By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me today as we look at another important message for our time. We are living in prophetic times, and the Bible is full of instruction and wisdom to show us how to think, and to help us navigate these important times. You don’t want to be insecure without Christ in the day of oppressive enactments. We are nearing this day rapidly. The U.S. National Security Agency leaks by Edward Snowden have shown us something about the goals of the global elites and how they will one day corral God’s people and prevent them from giving the last warning message if they can. Elijah’s life is a powerful witness concerning how to live in such a harsh and tyrannical environment.
As we consider the times in which we live, it seems to me that, now more than ever, we need to be one with Christ and obey all His counsel like Elijah. We need to become men and women of earnest and persistent prayer, like Elijah. This is a very important step if you plan to survive the coming crisis and reach the eternal kingdom. You need God’s protection and obedience to His counsel is the way to enlist it. But we do not want God’s protection because we fear the governments of this world. We want God’s protection because we love Christ and want to live for Him. Living for Christ in all its fullness will be dangerous in the new world order, especially when Sunday worship laws and other oppressive measures are imposed. But in Christ there is no fear. As we watch the signs of the times, we can see the steady progress of the enemy. So let us pay attention and earnestly plead with God for His grace and power in our lives.
Before we begin our second study on Elijah, let us bow our heads in prayer. Our Father in heaven, great is Your love for the human race. Thank You for how You have worked in our lives and in the lives of Your faithful messengers through the centuries. Today we pray that You will send us Your Holy Spirit so that we will hear Your voice as we study Your holy word. We need to understand our times and how to navigate them spiritually. So please open our minds and hearts today. We thank You and pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Turn in your Bibles to the 17th chapter of 1 Kings, verses 7-9. These verses represent an important turning point in Elijah’s ministry. “And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. 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.”
Elijah had confronted and exposed Ahab’s wickedness and evil and was in hiding. Word, no doubt, got around Israel that Elijah had power to stop the rain and bring drought and famine. But Ahab wasn’t just unhappy with Elijah. He and Jezebel were furious about those Bible workers from the schools of the prophets that were opposing their religious laws. In order to find these underground religious workers and put them to death, Ahab would have had to establish a nationwide system of spies and surveillance to find them, and now also to find the fugitive Elijah. They planned to dominate everything and demand that Israel worship Baal. No doubt they harassed anyone whom they suspected was opposed to their progressive liberalization policies or whom they perceived to be their political enemies. Does that sound like any modern leaders you know?
You see, the principles are the same today as they were in the days of Elijah. This is because human nature does not change. Modern government leaders have the same pension for control and dominance as Ahab had. And global elites are working to bring the whole world under their control. So, that is one of the reasons why the characters and stories in scripture are prophetic. They show us what is coming by what went on before. Today, we have high tech digital capabilities that Ahab did not have. But the underlying principles are the same.
Earthly governments tend to become more and more controlling. That’s in their DNA, so it should not surprise us that government leaders want to take more and more control, and they will do it gradually, no matter what political party they are from. Don’t forget, political leaders are not at the top of the pyramid in terms of control. They are under hidden masters, masters like secret societies with which they are in league, masters like banking cabals and the super-rich families that control and manipulate economies, masters like the Vatican churchmen with whom they consult for guidance in global affairs.
And it is all leading to the same place Ahab and Jezebel were headed; rebellion to the God of heaven and His holy law. Remember that Ahab and Jezebel assumed the role of being the enforcers of religious laws on the land of Israel. In essence they imposed worship laws and issued the death penalty for anyone who refused to go along or opposed them. Does that sound like something you have heard will happen in the future?
The Bible workers in those days, known as the prophets of the Lord, exposed the wicked king and his heathen wife. They leaked information to the people about what they were doing and how this was in conflict with the will of God. They showed them from God’s word that what Ahab and Jezebel were doing was wrong. They were trying to get the people to remain loyal to God and not follow in the wicked and licentious worship of Baal.
But they were persecuted; hunted like criminals and had to find some sort of asylum. Jezebel and her agents managed to decimate their ranks by killing them whenever they found them. There would not have been a fair trial, or judicial process. Summary execution was the way Jezebel worked. We call it extra-judicial killing, or assassination outside the normal legal means. Modern western governments are now starting to do this very thing. This was a very trying time for any who did not want to bow the knee to Baal. It was dangerous to oppose Ahab and Jezebel, so it had to be done quietly.
