doing those things for any length of time – let alone doing them for a whole day! I was not used to spending that much ‘quality time’ with my Lord, and the whole idea was a bit daunting.


But when I came to it – it was great. The more the day unfolded the more I wanted to be there. And sharing the experience with other Christians only added to the pleasure. Although we were in each other’s company, there was  no opportunity to talk about ourselves or to encourage others to talk about themselves. Conversations were necessarily Christ-centred. And that contributed a great deal to making the day so good.


By nature we are us-centred. That’s why our home life can be a breeding ground for trouble – even for married Christians – it seems that we need other Christians to encourage us in our walk with the Lord.


Now back to Elijah. He was asked to go on a retreat with a heathen woman. Not for a day, not for a weekend, but for three years. And this wasn’t even a working holiday, he was to be provided for by her. What was he going to do all day? How could he maintain his walk with the Lord in that situation?


What he did and how he did it we are not told – but he passed this test too and emerged with his faith strengthened.


Let’s look at 1 Kings 17:15-16

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.


Let’s look at the miracle itself. They didn’t have glass or plastic –  the containers would probably have been made of earthenware – only when the oil was poured out or you scraped the  bottom of the jar would you know that yes – there was enough again for today.


A test of faith every day for three years! It was impossible that the jar or jug could have contained that much, or that it would have kept fresh. It had to have been refilled day-by-day.


Although Elijah did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus, his had faith in God. And it is his everyday faith that is being tested. Perhaps the biggest test for Elijah was to have enough faith to be able to encourage it in others. The food in the widow's house was frugal enough, and there was only just enough of it for their each day’s needs.


Human nature of course, would have preferred to be able to count sacks of flour and barrels of oil. It would have been pleasant to go into some massive warehouse, look around at the abundant supplies and say "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12v9)


But God doesn’t work like that when he needs to teach us to be dependent on him.

We saw in a previous study that God's supplies would come one day at a time. Where can we find examples of that in the Bible ?


If we, like Elijah were forced to live like that, wouldn’t we be constantly reminded of our total dependence on our Father's love? Effectively we would be forced back into the life of children who never need to concern themselves over where their food, clothes or home comes from, they simply trust their parents to supply all their needs.


If we’re not like that we become self-sufficient and we find our dependence on God slowly eaten away, until it becomes more theory than practice.


Suppose God were to give us the choice:

   - between seeing our provisions – and looking after them ourselves;

   - or not seeing them – and leaving God to measure them out, day by day.

What would most of us choose? Be honest!

It gives us comfort to know that the cupboard is full, and there is money in the bank. It gives us such a sense of security.

Why is that so? What does it say about our true dependence on the Lord?

We don’t really trust him.

Is it possible to trust God day by day in this materialistic age of supermarkets and bank accounts?


It’s perhaps harder, but not impossible. It starts with an attitude of heart and mind. When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, he encouraged him not to seek after financial gain, but to trust the living God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).


Some people are forced into this trusting lifestyle by having almost nothing to start with! But actually living that way does not mean that they are worse off than others. No, in the truest sense, they are better off. Better off, because the responsibility of maintaining them rests wholly on God.

It is true that in these days and in this country the state intervenes and takes on the role of God in ensuring that no-one starves! But I think the principle is obvious.


Other people might say that the Lord has given them money and possessions for the maintenance of themselves and their family: in that position in life in which God has placed them. That God has said he will supply all our needs, and has chosen to do so in that way.


That’s fine, but with more provision comes more responsibility. What responsibility?

A responsibility to others: we are to be stewards. Not storing up our Lord's money for ourselves, but administering it in the way he directs.


And also a responsibility to ourselves. It’s too easy to say ‘But the Lord has blessed me and I have enough to be quite independent’. We are not designed to be independent, not of God, or of men. Our responsibility to ourselves is to day by day acknowledge and give thanks to God for his daily provision.


Elijah and the Widow were not in that position. They were truly dependant on daily supplies - with little hope of ever owning more than the daily handful of flour, and the little oil at the bottom of the jug. But by now Elijah had learnt to say with Paul: I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:12,13)

 

So Elijah can say  v14: "For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the Lord gives rain on the land.' "


And it’s here that we might get confused: we have our faith, but we also have our duty to work for our living. We may ask: are we supposed to exercise faith to such an extent that we no longer have to work?


We were actually made to work. Look at Genesis 2:15

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.


God chose to give man free will to live within the constraints which govern the way his creation operates. Perhaps I should say ‘now operates’ because before the fall it was much better. Now it means that Man is not only liable to suffer, but we now have to work harder for our provisions!


Genesis 3:17-19

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food

until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;

for dust you are and to dust you will return.”


Not because God planned it that way, but because man chose it that way.


But now Elijah finds himself in the home of a widow woman, and he has been asked to trust that the Lord will supply everything he needs for the next three years; Elijah can now have a holiday! That sounds like heaven on earth – but actually it was almost the opposite.


Picture the widow’s house. What would it have been made of? How many rooms would it have had? What furniture would there have been?


Elijah must spend the next three years in that house like one with no motive: no work, no hobbies, no outside interests and no Godly company. And it also meant that he would have to stay indoors. It would be dangerous to try to make contact with anyone else, or even to be seen outside the house. If it was known that the widow had a man living with her it would be bound to raise questions.


Even though Elijah had complete free will, God was still in ultimate control. He knew about Elijah’s circumstances: he had created them so that he could use them in his training. And at the same time, It’s as if, watching over Elijah the Lord says: "If you will trust me, you’ll find that there is nothing in your life that may not be lived in me, for me or through me, and I am willing to enable you to find peace and joy and fulfilment in it all."


And so Elijah accepted what the Lord had for him, and passed another test, and once more his faith was strengthened. But is his faith strong enough yet?






1 Kings Elijah 51 Kings Elijah 7








ELIJAH 6  1 Kings 17:8-16  Living one day at a time

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