Sermon delivered November 14, 1998

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version

Elijah and The Widow's Oil Well

One day a poor gaunt starving woman gave up. She was weak from a lack of food. Her husband was dead and now her son was too weak to help. Her legs and arms were thin spindles and her face was bleak. There was a great depression and poverty had depleted her provisions. It was time to let hope die. They just had enough food for one scant meal. Then perhaps the gods would be merciful and let them die.

Meanwhile, weary, travel worn, hungry Elijah trudges into town from a long 100 mile walk through the burning sand. God sent him here. He has hope that God has everything organized and finally for the first time in nearly a year he will eat a nice warm meal cooked by human hands. He arrived and realized that God's provision happened to be an undernourished widow with suicidal tendencies.

There must be a mistake here. When he asks for help from his appointed benefactor she tells him that she is at the bottom of the barrel and about to cook her funeral meal. I would have said: "Pardon me Ma'am, but I have obviously confused you with someone else. --Lord: How about a rich widow? How often the situations of life seem just the opposite of where we think God is leading.

How did Elijah get in this predicament? Let's back up and start at the beginning...

Twelve months prior to this time, Elijah, the unknown Tishbite, dropped out of the clouds like a sudden lightening bolt right into Ahab's throne room. This made many Jews later believe that since we have no listing for his father or mother that he was an angel. But James 5:17 settles the argument. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.

He was a man of strong passions.... fiery and zealous... better able to handle the daring godless people of his times. Yet, to God's remnant people he was a balm from Gilead. Like their Savior.

I Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

Then he disappeared. Poof! Prophet Elijah ministered to God's backslidden people from his mountain Gilead retreat. Each trip into town revealed more evil among the chosen people. These apostatized Israelites were almost all praying to Baal the heathen rain god. God told Elijah to appear before wicked King Ahab. The Prophet journeyed seventy-five miles to Samaria. He dropped a foreboding bombshell on the king and quickly ran for his life.

I Kings17:2-7 The word of the LORD came to Elijah: "Leave here, turn eastward and hide by the brook Cherith, a Ravine, east of the Jordan. (a hundred mile trip) You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. The unfailing brook might dry up, but God's unfailing care of His own never slackens.

I kings 17:8,9 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."

Our Heavenly Father's plans don't make much sense sometimes. Why hike for days up through Zebulin to a Pagan land? Jesus tells us the reason: Luke 4: 24-26 "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

The very people Elijah was trying to help hated him. So God sent his leader North to the edge of the great Mediterranean Sea. Elijah thus became the first prophet to the Gentiles. Jesus Himself never went among the Gentiles except one time! He went into the coast of Sidon where Elijah had been - Matthew 15:21.

Remember... Who was Elijah was hiding from? Ahab! But even more from the wicked Jezebel. Do you know where Jezebel lived? Right there in Sidon! - (I Kings 16:21) God hid Elijah under her nosey nose! He Exposed her true feebleness. With God on our side, do we have any enemies?

The earth was parched and laced with great deep cracks. Streams that had never been known to fail began to dry up. Fields resembled burning desert sands. The majestic trees of the forest became gaunt skeletons. The air was suffocating. Dust storms blinded the eyes. Uncontrolled fires burned what was left till the land was totally devastated. Yet Israel continued praying to Baal, their rain god.

God first used unclean flying scavengers to feed Elijah and then an unclean heathen widow woman, from an unclean heathen land to sustain His faithful servant.

God always has ways we cannot imagine wherewith to sustain His people. God did not sent him to a rich merchant there. God makes use of the weak to accomplish His great purposes. Even today, the poor and weak out give and out-work many in God's church.

God is a God of the Widows. He feeds them. He needs them in His plan. Consequently they must ponder what they shall give to Him.

