Our daily news is full of descriptions that describe our current economic state. You are hearing conversations about the Food Desert in South Dallas; the unemployment rate; food pantries, clothes closets, and people standing on the street with “will work for food” signs. Three thrift stores opened on Hampton Road in the past few months. While it is an indication of how much excess stuff we have, it is also an indication of people around us who can’t necessarily afford to pay regular retail prices.
You have heard of the phrase, “one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.” While I don’t like the word trash, the quote is a reminder that an equitable trade off can create a socioeconomic balance (though weak at times) among people. God’s grace and mercy is extended through us and He uses us to provide for others. It is important to recognize that even the people we think have nothing to contribute can provide for others.
Today’s scripture lesson teaches us several things about how God works to provide for not only those called by His name but for others. Elijah, the Tishbite and God’s prophet has proclaimed that there would be no more rain in the land until he says so. In verse 2 of this chapter, he is told to GO, HIDE by the brook Cherith, DRINK from it and I will send Ravens to bring you FOOD. The prophet obeyed and God provided.
If you read through this passage too fast you will miss several key points. First of all, the prophet says it will not rain then he is provided water by a brook whose name means “drought”. The brook is on course to dry up but it teaches us that even in the dry places of our lives, God will provide rivers of water. God does move in mysterious ways.
The prophet’s food is delivered by ravens that are “unclean” and by Jewish laws should not be touched or handled. Leviticus 10:10 taught, “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (ESV). The parallel between “holy” and “clean” (and “common” and “unclean”) reveals that the command was related to one’s spiritual condition, though physical actions were often involved. (Ask.com)
You never know who or what God will use to bless you.
Another key point is the fact that the prophet obeyed God. Obedience is better than sacrifice 1 Samuel 15:22. It is a spiritual travesty to desire spiritual blessings from God when you want to continue to live in the ways of the world. There are several reasons why obedience to God is better than sacrifice:
1) disobedience is an act of rebellion,
2) disobedience is sinful,
3) disobedience is a form of idolatry,
4) disobedience disrespects God’s Word, and
5) disobedience is based on looking good to other people rather than to God.
Throughout the old and new testament we see this over and over again. First Samuel offers much important information about the sins of Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas. The summary of their lifestyle is given in the introduction to these men in 1 Samuel 2:12: “Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD.”
The world is constantly tempting you with people, places, and things that pull you away from God who created you and gave you life. “Even today, in our human attempts to look good in serving God, there is the temptation to perform certain religious duties rather than to truly obey God. (General Conference decisions and living in the middle). This may offend some of you or even surprise you but even good activities, such as giving money to charity, attending church services, or praying in public, are not as important to God as obeying His commands and following His instructions.” Got Questions.org
The second time the word of the Lord comes, the prophet is told to go to Zarephath of Sidon and there a widow woman had been told to provide for him. Sidon is the home of Ethbaal, father of Jezebel who married king Ahab, the king of Israel. He is supposed to be God’s person ruling over God’s people. Ahab was considered one of the worst kings that ever ruled Israel and did everything and anything against God with no shame. Even in this God was present. It is a town that worships idols and has a cult following of almost any god you could name. It is here that the prophet is told that he would be provided for by a woman of this city. She is a widow (once-married) with a son who cannot take financial care of her which would be the normal course of action. She has no means of support. He meets her as she gathers sticks to make a fire to cook her last meal.
Again, God provides. The prophet is given bread and water to drink even though the land is in a drought. The woman swears by God that she has only flour and oil and is preparing to cook her last meal. She is in dire straits but the man of God asks her to prepare food for him first and then prepare bread for her and her son. Considering what we know of the Jewish laws about widowed women, someone should be taking care of her not the other way around. But she does not complain or remind the prophet of the law, she OBEYS.
In verse 13, she is told not to be afraid. This phrase “don’t be afraid” almost always precedes a move by God. Miracles happen when you are told “don’t be afraid”. The disciples were told “don’t be afraid” when Jesus appeared to them on the Sea of Galilee. As long as Peter was not afraid, he could walk on water. “Fear not” is used 63 times in the King James Version of the Bible and appears in every book of the Bible. Similar phrases like “fret not” or “do not worry” appear also.
The prophet then speaks a word of blessing over her (her food will never run out until the rain comes) and we are reminded that our “God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory” (Phil 4:19). The supply doesn’t always show up by the truck load; sometimes it comes in a size that is just what we need. God gives us our “daily” bread and encourages us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow is not promised.
Again, we are reminded that God is sovereign. He orchestrates His plan for life however He wants and through whomever He wants. In today’s passage of scripture we witness
- An unclean bird bringing “bread” that is now considered unclean to a Jewish prophet
- A prophet who satisfies his thirst by drinking water from a brook whose name means “drought”,
- a widow woman who is called on to feed one of God’s prophets out of her “lack”
- and it all happens in a land that is ruled by a king who denies God, builds temples to idol gods and worships them.
And the rest of the story is – God remains Jehovah Jireh – God, our provider.