ELIJAH – 3: Ready For A New Assignment

By Cal

God’s will is not static; it is progressive. Learning God’s will is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process.

No one can predict what God is going to ask us to do and where he will ask us to go. We may have a general idea of his directions but each new day requires fresh confirmation and guidance.

Some people settle into one community and that is their place for life. Not everyone fits into that mold. The will of God for Abraham in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament meant they were constantly on the move.

As I look back on my life and ministry, it is filled with constant change, sometimes unexpected turns in the road, and it has put me in a wide variety of locations. God’s will has taken me from a small town in Ontario to Hong Kong to Syracuse, New York and then to Kenya, East Africa. And then there were pastoral positions in three cities in Canada and then to Brightmoor Christian Church in Michigan. Then back into missions with OneHope, a ministry to children and youth in more than 100 countries.

Elijah was a man who heard God’s voice, obeyed and then waited for the next set of directions. He never knew what a day would bring. What can we learn from him?

1. STAY STEADY WHEN YOUR BROOK DRIES UP

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:7)

- Elijah stayed in the ravine, but as the famine worsened throughout the land, the water in the brook lessened until there was just a trickle
- Eventually, the trickle was gone
- We can only imagine what was going through Elijah’s mind
- Perhaps he was beginning to wonder if the directions God had given him were still valid
- Perhaps he was starting to question the ability of God to provide water
- Possibly he started to doubt whether God was still the God of the miraculous
- The ravens were still coming, but he needed water and the brook was dry

- now many people have gone through this kind of situation and can identify with Elijah
- you feel you are in the place where God wants you to be
- you believe you are doing God’s will
- you look back and see God’s faithfulness and the way he has provided in the past
- but recently the water in your brook has dwindled to a trickle and if the truth were known, the brook is dry
- the river bottom is parched and filled with nothing but dust
- and, like Elijah, you have questions
- you start wondering if somewhere along the way you missed the plan of God
- you wonder if you have done something wrong and God is now punishing you

- when the brook dried up, Elijah’s faith was tested
- the rubber was hitting the road
- it was easy to have faith when the ravens came each day and there was water in the brook
- but real faith stays steady when there is no water in the brook
- you don’t know how great your faith is until you come against an impossible situation
- Elijah was learning some valuable lessons as his faith was tested

i. Elijah was learning to identify with the people
- the rest of the nation was suffering from the consequences of the drought, but Elijah had escaped this
- perhaps he had become unaware of or insensitive to the heartache of the people
- sadly, it’s quite easy for some preachers today to live comfortably while their people suffer from the shaky economy
- when your own brook dries up, it allows you to be aware of what others are experiencing

ii. Elijah was learning to stay alert to God’s voice
- need keeps you close to God
- when you get too comfortable, you tend to become complacent
- need, problems, heartache, pressure – all drive you to your knees
- difficult situations can bring you closer to God
- need also makes you willing to change
- God was using the lack of water in the brook to prepare him for his next move

iii. Elijah had his eyes opened to the vastness of God’s resources
- Elijah was about to learn that ravens aren’t the only way God feeds his people during a drought
- Perhaps down at the brook Elijah would have been tempted to write a book on how ravens feed God’s people beside the brook
- But before he could begin writing, the brook dried up
- Elijah was learning a valuable lesson: God has infinite resources at his disposal
- God has a variety of ways of providing for us

- don’t give up when your brook goes dry; stay steady
- God wants to give you a new diet and God wants you to move on to your next place of ministry

- what did Elijah do?
- “and he stayed there.”
- When you see your brook drying up, stay where God has put you until you get further directions from the Lord
- God has the only plan you need; don’t be tempted to make you own plans

2. LISTEN FOR FRESH DIRECTIONS FROM THE LORD

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.” (1 Kings 17:8-9)

- God’s instructions will always come on time
- His guidance is progressive
- When God sent Elijah to the ravine, he didn’t tell him he would go to Zarephath; that would come later
- But what Elijah heard in the ravine must have sounded strange indeed
- It must have caused him to question whether he was hearing correctly
- From the tranquility of the ravine, Elijah was to go to Zarephath of Sidon
- From being fed by ravens, he was sent to be fed by a pagan widow
- Zarephath was in Phoenicia, the area where Queen Jezebel came from
- It was a region filled with the vilest forms of pagan religion
- There were child sacrifices and gross immorality
- but this was Elijah’s next classroom and place of ministry
- ministry is a constant learning experience
- I have discovered that wherever I have ministered, I have always learned more than I taught
- what would Elijah learn in Zarephath?

