ELIJAH: SENT TO THE WIDOW
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
Text: 1 Kings 17:8-9
1. First Kings 17:8‑16 continues God's testing of the Prophet.
a. He will now be tested at a place called Zarephath –
b. which actually means "a smelting place."
2. But here, another important element is added
a. to the scenario of Elijah's life
b. as it is recorded for us in Scripture.
c. It's the element of personal ministry or outreach to others.
3. The testing and needs of the Prophet
a. became a means of ministry
b. to a poor widow and her son.
4. Let us again stress this point:
a. The events of our lives,
b. even our everyday and seemingly mundane affairs,
c. are not without importance.
5. They are certainly not without God's providential care
a. as the One who works all things
b. after the counsel of His own will (Eph. ).
6. But important to this truth of Scripture
a. is the need of God's people to consider this fact
b. against the varied events of their lives.
c. We must think, trust, and act accordingly.
7. The events of life are tools and agents of the Almighty.
a. He uses these to get our attention,
b. to change our values, character, priorities, pursuits, and above all,
c. to change our sources of trust for security and happiness.
8. But let's never lose sight of the fact
a. that the same events that test us
b. often become the means by which
c. God is able to use us in ministry to others.
9. In other words, our trials often become vehicles for ministry,
a. opportunities to manifest the life of Jesus Christ
b. and the reality and power of God (Read 2 Cor. 4:8‑15).
10. This is precisely what we see in this episode in the life of Elijah.
a. His need became a means of meeting needs
b. in the lives of the widow and her son.
11. Does this not serve to remind us
a. that we are not here for ourselves,
b. even in our pain and need?
12. God cares for us, but not just for us alone.
a. He cares for others too,
b. and often seeks to minister to the people around us
1. through the character changes He is seeking to bring about
2. through our own suffering or need.
13. Christlikeness means that even in our pain
a. we are to think of others and how God may want to use us.
b. This goes totally against the grain of human nature
c. and especially against our self‑centered society.
14. Ours is a society that is focused on what is best for me
a. regardless of what it could mean to others.
b. What's best for my career, my happiness, my security,
c. my significance, my____, my____, my ____!
15. But let us turn now and study this revelation to Elijah...
I. The Revelation to Elijah (Read 1 Kings 17:8‑9)
1. A Word From the LORD‑‑COMMUNICATION (verse 8)
a. The first word we see is the little connective, “and”
b. or in some versions, "then.”
2. It continues the story and points us to what happened next
a. in the sequence of events ‑‑
b. Elijah received a word from the Lord with instruction.
3. But the sequence here is resultant; it points to a consequence.
a. In the context, this revelation to the prophet is undoubtedly
b. the result of two spiritual facts.
4. First, there is the faithfulness of God.
a. The brook had dried up
b. but God had promised to supply Elijah's need.
c. So the Lord comes to Elijah's rescue.
5. Second, Elijah had met the tests of the brook in faith.
a. He waited on the Lord.
b. He had not run ahead, nor run away to do his own thing,
1. nor complained in discontent.
2. So now, God comes to his rescue and gives new instruction.
6. We see in this the principle of Luke 16:10, "He who is faithful in a very little thing
a. is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing
b. is unrighteous also in much."
7. The Point Being: Elijah had been faithful in the matter of dwelling by the brook.
a. Now God was moving him out
b. of this place of solitude and testing
1. into a small, but important ministry
2. (because all ministries are important).
8. From his faithfulness at Zarephath greater things would come.
a. God was building Elijah's faith, his capacity for ministry,
b. and using him to comfort the widow and her son at the same time.
9. The Principle Being: What a person does with a small task
a. is an indication of how he will handle a large one.
b. We may think that the small things are not so important ‑‑
c. that they do not really matter.
10. However, faithfulness in the small things
a. prepares us to handle the larger things when they come.
b. Even the small things of life are tests of one's faith
c. and of who is really in control of one's life.
