Summary: The 3rd in a series of message on the life of the Prophet Elijah

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Sermon by: Dr. Todd Morris

Text: I Kings 17: 8-16

Title: Empty Barrel Graduate School

Date: March 7, 2004

Introduction: Well, Elijah holds in his hand his diploma from Dry Brook University. He has trusted God to take care of him in a desperate situation. He trusted God to send ravens to feed him. He trusted God to supply his water. He has watched day in and day out as God has met his needs. He watched God dry up his little brook, surely all that should count for something! Surely things would get better now.

Yet, when God speaks to Elijah it is to send him into another situation of difficulty. The prophet’s training isn’t over yet. God is creating a man of God, and that process is not easy or quick. Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook University, but he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet’s flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At Zarephath, God will beak Elijah’s pride. Here, he will learn that God, not Elijah, calls the shots in life. He will learn that things are seldom as they appear. He will learn that God can use the humblest of means to train His children for His glory.

Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty way! When we get to chapter 18, we will see why God put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is building a man of God.

Now, with that in mind, there are times when it seems that our trials come back to back to back to back. That is, it seems that before our trial can come to an end, another begins. When these times come we my be tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing. Simply put, don’t despair, God is getting you I a position where He can use you to His greater glory. May I remind you that before He can mold us He must first melt us! God’s goal for every child of God is that we be made into the image of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, lets us join the prophet Elijah as he continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School. There are lessons here that we need as well, lessons that will help us in our times of testing.


A. The Call (8) – As Elijah sat there beside the dried up brook, it must have felt like he had been abandoned, but God had not forgotten Elijah! God knew exactly where Elijah was, and He knew all about the dried up brook, and it was at that precise moment that God chose to speak to Elijah.

B. The Command (9a) – God tells Elijah what He wants him to do. He commands him to go to Zarephath. This is extremely strange since Zarephath is a Gentile nation. As a matter of fact it is Jezebel’s home country. It is a wicked place, and to top it all off, Elijah is going to have to walk 100 miles across territory ruled by Ahab, who is looking everywhere for Elijah to kill him.

C. The Challenge (9b) – Notice that again Elijah is told to “dwell there.” He is to go to Zarephath and stay until he received further instructions. God’s assignments don’t always come with time limits attached. He merely sends us to it and leaves us until His work is finished.

D. The Comfort (10-11) – When Elijah gets the command he does not hesitate he simply obeys, and when he arrives at his appointed destination God shows him who it is that He has appointed to care for his needs.


A. A Doubt (12) – When Elijah asks for bread the widow’s fear is brought to the surface. God has already commanded her to care for His prophet, but she is trapped in the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on circumstances and not on He Who controls the circumstances.

B. A Demand (13-14) – When Elijah hears the widow’s sob story he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the entire Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first. On the surface it seems cruel, but in reality it is a plea for faith and surrender.

1. It Involved Encouragement – “Fear Not!” She is told she can trust God.

2. It involved Enlightenment – “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” She gets a direct word form God concerning her situation. She has God’s word that He will take care of her.

3. It Involves Excitement – Neither the barrel of meal nor the cruse of oil will fail…”

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