Kings Lesson 14 - The Last Supper
When you think of people in the Bible who walked by faith, who comes to your mind? Perhaps Abraham, who was told to sacrifice his son on an altar; or Moses, who was asked to lead an entire nation through a wilderness; or the disciples, who left everything they knew to follow Christ? While there are many stories of faith in Scripture, one that too often goes unnoticed is the story of the widowed mother in 1 Kings 17. Her testimony of faith is one you don't want to miss.
“THE LAST SUPPER”
(I Kings 17:8-16)
There are people today who are afraid of taking risks - we all are in some way or another!
An article from the Saturday Evening Post caused me to re-consider some things:
Many people are afraid to fly, but did you know that statistically, a person is more likely to be kicked to death by a donkey than to die in a plane crash. Course you could say, “I’m not going to fly, and I’ll stay away from donkeys!” That’s not the point - smart alec.
Fear of being murdered is extremely high, yet a person is 8 times more likely to die while playing their favorite sport than being murdered.
The truth is, everyone of us take daily risks!
- Drinking water from your tap puts you at risk;
- Eating out puts you at risk
- Taking a drive in your car is a ten times greater threat to your health than having surgery - yet we will worry over surgery and think nothing of driving a car.
- Depositing your money in a savings account is a risk;
- Purchasing a home is a risk; buying that used automobile or a new one even is taking a chance.
- Sitting here under this roof means banking on someone’s carpentry skills you never met before and assuming it will all hold up.
Forget I said that!
Have you ever considered the fact that walking is a series of falling and catching - each step banking on the fact that as one leg pushes you beyond the point of balance - your other leg will catch your fall.
Seen from a certain perspective, life is nothing more than a series of risks.
There is no way you and I can prepare for them all!
Perhaps you heard the story about the knight who had to go on a long journey. He tried to anticipate all the problems. He wore his sword and full coat of armor in case he met someone unfriendly; he brought along an ax for chopping firewood, a tent, blankets, pots and pans, and oats for his horse in case there was no grass along the way; he even packed a large jar of ointment in case he got poison ivy. Then he rode out of the castle and across the bridge that spanned the moat -- clanking, gurgling, thudding and clanging. He was a moving junk pile. When he was halfway across, the boards gave way, and he and his horse fell into the river and he drowned.
Now you can apply that two ways:
He should have been wearing a life preserver.
Or, it’s impossible to play life safe.
Our discussion this morning is about obeying God even when it risks everything.
It is about the desperate need for the church today to understand that we are not called to predictability - to have every angle figured out - and every possible problem anticipated and covered - on no!
There are times in our Christian experience when we are called to risk - to obey God even when we have nothing figured out.
The great commission is a call to be light on our feet - to be expendable - to be available to go wherever we’re sent, whenever He chooses.
God will illustrate that truth through the lives of two individuals. A leathery well worn prophet named Elijah and a worn out widow who went unnamed.
I invite your attention back to to the brook - I Kings 17.
For a year and a half Elijah’s hidden beside the brook Kerith; in a matter of days he’ll meet a widow where he’ll stay the remainder of this 3 1/1 years drought.
What we’ve already discovered is that risk taking is the terminology of human beings - with God, nothing is a gamble - it’s a guarantee.
And we discovered God’s guarantee for Elijah was food provided miraculously; it was air mailed in every morning and evening by divinely appointed Ravens.
And water flowed in Elijah’s private brook.
It was there that Elijah learned how to play God’s version of Hide and Seek.
And that place of hiding became a place of holiness; that place of loneliness became a place of learning.
But then, as we discovered in verse 7, the shocking new developments. And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
NOW - that place of isolation becomes a place of desolation.
Now we know from Elijah’s pronouncement to King Ahab, the rain stopped because of Elijah’s answered prayer - and the rain will begin again at the prayer of Elijah.
So you’re Elijah! The brook has finally trickled away over the past year and 1/2, and the moist river bed is now hard baked by the hot sun . . . seems to me this is a perfect time to pray for rain.
Hey, I guess God’s lesson for the Israelites is over - surely He wouldn’t want me to suffer - I’m the one in the center of His will!
Elijah doesn’t pray for rain . . . now follow this - it isn’t until the brook is completely dried up that God speaks to Elijah in verse 8. You could circle the word, “Then” the word of the Lord came to him... “Then . . . when!?” After the brook was completely dry!
Talk about waiting until the midnight hour - surely Elijah is wondering, “What’s next!?”
The greater question to you and me is this - “Knowing you have the right to reverse the severe conditions by one simple prayer - how long would it take you before you prayed for rain.”
I have good news for you, lest you think a lack of an answer is a disqualification - God will not test you above that which you are able handle, but will with the testing, make a way of escape that you may be able to endure it.
