Can God Really Meet OurNeeds?

Can God Really Meet OurNeeds?

By Henry Nelson

 

 

 

1st Kings 17:7-247Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.8Then 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.”10So 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? ”11As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12“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 olive 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.” 13Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.14For 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 sends rain on the land.’” 15She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. {{more}}16For 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.17Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20Then he cried out to the Lord, “ Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”21Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “ Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” 22The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”Be careful what you pray for you just might get it. That is exactly what happened to Elijah. He took on the dubious joy of praying against his own nation as it fell deeper and deeper into sin. Jew and Gentile, young and old, person and livestock were all in the midst of a deep drought and the famine that went with it. Why, because Ahab, King of Israel, had decided to worship the god of his wife, Jezebel.It was a scant fifty years after Solomon when Ahab rose to power. The once peaceful nation had been torn apart by warfare both from within and without. They had split into a Northern and Southern kingdom and of the six kings who had ruled in Israel three of them had been murdered. Now to complicate matter Baal, a Canaanite god often linked to rain had begun to be worshipped in earnest in Samaria. And God had had enough. If the people wanted to worship this Baal then let Baal provide the rains. In chapter 17 we see Elijah on the run. This servant of the Lord has been kept by a stream and fed by ravens an unclean bird to Jews. But now the creek had shriveled up from the drought and so it was time to move but where? A reluctant, hopeless, and unlikely servant of the God of Israel is seen in Sidon the nation where Jezebel is from. She’s a single mother and is making preparations for her and her sons last supper when Elijah is there at the gate. “Get me some water and if you please a loaf of bread” is what Elijah asks for. What this woman discovers is that her obedience to this request unleashes God’s greatness and blessings in her life in unexpected ways. I think you can tell by the way she refers to “your God” that she isn’t thrilled with what is happening. Her limitations make it difficult to trust this God she did not know as well as this strange man. Lastly what we discover is that God’s provision becomes apparent when we live beyond our limitations as this woman did as we step out on faith and obey.The gospel song says, “Count your many blessings name them one-by-one” and we can pretty well do that if we want. The fact we can gather for worship, friends, family, clean water and safe food, are all part of the many blessings that we enjoy along with others in our nations. We know many of the bible stories of God’s blessings as well. God gave Israel food while they wandered in the wilderness. There were the blessings of victory over cities like Jericho and against enemies faced by Gideon and David. There were the provision of salvation in the Lion’s den as Daniel remained true to his trust in the Lord and of course the blessing given to us by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Yet common to all of the blessings is obedience. Israel could only pick up enough food for one day except on Friday when they could gather enough for the Sabbath too. Daniel would not have fared as well had he decided to worship the king’s statue and God. David could not have destroyed Goliath dressed in Saul’s armor. And there is no way we can experience the salvation of God without believing what Jesus says about Himself. Amen!This woman while facing Elijah faces a crossroads in her life. One direction means salvation, food and God’s provision. The other direction lies death. It is black and white. There is no gray in this. Starvation of something else. It would be nice if it was as clear to this woman as it is to us who know the end of the story already, but it was not. God tells Elijah that this widow had been told what to do. Yet in her conversation with Elijah she seems pretty well obvious to God’s command. In fact, she makes a point by answering Elijah and saying, “I swear by Your God…” God doesn’t insist she build a temple or travel to strange lands. Elijah asks for a simple loaf of bread and some water. What complicates things is that he insists she make his first and then make hers and her sons. And he asks this knowing that she only has enough for one loaf.There’s a story about a old sailor who ferried people across a river in a row boat. His pride in his boat was seen even in the handmade oars he used. When he had made them he had carved into one the word “Works” and into the other “Faith”. From time to time someone would ask about the oars and he’d explain by dropping one and stroking as hard as he could with the other. Needless to say the little boat would go in a circle. Then he’d repeat the exercise with the other one. As a believer in Jesus he took great joy in explaining that it was both “faith” and “works” that kept one going in the right