Read 1 Kings 16:29- 17:16
In the closing years of King Asa of Judah’s reign, Ahab takes over as king in Israel. The year is estimated to be somewhere in the 874-869 BC vicinity. And here’s his introduction: he was a no good, very bad man. Our Bible tells us he committed more sins than any ruler before him (and that’s saying A LOT!). He married a Sidonian princess named Jezebel. Sidon is its own city/state located on the coast of Phoenicia. It is a very wealthy region because of maritime trades and the production of purple dye. Purple dye was reserved for royalty because it was super rare and hard to produce. It comes from the hypo branchial glands of two species of mollusk that lived in that region. (Which, may I ask, how on earth do you figure that out?!?!) When Jezebel married Ahab and moved to Israel, she brought with her Baal worship and Ahab worshipped with her. He even built a temple to Baal and an Asherah pole.
Verse 34 may seem like it’s just thrown in there, but it’s just another example of how far the Israelites have fallen away from God. The reference for this verse is Joshua 6. When God gave Jericho over to the Israelites, the walls fell and they raided it. They took all the bronze, silver, gold, and iron, saved Rahab and her family but killed everyone and everything else. That’s when Joshua put a curse on Jericho. Why did he curse the rubble remains of Jericho? That rubble was devoted to God as a reminder of how He handed Jericho over to them. He promised them a land and He gave it to them, practically on a silver platter. They can’t be reminded of what happened on that site if a town is rebuilt right over it. Joshua 6:26 says “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: ‘At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.’” Fast forward 500ish years to 1 Kings 16:34 and this man named Hiel has decided to rebuild Jericho. It cost him just what the curse said it would. God’s word doesn’t change, even with the passage of time.
Just when we think God should wash His hands of Israel, when we think they can’t get any more corrupt and no good, God send a prophet. Not just any prophet, but a prophet who, according James 5:17, fervently prays. A man willing to live in the wilderness and be fed by ravens. A prophet willing to tell it like it is, a man that, by his own words, is jealous for God. That prophet is Elijah.
There is no introduction for Elijah, no parentage, just that he is from Tishbe in Gilead. Gilead is a mountainous area that spread thru the area of Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh. When we meet him for the first time, he is standing before no good King Ahab. Elijah tells Ahab there will be no rain until he says so. There’s no doubt in my mind that he also had a few other choice words for Ahab, probably along the lines of how he’s turned his back on God and needs to repent. But Elijah made no bones about who he serves and who is bringing the drought. When he finished his message, God told him to get out of town and fast. His message was not well received and he had to go into hiding for a while. Matthew Henry’s opinion is a little different from mine on why he went into hiding. I feel like Elijah was in danger and God was keeping him safe. Henry thinks that God sent Elijah into hiding because God wanted the drought to last 3 ½ years exactly. If Elijah was still in the public eye, people would eventually get desperate and ask for forgiveness and he would pray to God on their behalf and therefore God would shorten the drought and not fulfill their full punishment. Ultimately, the reason he went into hiding doesn’t matter. The lesson here is sometimes God is going to tell us to do some crazy, off the wall things. Our best bet is to say “Yes, sir” and just do it.
Elijah said “Yes, sir” and God directed him on just where to go and how he was going to be cared for. For a second time in our precious Bible, we see food falling from the sky to sustain His people. What I find so incredibly interesting is a raven was considered unclean but that is exactly what God sent to bring Elijah’s food. Don’t ever underestimate God and His ability to use whatever He wants to accomplish His goal. That includes YOU. Do not EVER think you are not good enough for God’s use. He made you and if you are willing, He WILL use you.
Eventually the brook dried up and God told Elijah where to go. Could God have made that brook continue to flow? Absolutely! But it was time for Elijah to move on. Is there a brook in your life that’s dried up but you don’t want to move from it? Do you feel God nudging you in a direction you don’t want to go? Might as well give in and move because that brook ain’t gonna flow anymore and it’s best not get parched while waiting on it.
So, where did God send His prophet? To Sidon, of course. Hometown of Queen Jezebel, his greatest threat. In Luke 4, Jesus tells us there were plenty of widows in Israel but Elijah was sent to a Gentile. A Gentile who lived in a Baal worshipping town, controlled by Baal worshipping royalty.
To whom did God send Elijah to? A fancy government official? A rich merchant? Someone who followed God in secret? Nope, nope and nope. God sent His prophet to a poor widow who was gathering firewood to make one last meal for her and her son.
Let the gravity of this situation sink in for a moment. Her hope was gone; she had resigned herself to the fact that she and her son were going to starve to death. She had no one to help her. We’ve talked about how prosperous Sidon was but no one was willing to help this woman. It’s a safe bet to say most everyone reading this has someone they can depend on or somewhere to go if things get tough. Entertain the thought for a second, what if you didn’t? There was no welfare system back then, no food banks. That is why it’s such a big deal for us Christians to take care of the orphans and widows. Our job on Earth is to tell others about Jesus. How can they listen if their stomach is growling in their ears? Why should they be concerned with their soul when their physical body is freezing because there is no money for the gas bill? We are God’s hand and feet and yes, it’s uncomfortable at times. But Jesus’ time on the cross was way more than uncomfortable. He did that for you, for me, for those in prison, everyone in every homeless shelter, every person sleeping on a park bench or sidewalk. Jesus died for us.
What can we do individually to help our brothers and sister? I don’t have that answer but God does. If you’ve never prayed the prayer “What can I do to help someone that could never pay me back?”, then I challenge you to do it now. Ask God to show you how to ease someone’s burden so they can see HIM more clearly. We can’t save everyone- or anyone for that matter. That’s God’s business. All we can do is point to Him and say “There He is.”
And boy was Elijah about to point her to Him!
Elijah asks for a cup of water and she does not hesitate to get it for him. She recognizes him as an Israelite because when he also asks for some bread, she responds with “As surely as the Lord your God lives…” (emphasis mine). She explains the dire situation she is in and he gives her instructions. Make a cake for him, bring it to him, and then go make more for her and her son. He tells her the oil and flour won’t give out until the Lord sends rain. What faith she had because she did it! She was a Sidonian, yet willing to bet on a stranger and his message from God.
Just like Elijah promised, they had food every day.