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The Word of the Lord is Truth

Date: Feb. 1, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Kings 17:1-24

Key Verse: 1 Kings 17:24

“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.’”

In the late 90’s I worked for a company called Panatrol as a process control engineer. This one particular summer I was doing a project in Michigan City Indiana and during the startup phase I had to drive back and forth every day. The car I had at the time was pretty cruddy. And I remember that the starter went out and so each morning Julia would push get our other car and push me down the block. And to get home, in the parking lot, with the driver’s door open I would push the car as fast as I could then hop in and pop the clutch to get it going. So this thing was falling apart. And as I drove back and forth from Chicago to Michigan City I saw this maroon Buick in a parking lot with a for sale sign. I checked it out, test drove it, it looked good so I bought it. It was a night car. About a month later I decided to get an oil change and on the way home the car started to make this horrible knocking sound. And I thought to myself, did the mechanic forget to put the oil pan plug back in the car and now all the oil leaked out? But when I pulled over the oil was full. And it was then that I found out the previous owner had put heavy weight oil in the engine to mask the reason why he was getting rid of it. The engine was shot and it was too expensive to replace, so I got rid of it. At the time I felt so cheated, why can’t people be truthful. And this week, as I remembered this story, I remembered a time when I had this black Chrysler Cordoba, and one day I found the liquid in the cooling system had turned a milky brown color which was a sign of a major engine problem, cracked block, blown gasket, and so I covered it up and sold it to someone else without telling them. And I realize that what goes around, comes around. Who here has ever been cheated before? It’s a terrible feeling isn’t it. Who here has ever cheated before? And now I ask, if we live in a world of cheaters who are being cheated, where is there truth? In today’s passage, we find truth. It’s a beautiful passage with many ups and downs. Let’s get into it.

Let’s take a look at verse 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.” Suddenly out of nowhere the prophet Elijah bursts on the scene and at this point, we don’t have a clue who he is. He’s from a town that scholars can no longer locate with any certainty, but he is going to be remembered for a long time. From history we do know a few things about him, for example his name Elijah means, “The Lord is my God,” which reveals focus of his life. Without question he is one of the most distinctive and diversely talented people in the Bible. He is prophet, preacher, political reformer, and miracle worker all rolled up into one. And at the center of who he is, is one overriding conviction, the Lord our God, is the ruler of all.

Elijah quickly finds out that God has a mission for him, one that will not be easy, to challenge the idol worshipping culture of his society, to reveal that Baal is a fraud and our Lord is the one true living god. So the Lord sends him to Ahab, the king of Israel and in their confrontation he declares a drought. Why choose a drought? This is very strategic, because with this Elijah is attacking Baal worship at its core. Baal worshipers believed that their fertility/storm god who sent the rain, unless, of course, it was the dry season and he needed to be brought back from the dead with sacrifices. To refute this belief Elijah states that the Lord is living, not dead like Baal, and the Lord, not Baal, is the one who determines when the rain falls.

Take a look at verses 2-7. “2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” Here we see how God protected Elijah and warned him to run and hide. The Lord knew how Ahab was going to respond. So he told him, run! [Just like Gandalf in TLOTR – mines of Moria – “Run! You fools.”]

Here’s an interesting question, do you think that just because you obey God, that you’re going to have an easy comfortable life? Not necessarily. I’m not saying that the Lord will abandon us, he will always sustain us, it just may not be in the way we think it should happen. And we see here, when Elijah obeyed God, his situation actually goes from good to bad. He goes from a position of command and authority in the king’s court, to a fugitive on the run. He literally becomes the king’s #1 enemy. He goes from being able to eat at a table and sleep in a bed to sleeping on the ground and eating off of rocks. Imagine being there, alone, uncomfortable, not knowing how long you would have to stay there, no home or many provisions. However it’s often in these difficult times, that we actually grow closer to the Lord as we depend upon him more. God didn’t abandon Elijah, he was with him right there. The Lord provided a brook for Elijah with running fresh water in the time of a drought. And God sent his servants, the ravens [not the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens – QB Joe Flaco] not as food, but to serve him food.

I don’t know much about ravens, except that they are big, black and kind of scary. They’ve got this sinister look about them and they’ve been associated with death and dark omens. Edgar Allan Poe wrote about them, Alfred Hitchcock made a movie about them. I don’t know if they are mean, but you call a flock of ravens, an “unkindness,” so that’s got to tell you something. They work together and have been known to take down animals bigger than them. Ravens were the instrument that God used to provide the blessing, we don’t think about the pipes that supply our water, or take away our sewage, we only think about the blessings they bring. In the same way, the ravens were God’s instruments that he used to carry out his purpose. I heard that ravens are stubborn birds that don’t even like to feed their own young, God used and impossible bird to serve an impossible situation. Ravens were scavengers, eating the meat from dead animals, maybe Elijah might have been worried about that, I don’t know. But again this is God’s wisdom, if Elijah had been fed by people; Ahab could have tracked down his hiding place. But who can follow ravens? In fact, since they hang around dead things, if Ahab saw them flying overhead, why would he go look there, because whatever is over there is dead. The ravens brought him meat and bread (sandwiches). Where did they get already baked bread, and what kind of meat was it? I don’t want to think about that. However, Elijah ate meat two times a day, when back then and even now, there are places in the world where people don’t eat meat every day, let alone two times a day.