direction. Our obedience, our works, can become quite difficult at times for God calls us to give up our desire, our direction and our decisions in favor of Christ’s call, Christ’s commission, and Christ’s command. What can be even more difficult isn’t giving up our money or time but to give up an attitude of hatred; a pet sin we really like; a grudge against our sister or brother; our excuses for not reading His word. It is at times like these when we hear Christ clearly tell us what He wants us to do that we start paddling with one oar.This woman was limited in how God could use here. Her obvious lack of flour and oil limited what she could do. She knew how much she had. She was also externally limited by her gender and nationality. She was a gentile. She was part of the religious tradition that Elijah fought against. She was a single mother with apparently no extended family to care for her.I can only guess at some of the internal limitations she faced as she met Elijah and those I assume come from the ones I’ve just mentioned. Unfamiliar with Elijah’s God had to limit her. A sense of hopelessness as she readies herself for her family’s last meal and perhaps a sense of being an outcast as a single mom all had to weigh heavily against her serving God.Elijah, God’s man-of-the-hour, wasn’t without limitations. Externally he was a wanted man. He had fled after the drought quite simply because no one wanted him around. The drought and famine didn’t just touch the bad people who worshipped the bad god. He was in a foreign land. What’s more it was the nation of Queen Jezebel herself. Internally, one of the characteristics that we see Elijah carry with him throughout his service to God is one of running away from trouble. Couple that with the need to overcome his Jewish and cultural concerns about talking to a woman in public who was not a relative and you see he too was limited.These external and internal limitations affect us today. Internally we are constantly in a battle with what the Apostle Paul calls the “Old Man” or “Old self”. That our sinful nature that tends to work like inertia. Once we’re headed toward sin the desire is to keep going that direction and once we are comfortable in sin a resting object wants to remain where it is. This type of internal limitations blinds us to seeing God’s word. It blinds us to God’s future for us as well as for our congregation and community. It limits our eyesight to three people, Me, Myself and I.I am convinced that most believers who have a will fail to give a percentage of their estate to the church simply because they really do not care what happens after they are no longer a part of the church. We also can internally carry around the burdens that come with a disruptive childhood, living through a divorce, being a survivor of cancer, facing difficult times with families and friends etc.I am equally convinced that the external limitations of all having 24 hours a day, of having less energy at 50 or 70 than we had at 20 or 30, and our incomes are also powerful limitations that we face externally. Besides that there may be a history we bring with us that limits us. There can be health issues, which limit our service to God. Our job, school and family can be exerting enormous pressure when it comes to being available to serve God. I would like to suggest that God knows our limitations far better than we do. In fact, I will bet that God knows limitations we face that we do not even know about. I am also going to suggest that God allows these limitations in our lives for a reason. Amen!The type and depth of commitment we make to Jesus in all areas of our life are how we express and show our thankfulness for Jesus’ death and God’s love. And in this commitment we all fall well short even with our best efforts don’t we? After all which of us has lived life loving enough to pay back God for His love? Have any of us fed enough hungry people, given a cup of water to enough thirsty children, clothed enough naked refugees, or visited enough prisoners to say we have done enough for Jesus to make up for what he did for us?As I said, God knows our limitations and has to one extent or another placed us a limiting situation. Yet he does not excuse us from the obedience and commitment He demands from us. In Elijah’s life we see that only as this woman lived beyond her limitation did she discover her future was secure. She did not know her jar would be full when she baked the bread for Elijah. She did not know it would provide for her and her son as she brought the bread to the prophet. It was only after she brings him the bread then goes to fix her meal that she finds the miracle has occurred.It is when we stretch farther out on the limb of faith till where it’s really thin do we discover that even when we fall we land in our the arms of our loving Father. This woman moves beyond the limitation that life gave her. When she did she found God provided for her and her family even though she was not one of God’s people. How much more should those who know Christ strive to move beyond our limits?In this is our challenge certainly when it comes to our stewardship but for all areas of life with Jesus. Are we going to remain bound and gagged by the limitations we face or are we willing to trust Jesus? We should not be surprised that God kept this woman and child fed because that’s how God works. The surprise comes when Christ meets our needs in His wonderful exciting ways.Now you see that if we are obedient God will meet our every needs. See you next week.