Read at beginning of service:
John 16:31-33 (NIV)
31 “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
For those of you who may not have been here for the last two messages I preached, I have been doing a series on Elijah, the Desert prophet.
In the first message I introduced you to this earth-shaking man as he was introduced in 1 Kings 17:1. There Elijah came rather suddenly onto the scene of world history, appearing before the king of Israel, Ahab, and his evil wife Jezebel. The Bible describes the scene for us and relates that Israel at this time had turned their backs on God and were committing great sins by worshipping false gods and idols. The Bible describes King Ahab by saying this in 16:30, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” Into this depravity God calls Elijah, the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead. A nobody, a man who doesn?t even have his genealogy listed anywhere in the Bible! A man who was obedient in following the call of the Lord and putting it all on the line for the cause of the Kingdom of God. With his profession, his position, and his prayer ? Elijah boldly surrendered himself to the Lord?s purpose and will in his life. As God brought Elijah before the king he roared out with a rumbling voice (I always tend to imagine his voice as rumbling ? I?m sorry folks but I just don?t think Elijah would have been squeaking out his words!) “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Elijah truly did put it all on the line ? his life, his livelihood, and his faith ? were simply placed on a tightrope because of his decision to trust God. Friends, God uses people like that ? people who surrender themselves completely (and I mean completely) to his will and work in their lives.
In the second message I preached on Elijah we discover the continuation of God?s direction for his life. In an unexpected twist Elijah is sent by God to hide in the Kerith Ravine where he will live for a while drinking from a stream that normally dries up in the summer and being fed by ravens. Truly, this would have been a surprise to Elijah ? but God was merely continuing to shape and mold him into the man he would become for the work that would be accomplished later on in his life. We learned here in Elijah?s story that our circumstances our in God?s hands, that we can trust God will provide in the midst of those circumstances, and that as we persevere in tests and trials what we already are in Christ spiritually begins to explode into our day to day lives!
So now, we return to the scene of Elijah at the Kerith Ravine where he has been living for a period of time in obedience to where God has led him and surviving by the miraculous provision of God in the wings of ravens delivering bread and meat and the water of a brook that should have dried up a long-time ago in the sweltering heat of the drought?
1 Kings 17:7-16 (NIV)
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 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.
In our text today God has already taken Elijah and cut away much of his self-dependence, but now He?s going to melt away all Elijah?s pride and prepare him to deliver one of the greatest revivals of all time.
MESSAGE OBJECTIVE: BEFORE GOD CAN MOLD US HE MUST FIRST MELT US.
- Before our potential can be fulfilled, our pride must be emptied
- There is a place and a purpose for which God wants to use you but if you?re not melted you can?t be molded. And let me tell you something the melting and molding process (and it is a process) isn?t done until we stand with all the Saints before God in the day that Jesus Christ is revealed in all His glory and majesty!
the process in this account?
A NEW PATH v. 8-11
Don?t Get Too Comfortable!
When the Kerith ravine dried up on Elijah this must have been a terrible feeling for the man of God who was in the perfect will of God. One of the worst feelings in life is the feeling that we?ve been forgotten. It must have seemed to Elijah that God had forgotten him, there by the ravine for a lengthy period of time, depending on God for survival and protection and then one day the brook dries up. The water stops flowing and the creek bed starts cracking in the heat.
Friends, sometimes God allows our brooks to dry up in life because we get too comfortable and he wants to move us along in His will. Now I realize the Kerith ravine wasn?t Elijah?s home and food brought by ravens wasn?t exactly home cooking but for quite a while this was all Elijah knew. It?s like the alcoholic who tries to get help through Alcoholics Anonymous and finally starts making some headway only to come home and discover his wife has bought him a six-pack of beer. She doesn?t want him to get better because it will change the dynamics of their relationship, and even though her marriage isn?t the best it?s all she knows and she?s comfortable in the co-dependant relationship. It is possible to get too comfortable with where we are (no matter how bad or how good it is) and resist moving forward and onward with where God wants us to be. We must be willing to leave our comfort zone and depend fully on God so that He can mold us into the people He has created us to be.
