Faithlife Sermons

At Zarephath

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 13 views
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

At Zarephath[1]

1 Kings 17: 19

We touched on this story in our Bible Study on Wednesday and I thought we could dig into it a little more for our fellowship at the Lord’s Table this morning.  As Jesus Himself makes clear Elijah – and Elisha for that matter – foreshadow His own ministry.

Here in the events at Zarephath across the border from Israel in Sidon we can recognise the remarkable ways in which God used Elijah to share in His gracious work.

The story tells of the prophet instructed to come to Zarephath where God has “commanded a widow to feed him”.    Here they are both provided for by the goodness of God, and the story might have ended there – but it does not. Whilst Elijah is there the widow’s son is taken seriously ill and dies.  Suddenly their experience is plunged into shadow – and the prophet’s faith is tested.  As God delivers the boy Elijah finally has the great privilege of bringing him back to his mother.    (I suppose that you could see a connection between the narrative an this Sunday in Lent which is in other places set aside as Mothering Sunday.)

Even if you are a great prophet like Elijah your life has its ups and downs, and whilst everyone is suffering from the effects of the God ordained drought, including the prophet himself, Elijah experiences a range of circumstances here at Zarephath.



1.     A measure of God’s provision          12, 14, 16

 

2.     A share in the anguish of suffering         17, 18

 

3.     A partnership in the ministry of life                19, 20&21, 23

As we look at those aspects of the prophet’s experience, I hope that you will feel a reminder of God’s ever present power – whatever the circumstances – and that you will be challenged to a Christian life which reaches out to others – not of course in the miraculous way that Elijah did – but in the even greater miracle of God’s grace shared with a needy world. You have a great opportunity this Easter – don’t miss out.

As we read this narrative we can see (a) how Elijah learned more about God’s provision and power, and (b) how the widow learned about the God of Israel – and came to trust His word.

Notice – particularly in the light of what we have been studying in our  Lenten series – the point that is made at the end of each miracle:

in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.   (16)

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.

1.  A measure of God’s provision       12, 14, 16

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.

God had said to Elijah that He had commanded a widow woman to care for him – and He had.

She takes Elijah at his word – and she obeys his word too.

Notice that God chooses this time to provide for Elijah in a way that will also provide for the widow and her household.

(a)   It was a SUFFICIENT supply

Like the Manna in the wilderness this provision was a daily provision – there was enough to meet the demands of the day.

When I worked in pharmacy a long time ago – and ointments, creams and medicines were mixed by hand there was a little instruction given in the formulary which used the Latin abbreviation  “QS”   quantum sufficit  -  just enough.  Too much would spoil it – too little render it useless.

It was ENOUGH – and it was REGULAR

(b)   It was a DAILY MIRACLE

Not one day only – but every day until the drought was broken the meal and the oil did not fail.

Can you not imagine her going each day to see if it was true?

But it was.

And does not our Heavenly Father provide for us in exactly the same way?

t.d.s” said another pharmacy abbreviation – three times a day….

(c)   A proof of God’s promise

as required – no more – and no less.

p.r.n”   according to need

What was then true of God’s provision for them is also true in the matter of our daily spiritual needs:

of forgiveness

of grace

of the Holy Spirit

In order that our DEPENDENCE and our OBEDIENCE may both be constant

2.  A share in the anguish of suffering     17, 18

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Any ministry for God which is to be effective needs to be – as we have seen – utterly dependent upon God’s steady supply.

It also has to contend with the very real effects of sin in the world

 

It must come very close to the anguish which sin and suffering produces

 

Such a ministry is not without cost:

(a)   Elijah was blamed for the tragedy

Whilst the widow’s cry is in part a natural outburst of grief – the accusation reflects the difference between them : Elijah is close to God and seems to her to be unaffected – she sees the tragedy as a punishment.

Elijah MUST LISTEN to the anguish of the woman – he cannot remain aloof and unaffected – but sadly we often do – or seem to.

(b)   Elijah is seen as “against her”

“What do you have against me, man of God?

There is a very real sense in which there is a basic confrontation to be coped with.

If we are the influence for God in the world – then there will be times when we will be perceived as enemies – or at least as representatives of conscience or of judgement.  That is not a role we should encourage – but it is a result of our true witness in the world.

Later – when Ahab meets Elijah, the king will say: “Have you found me, my enemy?”

Sometimes we have to “take sides” – but always we have to listen and to share.

We live in a world tormented by the results direct and indirect of human sin – and we cannot be unheeding of its need and its anguish.

How else will the world – how else will your neighbours know the love and compassion of God – unless we – unless you tell them and show them?

(c)   Elijah is seen as the reminder of her sin

 

Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

We know nothing at all about what she means by this. Is she talking generally? Or does she have a particular sin or sins that she feels is being highlighted by her tragedy?

We cannot – as servants of the Cross – avoid the lesson of God’s attitude to sin – but we are there to draw attention to it so that they may find repentance and forgiveness.

But it goes without saying that we do not equate the individual’s sin with the individual’s anguish – unless there is a definite causal link.

Rather we are called to move on to the next step in the prophet’s ministry:

3.  A partnership in the ministry of life 19, 20 &21, 23

19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 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?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Whatever else I see in Elijah (and incidentally if you compare this story with that concerning the Shunamite woman in the story of Elisha – you will see a great aloofness on the part of that prophet) I do not see INDIFFERENCE or ALOOFNESS.

“Give me your son”

He took him from her arms …

O God give us a part in such a ministry as this!

Give us to approach and to reach out.

Give us to take into our own arms the weight of the anguish and the bitterness.

Not that we can bear it ourselves – we can’t!  But that we may take it to God in prayer.

As I watch Elijah take the boy I see a foreshadowing of the ministry – the caring ministry of my Lord.

Do you want A PARTNERSHIP IN THE MINISTRY OF LIFE?

Or are you content to watch whilst others try to minister to needy folk?

This was Elijah’s ministry:

(a)   A taking of burdens – and carrying them away into the presence of         the Lord

 

As Elijah takes the child – and as he prays I sense the emotional charge of the situation – I sense too the doubt that the prophet expresses:

20 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?”

We are not exempt from the heartrending questions – the WHY’s

If we are to step close to needy people we will find ourselves asking questions too.

(b)   A heartfelt and effective intercession

 

21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

Rich in faith

        in prayer

        in commitment

and all culminating – by the grace of God – in

(c)   A beautiful and precious return!

 

22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

The gift of life – at the hand of God.

Ah! You say – I cannot expect to do that sort of miracle!  No indeed – but think of the kind of miracle that can be worked by your ministry under God.

To bring that which is dead in sin to the Saviour Himself

To usher someone by witness and by Spirit led prayer into a place where God can bring about newness of life in their lives.

To offer REAL COMFORT – REAL ANSWERS – REAL HOPE.

It all happened at Zarephath – and, as Jesus said, It didn’t happen to the widows of Israel but to this widow in Sidon.

The measure of God’s provison

                sufficient

                daily

                as required

A share in the anguish of suffering

                even though blamed

                even though against her

                even though reminding of sin

A partnership in the ministry of life

                taking burdens into the presence of God

                heartfelt and effective intercession

                bringing God’s life where there is death

God has commissioned you my Christian friend – Go out into the world and bear gladly the message of a providing God, a caring God.   Intercede, share, bear burdens – and it may be that God will reward your witness with the privilege of being in a measure what Elijah was – a Spiritual Midwife to new life.


----

[1] Dedicated to Val on Mothering Sunday 2004   - see 23 Nov 86 LRd

Related Media
Related Sermons