Sermon preached 6/6/10.
Sermon text: 1 Kings 17:1-24
Sermon: From time to time all of us feel alone. Lost. Hurt. Abandoned. And we can feel that way even in the midst of a crowd, even in the midst of friends and family. We have that feeling that whatever support we had had is gone. This morning we read a part of 1 Kings chapter 17, one of my favorite passages, because it was the passage of scripture that I heard when I finally made a decision, I am going to commit myself fully to preparation to be a minister. I had already accepted the call to ministry, but I was in school and I was studying engineering and after I heard that, I decided, No, I want to study religion, I want to prepare myself to deliver God’s word.
But Elijah is a very interesting character, I think. He appears out of nowhere, really. We have no long call cycle for Elijah, he doesn’t get a lot of genealogy. Chapter 17 just says, “Now Elijah the Tishbite of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab.” That’s it, “Elijah the Tishbite says to Ahab.” Elijah seems to come out of nowhere, and his entire ministry is one where he feels alone and abandoned. Every time you see Elijah, to almost to the very end of his ministry when he gets a sidekick, Elisha, he’s complaining about being alone. God calls Elijah and says, “You go to Ahab. You go to Ahab and you tell him, ‘Because of your Baal worship, because of you bringing in that–Jezebel, and all of her gods, I’m gonna make it not rain.'”
Now this was significant because Baal was supposed to be the god of the storm. In fact he was called “Baal, the Rider on the Storm.” And Elijah said, “No rain.” Now immediately, of course, Elijah is afraid, and he runs off and he goes to a creek, a dry creek bed, a gully is probably more accurately what we’d call it. A gully that when it rains it fills with water, but most of the time is kind of dry. He goes to this wadi called Kerith and there is water in the midst of the drought and ravens bring him food.
You see, Elijah feels like he’s alone. Nobody else. He’s got to hide out in the wilderness or they’re gonna kill him. and yet out there, alone, abandoned, God’s with him. And God provides.
Well, he gets up from there and goes out beyond Israel. In fact, he goes to the very region where Jezebel comes from, where Baal worship is so strong. He goes to Zarephath of Sidon. And he meets there another person who feels abandoned and alone. He meets this widow and the widow has a son. And he says to the widow, “Make me something to eat. Give me something to drink.” And he basically calls on basic hospitality to say, I’m a guest, I’m here, you should give me food.
The woman says, “If I do that, my son and I will die, we only have enough for one meal, but you know what? What’s one meal from death? You starve to death a few hours earlier. Fine. I’ll be a good host and I will make you a little piece of flat cake and you can have it and you’ll be fine and we’ll just die.” And he says, “Fine, you go make it and make some for yourself.” She uses the oil, she makes him a little cake, she hands it to him and says, “See, now we’re gonna die of hunger, there’s nothing left…
“My mistake. There’s enough left for one more.”
So there was always enough left for one more. And so she and Elijah and her son survived.
But there are times when you feel alone, when you feel helpless, when you feel like you can’t change your circumstances, and you’re just barely making it, and it gets worse. You know, when you think you’re as low as you can go, the bottom drops out and you find out there’s another level of misery you can sink to.
The son dies. And the woman comes to Elijah and says, “What did I do, you horrible, horrible person, that you came here and brought God’s attention on me so that He would kill my son to remind me of my sin?”
Elijah says, “Give me the boy.” He takes the son up on the roof. I know it says “upper room,” but these are flat houses and they’ve got, like, a place on the roof that might have screens and things, but it’s not really a room like we would think of. He goes up on the roof and he prays to God and says, “God, please don’t kill this boy just because I’m here.” And he lays down above him. “God, please don’t kill this boy just because I’m here.” Lays down above him. “Please, God, don’t kill this boy just because I’m here.” Lays down on top of him.
The boy gets up. “Hey, is there any more cake?”
And the woman says, “I know now that you come from God. I know now that anything you say is God’s word. Because you can bring the dead back to life.”
We can feel alone, abandoned and helpless in the midst of all our friends and family, simply because we don’t have the power to fix something. Just because we are hurt in a way we feel like no one else understands. The story of Elijah is about God going out there with us. Elijah’s story continues, and at one point he even says, “There is nobody left but me,” and God says, “No. I take care of my own.” And that’s the case here with Elijah.
And it’s the case with us, that God is with us even out in the midst of nothing. We don’t feel like we have anybody. God goes with us. God goes out into the wilderness with us. And we find miracles to sustain us. Water in the middle of a drought in a dry creek bed, a dry gully is a miracle. Ravens bringing you meat is a miracle.
And then there’s another step. This is what happens in chapter 17, there’s always another step. Go further. Hey, I’m out in the wilderness. Go further. Go out into the land where they don’t know God, go out to the land of the enemy. And don’t go and stay at some rich person’s house, go and stay at this poor widow who has nothing and apparently complains about everything. Go out a little further. Go out a little further, to the point of death, and God’s there, every time.
And there may not be a big miracle. You know, if you think the entire government’s out to kill you, and you think you’re all alone, you’re probably not praying for water in the creek and ravens to feed you. You’re praying for the government to be overthrown, an army to rise up, a fortress to stay in, right? That’s not what Elijah got. Elijah got what he needed. You go out to the widow woman, out to the godless land and you need something to eat and she needs something to eat. you don’t pray for enough oil and enough flour to get one more meal out of it. You say, “Oh God, send us a hog”–well, he wouldn’t do that, “God, send us a cow, God send us a fruit tree.” You want to know that you’ve got more than that next step.
And we say, “Hey, this miracle that there was always one more.” But you don’t know that when you’re making that cake, right? All you know is there’s enough flour and oil for one more piece of bread. But you eat it. You’ve gotta eat, right? You don’t know there’s gonna be another measure of flour and another measure of oil. You don’t know that. There has been now any number of days behind us but it doesn’t mean there’s gonna be any there tomorrow. You have faith. God’s given me this little bit. Not grand palaces and fruit trees and herds of cattle. Just a little bit. But it’s enough to get through that day, and you have faith that there’s gonna be just enough to get through tomorrow. And faith that’s there’s just enough to get you through tomorrow. Until the point that God says, “Okay, enough,” and He fixes it. Or He kills you. One way or another, you’re not going to be hungry after that.
And you say, “Well, that’s a bad ending!” But, you know, God’s with us. And no matter how much we hurt, how lost we feel, God’s with us. And sometimes when we feel hurt and lost and abandoned and alone and powerless and all those things, we think God is not with us because God has not given us exactly what we wanted. Right? We didn’t get exactly what we wanted, therefore God’s not with us.
No. God’s given you enough. And enough grace there to get through the next day. There’s a measure of it. And, you know, we don’t always understand. Elijah probably didn’t think that this story will be recorded and saved and will one day influence people for thousands of years. No, he thought, “I’m hungry. I’m scared. I’m alone.” But God was with him. God took care of him.
And that’s really the story throughout the Bible. When we don’t feel like we can do anything, when we feel helpless, alone, confused, we can sing that song, Donna scheduled it right after this verse earlier, God will take care of me. Every day. Every way. God will take care of me. We need to remind ourselves of that. And it’s easy to say when things are going well, when the money’s coming in and the car runs and everybody’s healthy, “Oh, God has blessed us so much.” It’s hard when the car broke down and everybody’s sick and you’re not real sure how that bill’s gonna get paid to say, “God will take care of me.”