1 Kings 17:7-16 (2)

Sermon preached on May 20, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

On May 15, 2006 David Sharp was descending from the summit of Mount Everest when he hit the wall and became exhausted. He didn't get very far before he collapsed and sat down beside a big rock on the North Ridge, at a height of 8535 meters. Mark Inglis, a climber on his way to the summit, found Sharp. He called base camp to ask what to do. Inglis and his team were told to keep climbing: They told him that Sharp had been there for a number of hours already and that he was, 'effectively dead'. Inglis left Sharp to die and continued toward the summit. Inglis later said to New Zealand television,

"The trouble is, at 8500 meters it is extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone keep anyone else alive. We couldn't do anything."

Inglis left Sharp to die. What is remarkable is that at least 30 other people did the same thing that day. They all passed Sharp and left him there. Sharp died alone. The actions of the people who passed Sharp by remind me of what one Japanese climber said about such situations,

"There's no such thing as morality above 8,000 meters."

They said they couldn't help because if they helped, they, too, would die.

People will tell you that in some circumstances you don't have to obey God's Word. In this particular case, it's above 8000 meters.

Adolf Eichmann was one of the Nazis most responsible for the Holocaust. He had great organizational talents and helped manage the logistics of the mass deportation of Jews to the death camps. In 1942 Eichmann was made Transportation Administrator, which put him in charge of all the trains which would carry Jews to the Death Camps in occupied Poland. He did such a good job there that in 1944 he was sent to Hungary where he zealously went to work deporting Jews. He worked with such efficiency that more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to the Death Camps and died there. After the war Eichmann escaped to Argentina. In 1960 he was kidnapped by the Israeli Mossad and brought to Israel for trial. His main defense was that he was just 'following orders'. He was sentenced to be hanged and this sentence was carried out in 1962. Eichmann's last words were,

"I had to obey the rules of war and my flag. I am ready."

One of Satan's great lies is that there are circumstances where you don't have to obey God's Word. But what we must be absolutely clear on is that it is a lie. Eleven days after Sharp died on Mount Everest, another group of climbers on the way to the summit found Lincoln Hall in almost the same situation, only he was about 150 meters higher up the mountain than Sharp. Like Sharp, Hall had been left for dead. His companions had abandoned him. He was without hat, gloves and oxygen and had been there for some time. But the climbers who found him, (Dan Mazur, Andrew Brash, Myles Osborne and Jangbu Sherpa) quickly abandoned their summit attempt and decided to try to save Hall. They put Hall's hat and gloves back on him, gave him water and food and helped him down the mountain. By the time they got to high camp, Hall was walking on his own. Against all odds they saved him.

That's what we see in our text too. The woman didn't suffer because she helped the prophet Elijah. Indeed, she greatly benefited from the fact that she put him first. The main lesson we are taught in our text is that

you are to trust in God and do what's right, no matter what the circumstances—and leave the consequences to God.

Consider the situation here. The woman only had a little flour and oil left. We could say that it wasn't even enough for her and her son for their last meal. She said that she had a 'handful' of flour and a little oil. It is very probable that she had been rationing her and her son's food for some time. They had probably been hungry for months and now this was the last bit of food that they had. She told Elijah that she didn't have any to spare and she was being truthful.

But was it right to deny the prophet? We're not sure how much food he had had since he left the Kerith Ravine but it wasn't very much. He was likely in bad shape being hungry and thirsty. Was it right to deny him a little bread?

The answer is, no. It would have been wrong to deny him a little food. In
Matthew 22:39 Jesus gave the second greatest commandment. It was,

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

In looking at that it's important to note that Jesus was quoting from the summary of the law given in Leviticus 19:18. This command was one that was given in the law by Moses. It was a summary of the second table of the law. So we see that the command to love others as yourself was in effect from the beginning of the law. It applied in Old Testament times. This woman, even though she was a Gentile, was called to love Elijah as much as she loved herself and her son.

Jesus expanded on this duty when He was on earth, showing us the kind of love that we are to have for one another. In
John 13:34 Jesus said to His disciples,

"A new command I give you:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you must love one another."

We are called to love one another with a love that is self-sacrificing. Jesus loved us such that He went to the cross on our behalf. He didn't think of Himself, but He thought of others. He sacrificed Himself so that we might be saved. He taught us that we are to love others more than we love ourselves.

In light of these commands, it's clear that even if we only have enough food for ourselves, we cannot ignore others who have even less than we do. This woman was obligated to help Elijah. If you ever find yourself in such a situation you need to love others more than you love yourself.

But someone may object,

if we do that in such a situation, we'll surely die.

That's what this woman felt. She was afraid to help Elijah. That's why the first thing Elijah said to her was, (verse 13)

"Don't be afraid."