11. The next words of verse 8 are:
a. "The word of the Lord came to him, saying."
b. Let's note a couple of things:
12. First, Elijah did not move until there was communion with God.
a. He waited until he had direction from the Lord ‑‑
b. He moved at the Word of the Lord.
13. For Elijah, this was direct revelation,
a. but the principle is God leads and directs us through His Word,
b. (which for us is the Bible)
c. and through our communion with Him in Scripture.
14. Of course, the Lord uses other things to give us direction
a. such as open and closed doors,
b. and our own abilities, talents, burdens, and interests.
1. He never leads us, however,
2. contrary to the principles and directives of Scripture.
15. Second, this reminds us just how important it is
a. for us to commune with God in His Word
b. so we can know the Word and use it for every decision we face.
1. We can be sure somewhere in Scripture
2. there will be principles that apply.
16. This is not a series on divine guidance, but let us illustrate:
a. Scripture does not tell us where we should cross the street.
b. But it does tell us to obey the laws of the land
c. and that we are not to tempt the Lord.
17. This means that we should not jay walk in a big city,
a. nor any city where it is against the law
b. and where we are endangering our lives.
1. God does not care where we cross
2. unless we are breaking these two concepts.
18. The Bible does not tell us what kind of automobile to drive.
a. Frankly, we don't think God cares
b. unless we ignore biblical principles of the wise use of our income,
1. or we want to own a certain automobile
2. because it would make us feel important
3. and is an attempt at finding personal significance.
19. Simply stated, we all need to do what is necessary
a. to know and apply the Word.
b. This means spending time in the Word daily,
c. and gathering with other Christians for Bible study and worship.
20. We need to learn new truth, review the old, and then apply it all.
1. Direction From the LORD‑‑INSTRUCTION (verse 9)
"Arise, go to
Zarephath, which belongs to
behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you" (1 Kings 17:9).
2. This verse has three commands, "arise," "go," and "stay."
a. There is also a promise of provision.
b. In each of these there are tests for the prophet.
3. There are tests of faith or trust, of obedience,
a. of availability and commitment;
b. a test of vision for what God was doing in his life,
c. and a test of contentment.
4. The First Command ‑‑"Arise." Of course, before we can move on in the will of God,
a. we must arise, not just physically but spiritually.
b. Following the Lord in obedience
c. is the outcome of spiritual life and spiritual awakening.
(Read Ephesians 5:8-10, 14-16).
5. The Second Command ‑‑ (the natural outcome): "Go to Zarephath."
a. "Go" or “get thee” is the Hebrew word halak
b. which means "to go, walk."
1. In this case, it carries the idea of traveling or journeying,
2. which included hardships and danger.
6. We don't want to make too much of this,
a. but spiritually speaking, to arise is to go.
b. It means to wake up from our apathy and sluggishness
c. and get involved in God's will for our lives.
7. Too often Christians simply sit and soak.
a. Because they are not using what they know in faith,
b. they also eventually begin to sulk, and sour.
8. Rather, God wants us to sit and soak up the Word,
a. but then, by faith to strive for Him in the power of Christ.
b. Paul said, “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his
working, which worketh in me mightily (Col. 1:29).
9. This means our availability to go wherever He wants us.
a. It means our involvement and commitment
b. and all of these are included here.
10. Remember Loved Ones: God's will usually test us in our faith,
a. our vision for what He is doing,
b. our love, availability, values, commitment, and involvement, etc.
11. We are sure when Elijah heard these commands his heart leaped,
a. and perhaps he thought,
"whew, just in time Lord, but that's sure cutting it close!"
b. As this was going through his mind, he then heard, "to Zarephath."
12. Zarephath comes from the Hebrew “tsaraph,”
a. meaning "to smelt, refine, test."
b. The verb is used metaphorically with the sense of
c. "to refine by means of suffering."
13. Zarephath means "a smelting place, a place of testing."
a. God uses various testings to refine us or purge out the dross
b. as in the refining of silver and gold (cf. Malachi 3:2-3).
14. When Elijah heard this name, he probably thought,
a. "Uh oh, here we go again,
b. but the battle is the Lord's and He is in control."
