Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Elijah and the Bottomless Barrel of Meal


Well, here we are at nearly the end of June, and I am about to post the devotional that I delivered at Friendship Manor in early May for Mother's Day.  Yes, I am lagging that far behind.  Perhaps next I will get around to posting the Father's Day message from earlier this month!


The story I am going to share concerns a certain widow woman who lived in Zarephath a city of Zidon. Zidon, by the way, was not part of Israel, but rather a city of the Gentiles. We don't know this woman's name, even though Jesus himself mentions her during his ministry nearly 900 years later. The background is this: Because of the wickedness of Israel, God sent judgement by way of a drought pronounced by the prophet Elijah. This drought soon caused a famine in the land. This is where we will join the story.

1 Kings 17: 8-16  17:8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.


This was quite a miracle. Can you even imagine it? This woman had only enough food left for one meal for herself and her son. That was it. There was no more where that came from. She was destitute, and knew that after that next meal she and her son would starve to death.

Now here comes this stranger, with promises that the LORD God of Israel would sustain them, but first she should feed him. And she does as Elijah requests! In verse 9 the bible tells us that God told Elijah that he had commanded the widow woman to feed him. Evidently God had already done a work in this woman's heart. We don't know if perhaps God had spoken to her in a dream, or perhaps she could feel the power of God through Elijah's words. We just don't know. We also don't know whether she prepared all of the flour and oil she had left at once, or perhaps she decided to save a little so her son could have another meal the next day. After all, Elijah had only asked for a little cake.

Either way, the next day she found there was enough flour and oil left to feed them all again. And again the next day ...and the next ...and the next! We don't know exactly how long this went on, but we do know that the drought lasted 3-1/2 years, so this small bit of flour and oil may have lasted the better part of that time by God's miraculous providence.

But the story does not end there.

1 Kings 17: 17-24  And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.

It seems that in the midst of this miracle of God providing food for this widow, her son and Elijah tragedy struck. The woman's son died. But Elijah, by the power of God, raised him from the dead.

Here is where I would like to make a few observations of how this relates to the Gospel. When the widow's son died, she immediately assumed it was because of her sin. Though she probably did not quite understand it all correctly, she made the connection that there is a judgment for sin, and that judgement results in death. The New Testament book of Romans tells us that the wages of sin is death. Conviction and acknowledgment of our sins is a prerequisite to saving faith.

But, you might wonder how this widow woman could help but have faith in God. After all, she and her son had witnessed the miracle of the bottomless barrel of flour and cruse of oil for a long, long time. But that was not enough. It was not until after Elijah raised her son from the dead that she said that she was sure that the word of the LORD in his mouth was truth.

In the same manner, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that gives us confidence that our sins are forgiven. You see, the widow woman had it almost right. Someone's son would die for her sins. But it was not her son, and it would not happen for nearly another 900 years. God's own son did die for our sins. And he too arose from the dead, but in the case of Jesus Christ, that resurrection shows that God has accepted that sacrifice in payment for sins.

Won't you, like the widow woman in our story, declare that you believe that the word of the LORD is true and fully put your trust in him!

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