Summary: Elijah and the widow teach us what to do when everything is going wrong.
The story is told of a man who was walking across the road when he was hit by a car. The impact knocked him on his head which caused him to be in a coma for a couple of days before he finally regained consciousness. When he opened his eyes, his loving wife was there beside his bed holding his hand.
He said, "You know, Judy, you’ve always been right by my side. When I was a struggling college student, I failed again and again. But you were always there with me, encouraging me to go on trying."
He said, "And when I got out of school and went for all of my interviews and failed to get any of the jobs, you stayed right there with me, cutting out more classifieds for me to check on..."
“Then I started work at this little firm and finally got the chance to handle a big contract. But I blew it because of one little mistake, and yet you were there beside me all the way. Then I finally got another job after being laid off for sometime. But I never seemed to be promoted and my hard work was never recognized. And so, I remained in the same position from the day I joined the company until now... And, through it all, you were right there by my side."
Her eyes are starting to fill with tears as she listens. He says, "And now I’ve been in this accident and when I woke up, you’re the first person I see. There’s something I’ll really like to say to you...."
He said, "Judy, I think you’re just plain bad luck!"
I wonder if there are times when we treat God that way. Every time something bad happens, God is right there with us, getting us through the rough spots, holding us up, giving us strength. And instead of appreciating it, we sometimes tend to blame God when bad things happen.
There’s a woman in I Kings 17 who does that. Elijah is there with her, taking care of her and her son day after day, but then something happens and she says to Elijah -- well, you’ll just have to wait a minute to see what she said.
Let’s go back first of all and set the scene. Elijah was a prophet of God who was sent to King Ahab to tell him that Israel was going to be punished because of its great wickedness. Through the influence of Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, Israel had starting worshipping Baal and Ashteroth and some of the other heathen gods. So, as a punishment, God said he was going to make it stop raining. And that’s exactly what happened. For three and a half years, it didn’t rain. It’s hard to imagine just how terrible that was. I know that in Texas this summer, there were areas that went without rain for three months and it was considered almost a state of emergency. Imagine three years without rain.
After a couple of months, I’m sure King Ahab issued a decree and said, “Anyone caught watering their lawns or washing their chariots will be fined accordingly.” After a few more months, no one is allowed to wash their clothes or take baths. After three years, it’s difficult to find water to drink.
Remember that Ahab and his wife Jezebel didn’t take too kindly to Elijah’s words. They probably dismissed him as a fruitcake at first, but as time went by without rain, they started to get serious. They sent out search teams to find Elijah so that he could have him killed, but God protected Elijah by hiding him by the brook Cherith, feeding him with bread brought by the ravens. But after months and months of no rain, even the brook was drying up. Elijah had to go somewhere else.
So the word of the Lord came to Elijah. And it must have sounded like one of those good news/bad news jokes. "The good news, Elijah, is that you get to leave Cherith. The bad news is I want you to go to Zarephath." God said to Elijah, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there." (I Kings 17:9a).
I don’t know how much Elijah knew about geography. It’s possible he had never heard of Zarephath before. It was a small town along the Mediterranean coast in the land of Phoenicia.
Elijah might not have heard of Zarephath before, but you can be certain that he had heard of Sidon. That was Jezebel’s home town, the capital of Phoenicia. It was a center for worship of Baal and Ashteroth.
Why in the world would God send Elijah to Zarephath, a suburb of Sidon? It didn’t make any sense. If I were Elijah, I would have asked some questions.