How big is your faith?
Do you believe that God can do the impossible?
Or, are there constraints on what you believe God can do?
This is an important question…it’s not just an intellectual exercise.
Because at some point, for all of us, that question gets real.
For example: Can God save your marriage when it feels like it’s in shambles, or is that not possible for Him?
Can God heal you or your family member in their sickness?
Can God take you out of the depths of pain and depression you feel stuck in?
What can God do? And where and when can He do it?
I want us to dive deep into that question today as we continue in our “Life of Elijah” series.
This is a Summer Series that we started last week.
If you missed last week, or it’s your first time here, you can catch up online or on our app.
Elijah The Prophet (whom we’re studying in this series) lived in Israel about 860 years before Jesus.
Last week we learned how King Ahab & Queen Jezebel (who ruled during Elijah’s time) had led the people of Israel away from The One True God to worship false gods instead.
So Elijah confronted them and said there would be no rain in the land for years.
Which was quite ironic since Ahab & Jezebel had led the people to worship a false god named Baal…whose main job was to “bring rain”
After Elijah confronted Ahab & Jezebel, God has Elijah flee to a hidden brook, where God begins to train Elijah for the next season of his life.
We’re going to join the story there
Everybody grab a Bible
This is what we do here.
I’m not just up here giving you my opinions and then tacking on some semi-related Bible verses at the end.
We open up God’s Word together…we study what it says…and try and put our lives under the authority of it.
(1 Kings 17:7-16) – NIV
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.” 10 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.’”
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 CAN PROVIDE…ANYWHERE
All right, this is a passage about provision.
God is going to show us as we go through chapter 17 today, that He can provide anywhere, at anytime.
So, if God can provide ANYWHERE (which is our first point), let’s talk about location here.
We read that God has finally allowed the drought to take its toll on the brook at the Kerith (or cutting) Ravine where Elijah had been hiding out…and there is no more water.
And so God commands Elijah to go at once to a town called Zarephath
Which might just sound like he’s asking him to go to the nearest town.
Like, “Hey, Elijah, I had you getting water over in Coon Creek in Ham Lake, but now I’d like you to go into Blaine and find a certain widow”
But it’s not that at all…
In fact, look at this
(Zarephath Map) - LEAVE UP ALL THE WAY TO POINT “C”
Elijah is over here on the East Side of the Jordan River.
Zarephath is not the nearest town to the brook.
In fact, this is probably a 80-100 mile journey he will have to take.
Walking…in the hot sun…in a drought… (sounds like MN)
And we don’t know this yet, but we’ll see this in the next chapter, Elijah is the most wanted man in all of Israel at this point.
And now God wants him to dangerously journey across much of Israel to get to Zarephath
More interesting yet, the orangeish-tan color on this map is Israel, so you see that God actually sends Elijah OUT of Israel by sending him to Zarephath
Zarephath is actually in modern-day Lebanon
But God asking Him to go to Zarephath is even crazier than dangerously walking 80 miles across Israel.
Do you see the town right above Zarephath?
That’s the name of that major town (it still has that name today), but Sidon was also the name of the region that Zarephath was in.
And do you remember what we learned about the evil Queen Jezebel last week?
Before she married King Ahab of Israel, she was the princess of…SIDON.
So God sends Elijah (80 miles away) to Jezebel’s old stomping grounds…the home region of this imposter and false god Baal.
And God is going to prove that He provide absolutely ANYWHERE
Think about this: When God told Elijah at the brook, “Okay, pack up your stuff, I’m going to send you somewhere else to get fed”
Elijah is probably thinking, “Okay, like, maybe down to Jerusalem or something? Maybe there’s some rich guy there that can provide for me?”
God sends him to a total outsider.