Be Willing To Face Your Fears!
The fact that God sent Elijah to Zarephath is very significant. First because it was Jezebel?s hometown. Elijah was in hiding from Ahab and Jezebel for his life. To be sent to Jezebel?s back yard seems to be a dangerous path. It is a wicked place filled with wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the Lord sends His prophet!
To top it off, to get to Zarephath from where he was will force Elijah to march over 100 miles through territory ruled over by king Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere. I wonder what that 100 mile track must have been like for Elijah. I would assume he saw more funerals than weddings because of the great drought brought about “at his word”. I wonder if he saw them burying babies and families that had starved to death because of the lack of rain. It seems like this command of the Lord makes no sense at all! Of course, one of the reasons for sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly illustrate the impotence of Jezebel?s wrath and power!
Often, the life of faith will lead through difficult pathways. God never promised that this way would be an easy way. In fact, just the opposite is true! God has promised us that life will be filled with trials and troubles,
Job 14:1 (NIV)
1 “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.
Job 5:7 (NIV)
7 Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
John 16:33 (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Yet, that is the path of faith! Even when the command of God makes no sense, faith simply obeys God without regard for the consequences,
1 Kings 17:10a (NIV)
10 So he went to Zarephath?
You can see this truth displayed throughout the Bible.
? ?Noah and the ark – Gen. 6
? ?Abraham and Isaac – Gen. 22
? ?Daniel and the 3 Hebrews – Dan. 1
There are times when the commands of God seems harsh and strange. However, faith recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd and follows obediently wherever He may lead!
ACCEPT THE UNEXPECTED v9 “I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food”
We would expect God to send Elijah to a widow and command Elijah to take care of her, but this is a pride swallowing command from God. Widows in this day didn?t depend on the government to supply them with money, and they had no nursing homes to go for help. All they had where their families and if a widow had no family she was just out of luck. This must have been a strange command for Elijah to accept. Yet, Elijah obeyed?
NOTHING TO LEAN ON BUT GOD V12
“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.”
God?s will was not only to save Elijah physically through this drought, but to save this widow and her son physically and spiritually as well.
I believe to say that this widow was depressed would be an understatement. She was already dead, not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You may have heard the saying, “When you get to the end of your rope just tie a knot in it and hold on!” Well her rope had broke and she was free falling. One last meal and then they starve?no hope of help from anyone, anywhere.
If God where to tell me to go to New York and stay there, and that He has prepared a widow to feed me, and provide shelter, the first place I would go would be the Park Avenue or Boardwalk area and start looking for the widows driving the Mercedes and Lexus. I would expect God to send me to a rich widow with a large pantry full of food, and plenty of extra room. But God didn?t send Elijah to a widow with plenty – He sent him to a widow with nothing.
This goes directly against those who preach a prosperity gospel. How long can you go without going to the grocery store and keep from starving? Most of us could probably go for a long time. Because we live here in Canada we have usually have a surplus – we have pantries, and freezers to store our food. We have drive-thru restaurants, so the family can eat in the car on the way to little league practice like God intended. We consider storing up to be a blessing, but the only problem with storing up is we don?t learn to depend on God. We just simply depend on self and our surplus and hardly consider God to be our provider and guide in life. This is like when the nation of Israel was in their wilderness wandering and God provided them with manna for everyday. Just enough for that day they were not to keep any over for the next day or it would ruin. God was teaching them to depend on them for that day?s provision.
17The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
19Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
God was teaching them eat at God?s command.
21By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.
Through the cloud and fire God was also teaching them to move only at His command.
Elijah ate at God?s command and moved at God?s command.