Take a look at verses 7-9. “7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” Every day he would go down to the brook and fill his jug, but now the brook dried up. His situation went from bad to worse. Now the water was gone. He couldn’t last long now. This might be the time to complain to God, “Lord, I obeyed you, but why didn’t you keep your promise?” Again the Lord didn’t abandon him, as God closed one door, he opened up another. God turned off the brook, now Elijah has move on. So he went to Zarephath.

What do we know about Zarephath. Zarephath, when translated meant “smelting-shop” it means “a workshop for the refining and smelting of metals.” It was a small Phoenician town, about a mile from the coast, almost midway on the road between Tyre and Sidon. (Fun fact: there is a town called Zarephath in New Jersey) Since Zarephath ‘s main industry was refinery, maybe this had a deeper spiritual meaning, kind of like a spiritual testing ground for Elijah, because Zarephath, was the home town of Ahab’s wife Jezebel. And her father was king. Not only was he an ardent worshiper of Baal, but a high priest who was led by his ambition and betrayed his own brother for the throne. Maybe Elijah thought that he was going from the frying pan into the fire. However God had different plans because Zarephath was the very heart of Baalism and the Lord was going to defeat Baal in his own territory, his home town. Since today is Superbowl Sunday and the fact that the Patriots and Seahawks are playing, shows that team playing on their home field really have an advantage.

Take a look at verses 10 to 14. “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?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”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 olive 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.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 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 sends rain on the land.” If anything men should take care of widowed women, not the other way around. Not only was she a widow, but she was completely broke, poor, and starving. She was preparing for her last meal (I thought she was going to eat the sticks J)

  1. Elijah gave her a promise of provision from the God of Israel
    1. Elijah says, “Go ahead and do what you said” ?? she was planning to die
    2. Elijah challenged her to take care of him first
    3. Most likely she was a Gentile and didn’t believe in Elijah’s god

Take a look at verses 15 & 16. “15 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. 16 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.” God kept his promise to her and she experiences a miracle. Her small jar of oil never became empty, her small bottle of oil never ran dry. Her hope was restored.

Verses 17 & 18 say, “17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 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?

Her son gets sick and dies and she takes her son’s death as a personal attack. She blames Elijah for her son’s death and connects her son’s death to her sins. To me that is a sign of a guilty conscience. She acknowledges that she is a sinner, we usually don’t think of a poor old widow as a sinner but she was.

  1. Elijah cries out to God.
    1. Elijah thinks God has brought tragedy on the widow and others
    2. He still considers God, his god
    3. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry
    4. The boy is restored.
    5. The result the widow acknowledges that Elijah is a man of God because he speaks the truth.

What was the result? Let’s take a look at verse 24. “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.” This miracle helps the widow realize that Elijah is a man who represents, and is sent, by the Lord. And she begins to understand that the same God who provided the flour and oil for her, has also provided life for her son. [apparently never ending bread is not enough – easy to joke about but how often do we miss the Lord working in our life] Baal never claimed direct control over life and death, only indirect control through sending rain for the crops. However, God not only controls the rain, he has power over so much more. In this passage the Lord has command over Elijah, over the ravens, the widow, the weather, the oil, the flour and ultimately, over life itself. Listen to what Jesus said, “17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (Jn 10) This is what Jesus said and that’s what happened. After he was crucified, three days later he rose from the grave. The Lord has power.

I want you to notice the theme that runs through this whole passage, the Lord said it wouldn’t rain unless he commanded it, and it doesn’t until 3 and half years later. Next the Lord said that in a drought Elijah would have water and that ravens would feed him, and it was true. The Lord told Elijah to go to Zarephath and he would find a widow and she would take care of him, and it was true. And the Lord said that their flour and oil would never run out and it was true. And the widow’s conclusion was THE WORD OF THE LORD IS TRUE. This theme is not only throughout this passage, but it permeates the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. In the very first chapter the Lord says, “Let there be light,” and there WAS light. We see that phrase over and over, “the Lord said,” and “it was so.” The Lord said that he would send a Savior, who would come and save us from our sins, and it happened. John chapter 1 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) From all this God wants us to see one thing, the same thing this widow saw, THE WORD OF THE LORD IS TRUE.

We need truth. Imagine living in world where nothing is true, where everything is lies and deceit. Unfortunately we do live in that very world, because Satan is the prince of this world and his native language is lies. (Jn 8:44) And every one of us has lied. [even little Michael back there] Because the Bible tells us that the world has exchanged the truth for a lie. (Ro1:25) Last night Mike reminded me of the musician Billy Joel who wrote the song “Honesty” the first verse starts, “If you search for tenderness, It isn’t hard to find, You can have the love you need to live, But if you look for truthfulness, You might just as well be blind, It always seems to be so hard to give” and the chorus goes like this, “Honesty is such a lonely word, Everyone is so untrue, Honesty is hardly ever heard, And mostly what I need from you” Sounds like he longs for truth doesn’t it. Truth is one thing that we really need. The truth will set us free. (Jn 8:32) And the only place we are guaranteed to find truth is in God’s word. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Jn 1:17) Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17) And to finally come full circle, Jesus said, “…, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) Not only is the word of the Lord truth, it is life giving. Just as our bodies need physical food to survive, our souls need spiritual food and that’s what the word of God is.

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