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The Story of Elijah #8 - A strategy for a time of need 12th Apr 2016

"Some time later the woman's son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. Then she said to Elijah, 'O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?' But Elijah replied, 'Give me your son.' And he took the child's body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?'"
1 Kings 17:17-20

The widow has acted by faith and, as instructed by God, cared for Elijah. Then her son becomes sick and dies. The widow expresses her grief framed within the cultural beliefs of the day, beliefs which remain with equal power today. She thinks that God is punishing her by killing her son because of her sins. Elijah doesn't argue the point but asks for her son and takes the body to the privacy of his own room. Once there we discover that he has no more of a clue about what's going on than the widow! Elijah too believes God has caused the death and says so to God. What we can learn today is that we don't have to get everything sown up doctrinally before we cry out to God for help. We can say things to God as we see them because He knows what we're thinking anyway!

 

 
The Story of Elijah #7 - A "Big ask"! 11th Apr 2016

"But Elijah said to her, 'Don't be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you've said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what's left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!' So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."
1 Kings 17:13-16

Today's reading reveals a big ask for the widow. The facts are these: 1. She doesn't have a single piece of bread in the house. 2. She has only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. 3. She was just gathering a few sticks to cook a last meal, and then she and her son will die. The situation, according to the facts, is grim and now God expects her to feed this man He sends along! But then Elijah gives her the promise of God that she will always have enough flour and oil during the drought and she has a decision to make. Does she believe the facts and accept death through starvation or does she exercise faith, believing that what she cannot see will save her and her son? Faith can overcome facts!

 

 
The Story of Elijah #6 - Instructed but not prepared! 10th Apr 2016

"So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, 'Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?' As she was going to get it, he called to her, 'Bring me a bite of bread, too.' But she said, 'I swear by the Lord your God that I don't have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.'"
1 Kings 17:10-12

As I read what the widow at Zarephath said to Elijah I have the very strong sense that she had had this conversation before! I can just imagine that when God instructed her to feed the man He would send along to her she replied, "But I don't have a single piece of bread in the house!" Her response is similar to others that we read of in the Bible. For example God says to Moses, "'Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.' 'But' Moses protested to God, 'Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?'" (Exodus 3) Moses didn't win the argument any more than the widow at Zarephath or we could! All together, "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

 

 
The Story of Elijah #5 - God goes ahead of us 7th Apr 2016

"But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land. Then the Lord said to Elijah, "Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you."
1 Kings 17:7-9

Yesterday we didn't have space to mention the way God used ravens to supply Elijah with food. I believe that incident (and others in the Bible where animals/fish help God's will be done) help to explain true stories down history where wild animals such as dolphins have helped people, or saved their lives. The question is are we open to hear and obey when God prompts us to help someone? A relevant question given today's reading and that God told Elijah, "Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you." God had in effect gone ahead of His prophet to instruct somebody to care for him, are we ready to play our part when called? Jesus used a particular phrase several times which seems appropriate to remember today, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

 

 
The Story of Elijah #4 - Enter Elijah 6th Apr 2016

"Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, 'As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!' Then the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.' So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook."
1 Kings 17:1-6

At last we meet Elijah and discover he was from Tishbe in Gilead. There's more we could dig out about Elijah but we'll discover that along our journey with him. For now let's keep in our minds what we learnt on Monday this week from James 5:17, that Elijah was, "..as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!" Incidentally James 5:17 is the last reference to Elijah in the Bible and, as you can see, it ties in with today's reading, which is the first Biblical reference to Elijah. Oh the beauty of the harmony of the Scriptures! We also learn today that Elijah was a prophet, speaking on God's behalf. and that he did something which we are all asked to do daily: "Elijah did as the Lord told him..."

 

 
The Story of Elijah #3 - Freedom from curses 5th Apr 2016

"It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the Lord concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun."
1 Kings 16:34

Today we have an incredibly serious subject which blights the lives of thousands but for which there is a remedy available to all. When Jericho was destroyed, Joshua, "invoked this curse:'May the curse of the Lord fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.'" (Joshua 6:26) Our reading shows the moment when this curse took effect. If we believe we are living under a curse Jesus can set us free because as it says in Galatians 3:13, "But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"

 

 
The Story of Elijah #2 - Enter the villain! 4th Apr 2016

"Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa's reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord's sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to follow the sinful example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him."
1 Kings 16:29-33

Elijah's story is like going on safari - we may want to photograph lions but we'll see a lot of other animals along the way before our first lion! We'll meet many people in Elijah's story and our opening introduces us to the villain of the piece, Ahab, king of Israel. Today we have a thumbnail sketch of Ahab which outlines how he provoked God to anger. Fundamentally Ahab led Israel into idolatry and in so doing angered God more than "...the other kings of Israel before him." In an age when it is not politically correct to say that "...Jesus is the only way to God because the Bible says so..." and that the Bible teaches that Jesus died for us so that our sins could be forgiven, it is easy to forget that all other gods are false and worshipping them is an abomination (hatefully repugnant) to God.

 

 
 

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