i. Elijah was to see the dreadful consequences of sin
- Sidon was on the sea coast near Lebanon
- Elijah saw what happened to people who rejected God’s law and God’s holiness
- He saw that that the wages of sin were paid in the currency of death

ii. Elijah was to learn that God’s purposes are not confined to Israel
- in his encounter with the widow and her son, Elijah learned that God’s purposes included non-Jews
- this was a missionary journey
- this was cross-cultural ministry
- Elijah was reaching out to a pagan family of Arabs

iii. Elijah was to learn that if he would serve others, he must be dependent on them
- often, a self-sufficient attitude, blocks other people from helping us
- dependency is often a good thing
- a self-sufficient attitude removes the very avenue through which we could serve others
- it feeds our egos to say, “We have everything we need,” but sometimes we have to swallow our pride and let someone else help us

iv. Elijah was learning that the poor, as well as the rich, could supply his needs
- I have learned this in ministry
- It isn’t the rich who carry the freight in the church; it is ordinary people
- God has widows like this woman in Zarephath to meet your needs
- God delights in surprising us with a variety of people and means to provide for us

v. Elijah was learning that for continuing supply, there had to be continuing obedience
- the Lord said, “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there…”
- if Elijah had stayed in the ravine, he would have starved and died
- if Elijah only made a quick visit to Zarephath, his needs would not have been met, he had to stay there
- for God’s supply to continue, there has to be continual obedience
- don’t leave the ravine till God tells you to leave, but when God speaks, obey him at once
- God’s provision is tied to your obedience

3. BE PREPARED FOR SOME PRESSURE AND HEAT

“So he went to Zarephath.” (1 Kings 17:10).
- Elijah made the 100 mile journey to Zarephath
- he went through the countryside where he was hated and despised
- he entered Jezebel’s home territory
- Zarephath is an interesting place
- Zarephath means “smelting furnace”
- Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy
- its main use is to produce a metal from its ore
- for example, smelting is the process of extracting iron from the raw ore for the production of steel

- a smelting furnace is a place of intense heat
- It was a place where a refining process took place
- It was where impurities were removed
- It was a place where imperfections were dealt with

- Zarephath was a smelting furnace
- God had some work to do in Elijah
- it takes heat and pressure to refine the silver or the gold or any precious metal

- the same is true in our lives
- it takes a smelting furnace to build character
- the only way to develop Christ-likeness is to go through the smelting furnace
- the heat and the pressure of the smelting furnace is what God uses to produce purity and perfection in our lives
- Elijah had to go through the smelting furnace before he could climb the mountain and call fire down from heaven

4. ACCEPT HELP FROM UNEXPECTED SOURCES

- As Elijah entered Zarephath, a widow was gathering sticks of firewood
- Elijah had never met this woman before
- Elijah realized that she was the widow God would use to meet his needs
- Elijah called out to this widow to bring him some water
- And then as she was going, he added, “And bring me please a piece of bread…”
- This brought out the tragic story
- She was worse off than Elijah
- She was down to her last handful of flour and had only a little oil

- Notice her words: “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.” (1 Kings 17:12).
- she was in a desperate situation
- death was next for her and her son
- she was hopeless
- she knew nothing of God’s promise and God’s provision
- she was certainly an unlikely source for God to use to provide for Elijah

- Elijah could have doubted or been depressed, but notice what he said:
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. 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.’” (1 Kings 17: 13-14).

- it’s a reminder that the smallest amount in the hands of God is always sufficient
- notice the nerve of Elijah
- he said, feed me first
- it sounds insensitive, callous and selfish
- she was down to her last meal
- she was prepared to die

- but Elijah added a promise
- look after me first and God will look after you
- you will never be without food
- no new barrel of flour was promised, only that what was there would last
- not even the promise of a full barrel
- we would have liked a stockpile of grain in advance

- there is a lesson for us here
- put God first and God will look after everything else; if you give God what is left over, you will never have enough

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. 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. (1 Kings 17:15-16).
- there’s no hint of a variation in the diet, but there was enough

5. RESPOND TO CRISES WITH SERIOUS PRAYER

i. The boy died and the widow struggled with grief
- we can only imagine the grief and sorrow of this widow
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18)
- the widow believed there was some connection between her past sinful life and the death of her son

- one of the common responses to grief is to blame others
- she blamed Elijah for the death of her son
- she was asking, “What have I done to deserve this?”
- Elijah calmly handled the outburst of this woman
- he did not answer her question directly which is always wise in dealing with grieving people

ii. Elijah prayed
- his prayer was…
o private – in the upper room
o fervent – he cried
o intense – he laid on the boy
o persistent – three times
- the Lord heard Elijah’s prayer

iii. The boy was raised to life
Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” (1 Kings 17:23).
- There is no record of anyone being raised from the dead prior to this

iv. The widow came to a place of personal faith
Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” (1 Kings 17:24).
- we don’t know if Elijah accomplished anything in ministry in Zarephath up to this point
- Elijah had been fed and the widow had lived
- But there had been no spiritual witness in this pagan area
- Everything that had happened had been leading up to this point
- the miraculous provision of food had a purpose
- the death of the son had been for a purpose
- it was to bring to this woman an awareness of her sin and an awareness of her need of God
- it was to bring this woman to a point of acknowledging Jehovah God
- all the miracles were intended to reveal the compassion of Jehovah God

- God wants to change you in the smelting furnace.
- God wants to use you to touch someone while you are in your smelting furnace.

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