This would not have been a good time to live in the cities if you wanted to be faithful to the Lord undetected. In the city there are many prying eyes and listening ears. There were so many spies, secret agents and undercover police working to rout out anyone that opposed the regime.
For persecution to be successful earthly governments have always established a surveillance system to find and track those who are not in harmony with the ruling regime. In addition, they have to have international methods to pressure foreign governments to refuse to harbor or give asylum to their opponents or whistleblowers. Ahab sent diplomats to the neighboring countries to demand the extradition of Elijah if he was in their country. He pulled out all the stops. He worked very hard to find Elijah to force him, if he could, to reverse the sentence of drought on the nation of Israel.
Another thing we noticed in our last study was that Elijah was a type of the second Elijah, which was John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He was also a type of the third Elijah in the end times just before the second coming of Jesus. God’s faithful people in the last days will bring a message of spiritual reform like Elijah and John, and restore the true worship of God in a time of similar apostasy. They have the same work as the previous “Elijahs.” And it will be just as dangerous. Don’t forget how dangerous it was for John the Baptist. He ended up with the death penalty for his plain speaking and for calling the people and wicked king to repentance.
God’s protection of Elijah should be noted carefully. Elijah was God’s faithful messenger. He was motivated by His love for God, and he was loyal. He loved God’s law. His zeal reflected his emotional burden for the honor of God. We cannot say that either of the previous Elijahs was from the “educated class.” They were not erudite scholars, professors, lawyers, or wealthy businessmen. There were no letters behind their names, no diplomas on their walls, nothing that would give them worldly credibility. And this is just as it should be. It is just as God would have it. You see, God makes the wisdom of the world foolishness, and the foolishness of preaching Christ the wisdom that no worldly person can understand.
Here it is from 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.”
It isn’t the learned doctor or the highly trained professor that God can use. It is the humble and simple souls that He places before the people in full display. Elijah was a rough country boy from the mountains of Gilead. John the Baptist was a wild man in the wilderness. But both of them had a huge impact on the people. So, don’t expect the religious authorities to advise you when the time comes for you to prepare for the crisis. They are usually respecters of persons. They pander to the upper crust of society. But God will probably not use them unless, of course, they are humble and meek. Don’t assume that you have to have some theological degree in order to do God’s work in those days. I’ll tell you the secret. If you want to be effective in working to restore the true worship of God in the days of peril and the days leading up to them, you need something else. The secret is that you must know and apply the word of God to your life in a practical way. You must have a walk with God like Elijah. You must have a power-filled experience with Christ. You must have an earnest prayer life.
You see, God allows man to use his so-called wisdom, political and economic, to build a system to oppose Him. He lets world leaders arrogantly parade across the world stage, and in their pride He lets them build up a system of surveillance and economic control. He lets them spend billions in perfecting these systems and mechanisms so that they think they have gotten complete and total information. He lets them organize vast agencies to spy on people all around the world, and make it so pervasive that no one can humanly escape the snare that is laid for them. If one person, like Edward Snowden gets away, they learn their lessons and perfect their system even more so that it cannot happen again.
Do you know why God allows this fearful system of intelligence and surveillance to wrap itself like a giant octopus around the planet? It is not because He wants you to fear it. It is not because He wants you to tremble and cower in anxiety and worry. Oh no… He allows it to be exposed in the press so that we can see the construction of this mighty system under the control of world leaders. That way we can understand what the enemy is planning for God’s people. World leaders may not even realize it, but they are cooperating with the enemy to build a system that will one day be turned upon God’s true people. It’s already starting to happen in smaller ways. But the real assault on God’s people will be over the worship laws that will be imposed on the whole planet one day soon.
God wants us to see the magnificent system so that we can understand that there is no hope for protection from human systems and governments and from human leaders. He wants you to see it so that you will flee as a bird to Him. You are to depend solely on God, and He wants you to see why. Isn’t that merciful? There’s even one more reason why God gives us a glimpse of the system. God permits men like Edward Snowden to “blow the whistle” on these magnificent plans that are being constructed just so that we can more fully understand the power of God in overthrowing them. He did that with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He did that with Esther and the Jews in her day. He did it with Elijah and he will do it again.
