Summary: This sermon explores Elijah's interactions with the widow of Zarephath, and we learn that God never abandons us, faith requires obedience, and to receive a blessing I must be a blessing. Faith was the key to Elijah's ministry.
Hebrews 11 has been called God’s “Hall of Faith.” Like the Hall of Fame in sports or other arenas of life, Hebrews 11 gives us the names and tells us, if ever so briefly, what God’s people accomplished “by faith.” We hear such profound accomplishments like:
• “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice.”
• “By faith Noah…prepared an ark.”
• “By faith Abraham…obeyed.”
• “By faith Moses…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
• “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish…”
I find it interesting that in the long list of people mentioned in God’s Hall of Faith, Elijah, whose life was characterized by one act of faith after another is never mentioned—at least not by name. Hebrews 11:35 makes the startling statement, “Women received their loved ones back again from death.” I am convinced the Lord had Elijah’s faith in mind, because that’s exactly what happened in our text today. And the women was not even a woman of great faith, but today’s encounter reveals the power of faith in life to transform even the most impossible situations.
With “The Elijah Chronicles,” we take a look at the life of the greatest of God’s prophets. Though forgotten in the Hall of Faith, Elijah was the greatest miracle worker of the Bible outside Moses and Jesus. Those miracles come as a result of his faith. It was the prophet Elijah who appeared with Moses on Mount Tabor as Jesus was transfigured. Remember, Peter wanted to build three tabernacles—one for each of them. We want to take the next four weeks to reflect on this Old Testament prophet, and learn lessons for our own lives that will make a difference in our world.
First, I need to set the historical context without which we can’t grasp the depth of the lessons. The nation of Israel had enjoyed great fruitfulness under King David and his son, Solomon. When Solomon died, civil war broke out and the nation became divided into a northern kingdom (which retained the name Israel, and was governed from Samaria) and a southern kingdom (referred to as Judah, and was governed from Jerusalem). That division remained until both kingdoms fell to foreign invaders, and they were led away into captivity.
From the time civil war broke out until they were led away into captivity (about 200 years), the northern kingdom (Israel) had nineteen kings, and all of them, as the Bible recounts, were wicked. Over and over, we read the refrain, “and he did evil in the Lord’s sight.” Imagine that! Nineteen national leaders and every one of them evil. Go back and read 1 Kings 12 – 16, and you’ll read a litany of bloodshed and assassinations, murder, intrigue, immorality, conspiracy, hatred, deception and idolatry. Evil began in the heart of the person on the throne, and it trickled down into the core of the people. Enter the last of these kings, Ahab, and we read in 1 Kings 16:30 that Ahab “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” To make matters worse, Ahab marries Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon, which is the heartland of worship to the god, Baal. She brings Baal worship to Israel with her. So, this is the time when the worst of the worst kings is on the throne of the northern nation of Israel. If ever a nation needed to hear a word from God, this was the time. Enter our hero, the prophet Elijah.
We’re introduced to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1—“Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead…” Elijah appears out of nowhere, and he’s literally from nowhere. Many of you know I’m from the small town of Chatham, LA. Well, I say I’m from Chatham. I actually spent many of my growing up years sixteen miles from Chatham in the woods of Jackson Parish. Literally, we had to go towards town to hunt! You can find Chatham on the map, but you really can’t find that little corner where I spent so much of my time on the map. That’s the way it was for Elijah, too. Gilead we can find on the map, but look for Tishbeh, and well, you simply can’t find it. It was an obscure community somewhere east of the Jordan River.
Yet, out of nowhere, God showed up. Elijah’s name means “The Lord is my God.” Ahab and Jezebel controlled Israel, and Baal was the god they worshiped. Even when the spiritual chasm between God and His people was at its widest, God was there. Here’s the first lesson I learn from the chronicles of Elijah—though we drift far away, God never abandons us. God is never far away, my friends. God has not abandoned us. Individually, we may have drifted from God, bound in some sin we can’t overcome, but God is sending someone to remind us that He’s not abandoned us. As a nation, it may seem we’ve turned out back on God, but God has not abandoned us. Who is the prophet sent to remind us that God is God and we’re not?