1 Kings 17:8-16 (NRSV)
8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." 10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." 11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 12 But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." 13 Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth." 15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.
I’ve included I Kings 17:8-16 for my blog this week because it is not part of your reading in The Story (It is part of the suggested scripture readings which I sent out at the beginning of The Story journey. A copy is available at this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/em88ufax9v5tjqg/The%20Story%20Reading%20Schedule%20CUMC.doc?dl=0). I will also use this text for Sunday’s sermon so I hope you will take time to read it as part of your ongoing journey in the The Story.
This week we continue to read about the collapse of the mighty Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon. God’s people have failed and journeyed far from God’s path. They worship idols instead of God. They are being routed by foreign powers and brought down by their own wayward ways. It appears that everything will end in tragedy. But as we have seen throughout the journey so far, God never abandons his people. The prophets, Elijah, Elisha, and others speak of impending doom but also of God’s ultimate redemption of His people.
The story of the Widow of Zarephath is one of my favorites because it describes God as a God of abundance, not a God of scarcity which God’s people so often perpetuate. We see the kings of Judah and Israel turn to foreign gods, especially the fertility god’s, because they think these god’s will bring happiness and satisfaction to the people. They also think these god’s will bring crops and prosperity. They abandon their God of abundance for god’s that promise nor bring anything good or healthy to the land.
In this simple story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, it is God who provides for Elijah’s needs in the midst of famine. He also saves the widow and ultimately her son as well. Henri Nouwen writes this in his book, Bread for the Journey,
God is a God of abundance, not a god of scarcity. Jesus reveals to us God’s abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (John6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (Luke 5:1-7). God doesn’t give us just enough. God gives us more than enough: more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for.
God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God’s generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. As long as we say, “I love you, God, but first show your generosity,” we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.
There are lessons to be learned from these Old Testament stories of God’s people rejecting God’s generosity. May we learn them. May God be our guidepost and light throughout our lives. May we be like Elijah inviting others into God’s abundant presence.
Questions for the week
Consider journaling your responses to these questions:
God still loves his people, still tenderly seeks to warn us when we are in danger. What are some ways that God posts warning signs in the middle of the road as we travel through life?
When Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal, he turned to the people of Israel and asked, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (Kings 18:21, The Story, p. 204). What does it look like when we waver between two options trying to keep one foot in the world while still trying to walk with Jesus? How does such a lifestyle keep us from a healthy relationship with God?
After Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel, he faced one of his hardest times emotionally and spiritually (I Kings 19:1-9, The Story, pp. 206-207). What did Elijah go through (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and how did God seek to restore his prophet?
How can we be on our guard and prepared for this kind of spiritual and emotional letdown? How do you think God can be helpful?
Through the prophets Amos and Hosea, God pointed out the people’s sin and acts of rebellion (The Story, pp. 213-217). What are some of Israel’s sins and why do you think God was so hard on them?
It is clear that if God’s people will repent (turn from sin and return to him) God is ready to embrace them with love and grace. How is God still offering this same invitation through Jesus today? What does true repentance and turning back to God look like in light of the cross of Jesus Christ?
When Israel walked closely with God, they were joy-filled and fruitful. When they were distracted by other pursuits (including false gods and idols), their community life went sour. How does your life, including your attitude and general disposition, change when you are not walking closely with Jesus?
How does reading and following the teaching of the Bible keep us connected to God and guard our hearts against the kind of complacency Israel experienced? What can we do to deepen our commitment to study and obey God’s Word?
As you take time to pray, here are some ideas to get you started
· Ask God to open your eyes like he did for Elisha’s servant.
· Thank God for his loving discipline and relentless pursuit of a healthy relationship with you.
· As for a soft heart that is ready to repent and turn back to God as soon as you see areas of rebellion and sin in your life.
God was very patient with the nation of Israel. For over two centuries and through the reigns of nineteen kings, God kept loving, seeking, and sending his prophets with a call for his people to come home. Finally, God said, “Enough!” and accomplished his plan of a restored relationship with humanity through the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Reflect on how patient God is with you. Identify patterns of sin in your life that seem to come back again and again. Pray for power to see these and turn from them.
God is calling. Don’t put him on hold or send him to voicemail. This week sit quietly in prayer and listen to God. You can use these questions to guide you:
· What have you done to show your love and patience with me? (Thank God).
· What are the behaviors and attitudes in my life that are not honoring you? (Commit to Change)
· How can I listen more closely to your Word (the Bible) and others ways you speak to me? (Seek to follow his lead even when it is hard).
Read for Next Week
Read Chapter 16