When God’s people come up to the national and global Sunday laws, which are the ultimate destination of globalization and the new world order; when His saints are under the severest pressure to yield their faith or die, when escape seems hopeless and they are surrounded by all the forces of government surveillance, legal and economic lockdown and other oppressive enactments; God will reveal His power and will knock it all down, brush it all aside and show the futility of man’s power in contrast with the mighty power of God to deliver His saints. Isn’t that wonderful, my friends?
Listen to this interesting statement from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, pages 450 and 451. “Satan will excite indignation against the humble minority who conscientiously refuse to accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God.”
That’s talking about leaders of nations and the moneymen of the earth, and those who are respected as religious leaders. They will unite to oppose those who uphold true worship and the law of God, like Elijah did.
I’ll read on… “Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals, they will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a “Thus saith the Scriptures” to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack.”
What would those oppressive enactments be? They would include the law that prevents them from buying and selling. The digital society has taken us to the leading edge of this. Digitalizing money is the easiest way to enforce such laws.
Another oppressive enactment would be laws that give power to agencies like the NSA to spy on and collect as much information as possible on everyone and everything. That gives the government enormous control over society. When there is enough of a crisis, the people will demand a Sunday law and legislators will yield, and the courts will find some justification for it.
Here’s the rest of the statement. “To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for a Sunday law… On this battlefield comes the last great conflict of the controversy between truth and error.”
God allows these scary things to be developed and deployed on those who are not necessarily under His protection, so that His faithful people who are paying attention can get a glimpse at how serious the powers of earth are in their league with the enemy, including presidents, prime ministers and other mighty men of the earth. I’m not saying that they intend to be. They might even be completely unaware of it. But they are still in league with the enemy anyway, because the enemy uses them to establish his plans.
By the way they treat their adversaries, whistleblowers and other more “legitimate” targets, we can understand the way they work to corral God’s people and oppress them. We can see the tight seal they are constructing around society so they can trap those that reprove their ambitious and rebellious plans.
God doesn’t allow all that to cause us to fear. It is so that we will trust Him more fully. Some church members fear man. But they shouldn’t. God is more powerful than all the devices of man to ensnare those who love God’s truth. They are laying a snare for God’s people. They are building a system that will corner them and give them no options but to submit to their laws, or lose their lives.
Now listen to this statement from the Great Controversy, page 630, 631. This is how God can protect His people when it is in the best interests of His cause. “Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who have kept the word of Christ’s patience. With sympathizing tenderness, angels have witnessed their distress and have heard their prayers. They are waiting the word of their Commander to snatch them from their peril. But they must wait yet a little longer. The people of God must drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism. The very delay, so painful to them, is the best answer to their petitions. As they endeavor to wait trustingly for the Lord to work they are led to exercise faith, hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during their religious experience… The heavenly sentinels, faithful to their trust, continue their watch. Though a general decree has fixed the time when commandment keepers may be put to death, their enemies will in some cases anticipate the decree, and before the time specified, will endeavor to take their lives. But none can pass the mighty guardians stationed about every faithful soul. Some are assailed in their flight from the cities and villages; but the swords raised against them break and fall powerless as a straw. Others are defended by angels in the form of men of war.”
The Bible is rich with promises for those who trust in the Lord. One of them is found in Psalm 91. You know the chapter. It starts off with these words, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” But in verse three look what it says. “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler…”
Do you think that God is able to deliver you from all these grand designs to entrap and corner God’s people? God’s people will escape the snare of the fowler by the power of God. And they will give the glory to Him. He will awe us with His mighty power to deliver. He loves His people. He will take them to the brink, and then show them and their enemies what He can do to make all their expensive systems come to nothing. But He also puts them through hardship and trial in order to teach them to let go of human defenses and fully trust in God.
Now, let us think about Elijah’s zeal for a few moments. Zeal is an emotional thing, and it runs very deep. There are two kinds of zeal. Genuine zeal for the Lord underscores the deep anguish of soul over the living dead around you. Yes, the living dead. There are many who are spiritually dead even though they are still living and breathing. They are not living in the light of God’s truth. They have no relationship with Christ, and they will be lost if something isn’t done to warn them.
Some even make a high profession of piety. They may be church members, but they are lost because they don’t love Christ. They give Christ lip service, but not the surrender of the heart. They don’t understand God’s real purpose. Nor do they understand the importance of bringing the character of Christ into their hearts and of living a life wholly dedicated to God. They spend their energy and money on themselves instead of God’s cause. They spend their time opposing the truth and the messengers of truth.
Listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 10:2. Speaking of the children of Israel he says, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” You see, they have a zeal that they claim is of God, but it is something else. It is selfish and focused on their opinions and other personal motivations. This zeal holds grudges and bitterness against foes. It is a kind of emotional depth that is very persecuting, particularly of those who don’t agree with the prevailing opinions and low spirituality in the church.
True zeal for God is humble and meek, yet it is potent. It is especially concerned for the glory of God and His law. Listen to the words of the Psalmist… “My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.” That’s from Psalm 119:139. Notice that it is zeal that is jealous for the word of God. When sinners trample on the law of God and dishonor God, we should have a deep and anxious concern to restore that honor… That’s our purpose. That’s the purpose of seventh day Sabbath keepers in the last days. They are the third Elijah because they are restoring the true worship of God in the world.
Jesus had this kind of zeal. When he cleansed the temple His disciples remembered Psalm 69:9, which says, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” God’s house had been made a den of thieves. The scandalous traffic was not an honor to God. Christ knew that he had to restore true worship in Israel, as well as the honor of God.
Ahab had a lot of zeal too, but it was not according to knowledge. He had so much zeal that he and Jezebel killed people whom they considered to be enemies of the state.
God protected Elijah by the brook Cherith. God sent him there because he could not be involved with human society. He was cut off. He could not buy or sell. He was under interdict, and God knew that he would not survive to accomplish His purpose unless he was protected. God had a work for him to do. What He did for Elijah, Christ will do for his faithful witnesses in the last days for as long as He needs them.
Listen to what the book Maranatha says on page 270, “During the night a very impressive scene passed before me. There seemed to be great confusion and the conflict of armies. A messenger from the Lord stood before me, and said, ‘Call your household. I will lead you; follow me.’ He led me down a dark passage, through a forest, then through the clefts of mountains, and said, ‘Here you are safe.’ There were others who had been led to this retreat. The heavenly messenger said. ‘The time of trouble has come as a thief in the night, as the Lord warned you it would come.’”
You see, God’s protection is still planned for faithful souls in the time of trouble. And it will bypass all the high-tech surveillance systems being put in place. Just as Christ was with the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, just as he was with Elijah by the brook Cherith, Christ will be with his faithful ones when they are cut off from human society, and when human systems will be used against them. When there are religious laws that will oppress them; when they cannot buy or sell; when they have no place to hide, God will provide them refuge and sustain them. It will probably be in unlikely places, but it will be a refuge. And they will be able to commune with God in their refuge.
To understand God’s way of sustaining, we need to understand a little about how He sustained Elijah. Where do you think the ravens got the food they brought to Elijah? God could have spoken the word and the ravens would have had the bread in their beaks. But if God was going to do that, why not just speak the word and the bread and flesh would be sitting there in front of Elijah? Somehow, I don’t think that’s what happened. My imagination grasps a different scene. We’re told to do that, you know. As you read the stories of God’s word, put yourself in the place of the people involved. Imagine their thoughts and feelings. Imagine the circumstances and compare them with our times.
God can and does do miracles when it is in the best interests of His cause. But God more often uses the simple elements of His creation to act their part in protecting and sustaining His people. He used the stream for Elijah to drink and the forest to hide him from the wicked king. He used the ravens to find the bread and flesh and bring it to him each day.
There was one place in all of Israel that was sure to have food. That would be Ahab and Jezebel’s palace. Remember, there were a lot of people eating at the palace. There were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves, who ate at Jezebel’s table (1 Kings 18:19), plus their families, no doubt. Plus there was the royal household, which probably had a lot of servants, their families and others. Perhaps there were more than 1000 people eating every day in the Palace, maybe 2000. While the nation suffered the severe drought, Ahab and his palace had plenty to eat. He had a very large pantry.
And since there was likely no enclosed dining hall large enough to feed all those people, they probably had to eat out of doors under whatever shade or canopies they had. They didn’t have large convention centers like we do today to be able to feed a couple thousand people.
And there were always those pesky and “hungry” ravens. They were always trying to steal the bread and flesh from the table before everyone came and sat down to eat. Or they would sneak into the kitchen when the cooks weren’t looking and steal a little morsel. Little did Ahab and Jezebel and the prophets of Baal know that those ravens were probably going off to feed Elijah. Don’t you love God’s ways? He uses even His enemies to benefit His people.
