Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

"What Will It Take?" Sermon: I Kings 17:8-24

“What Will It Take?”
[I Kings 17:8-24]
June 7, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            For those of us who have read the book of I Kings, tonight’s history may be a familiar one:  the prophet, Elijah, had confronted the evil King Ahab and told him that God was going to withhold rain from the land for three years.  After giving that word, God told Elijah to go into hiding at the brook Cherith where he would be fed by ravens.  Eventually, the brook dried up, and God told Elijah to go to Zarephath – to the middle of the Baal-worshipping Gentile territory – where God had prepared a widow to take care of him.
            We see two things in our text – the first being:  the widow gave everything she had in response to God’s Word.
            Elijah went to Zarephath as God had commanded him to, and he met a widow collecting sticks.  He asked her for a drink, and when she said she would get it – remember they were in a drought – Elijah asked the widow for some bread as well.
            At this point, she confessed in the Name of Elijah’s God – Elijah looked like a prophet of God, he smelled like a prophet of God, and he spoke like a prophet of God – she only had a little flour and a little oil left, and she was preparing a last supper for her and her son, after which, they were planning to die.
            Elijah responded by telling her not to worry about it – to feed him first – then to prepare food for herself and her son – and as the Lord God of Israel lives, she would always have enough flour and enough oil to make bread – every day – until the end of the drought.
            And she did what he asked, and the Word of God came to pass just as he said.
            Why did she do what he asked?
            She was a Gentile.  She only had enough food for her and her son to have one last supper.
            Why did she do what Elijah asked?
            She had faith in the God of Israel – so when the Word of God was given in her hearing, she responded in obedience – even to giving everything she had.  She gave everything she had in response to hearing the Word of God.
            Dale Ralph Davis explains faith this way: “Faith is staking everything upon Yahweh’s sheer word, wagering all upon the veracity of God” (I Kings, 214.)
            It’s really about what we believe about God, is it not?
            It has to do with whether or not we believe verses like: “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14, ESV).
            Do we believe that?  Do we believe that God is the Owner of absolutely everything that is?  Do we have faith that God will give us what we need for this day – as we pray in the “Lord’s Prayer”?  Are we able to open our hands and offer back to God more and more – dare we consider all – of His blessings to us – should He call us to, because He owns everything anyway and has promised to provide for us this day?
            Certainly, God calls us to be wise with all that He has given us.  We are not called to fritter it away and give it to con artists.
            But when God called this woman to give up everything she had based on the promise that God would provide for her needs each day, she gave everything in faith, because she had faith in God.
            Now, God will probably not command most of us to give up everything we have, but do we have faith in the promises of God such that if He does, we would turn over all we have to our God and Savior?
            Is our God and Savior worthy enough in our eyes to have faith in and obey whatever He commands?
            If not, what will it take for us to have faith in God and His Word?  What will it take for us to see our God as worthy and beautiful and glorious?  What will it take for us to say, “Yes, Lord, Your servant hears and obeys”?
            What will it take for us to be like the widow of Zarephath?
            Second, we see that the widow saw the faithfulness of God and believed that God’s Word is true.
            Elijah stayed with the widow and her son for many days.  And finally, the son became ill and died.
            The widow confronted Elijah and accused him of finding out what her secrets sins were and putting her son to death because of them.
            But she misunderstood:  God does not stand on high and yell out, “Karma, baby!”  God is merciful beyond our comprehension.  If He were not, we would all be dead for our sins, only to die forever.
            Elijah didn’t understand, but he took the boy back to the room he was staying in and repeatedly pleaded with God – praying – ascribing sovereignty over life and death to God and asking that God restore the life of the boy.  And God raised him from the dead.
            And the widow responded, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
            What did she mean?
            At the Word of God, she had given up the last of her food and had faith in God’s promise that He would provide what they needed for each day until the drought ended.  But now, God took her prize possession from her – her son – not as punishment for her sin, as she suspected – but to show the widow His faithfulness – how His Word can be trusted.
            Now, for those of us who believe that God is faithful and His Word can be trusted – because it is true – we understand that God’s faithfulness does not always mean that we will get what we want.  God is faithful in whatever God ordains.
            However, here, we must understand the implication of the text:  if her son’s living proved the Truth of God’s Word and His faithfulness, God must have promised that her son would live – at least until such and such a time – perhaps, at least until the drought ended.
            So, what we see is God testing, disciplining, maturing, this widow – if not the prophet as well.  So when her son was raised from the dead, she was able to strongly affirm the faithfulness and the Truth of the Word of God.
            We have the Word of God bound in nice books.  Do we believe that it is the Word of God?  Do we believe that what is written in it is true and that God is faithful to everything He has said?
            Or are we willing to let the Truth slide?  Are we really not sure about what the meaning of “is” is?  Or is it more important for us to fit in with the culture than to proclaim what God has said?
            Or, perhaps, we are just seeking unity – Jesus said that we should be one, right?  Truth be damned!
            What will it take for us to boldly confess to the world that the Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – the Only Way to God?
            What will it take for us to hold up God and His Word as faithful and true before all those who oppose us – and submit to God alone?
            This widow flourished in her faith in the strong-hold of Baal worship.  She gave everything in response to hearing the Word of God.  And she saw God’s faithfulness to her and believed the Word of God as true.
            Is that what it will take?  Do we need God to make the United States a Baal-oppressed area?
            Let us pray that God’s Will would be to make us like the widow of Zarephath – that we would be willing to give everything up for the Word of God and stand strong in the belief that all of God’s Word is true.
            As Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11, ESV).
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, Word of True Truth, we ask that You would send the Holy Spirit to convict us and convince us anew of Your Faithfulness and the Truth of Your Word.  Use whatever is meet to make us strong witnesses to Your Name.  Make us like the widow of Zarephath – make us like Your Son, in Whose Name we are bold to pray:

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