Summary: THE FAMINE OF FAITH (1 KINGS 17:8-24)
THE FAMINE OF FAITH (1 KINGS 17:8-24)
When the machine is operating on a busy road, traffic is halted and the cars lined up in opposite directions are allowed to proceed alternately. A veteran operator of one of those big machines decided one day to try to relieve the tension that inevitably results from such a traffic backup. Consequently on both the front and rear of his grader a sign now appears, declaring, “The Road to Happiness is Almost Always Under Construction.”
What do you do when things are rough and not rosy? How does you faith in God work in worrisome and wearisome circumstances? Why is faith indispensable in big and small things?
Try New Frontiers
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”
A magician had a job on a cruise ship doing his act for the customers during at sea periods. The captain of this particular ship had a pet parrot; he loved the parrot and spoiled it, catering to it constantly. This particular parrot had a habit of going to the magician's act every time he performed it.
After a while, the parrot began to tell the audience how the tricks were done. Comments like “Look up his sleeve, awrk!”, and “There's a false bottom in the trunk, awrk!” became common place, so that the people thought the team were a comedy act. This infuriated the magician, as he took his job very seriously. However, as the parrot had the captain's favor, he was at a loss of what to do about it.
One night, the ship sank, and the magician found himself clinging to a small piece of wreckage. Wouldn't you know it, the parrot was perching there on the wreckage with him. After two days of silence, the parrot says “OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?”
Have you found yourself shocked, stuck and stretched? How would you respond in unusual, untried circumstances? A drought is as fierce a test as any of a person’s faith in God. The people who have experienced famine included Abram (Gen 12:10), Isaac (Gen 26:1), Joseph (Gen 41:27), Ruth (Ruth 1:1) and David (2 Sam 21:1). Sometimes our faith is unexpectedly tested, tried and tossed.
Elijah had “hid” himself (1 Kings 17:3) for some time after announcing the absence of rain to Ahab, in the best tradition of David who hid himself (1 Sam 20:5, 19, 24, 23:19, 26:1). Prophets and kings had to do the same in history. The story began with a dire warning (v 7). There had been no rain in the land, later up to three years and six months, according to the book of James (James 5:17). The introductory phrase “the word of the Lord came” is identified with Elijah more than any prophet or person in the Bible (1 Kings 17:2, 8, 18:1, 19:9, 21:17, 28). The greatness of Elijah is not an understatement. Just as Moses represented the law, Elijah was the flagbearer for the prophets. He did not die but was taken up in a chariot of fire by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11), only to appear in the New Testament with Moses to talk with Jesus about his pending death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31). But even greatness and godliness had limits with the lack of water and hygiene.
Elijah was commanded to dwell in Zarephath in the Canaanite city of Sidon near the border (Gen 10:19). The distance was approximately 85 to 100 miles by the most direct route (Fred Teagle). It was an unsafe, unappealing and undesirable safe place to be for Elijah because Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians (1 Kings 16:31), where Zarephath was located (v 9). Elijah could have been amazed, afraid and aghast, but there was no choice or contingency because of the fierce drought.
The verb “to supply with food” (v 9) is nourish (Gen 45:11), provide (2 Sam 19:32) and feed (2 Sam 19:33). It was enough to blow Elijah’s mind listening to God’s plan, the place and now the person involved. First, he was commanded with two imperatives (arise, go, KJV) to enter hostile, even heedless and hateful Gentile territory. Second his contact was not only a woman, but a helpless widow. God’s plan stretched Elijah’s credibility as a powerful prophet, the woman’s capability as a poor widow and the unlikely contact of a Jewish man with a Gentile widow. Third, it was not a one day stay (v 8), but days to come. Elijah’s stay was not straight and simple like before when a raven fed the prophet, with not much human interaction. A drought was never a day long but months and seasons piled up.