Every one of our clocks are different in here - and the wonderful news is, God knows how each one of us tick.
I want to be like Elijah - he didn’t need a new directive from God until the brook ran completely dry.
Now notice verse 9. God is speaking to Elijah “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there;
Now wait a minute! Let’s make a couple of observations.
First - God is commanding Elijah to risk his safety and leave his secret place.
Zarephath was a suburb of Sidon in ancient Phoenicia - it is modern Lebanon.
If you look back up in chapter 16:31 you discover the King of the Sidonians, who’s capital was Sidon - was who?! EthBaal - and EthBaal was Jezebel’s father.
God is telling Elijah to leave his hiding place and move to Jezebel’s hometown.
Furthermore, Zarephath derived it’s name from it’s primary industry. It was in Zaraphath where huge furnaces had been built for the smelting of metals. Zeraphath literally meant “smelting” - the Phoenician word “Zaraphath” is translated to mean, “a workshop for the melting and refining of metals.”
You see, Zarephath was the primary producer of the molten images to Baal and his mistresses.
We know from other resources that the prophets of Baal wore about their necks golden medallions, designed in such a way to reflect the light of the sun - which was the primary form of their god, Baal. There is little doubt that these medals were fashioned primarily in Zarephath.
What Detroit is to the automobile, Zarephath was to Baalism.
Now, after 2 years of drought these flashy medallions are probably being sold at half-price - and all the other idols were probably going at bargain basement deals - zero percent interest - no payments until May.
But think of the irony and danger - - Elijah is to move his hiding place from a solitary brook to the home of a widow who lives in the midst of his enemies. This is going from the frying pan into the fire!
Now you can intrepret this two different ways:
1) From Elijah’s point of view he was risking his safety by moving into the heart of Baal’s headquarters.
“Elijah, you see that lion over there.” Yes Lord. “Well, the next time he yawns I want you to stick your head in his mouth.”
2) From God’s perspective - Elijah, I am going to reveal the powerlessness of Baal and his servant Jezebel by protecting you while you live in her home town surrounded by the mass production of images dedicated to a dead god.
The second primary observation I want to make is this:
2) God is commanding Elijah to reverse his natural inclination and seek assistance!
Elijah is about to be helped by a widow.
Instead of Elijah going and providing for a widow - he is told to go and be provided for by a desititue widow.
As I try to read between the lines and create a caricature of Elijah - I think he would remind me something of my wife’s grandfather. He was big, rough, proud and hardened by physical labor during the days when everything was done by hand - and his hands were thick with calluses - he was raised in a generation of people that cleared their land and built their own homes. Nothing was too rough to handle; nothing was too hard to tackle. That same man would give you the shirt off his back if you needed I . . . just say the word and he’d be there.
Three words that never crossed his minds were, “I need help!”
That’s Elijah. The last thing in the world that I can imagine Elijah doing is asking for help - he’s no panhandler - I think Elijah wold have rather died of thirst by the brook than ask an impoverished widow for help.
But Elijah is being refashioned - remember the model of the Messiah - who had come to give the gift of salvation, yet in Luke 8 we read that certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities ministered unto Him of their substance.
Sometimes it is a greater man or woman who can receive rather than give.
But, for Elijah, it only gets worse!
Now in addition to the fact that she’s a widow is the fact that she’s a foreigner.
Elijah, the Israelite prophet of God, sent to challenge the people of God - could have been sent to an Israelite widow! But he’s sent to an outsider - a pagan widow - why?!
Well, for that question of “Why”, I actually have an answer - it’s found in the N.T. book of
Luke 4:24. TURN THERE
Luke 4:24. And He (Jesus) said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. 25. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26. and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.”
The bottom line was, as God surveyed the scene, the widows were among the cheif dislikers of Elijah. Frankly, the widow would be the first to run out of food - she was dependant in the Israelite economy upon the mercy of her neighbors and family. . .as their food began to run out - the first thing they would do is stop giving to those in need.
So if Elijah had shown up in an Israelite village, the first person to throw a rock at Elijah would have been the widows.
Now back in I Kings where Elijah immediately obeys God and leaves Kerith.
I Kings 17:10. So he arose and went to Zarephath, (spells out for us that Elijah was willing to risk - he obediently walked into the jaws of the lion mouth.) and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11. And as she was going to get it, he called to her and sia,d “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12. But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
Can you imagine? “Lord - you said there was going to be a widow who would provide for me?”
If I were Elijah I’d pull out my Rand-McNally Road map and make sure I had taken the right exit - there’s something’s wrong with this picture.
No - he was smack in the middle of God’s plan! He was in God’s will.
By the way - how do you determine God’s leading in your life - some major decision and you’re really praying about it! How do you know you’re following Him?
