Summary: Experience God’s provision when we trust in his goodness like Elijah
Be careful what you pray for you just might get it. That is exactly what happened to Elijah. He took on the dubious joy of praying against his own nation as it fell deeper and deeper into sin. Jew and Gentile, young and old, person and livestock were all in the midst of a deep drought and the famine that went with it. Why, because Ahab, King of Israel, had decided to worship the god of his wife, Jezebel.
It was a scant fifty years after Solomon when Ahab rose to power. The once peaceful nation had been torn apart by warfare both from within and without. They had split into a Northern and Southern kingdom and of the six kings who had ruled in Israel three of them had been murdered. Now to complicate matter Baal, a Canaanite god often linked to rain had begun to be worshipped in earnest in Samaria. And God had had enough. If the people wanted to worship this Baal then let Baal provide the rains.
In chapter 17 we see Elijah on the run. This servant of the Lord has been kept by a stream and fed by ravens—an unclean bird to Jews. But now the creek had shriveled up from the drought and so it was time to move but where? A reluctant, hopeless, and unlikely servant of the God of Israel is seen in Sidon the nation where Jezebel is from. She’s a single mother and is making preparations for her and her sons last supper when Elijah is there at the gate.
“Get me some water and if you please a loaf of bread” is what Elijah asks for. What this woman discovers is that her obedience to this request unleashes God’s greatness and blessings in her life in unexpected ways. I think you can tell by the way she refers to “your God” that she isn’t thrilled with what is happening. Her limitations make it difficult to trust this God she didn’t know as well as this strange man. Lastly what we discover is that God’s provision becomes apparent when we live beyond our limitations as this woman did—as we step out on faith and obey.
The gospel song says, “count your many blessings name them one-by-one” and we can pretty well do that if we want. The fact we can gather for worship, friends, family, clean water and safe food, are all part of the many blessings that we enjoy along with others in our nations. We know many of the bible stories of God’s blessings as well. God gave Israel food while they wandered in the wilderness. There were the blessings of victory over cities like Jericho and against enemies faced by Gideon and David. There were the provision of salvation in the Lion’s den as Daniel remained true to his trust in the Lord and of course the blessing given to us by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Yet common to all of the blessings is obedience.
Israel could only pick up enough food for one day except on Friday when they could gather enough for the Sabbath too. Daniel wouldn’t have faired as well had he decided to worship the king’s statue and God. David couldn’t have destroyed Goliath dressed in Saul’s armor. And there is no way we can experience the salvation of God without believing what Jesus says about Himself.
This woman while facing Elijah faces a crossroads in her life. One direction means salvation, food and God’s provision. The other direction lies death. It’s black and white. There’s no gray in this. Starvation of something else. It would be nice if it was as clear to this woman as it is to us who know the end of the story already, but it wasn’t. God tells Elijah that this widow had been told what to do. Yet in her conversation with Elijah she seems pretty well obvious to God’s command. In fact, she makes a point by answering Elijah and saying, “I swear by Your God…”
God doesn’t insist she build a temple or travel to strange lands. Elijah asks for a simple loaf of bread and some water. What complicates things is that he insists she make his first and then make hers and her sons. And he asks this knowing that she only has enough for one loaf.
There’s a story about a old sailor who ferried people across a river in a row boat. His pride in his boat was seen even in the hand made oars he used. When he had made them he had carved into one the word “Works” and into the other “Faith”. From time to time someone would ask about the oars and he’d explain by dropping one and stroking as hard as he could with the other. Needless to say the little boat would go in a circle. Then he’d repeat the exercise with the other one. As a believer in Jesus he took great joy in explaining that it was both “faith” and “works” that kept one going in the right direction.