Summary: Easter is four Sundays away. As we begin to focus on what it represents, I wanted to begin by looking at the resurrections that preceded Jesus'. There were actually five instances of people coming back from the dead before it happened to Jesus.
THE RESURRECTIONS BEFORE THE RESURRECTION (part one)
1st Kings 17:7-24
Easter is four Sundays away. As we begin to focus on what it represents, I thought it would be good to begin by looking at the resurrections that preceded Jesus'. There were actually five instances of people coming back from the dead that took place before Jesus'. Today we'll look at the first one; the encounter between Elijah and the widow's son.
1) From famine to plenty (7-16).
God sent Elijah to tell the king that there would be a drought for the next few years. Then God sent Elijah to a different region to receive food, shelter and water. But when the brook that he was getting his water from dried up, God sent him to Zarephath.
1st Kings 17:7-16, "Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
How sad is that? She lost her husband. Then comes the drought and now she's down to her last meal, talking death for her and her son. Talk about hopelessness. But there was hope.
"Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ ” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah."
So we have this incident where God sends Elijah to encounter this widow and have an exchange with her. We see that God had also spoken to the widow, letting her know that Elijah was coming. Which is interesting considering the situation. There is a drought and subsequent famine in the land yet God commands this woman to feed this stranger.
I wonder what thoughts may have been running through her mind as she anticipated his arrival and the sacrifice God was asking her to make? "Why me? Can't you send him to someone else? What if I don't end up having enough for myself and my son?"
God will challenge our faith and trust in extreme ways. God will challenge us to serve and give sacrificially when doing so would put us in a position to depend completely on God to come through. In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby wrote, "Encounters with God are God-sized". It makes sense. When God comes to you with something he wants you to do it's always going to be bigger than yourself. He's going to set the bar higher, he's going to challenge you to step further and it's going to require more from you.
So this widow encounters Elijah and even though there is a drought she turns to get water for this stranger. But then, when he asks for bread, she explains her situation. She wasn't refusing as much as she was explaining. Then Elijah challenges her to first do for him and then do for herself. This would be a test of her faith and devotion to God.
Would she do as God had commanded or would she conclude that it wasn't possible? She could've easily said, "Listen, I don't have it like that. You need to go ask someone else who has more than just barely enough."
But, we see that he precedes his request by telling her to not be afraid. God will do the same for us. He will calm our fears when asking us to do what is risky. And when we show that faith and trust we will be rewarded. Instead of there being only enough for a final meal for this widow and her son, there was going to be enough food to last continually. When we trust God with what little we have he will take care of us. When we do what God tells us to do no matter how sacrificial it is we can trust that he has everything under control and that he loves us.