Then he heard, "Which belongs to
a. He probably thought, "Lord,
b. that old prostitute of Baal worship.
1. Lord, this is the center of Baal worship
2. that is now
being promoted in
16. Yes, I know Lord, it's still your battle
a. and you know what you are doing.
b. But this sure seems like strange directions."
17. The Third Command ‑‑ next he heard, “And stay there" -
a. Heb. yashab, "meaning to live, or dwell there.”
b. He might have thought, "This really takes the cake."
18. And, as if these were not enough,
a. he then heard something even more strange
b. that had to be a tremendous challenge
1. to his commitment, trust and vision
2. as a man of God who was seeking to serve the Lord.
1. The Promise ‑‑ Verse 9b, "Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there
to sustain thee” or “to provide for you."
a. Note the very next word, "Behold."
b. This is the Hebrew hinneh, a demonstrative particle
1. used to arrest the attention
2. or to focus the reader's (or hearer's) attention on something important.
2. The Lord was dramatically pointing out
a. Elijah’s reason for being sent to Zarephath.
"I have commanded a widow there to provide for you."
b. Elijah's provision would come by human hands, not by ravens this time,
c. but they were the most unlikely hands he could have imagined.
3. You see, everything about this was a test for Elijah.
a. Please note the following:
b. "I have commanded a widow woman" is an interesting statement.
1. Had the Lord spoken to this Gentile widow?
2. Was she waiting for Elijah to come?
4. The content of the text suggests this was not the case.
a. We don't think she was aware at all of her role in God's plan.
b. Rather, we believe this expresses the divine will of God.
5. It shows that God commands or wills things to take place and they do.
a. He uses the conditions and dispositions of men and women
b. and brings things to pass.
6. Illustration: Let's say you need a job.
a. When you find a job, it will be because God commanded it.
b. Your new employer may not be aware of it
1. unless he or she is a believer,
2. but it will be because God willed it so.
7. The Bible says, "He sits in the heavens, He does what He pleases"
(cf. Isa. 10:5‑6 with vs. 7, and Gen. 50:19‑21).
8. "Provide" or “sustain” is the Hebrew word, kuwl.
a. In Aramaic and Arabic this word means "measure, measure out."
b. The basic meaning is "calculate," or "contain" as does a vessel.
9. For instance in Isaiah 40:12 the prophet writes, "who hath calculated
(or contained) the dust of the earth by a measure?"
a. Mainly this verb is used in a causative stem and means
b. "to cause to contain, supply."
10. It came to be used in the sense of "support, sustain, provide for”
(cf. Ps. 55:22; Gen. 50:21; Neh. 9:21).
11. While the Hebrew word used is different,
a. we are reminded of one of the Names of the Lord,
b. "Jehovah Jireh" or "Yahweh Yireh,"
c. meaning "the Lord will provide" (Gen. 22:8 and 14).
1. It comes from the Hebrew ra`ah, "to see"
2. as the Lord foresees and thus provides.
1. The Lord's Supply ‑‑ PROVISION
2. First, God would provide for Elijah through a woman.
a. While women in
b. than among their Gentile neighbors,
1. this was highly irregular,
2. for it was the man's place to provide for women.
3. Second, this was a Gentile woman,
a. a woman outside the circle of God's own people.
b. In fact, she was from the pagan nation of the Sidonians
1. (or Phoenicians) who, at that time,
2. represented the forces arrayed against God's kingdom.
4. Third, she was a poor, destitute, depressed widow facing starvation.
a. She wasn't exactly the kind of person you would go to for support,
b. but she was the person whom God had chosen to be Elijah's support
c. and the instrument of God's glory.
1. Elijah didn't know her plight as yet,
2. but he would soon find out and his response is remarkable.
5. Let’s Make An Application: Remember what God said through Isaiah (55:8-9):
a. (God's ways are not our ways...his ways are so much higher than ours).
b. We might also remember 1 Corinthians 1:27‑29, "But God has chosen
the foolish things of
the world to shame the wise, and
God has chosen
the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen,
the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no
man should boast before God." (NASB).