The starving widow needed food for herself and her poor son. She had nothing. She was more in a situation to receive charity than to give it. And then, to make matters worse, starved Elijah unexpectedly dropped by. Now, the widows need was threefold. Elijah surely thought God had everything organized and a cafeteria of tasty food awaited his growling stomach. But God put Elijah on Welfare.

God sent him from Cherith which means Drought to Zarephath which means smelting furnace. From the frying pan into the fire. God turned the temperature up on Elijah. The brook dried up but his faith in God did not dry up. Each of us are tested in the refining fire. Elijah's faith proved true. He believed God's promise to provide a constant endowment.

I Kings 17:10,11 So 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?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread."

He requests a "LITTLE" water and a "PIECE" of bread.

Notice the widow was benevolent as had been her custom over the years. She quickly went to fetch some water for the thirsty traveler.

You know, A gift to God never loses its reward.

Elijah was sort of bold! These Zarapathians were all worshipers of Baal. And yet, God chooses to provide for His prophet in Baal's own backyard.

God's Judgments had afflicted that heathen land as well, and the widow was down to her last meal. I Kings 17:12 "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 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."

Fuel was scarce in that parched oriental land. She gathered squaw wood... small sticks for her last supper. Now Elijah is asking her to deny herself and her only son that she may save a total stranger.

Yet in this undertaking she gives us a snapshot of the character of our Heavenly Father. God gave His only son to save a dying world. We were strangers and alienated from God, yet He sent Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son to die that we might have eternal life. - John 3:16.

Does God require Mothers to put His will before the needs of their own children? Yes He does. You actually place your family first by placing God first. This will unlock the blessings to flow into your life. Go ahead and pay that Tithe. Give that offering. Come to church. Pray. Put God first. He will bless you.

Notice the widow was industrious. She had no servant to gather firewood. In a crisis don't wring your hands, don't sit on them, keep them active. Do what little you can with what you've got. We hear no complaint from her lips about the suffering. She quarreled not with God for the lack of rain.

I Kings 17:13 Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.

Here is a grand truth - Christians must place God's expectations first. Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I Kings 17:14 For 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 gives rain on the land."

Notice the Request is immediately followed by a Promise which is followed by a liberal blessing. God would pay very well for Elijah's room and board. When you do something for God's work, you will be rewarded.

I Kings 17:15,16 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. (I believe she was a believer in the true God. (See Prophets and Kings p.129.)) So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For 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.

Every day she came to the barrel empty-handed and went away with a full supply. The grain and olive oil increased faster in the using than in the growing. They multiplied - not in hoarding - but by spending.

You don't lose in being generous to God's work. She rewarded God's prophet and received a prophet's reward. See Matthew 10:41. Jesus promises that if we open our doors to Him, He will come in to us and sup with us and we will sup with Him . - Rev. 3:20.

Why do Christians question God's provisions. Though you should outlive Methuselah, God's groceries will be adequate. For three long years the sky was barren and the stars never even wept a holy tear of dew, upon that ungodly region. Famine, barrenness and suffering made the territory a wasteland. Nonetheless, this lady lived in joyful abundance. You can never exhaust the limitless resources of heaven. Psalm 37:19 days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

For two full years three people dined on a daily miracle. God reestablished hope and laughter in the widow's home. It was a slap in the face for the Baal believers. That generous widow is alluded to in Hebrews 11:34 35. I think we will meet her in heaven.

Every day Elijah and the widow stuck their heads in that flour barrel and witnessed God's perpetual motion. Every meal they sang the doxology. That barrel was as fruitful as a Kansas wheat field. That flask might as well have been a Texas oil well.

We today, are nothing but empty flour barrels. In the wedding at Cana the most important thing was not the bride or the music or the dress, but the empty water crocks. WE are empty water pots and empty flour barrels. We are nothing until the water of life and the bread of life have filled our inner most being. God loves to fill empty vessels.

Opening Hymn: 223 Crown Him with many crowns 
Scripture:    II Chronicles 7:13-14
Closing Hymn: 517 My Faith looks up to Thee 


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