She’s like 99th on the list of 99 people Elijah might guess God would send him to
It’s a woman (in a time when men had all the power)
She’s poor, not rich
She’s hungry…getting ready to die…
She’s a widow, not married
And she doesn’t even know the true God, as she lives in a place where they bow down to the idol of Baal
Notice in verse 12, when talking to Elijah, she called “The Lord,” ‘YOUR God” (not hers)
Meanwhile God is thinking, “This isn’t a problem for me. I’m teaching Elijah, and showing YOU ALL TODAY, that I can provide for you anywhere. Absolutely ANYWHERE!”
“You only have a handful of flour and a drop of oil? No problem”
There is not a scenario in which it’s too hard for God to come through.
God is with Elijah in the drought…
I think of Psalm 23
(psalm 23:4-5a) – NIV
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
Speaking of that Psalm, I just finished a really good book called “Evidence Not Seen”
(Evidence Not Seen Image)
It’s the incredible, true story of a female missionary in Indonesia who gets put in a Prisoner of War camp during WWII
And there’s a part of the book where they have her locked up in a horrible camp, and her body is just wasting away
And then one day, outside her window, she sees someone sneak in a banana to a woman who was (unlike this missionary) allowed to go out into the courtyard of the prison
At that point in the story, they never let the missionary out of her cell, and had only been giving her a tiny, miniscule portion of rice each day
And yet she prayed, “Lord, could I have just one banana. Just one. I need you.”
But right after she prayed, she felt foolish because it was seriously impossible for someone to get a banana to her
Then, a few days later, a Japanese officer stops by her camp…an officer that she had bravely, months earlier, shared about Jesus with.
And this officer, stopped to see her while he was passing through, and he brought her, not 1, but 92 bananas
And when he does, she cries out her praise to God, and she quotes that verse from Psalm 23 that we just read, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
God can provide ANYWHERE
In a prison camp…in the town of Baal…anywhere.
And God loves to do stuff like that.
And so my friend, if you’re in a place where you feel like God couldn’t possibly move, I assure you that those are some of His favorite places TO move.
Cry out in faith this week again.
Say, “Lord, I feel like I have about one drop of oil left…I got nothing here…but you can do anything!”
“Lord, fix my marriage again!”
“Help my son come to faith in you!”
“Get me out of this addiction and into recovery!”
I’m asking you to believe again in a God that can do anything.
GOD CAN PROVIDE…ANYTIME
He is a God that can provide anywhere…and also anytime (our second point…and leading us to the second part of the passage)
(1 Kings 17:17-24) – NIV
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?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 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!”
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 woman experiences the worst of pain.
She has to watch as her own child dies.
Her hopes in The one True God had been rising, but she feels the hope sucked right out of her
And maybe you’re there right now.
Your hope for what you thought could happen in your life is…dead.
It feels like it’s over.
And yet Elijah asks God to do the impossible.
Keep in mind here that this is actually the first account in the entire Bible of anyone being raised from the dead.
Elijah doesn’t say, “God, do what you’re famous for! Do what you did through Moses back in the day, or through Abraham and raise him from the dead!”
No, this has never happened before to our knowledge.
This prayer would have felt beyond impossible to Elijah and the widow…
And still, Elijah prays to the God who can do anything, anywhere, or anytime.
Even when it looks like hope is dead.
That is the task of the Christian, to have radical faith.
If we don’t believe that our God can do anything, than who do we even believe in?
AND EVEN IF HE DOESN’T…GOD PROVIDES
Now, some of you are going, “This doesn’t feel fully right to me…isn’t there another side of the coin?”
And you’re right. There is.
The Christian faith is deep, nuanced, complex.
Much like this widow’s own experience of God
I mean think about this.
JUST when she starts to believe in the The Lord after He miraculously provides food for her…then this happens. Her son dies!
Are you kidding me?
Friends, life is not clear cut and predictable.
Life is often like this.
I think of Abraham in the book of Genesis who has to go on a long journey to get to the promised land.
He finally gets to the Promised Land, sees its beauty, but then there’s a famine in the land, and he has to go to Egypt.
There’s a famine in the Promised Land.
And sometimes life feels like that.
