Summary: We Can Do This! 1) We have God’s promises 2) We are God’s people
In our voters’ meeting last Sunday we passed a motion which, Lord willing, should speed up the pace of our building program considerably. Now instead of saving little by little for the next ten or fifteen years before being able to build the grand plan you’ve seen leaning against the bulletin board, we’ve decided to scale down the project so we can get something built within the next year or two! I don’t have all the details of what this scaled down project will look like. The building committee will present such a plan by mid April. It seems though that we’ll be refurbishing this house of worship and connecting it to a new building with classrooms, offices, a kitchen, and a fellowship hall. While this is a scaled down building project, the committee still anticipates that it will cost $600,000. That’s not including the furniture needed for the new building. Can we do this? Sure, we have land to sell but that’s not part of the financing plan right now. So can 30 families really pay for such a project as we continue to support ongoing ministry efforts? We can do this! I’m confident that we can. But don’t take my word for it. Take to heart God’s Word, which reminds us today that we have God’s promises, and that we are God’s people.
Although our text doesn’t talk about building a church, it does teach us how God uses challenges to exercise his people’s faith. The prophet Elijah was the object of God’s attention in our text. God had used him to confront wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who were trying to make Baal worship the official religion in Israel. One day Elijah marched into the king’s court and announced that God was going to withhold rain from Israel because of her idolatry. Then God hid Elijah in the wilderness and gave him water to drink from a brook and food that was delivered to him by birds, not just any birds, mind you, but ravens which are among the most ravenous of God’s creatures! In time, however, the water dried up. So God directed Elijah north on a three or four-day journey to the small town of Zarephath. There he would find a widow whom God had appointed to care for the prophet.
We know how this true story turns out but Elijah didn’t. God’s command must have seemed like nonsense to him. God was asking him to leave Israel and find refuge among the non-Jews? Not only that, he was supposed to get food from a widow? Widows in those days needed financiers, not freeloaders. But God had said, “Go!” and hadn’t God provided for him in a miraculous way in the Kerith Ravine? He certainly could do that again in Zarephath.
God would have to provide in a miraculous way again because upon arrival in Zarephath it was clear that the widow God had chosen to care for Elijah wasn’t rich. She was out gathering a few stray sticks with which to make a last meal for her son and herself before they expected to die because they had no more food. When Elijah asked her for some water, she was willing to fetch that for him. But when he asked for a bite to eat as well she explained how she didn’t have anything for him. Listen to Elijah’s response: “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. 14 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’” (1 Kings 17:13, 14).
What would you have done if you had been that widow? Would you have given this stranger your last bit of food? And if you had been Elijah, would you have been able to eat it in front of her and her starving son? Faith in God’s promise was essential for both Elijah and the widow. Motivated by God’s promise the widow went home and used up her last cup of flour and made bread for Elijah. Then, hardly daring to breathe, she checked the flour jar again. There was still flour there! Not much, but enough to make another little cake for her son and herself!
What an encouragement Elijah’s presence must have been to that widow. Shortly before his arrival she had been resigned to starving to death. Now she was confident that her flour and oil would not run out until the drought had ended. She knew that the Lord had not abandoned her. On the other hand the widow must have been an encouragement to Elijah. Here was someone else who took God’s promises seriously. And my how it showed in her actions! This should have given Elijah hope for his own people. If God could work such faith in the heart of a gentile, he certainly could turn around the hearts of his own people. Therefore Elijah’s ministry was not in vain!