I’ll tell you how we determine it - when everything works out beautifully - that’s when we know we’re following Him.
I’ve never had one person say to me, “Pastor, I knew it was God’s will for my family and I to move to Cary, because . . . well, the company agreed to move us, then at the last minute said we had to pay for the move - then our car broke down on the way here, and the house we closed on burned to the ground the next day! Is this God’s will or what! I’d probably look at them - “Uh, glad you’re here.
Would you notice that Elijah’s confidence was not in circumstances - let’s read it again - v. 9. “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to (bury you. . .that what He said?) provide for you.
Elijah had impossible odds - widows don’t have food during famine - a Phoenician widow is more likely to hit him with the skillet than fry bread for him - ELIJAH HAD ONE THING! The word of God!
With the word, Elijah could take a chance - he would risk everything!
READ MOTORCYCLE STORY
But the application may be, Mom and Dad - you need to let your baby girl go the mission field where its risky - Husband and Wife - you need to let God have your spouse for service even though it will uproot your life.
Someone who is expendable for God learns somewhere along the line, not to put down roots in anything but the will of God.
My friend, the will of God is not hard to find - if you want to obey it. The only people in the family of God who miss the will of God are those who have no use for it - people who prefer lawn mowers to motorcycles.
With the word in his heart and the wind in his camel hair cloak - Elijah rides through the gates of Zarephath - at risk! Humanly yes - divinely, he’s as safe as he ever was.
Now you notice that Elijah first asks her for water - in verse 11 we read that she immediately goes to get him some - Elijah must have been very thirsty! While she’s going he asks for a piece of bread - to which she responds, v. 12. As the Lord, your God lives, I have not bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my sons, that we may eat it and die.”
Something struck me as I read her opening words to Elijah - do you notice how she refers to God? She’s tipping her heart of faith - here in the showcase of idolatry, a woman dares to say that Yahweh, the God of this strange prophet, is alive!
Did you notice she says the same thing to Elijah and Elijah said to Ahab and Jezebel in verse 1. “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives.”
Something’s been going on in this Sidonian suburb. . .a widow’s heart had been preparing for the one man on planet earth who could tell her about that living God.
And why shouldn’t she doubt the authenticity of Baal!
For your information, Baal was supposedly the son of Dagon - dagon is the Canaanite word for corn. He was also worshipped as the god who supplied oil.
Aurthur Pink develops an interesting thought as well as he reminds his readers that in the division of Canaan the district of Sidon went to the Israelite tribe of Asher. In Deut. 33, when Moses is blessing the 12 tribes he says, “Let Asher be blessed with children and let him dip his foot in oil. This indicated the fertility of that district and the character of its principle product - olive oil.
Listen to this ancient Phoenician poem, uncovered by careful archaeologists:
The heavens rain oil, the rivers run with honey;
So I know that the might one, Baal, lives;
Lo, the Prince, Lord of Earth exists.
In other words, Zarephath - the fertile region of corn and oil is running out - Baal is not keeping his side of the bargain!
And as far as this widow was concerned - she would bake two biscuits, she and her little boy would eat them and wait to die.
Now notice Elijah’s request - v.13. Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son.”
Can you imagine!?! What a difficult command to obey from this man of God.
To make him a cake “first?” Doesn’t that seem selfish and unkind - here’s a destitute widow and her malnutritioned son - she’s been rationing her meal carefully - she’s got just enough for one last supper!
To make Elijah one first is to leave less for her son and her - if hardly any.
What a hard command this man of Yahweh makes. Maybe she’s heard that Yahweh commands you to love your neighbor as yourself - yea but that doesn’t mean you’re to feed him first! What a gamble! What a risk!
Not really. Not if you know what Elijah knows . . .
I read about a fella in New York city who didn’t like cats - an insightful fella - his wife left to visit friends for a few days - this was his big chance - so he put the cat in a sack, weighted it down with rocks and tossed it into the Hudson river. When his wife returned she couldn’t find the cat - she was upset so the husband told her he would be willing to put an ad in the paper and even offer a reward - she was amazed - but he did, offering a $100 reward. Nothing happened. Two weeks later, his wife is so upset - he tells her, “Honey, because that cat meant so much to you, I’ll renew the add and up the ante to $50,000 reward money - she couldn’t believe his change of heart - he did - a frfiend pulled him aside and said, “Man you’re crazy - no cat is worth $50,000 dollars”. He whispered back, “Listen, when you know what I know, you can afford to be generous.”
“Ma’am, you need to give me the best of what you have left!” A generous risk?! Not if you know what Elijah knows . . . and he informs her of what he knows: 14. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, (here Elijah speaks for God again) “The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be
empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.