Ahab’s behavior was classic. Most leaders even in democratic countries these days take things for themselves that are not available to the general public that keep them independent and privileged even as they promote social programs that keep people on subsistence or dependent on the government. For instance, the U.S. Congress offers itself a medical program that is first class, even as the rest of the nation is being forced into a socialized health care system that is anything but generous.
Ahab was no exception. The drought however was so severe, especially after a couple of years that it was even squeezing him. He was losing his assets, the animals, horses, cows and other things, right, left and center. Do you think such hard times could come to your country? Droughts these days are common. In recent years there have been severe droughts in China, Russia, the United States, Africa, etc.
The fact that Ahab selfishly horded food for himself and all those religious fanatics who were pushing false worship didn’t stop God from providing for Elijah. God has thousands of ways to care for His faithful people. And He can provide it from the very tables that feed their oppressors. Don’t forget that Obadiah was the governor of the palace. He feared God. Perhaps he was one of the 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. He was in charge of Jezebel’s pantry and was secretly feeding 100 of God’s servants hidden in a cave. Where did he get the food to take by night to the cave? No doubt it was from Jezebel’s own storehouse. How ironic. The very one who was killing the prophets of the Lord was unwittingly providing food for them through someone she trusted. And if Jezebel was going to feed all those prophets of heathenism, God could certainly use some of it for His own servants. After all, it belonged to Him anyway. He could do with it what he wanted.
Eventually, the natural springs that fed the brook Cherith dried up. But God did not forget Elijah. He had a plan for him. In fact, God could have miraculously made those springs continue indefinitely. He controls all the water resources of the whole world. But God didn’t do that. He had a purpose in letting the stream dry up. What do you think that purpose was? Could it have been so that He could put Elijah in touch with a person that longed for a better life, and wanted to know the God of Israel? That’s right. It was for soul-winning.
Now let me ask you a question. Do you think Elijah got upset when the brook dried up and he could drink no more from it? Do you think he panicked? I don’t think so. I think God permitted the brook to dry up so that Elijah would wonder what God was going to do next? Sometimes, God allows perplexities to come into our lives just so that He can get us to think about the dilemma and trust Him for a solution. But if we get upset and anxious, and complain against God, we haven’t learned the lesson, have we?
I bet Elijah wondered what God had planned for His survival. I suspect he prayed and asked God what to do next. You know, Elijah was a man of prayer. And if you are going to survive the coming conflict, and be protected from all the high tech advances that are soon to be arrayed against God’s people, you have to also be a man or woman of prayer. Your prayer life must be strong and consistent. Whenever there is a problem, turn first to God in prayer, and then use the brain God gave you to look for a solution.
And God did not let His servant down. The brook Cherith dried up, but God’s care for His servant never ceased. 1 Kings 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.”
What? Go to that heathen nation? You’ve got to be kidding! That is the very place where Jezebel came from. They were in league with Ahab to find Elijah. They suffered from the drought too. What on earth was God asking him to do? Weren’t there spies in Zidon? Wasn’t there a whole system of informants working to discover if Elijah was in the land of Zidon, just like in Israel?
But Elijah did not question God. He just obeyed His voice. The Bible simply says that he arose and went to Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:10.
But before we leave the brook Cherith, let us think for a few moments about that dry brook. The dry brook was a symbol of spiritual things. It represented the spiritual condition of Israel because of the drought of national apostasy enforced by Ahab and Jezebel. As the people turned their backs on God, like the gradual drying of the brook, they gradually had less and less interest in spiritual things. They gradually lost their desire for truth until they were as dry as the brook Cherith and all the other springs, rivers and sources of water in Israel. But though God brought a drought upon the land, it was because of His love and care for His people that He made it happen. He wanted them to understand the principles of heaven. He wanted them to comprehend the fullness of His purpose for them. But under Ahab and Jezebel this was impossible. When God punishes or brings His judgments upon the people it is because He wants to awaken them to their spiritual drought.
The dry brook also represented the dry souls in Zidon and in particular Zarephath whose thirst could not be quenched by heathen philosophy and false worship. Friends, Elijah’s dry brook also represents the world in our day whose citizens are unaware that they are fast approaching the end of time, a world that is running as fast as it can to destruction. It represents souls to whom you, as the third Elijah, must go find and warn of the soon coming of Christ and the urgent need for preparation. Oh friends, don’t overlook the dry brook.
