Summary: God is the ultimate lifeguard because he saves us from eternal death and he is always on duty.
The series “Baywatch” has ended after almost a decade of being on television. How many here are familiar with the show “Baywatch”? Supposedly it was about the lives of life guards on the beaches of California (but in all reality it was more about scantily clad men and women running on the beach). In real life, however, lifeguards are important people. They watch over us on the beach and at the pool. They keep us in line if we are doing something stupid like swimming out to far in a heavy current or running around a slippery pool. They also have been known to save many a person from drowning. Life guards are important people.
Well, today we are going to look at the story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath, a story from the Old Testament, and we are going to see that God is the ultimate life guard: stronger, faster and smarter than even David Hasselhoff from Baywatch. Because God, our life guard, has saved us from eternal death and always watches over and protects us. So we read from 1 Kings 17:17-24...
I. He saves us from death
First of all, we should probably get a little background to this story. Elijah was God’s prophet during the reign of King Ahab in the Northern Tribes of Israel. Ahab had the dubious distinction of “doing more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any king before him.” And that’s pretty bad when you consider that the Northern Tribes never even had one good king who was faithful to God. And Ahab was the worst. Ahab married the infamous Jezebel who promoted the worship of Baal and Asherah in Israel, two religions that were steeped in pornographic and violent ceremonies.
Jezebel sent out at least 450 Baal missionaries that we know of to corrupt God’s people... and it worked. So God sent Elijah the Tishbite to tell the king that because of his wickedness and the idolatry of the people, a terrible drought would hit Israel. Because of their sin, Israel would go years without rain. Crops would be destroyed. People would die. If you think that God doesn’t take sin seriously, just look at some of the “discipline” that God sent on his people in the Old Testament.
But God, the life guard, took care of his faithful prophet. First he sent him to a brook, a little creek, where ravens miraculously brought him food. When the brook dried up, God sent him North to a town called Zarephath in the land of the Phoenicians. You see, Ahab blamed Elijah for the problems of Israel and wanted him dead, so Elijah had to cross the border into the Canada of his day to escape the evil king.
There in that little town of Zarephath, God sent Elijah to a poor widow and her son. They only had a small jar of flour, but God in his power made that flour last indefinitely so as to provide food for the widow, her son and the prophet Elijah. And that leads us to the events of our text for this morning.
God decided to prove his power and love to that widow of Zarephath by allowing her son to die. And we see that the widow in her grief reacted as many of us probably would. Recognizing that Elijah was God’s prophet, she asked if God had sent him to punish her for her sins.
You see, even though she wasn’t an Israelite, even though she didn’t have the Ten Commandments, she realized that she was a sinner. She had a conscience. That remnant of God’s image that though blurred, witnessed to the fact that there is a just God who punishes sin. And she thought that this was God’s judgement for her sin.
But Elijah took the boy and prayed to God asking him to show that this wasn’t a punishment. And stretching himself over the young man three times, he came back to life. The result: the woman was strengthened in her faith that Elijah was God’s prophet and that God’s Word is the truth.
Now, how many times don’t we feel like that poor widow who lost her son? We feel like God is punishing us. Why did God take away my husband? Why did God give me cancer? Or as my sister asked just two weeks ago, why did God take my baby even before he was born? God must be punishing me for the sins of my youth, for my lies, for my evil thoughts, for my angry words. The Apostle Paul says in Romans that those things, those sins “result in death.” Because God is holy. He hates sin. He must and will always punish sin.
But you see, our sins have already been punished. Jesus, our life guard, gave his own life, suffering the punishment of our sins so that we would not be punished. God punished Jesus with death and hell for all the sins that had been committed and would be committed in this world, including our own. The punishment for all sins has been made. There is no more punishment. The only people that will receive God’s punishment are those who in their unbelief reject the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross. God doesn’t punish you and never will. There is no punishment for those who believe in Christ Jesus.