We must ask ourselves a question. Do we only eat and move at God?s command? God wanted the nation of Israel to think of Him with everything they did physically and spiritually. Their journey through the wilderness was molding them into the nation of people He desired them to be. When they ate they were to think of Him and His provisions, where they lived, with their employment, their families, their health – with everything they were to consider God?s will. To eat and move at God?s command means that with everything we do we consider God?s will and we lean on nothing but Him.
BE WILLING TO TRUST GOD WITH THE UNHEARD OF. V.13-16
1 Kings 17:13-16
13Elijah 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. 14For 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.?” 15She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16For 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.
When Elijah hears the widow?s sob story, he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first! On the surface this appears harsh and cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and surrender to the will of God. I want you to notice something here. Elijah was able to state this with utter certainty and conviction because he had already witnessed the provision of God in his life. Now it was the widow?s turn to learn?
When this widow heard the word of God, she went and did as Elijah had commanded her. It must have took great faith to use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare bread for a total stranger. Yet she did.
Because this widow took God at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God allowed the widow, the widow?s son and Elijah to enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds starved to death. That is grace! The difference in the widow?s home was that she learned to live by faith and she was supplied by the hand of God. God honors faith because faith honors God!
For years, until it rained, every mealtime was a miracle. God worked a miracle in that barrel and in that jar every single day. He took nothing and made it last until it was no longer needed. Friends, we serve a God who specializes in doing the impossible! It may look hopeless to us, but we must never count God out! He can take the little that is dedicated to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous proportions!
Corrie Ten Boom tells of a time when in the German death camp Ravensbruk during WWII. She had smuggled her Bible and a small bottle of liquid vitamins into her barracks. Her sister Betsie was sick and growing sicker but she demanded that Corrie first give a dose of vitamins to all the other sick in their barracks before she would accept any. Corrie tells that a strange thing was happening. The Davitamon bottle was continuing to produce drops. It scarcely seemed possible, so small a bottle, so many doses a day. Now in addition to Betsie, a dozen others on our pier were taking it. My instinct was always to hoard it ? Betsie was growing so very weak! But the others where ill as well. It was hard to say no to eyes that burned with fever, hands that shook with chill. I tried to save it for the very weakest ? but even these soon numbered fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five?. And still, every time I tilted the little bottle, a drop appeared at the tip of the glass stopper. It just couldn?t be! I held it up to the light, trying to see how much was left, but the dark brown glass was too thick to see through. “There was a woman in the Bible,” Betsie said, “whose oil jar was never empty.” She turned tot it in the Book of Kings, the story of the poor widow of Zarephath who gave Elijah a room in her home: “The jar of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the works of Jehovah which he spoke by Elijah.” Well ? but ? wonderful things happen all through the Bible. It was one thing to believe that such things were possible thousands of years ago, another to have it happen now, to us, this very day. And yet it happened this day, and the next, and the next, until an awed little group of spectators stood around watching the drops fall onto the daily rations of bread. Many nights I lay awake in the shower of straw dust from the mattress above, trying to fathom the marvel of supply lavished upon us. “Maybe,” I whispered to Betsie, “only a molecule or two really gets through that little pinhole ? and then in the air it expands!” I herd her soft laughter in the dark. “Don?t try too hard to explain it, Corrie, Just accept it as a surprise from a Father who loves you.” (taken from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom pg. 202-203)
“God?s work, done God?s way, will receive God?s supply.” Hudson Taylor
If you have no hope this morning if your rope has broken and your free falling know this, that God is able in impossible times to turn your hopeless situation around and give you hope, to take your death and give you life, to take your faithlessness and give you faith if you will simply lend what you have to him.
God has promised enough grace to face today and the assurance to leave tomorrow in His hands; God wants us to look to him for strength to get through today, and not to worry about tomorrow. If you have plenty today, there is no guarantee you will have it tomorrow ? yet in God you can trust in His provision.
Take a step of faith today for God, put action to your faith, take your hands off and give your life to God and see what He can do with it.