As Elijah contemplated what God was going to do next, no doubt he thought about the thirsty souls who had no idea of how to find salvation. He thought that he was the only servant of the Lord, but his burden was for the lost souls of Israel.
He got up from the dry brook and headed out to a desperate woman who was spiritually dry and thirsted for the truth. God was preparing this humble woman for something very special. God did not send him to the widows of Israel. Most of them, no doubt, feared Ahab; they would have been hesitant to invite him into their homes. When Jesus commented on this in Luke 4:25, 26, He simply noted that there were many widows in Israel at that time, but that God did not send Elijah to them. If He had, it would have been noised abroad and Elijah and these women would have been in danger. They too were probably desperate, but perhaps they weren’t ready to obey. God sent Elijah as his first prophet to the Gentiles, to bless this woman with God’s message and power.
Keep in mind that John the Baptist was also sent to the Gentiles as well as to the house of Israel. The third Elijah is to do the same. Elijah was driven out of his homeland. They had adopted all the heathen worship rites and rituals, and Israel had become worse than they. So, Elijah was sent to the Gentiles to teach them the truth of God, just as the Apostles were instructed to do centuries later. See Acts 18:6.
But why else did God send Elijah to Zidon. This was the home of Jezebel. This was the very seat of false worship. Do you think God will send some of those who are of the third Elijah right into the heart of false worship in our day to bring humble souls out into the light of truth? We must give the warning message, “Come out of her my people…” That suggests that we must go where they are to find them. I think it is very interesting that though Jezebel was Elijah’s greatest human enemy, God sends him to her country to find a hiding place. Jezebel’s surveillance society failed to notice that Elijah had gone to her own country to teach a humble woman there about the God of heaven whom Jezebel despised. Isn’t God fantastic? We don’t need to worry about a thing. He has it all under His control. And he knows how to work in marvelous ways to bring truth to those who knew Him not.
And what of his hostess? This woman was not one of the rich merchants or great men of Zidon. Oh no! This woman was so poor in this world’s goods that she didn’t have a servant to go and fetch the firewood. She would have to get it herself. She was more in a condition to receive alms and charity than to entertain a stranger. She did not have a high station in life like Obadiah who had fed the Lord’s Bible workers in a cave. She was a humble woman from the lower caste of society. She was not educated but poor in spirit. She was not sophisticated but humble and teachable. Again God reveals that He can use the weak and foolish things of the world and honor them with His presence. Isn’t that precious, my friends? God wants to honor you with His presence, but you have to be poor in spirit like this woman was. God is a God of the poor and the widows. He is a God of those who have no husband or no spouse. He is a God to those who sense their desperate and extreme need of Him.
Let us read what happened from 1 Kings 17:10-12. “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.”
What a story of woe! Here is a woman that knew not the God of Israel. She was desperate and had resigned herself to her fate. She is at her last extremity. She knew she was lost. She knew she was hopeless. She knew she had no source or solution to her problem. That’s just at the point when God sent her a man who He used to bring her to Christ. People in crisis, my friends, are the ones whom God can reach. They have nowhere else to turn. You are God’s instrument to give help to the helpless, hope to the hopeless and joy to the sorrowing. That’s what it is talking about when it says in Malachi 4:6 that Elijah, the third Elijah, will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers…” This is a spiritual work of reconciliation between man and God and with our fellow men.
Let me share this with you. This woman knew who the true God was. She acknowledged the living God of Israel. “As the Lord they God liveth…” she said. But she was not a follower of the God of Israel. There is a big difference. He was not her God. But from her words, it is obvious that she respected the God of Israel and would, perhaps, be open to learn more. This was not lost on Elijah. And when she said that she and her son would eat what they had left and die, it must have touched the heart of this man of God.
You see God orchestrated all this. He brought her to the gate of the city just as Elijah arrived there too. He brought Elijah there to sustain him just as miraculously as He had sustained him with ravens. God allowed this poor widow woman to come to the point of starvation and desperation so that her heart would be open to His word through His prophet. Is your heart open to the word of God through the prophet, my friends? Or do you have more than you can eat? Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness, or do you try to satisfy yourself with the husks of this world? Friends, unless you hunger and thirst for Christ you won’t desire God’s word. If you fill your mind with things of this world, like sports, worldly entertainment, worldly music, you will never desire God’s truth.