This passage shows us one of the reasons we don't have to be afraid in such a situation.

God often provides and saves people when they think they are facing certain death.

This woman thought she faced certain death. She told Elijah that she was preparing a last meal for herself and her son and that,

"that we may eat it—and die."

She thought that the end was near. They would have nothing left and they would starve sooner rather than later. But Elijah told her not to be afraid. She did not have to be afraid that doing the right thing would lead to her death.

Satan often tries to make people think,

"I have to sin. If I don't, I'll be worse off, something dreadful will happen to me or those I love. If I share my little food with others, we'll all starve and no one will survive."

That's nonsense. That's not the right way to think about things because God is able to do great things for His people. He is able to rescue them. Here we see that the oil and flour were not used up. God saved the woman and her son. They didn't die of starvation.

Time and again in the Bible we see that God's power comes to people in totally unexpected ways and provides for them. The
ravens feeding Elijah is another example. God feeding the people with manna in the wilderness is another. We see another in 2 Kings 7. There was a severe famine in the land. It was so bad that people were resorting to cannibalism. When the king was going to kill Elisha, the prophet declared,

"Hear the word of the LORD.
This is what the LORD says:
About this time tomorrow,
a seah of flour will sell for a shekel
and two seahs of barley for a shekel
at the gate of Samaria."

But the king's officer didn't believe it and said,

"Look, even if the LORD
should open the floodgates of the heavens,
could this happen?"

He didn't believe that God could do it. So Elisha told him that it would happen but that he wouldn't eat any of it. He was killed when the people trampled him to death the next day.

God is able to do great things for his people. He is able to deliver them when all hope seems to be gone.

We always need to keep this in mind. As we read in 2 Chronicles 16:9,

"the eyes of the LORD
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him."

We don't have to be afraid, because God's power is great. He is able to deliver us. As the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20,

"Now to him who is able to do
immeasurably more than all
we ask or imagine,
according to his power
that is at work within us"

God is able to save you. Like He did for this woman, God often provides for and rescues His people when they are facing certain death. That's one reason we are not to be afraid to do the right thing. You are to do what is right even if it seems that it will lead you to certain death. God is able to deliver you.

But of course there's a problem with this.

God is always able to deliver His people from certain death—but He doesn't always choose to do so.

But the point is that we are still not to be afraid. We are never to be afraid of doing what is right.

God does not always save from death those who trust in Him. Jesus was very clear about this in
Matthew 23:33-36. He said to His enemies,

"You snakes! You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Therefore I am sending you prophets
and wise men and teachers.
Some of them you will kill and crucify;
others you will flog in your synagogues
and pursue from town to town.
And so upon you will come
all the righteous blood
that has been shed on earth,
from the blood of righteous Abel
to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah,
whom you murdered
between the temple and the altar.
I tell you the truth,
all this will come upon this generation."

Jesus said that some of the ones that He was sending would be murdered, flogged and pursued. They would not be rescued. This would be in keeping with the history of many righteous men and prophets.

So I'm not telling you that God will always save you, that Christians will not starve to death if they're obedient to God, that their flour and oil will not be used up.

But we are still not to be afraid. Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body and do no more. (Matthew 10:28) If someone said that they would surely die if they did what was right, if they shared their food, I would ask,
how do you want to die?

Do you want to die being obedient to God? Or do you want to be disobedient to God and then die?

In the book of Daniel we see that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace. But they told King Nebuchadnezzar that that didn't matter. They said, (Daniel 3:17-18)

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and he will rescue us from your hand,
O king. But even if he does not,
we want you to know, O king,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up."

They were going to do what was right no matter what the result. That's should be our resolve.

But there's much more here. What we should realize is that the flour and oil, the manna from heaven in the wilderness, the ravens feeding Elijah point us to a much greater truth. We are not to just look at these things on a low level and miss the much greater truth. What do the flour and oil, the manna in the wilderness, the ravens feeding Elijah point to? They teach us that

God is our life.

Does bread itself keep us alive? Does it have life giving power in itself? Are we dependent upon it for life or is it just some intermediate means that God uses to sustain our lives? It's an intermediate means that God uses. God is our life. His powerful word sustains us. Our life is obedience to that Word. Remember the incident in John 4 with the Samaritan woman at the well? When Jesus asked her for a drink, she hesitated and questioned Him about Him being a Jew and asking her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. Jesus replied, (John 4:10)

"If you knew the gift of God
and who it is that asks you for a drink,
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water."