6. God uses sources and instruments we would never choose,
a. but in His wisdom He chooses them to accomplish His own purposes
b. and to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we could ask or think (Eph. ).
c. We should not be surprised then with the tools God sometimes uses.
7. What would we choose?
a. We would choose a hero kind of figure,
b. a well‑known athlete, a rich man or a king,
c. but the Lord chose a destitute widow.
8. We would choose someone brilliant, powerful,
a. perhaps someone in the king's palace.
b. But God
chose a woman from Zarephath of the
9. Sure, sometimes God uses the powerful and wealthy
a. as he did with King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2),
b. or Joseph in the latter chapters of Genesis.
10. The question is, what is our response
a. when He chooses to use the poor and the weak in our lives?
b. Do we despise them?
1. Are we disappointed?
2. Or do we thank Him for what He is doing?
11. The sources God chooses to use often test our submission and faith.
a. How could God possibly supply through this destitute woman?
b. The how is not important.
c. God would show that in time.
1. God only wants us to trust Him
2. regardless of how things look to us.
12. You may have heard the story
a. about a dear old lady who truly believed God.
b. One day someone said to her,
1. "Mary, I believe if God told you to jump through the wall,
2. you would jump."
c. She replied, "Yes sir, I would.
1. If God told me to jump, it would be my job to jump
2. and His to make a hole."
13. How can we rest in God's supply in situations like this?
a. We need to remember a simple but profound concept.
b. Who would supply Elijah's need, the woman or the Lord?
1. The Lord, of course!
2. The woman was only an instrument.
14. The Principle Being:
a. Never get your eyes on the instrument or the conditions.
b. Look beyond the instrument to the real source of supply ‑‑ the Lord.
15. Read again the story of Abraham in Genesis 22.
a. He saw beyond the immediate problem to the Lord's supply.
b. Again, The Principle Being:
1. Often God either chooses the despised and the small,
2. or He reduces our resources -
3. all to teach us that He is really the One who supplies.
16. Space and time won’t allow us to speak in detail about Judges Chapter 7
a. and the illustration of Gideon and God's instruction to him.
b. But briefly,
1. the number of men to go up against the Midianites
2. was reduced from 32,000 to 10,000 and finally to 300.
17. The Lord uses His sources of supply to humble us.
a. Doesn't He really know how to take the starch of
b. self‑dependence and pride totally out of our spiritual shirts
c. in order to bring us to a place where we will really trust Him?
18. Here Elijah was receiving aid
a. at the hands of a destitute widow
b. of the
c. How humbling!
1. But also, what an opportunity for the manifestation
2. of God's grace, love, and power.
19. Finally, this teaches us God can use any of us.
a. He can take whatever we have and multiply it many times over
b. just as He did with the meager resources of the widow
c. or as the Savior did when feeding the five thousand.
20. What was Elijah's response in verse 10 of 1 Kings 17?
a. We read, "So he arose and went. . ."
b. No questions, no arguments, no complaints ‑‑ just obedience.
21. Undoubtedly, it was in the joy and expectation
a. of not only what the Lord would do for him,
b. but through him.
1. Elijah realized he would be there
2. not simply to be ministered to, but to minister.
1. Let us ask each of you a few questions?
2. We want you to think deeply on these questions...
a. Are you in a spiritual condition
b. where you can hear God's instructions? (Read Mark 6:30-32.)
1. What are you facing in your life right now
2. that needs God's supply?
3. Are you resting in Him for your needs?
3. Where is your focus?
a. Are you focused on the problem rather than the Lord?
b. Are you seeing the agents of supply in your life as totally inadequate
c. with the result you are questioning what God can do?
4. Does your present condition look impossible?
a. Does it look like there is no way God can meet your needs
b. through what He has brought about into your life?
5. Have you considered that before God meets your need,
a. or that in meeting your need,
b. He wants to use you to meet the need of someone else?