The woman didn’t complain or quarrel with divine providence, which had brought the drought. When Elijah asked her for water, though it was very scarce, and by that time probably worth a good bit of money, she did not hesitate, but went to fetch it. She did not ask Elijah what he would give her for it, she just turned and went. She did not point out that he was a stranger. She didn’t excuse herself on account of the famine. She did not tell him that she had other more urgent things to do than go on his errands. She just stopped gathering sticks and went to fetch him water. That was true hospitality. Hospitality is a godly principle that doesn’t ask whether the person is worthy, or whether they will be a bother. It only asks if there is a need.
Elijah was testing her. This was the first of several tests. He was trying to see what kind of woman she was. God doesn’t always tell us everything in advance. We learn by paying attention. By testing her, he was preparing her for the next test. This is the way God works with us. He gives us a little test of our trust and confidence, then He gives us another and another and another until we are used to obeying His commands. We learn to have confidence that His commands can be accomplished through His power.
As she was going to fetch him water, Elijah called after her to ask for a little bread. Level two was a little harder for her. She was at her own extremity. But Elijah pressed this request upon her to see if she was willing to obey.
The first test was simple. But this one required some work and a good deal of sacrifice. Her remark was not so faithless as it was an explanation of her desperate situation, which, up until then Elijah did not understand. It was a trial of her faith to fulfill his request, and she thought she had better apprise him of her extreme circumstances. She had nothing to offer him except the very last cake that she was getting ready to bake for herself and her son before they died. To give Elijah something like that would be very costly to her. Her very last meal was being required of this stranger, this man of God from Israel. How could the God of Israel ask her to do this when the drought He had caused had put her in such extremity? Was he really a God of love? Could He be trusted? A thousand emotions and feelings must have passed through her heart as in perplexity she explained to Elijah her case. Nevertheless, she did not express doubt. She just revealed her circumstances. She did not complain. She just explained. It was as if she was tentatively willing to test God in return.
And this is the nature of tests. Often they are two-way tests. God tests us to see if we trust Him. We test God to see if He is trustworthy.
Elijah saw this and pressed his case a bit further. Notice what he said to her in response to her anguished story of despair. Verses 13 and 14 say, “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.”
Elijah calmed her anxiety. “Fear not,” he said kindly. These words were to her like sweet balm for her anxious heart. Here was a woman whose life was about to end. But Elijah calms her fears. How many times during Jesus’ life did he say, “Fear not?” And isn’t that what Jesus says to us? When we are at our extremity, when there seems to be no way out. Jesus says, “Fear not. I am with thee. Fear not, there is nothing that I do not have under control. Fear not, I have all power and can supply all your needs. Fear not, I can look after the past and the future for you. Leave it to me.”
This woman had heard of the Lord God of Israel. Elijah’s fame must have gone around all the surrounding nations. After all, Ahab had to explain to them what had happened as he took an oath from them that they were not harboring him. Now she was confronted with a promise from the very God of Israel that had caused the drought. But this was a promise of survival. Would she claim the promise and act upon the instructions of the prophet? Would Elijah’s God become her own? You see, when we accept and claim the promises of God to us, we then also accept the One who gave them. He becomes our God. When we obey His word, His promises kick into effect. And when the promises are in force in our lives, we then worship Him instead of ourselves. Oh, that God’s own people would have followed the instructions of God’s prophets. Oh that God’s own people would turn their hearts away from the Baals and back to their father-God who is the true sustainer of life. This woman was a Baal worshipper. She was a heathen. But her heart was open and God saw it and sent Elijah.
God promised her life instead of death. Isn’t that what God always promises? We are dead in trespasses and sins. We are in spiritual drought and like this widow women we have no hope of survival. But Christ offers us life. He promises us that we shall live if we follow His instructions and obey his word. He offers to forgive our sins. This is the gospel in the Old Testament. Elijah was a gospel prophet.
With Elijah boarding in the home of this poor, destitute woman, God would repay her richly by daily miracles until the rain returned. And if she accepted the grace of God, He would give her eternal life. God always pays well, doesn’t He? If not in this life, your reward will be rich in heaven. We don’t know what happened to the woman after Elijah left her. So, we will have to wait until eternity to find out. But if she is there, she will no doubt be singing the praises of the God of Israel.