Now understand - the decision before this widow is a decision of faith - will she have faith in Baal - the god of her village, forefathers and King, or will she place her faith in the word of a prophet she’s never met before?
Can you see this woman - with her starving son on her hip - gathering a few sticks for a final meal - then she meets the man of God who says, “Trust me - give me what you have first and I promise you by the word of my Living God - you will never go hungry again.”
v. 15. (she took her chance - she made her choice) “ So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he had her household ate for many days. 16. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord . . .
God, the living Lord, provided corn meal and oil . . . take that Baal!
Now notice - the bowl was not filled to the top - it just wasn’t exhausted; the cruse of oil was not filled to the top - it just never ran out!
The implication here is that this woman seemed to have only enough for one more meal - she was always almost out!
Now you might rather appreciate God snapping His fingers and the spare room in the widow’s hut instantly be filled with barrels of flower and tall earthen vessels of oil. That would have been wonderful - but God instead chose to perform as it were a miracle every new day.
Every meal was her last meal unless God kept His word - every supper was her last supper! This was “daily bread”. And that ladies and gentlemen is exactly what we’re to pray for - daily bread. Daily grace. Daily strength. Daily courage.
1) For Elijah and us - In order to receive anything, he had to change everything.
We don’t like change do we - we like to put down roots - get established - we like life when it’s predictable - planned - punctual.
God says to Elijah, it’s time to move from the calm to the chaotic - from the serene surroundings of Kerith to the noisy village of Zarephath.
And Elijah had learned to put down his roots in God alone.
“Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed ; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10)
God says, “Elijah, Christian - change everything - but don’t forget - I don’t ever change.
2) For the Widow - In order to receive anything, she had to risk everything.
Elijah offered up his safety - the woman offered up her future and her son - and God kept His word and provided for both!
A little girl was saying her prayers at bedtime, Dad happened to be standing outside the door, listening in. She was reciting the alphabet. After she finished, he went into the room and said, "Sweetheart, why were you saying the alphabet to God?" "I really didn't know what to pray for tonight," she answered him. "So I said, `God, I'm going to give you all the letters of the alphabet and you put them together any way you want to.”
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness and all I have to do is follow;
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness and all I have to do is follow;
Strength for today, is mine all the way, and all that I need for tomorrow,
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, and all I have to do is follow.
Isn’t that good - not the singing, the words.
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness - we have that word!
But my God shall supply all your need (not greed!) according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. . .I will uphold you by my right hand!
Take it from a thirsty prophet named Elijah - learn it from a widow who was about to sit down with her son and have their last supper.
The Christian life is not really a life of risk - it’s not really a gamble - in fact, the gamblers are those who refuse to obey God - they are at risk!
But those who follow Him can sing - “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness - and all we have to do is follow.”
And tomorrow will bring tomorrow’s God - and we will follow Him then too.
A man who is pastoring in Houston, Texas wrote the following true story that happened to him some time earlier:
“I love motorcycles. Not long ago I as in a Honda shop drooling over a 750. A 750 for the uninformed, is Honda’s most beautiful 4-cylinder bike. It 68 horsepower engine is so large it sticks out on both sides of the bike. It will do a 1/4 mile in 12 seconds, and will top out at over 125 miles per hour. The one at which I was looking was a dream in metallic gold, with all the chrome trimmings. The salesman came up to me and said, “Some machine, ain’t it?” “Sure is!” The salesman said, “IT’s not like driving a car you know - go through town and nobody notices. But on this baby, it’s a different story. Man, you pave the road with a hundred yards of rubber when ya burn out . . great bike! By the way, what do you do for a living?” “I’m a minister.” (long pause). “Well, uh Reverend, uh you know, these machines get good gas mileage (even longer pause) And you have many advantages - good visibility; and they are very maneuverable. You can stop on a dime, that’s for sure. (another long pause and by now the salesman is almost whispering.) “I know you people aren’t supposed to be interested in this sort of thing, but they really are a lot of fun to drive.”
Wes, the pastor later reflected with his pen . . . Lawn mower salesmen aren’t surprised to find clergy looking at their merchandise, but motorcycle salesmen are! Why? Does this tell us something about the church? Lawn mowers are safe, slow, sane, practical, predictable, and oh, so very middle class; but motorcycles... they're fast, dangerous, wild and thrilling, and they're associated with risk and daring and adventure. Is being a Christian more like mowing the lawn, or riding a motorcycle? Is the Christian's life safe and sane, or thrilling and exciting? We need to recapture the motorcycle spirit, for without it we cannot understand or adequately express our faith. The common image of the church these days is pure lawn mower: slow, deliberate, plodding; but our task is to take the church out on the open road, give it the gas, and see what the old girl will do!"
Now fellas - the application is not, “Let’s go buy a honda”
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