She again questioned Him and asked Him how He would get this living water, since He had nothing to draw water with and the well was deep. She asked Him if He was greater than their father Jacob. Jesus replied, (verses 13-14)

"Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water
I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him
will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The living water that Jesus gives permanently satisfies, it marks an entrance into a new state—that of being saved and having life to the full—and of having a connection with the Spirit. (See John 3:5)

Later, when His disciples returned from town with food, they urged Jesus to eat something. But He said to them, (verses 31f)

"I have food to eat
that you know nothing about."

His disciples wondered if someone else could have brought Him food, but Jesus answered,

My food is to do
the will of him who sent me
and to finish his work."

Jesus' food was to be in obedience to God. It was His principle of life. That was what sustained Him.

We see this as well in Jesus' temptation by the devil in Matthew 4.

After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said,

"If you are the Son of God,
tell these stones to become bread."

That 'if' could also be translated 'since', implying that the devil was not questioning Jesus' power to turn the stones into bread, but rather was urging Him to work the miracle, and thus stop trusting in the Father. Satan was suggesting that the Father was not taking good care of Him, that He might starve to death unless He took things into His own hands. Jesus replied, (Matthew 4:4)

"It is written:
Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word
that comes from the mouth of God."

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 where Moses reminded the people how God fed them with manna in the desert and that their food, their nourishment, their life, does not come from earthly food like bread—but from God and the sustaining power. We live through trusting Him, His power, His Word. John Calvin writes,

"the life of man is not confined to bread, but depends on the will and good-pleasure of God. The word does not mean doctrine, but the purpose which God has made known, with regard to preserving the order of nature and the lives of his creatures. Having created men, he does not cease to care for them: but, as "he breathed into their nostrils the breath of life," (Genesis 2:7,) so he constantly preserves the life which he has bestowed. In like manner, the Apostle says, that he "upholdeth all things by his powerful word,"(Hebrews 1:3;) that is, the whole world is preserved, and every part of it keeps its place, by the will and decree of Him, whose power, above and below, is everywhere diffused. Though we live on bread, we must not ascribe the support of life to the power of bread, but to the secret kindness, by which God imparts to bread the quality of nourishing our bodies."

William Hendriksen paraphrases Jesus' response this way,

"Tempter, you are proceeding upon the false assumption that for a man, in order to appease hunger and keep alive, bread is absolutely necessary. Over against this erroneous idea I now declare that not bread but the creative, energizing, and sustaining power of my Father is the only indispensable source of my, and of man's, life and well-being."

So you see, God is our life. He sustains us. He gives us every breath we take. (Job 12:10, Acts 17:25) He gives energy to every cell in our body and enables them to operate properly. He enables our bodies to be nourished by food. Our life does not depend upon whether or not we eat food—but upon God and His good pleasure. As Job said in Job 12:10,

"In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind."

In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus said to His disciples,

"So do not worry, saying,
'What shall we eat?'
or 'What shall we drink?'
or 'What shall we wear?'
For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father
knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well."

Even if you were starving you should not seek food as if that was the most important thing to your continued existence. No, the most important thing to your continued existence is obedience to God—living for His glory, loving others, seeking to glorify God in all things.

What does your life consist of? What is the primary principle of your life? It does not consist of food and drink. It does not consist of how much you possess. (Luke 12:15) The answer is given to us in Colossians 3:1-4. The apostle Paul wrote,

"Since, then,
you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died,
and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ,
who is your life, appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory."

Christians, you have been raised with Christ. Your life principle is that of the coming eschatological age. You do not belong to this old order—you belong to the heavenly order. Christ is your life. Obedience to Him is the key to your life. You do not have to be afraid that you'll suffer loss for your obedience to Him. Quite the contrary, He will richly reward you. Christians trust in God and do what's right, no matter what the circumstances. Have no fear. God is with you. He is your life. Obey Him and leave the consequences to Him. He will not disappoint you. Indeed, God promises that if we use our resources for him, he will give us more so that we can help others even more. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 we read,

"Remember this:
Whoever sows sparingly
will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously
will also reap generously.
Each man should give
what he has decided in his heart to give,
not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that in all things at all times,
having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work.
As it is written:
'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.'
Now he who supplies seed to the sower
and bread for food will also supply
and increase your store of seed
and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be made rich in every way
so that you can be generous on every occasion,
and through us your generosity
will result in thanksgiving to God."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this means that your life has no foundation, no coherence.
You are living, but your life is meaningless. On the last day your works are going to be tried and found wanting. They are going to burned up and shown to be of stubble, hay and wood. They are worthless. It's only in Jesus that your life can have true meaning. You need Him to save you from the tyranny of the devil, from the bondage of sin, from the great curse of sin—death. Go to Jesus today. Ask Him to save you. His Word is true. The widow of Zarephath found that out. She believed. She was saved. Follow her example.