Summary: Message 3 in our study of the life and ministry of Elijah. This message explores the lessons learned during his ministry to the widow and her son at Zarepath.
Chico Alliance Church
Elijah Series #3
“Lessons at Zarephath”
Observing God’s interaction with Elijah and Elijah’s spiritual journey in his day provides insight and principles for us in our day which is not unlike what Elijah faced. The periods in Elijah’s life follow a definite instruction from the Lord.
“And the word of the Lord came to Elijah”
I. Lessons from the Palace where Elijah boldly announced God’s judgment for sin. 1 Kings 17:1
God is more interested in backbone than background.
God speaks to and through people.
Know your God
Know your standing with God.
Know your purpose in life
Earnest prayer is inseparable from all aspects of God’s work.
II. Lessons from the brook where Elijah learned to trust God in obscurity and isolation. 1 King 17:2-7
God hid Elijah by the brook where he learned to trust God in isolation and obscurity.
…to wait for God’s specific directions.
…that God doesn’t always lay out the whole plan at once.
…that God often uses isolation and obscurity to bring about His plan.
…that when God prescribes, God provides.
… that God’s commands require man’s compliance.
… to be open to every source God may use to provide.
… that God usually provides only what is needed for the moment.
… to endure the discomfort of unanswered prayer.
… that God sometimes dries up resources to bring new direction.
We last left Elijah facing trying to squeeze water from a dried up brook.
And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 1 Kings 17:7
God directed him to hid himself from Ahab in the safety of isolation and obscurity.
God promised to protect and provide for Elijah by natural and supernatural means.
Now, due to Elijah’s own drought producing prayer, his water source dried up.
This wouldn’t be the first time a God follower would run out of water in a desert.
Now what? Has God left me? “God you said you would provide water from the brook and now it has dried up.
III. Lessons from Zarephath where Elijah learned to trust God in ministry 17:8-24
A. God revealed a new direction
Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." 1 Kings 17:8-9
Then word of the Lord again came to Elijah precipitating another move.
It does not seem any more logical than hiding out by the brook and depending on ravens. God instructed him to go live in a dangerous place; a city near Jezebel’s home town Sidon. (See Map) Jezebel dispatched a search parties throughout the land to find and capture Elijah. It would seem anywhere near Jezebel’s home town would be the last place God would send. Just as God many times hid Jesus in plain view, I think that God protected Elijah in plain view. God’s new provision would come from another improbably source. God chose to use a dirt poor pagan widow at the end of her resources to provide for Elijah.
B. Elijah promptly obeyed the new direction
So he went to Zarephath.
Zarephath means “smelting and refining metal.” He goes from a “cutting place” to a place of refining. Elijah didn’t argue, he simply followed God's new direction.
C. God orchestrated a prearranged divine encounter with a widow
1. The Encounter
As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
God didn't waste any time. The widow was already there out in plain view at the exact time Elijah arrived in town. Elijah didn’t have to search for this mysterious divinely-appointed widow. God even calculated how long it would take Elijah to get there and what time the woman would be there in order to bring them together.
It doesn’t pay to delay obedience. What if Elijah just hung out for another day or even a couple of hours? He would have missed his “connecting flight”.
Zarephath was a town on the Mediterranean seacoast just south of Sidon. It was a 100 plus mile journey from the dried up brook Cherith. The drought was in full swing. Most likely, Elijah’s face had already appeared on Samaria’s most wanted program. God directed him into hostile territory to secure support from a helpless destitute pagan widow.
2. The Widow’s fear
But she said, “I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”