But that’s in part because we don’t know the ways of God.
His ways are higher than our ways.
God was in control when the widow miraculously got food, and also when her son died.
We have to be willing to let go of telling God that we know what’s best.
Timothy Keller, one of the great Christian thinkers of our time, puts it this way:
“If you are not willing to have a God who can tell you to do things you don’t like…if you’re not willing to have a God who can contradict you…if you’re not willing to have an untamed God…if you’re not willing to have a God who is uncontrollable, then you’ll never have a real God. You’ll never have a living God. When you have concocted a god in your mind, that god is as dead as if you’d carved it.” – Timothy Keller
And so how do we reconcile these two things we’ve been talking about?
The idea that we should believe God can provide in any and every situation with the fact that His will is often not that of our own?
Well, I think one of the great places in Scripture we can look (to reconcile those 2 things) is Daniel chapter 3
Where King Nebuchadnezzar is about to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to his golden idol.
And right before they’re thrown in, they say:
(Daniel 3:17-18) – NIV
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
That is to be the faith of the Christian!
That even as they are about to throw you in the fire, you would say, “I absolutely believe God can rescue me, and will pray like He will!”
“But even if He does not….”
He is still Good and Right, and I will follow Him
AND, besides, He has already given me, in salvation, in enteral life, in Himself, far more than I even deserve.
And my friend, what God did for this boy in our passage, He can do in your life.
At your death…because we’re all going to die someday…whether we want to think about it or not…
God can raise you back to life…to eternal life with Him in heaven!
That’s the biggest question of life…the most important one.
What will happen when you die?
For all of our modern-day therapy, and stress relievers, and smart-watches that tell you when to do your relaxation-breathing…
Humans can’t seem to get rid of the fear of one thing…death.
But Jesus came to conquer death
And He conquered death firstly Himself.
He was killed on a cross, and 3 days later, He rose again…proving that He did what His father in Heaven wanted Him to do.
Which was to die in your place for your sins.
I think we know, instinctively, that our sins deserve some sort of justice.
Even the widow in this passage conjectures, “Is my son dying because of my sins?”
No…but our sins, our bad choices, deserve God’s just punishment.
But God in his love for you, allows that punishment to go on His Son Jesus.
So that you can be saved.
And if you would put your faith in Him and turn your life over to Him, God can save you.
But you have to offer your life up to Him.
Just as when Elijah said to the woman, “Give me your son…”
“the dead body you’re clutching in your arms”
“give him over to me. Turn Him over to God. Trust in faith”
We must do the same.
To take our life…acknowledge that if we don’t give it to God…it’s dead…and it will lead to eternal death and separation from Him.
We have to turn it over to Him, trusting He can bring it to life…right here and now…and to eternal life when we die.
And my friends, God can do just that!
In fact, I want to give some of you the opportunity to turn your life over to God today.
Let’s just have everyone bow their head and close their eyes.
If you’ve never done this before, and you want to believe and Jesus and turn your life over to Him
I urge you to respond.
If that’s you, as a way to mark this day, and tell Him that you believe, I want you to stand up where you are right now.
Everyone has their eyes closed, so don’t think about that.
If you need to tell Jesus that you believe, and you need His forgiveness…
If you’re ready to surrender to Him…
Stand up right now.
For those of you standing, we want to pray with you.
Repeat this out loud after me…whether you’re a brand-new believer or have been one for quite some time.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
(NEXT STEPS ON THE NEXT PAGE)
As everyone still has their eyes closed, for those of you standing up, you just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do to get you that…as everyone has their eyes closed, I want you, in just a second, to walk back out to the lobby where it will be quiet.
You won’t walk out there alone.
There are others standing with you, and our follow-up team is going to walk out at the same time with you
And I, and our follow-up team are going to get you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
If you’re part of this church, and your friend or family member is standing up right now, PLEASE come out there with them.
All right, you can all go now.
As they’re walking, I’m going to thank God in prayer.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
JUNE 13, 2021