God said that he had commanded the widow woman to sustain Elijah. Do you realize what this means? It means that He made her both able and willing to fulfill God’s will. With every command of God comes enabling power. In Christ’s Object Lessons, page 333, we have this powerful statement. “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”
God does not ask you to do something that He is unwilling or unable to accomplish if you cooperate with Him. All the instructions of God’s word come with power to do them.
Do you think that is what God wants to do in these last days with you and me? You see, God wants to appoint you as part of the third Elijah and use you to bring a message of hope and survival to the people of this world that hunger and thirst for something far better than what they have. He wants to use you to tell them to fear not in the midst of a very dangerous time, during an oppressive society. He wants to use you to give courage and hope to those who fear and tremble before earthly powers. This is your mission.
Verse 15. “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.”
Oh woman, great is thy faith, faith not found in Israel. She took the prophets word as fact, that by doing what he said she would not lose by it. And the promise was fulfilled.
Imagine what happened. This woman baked a cake for Elijah then brought it to him. Then she went back home, and lo and behold there was more oil in the cruse and more meal in the barrel. Can you imagine the joy in her heart when she took that precious oil and meal and baked another cake for her son, and then yet another cake for herself? And then the next morning, she went and looked again, and there was yet more oil and more meal to make at least three more cakes. And each morning thereafter there was enough for that day.
Verse 16. “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.”
Friends, this is the way it is when you study the word of God, the bread of life. There is just enough for the day. You will find that when you spend time with God in His word that He feeds your soul, but it is just enough for one day. The next day you have to go back to the cruse of oil and to the barrel of meal to get more spiritual food. And when you do, you have to cooperate with God in order to receive the blessing. First, you have to gather the ingredients, a little meal, which represents Christ, and a little oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. Notice that the woman did not use any other ingredients. She was making unleavened bread, which symbolizes the broken body of Christ on the cross. That’s real food, my friends. This is the gospel in the Old Testament. Elijah was teaching this woman a powerful gospel lesson about Christ. He was indeed a gospel prophet.
So it is with you and me. Guided by the Holy Spirit, you gather one verse from over here, and one verse from other there, and another verse from yet another place. You mix them together and kneed the dough so that you get the rich texture and flavor. This was a lesson in cooperation with God. God supplied the meal and the oil. He supplied Christ and the Holy Spirit. It was the woman’s duty to put it together with the hands God had given her. So must we. The Bible is for us to study. We are to use our minds to think about and apply its principles.
This is a lesson of cooperation with God. God provides the spiritual food, but we must work with it to make it palatable and nourishing. This is the lesson we learn from the widow who cooperated with God in Zarephath. Elijah reached out to her with the gospel, but did not do everything for her. Oh friends, don’t you want to eat many days from God’s word? Are you starving spiritually? Open your Bible. Let Him fill you richly.
Do you know what else we learn from this story? Here it is, listen carefully. If we want the miraculous blessing of God, we must first give back to God from the temporal things which He gives us. We support His faithful servants and ministers with the tithe and offerings; then we use the rest for our own needs. My guess is that the widow woman made Elijah’s cake first every morning for those many days before she made the cakes for herself and her son. This is the principle of tithes and offerings. We do this first. It is our first priority so that we teach ourselves that God and His will come before anything else. We show that we are willing to empty ourselves for His service. We give back to Him of our meager income first, and then we have His blessing in all things. That brings the reward.
But it is more than that. Those that deal with God must deal upon trust. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;” the Bible says in Matthew 6:33, “and all these things shall be added unto you.” We trust His promise. We provide our portion of the needs of His work first, and then we shall be rewarded greatly. The faith of this widow woman, in acting upon the instructions of the prophet, in denying herself for the cause of God, and in depending on the divine promise; her faith was an outright miracle. It was just as much of a miracle in the kingdom of His grace as was the daily increase in oil and meal in the kingdom of His earthly providence. This woman had never experienced faith in the God of Israel before. This was her first lesson. God’s care for her was immense. And she quickly learned to trust Him and depend on Him.
If you are ever going to be a victor in the war with the enemy, you must have the same miraculous faith. As she took from the oil and meal each day, more was added to them by divine power. When you use something it decreases in volume, right? But not under God’s blessing. Use brings increase. When you are spent for God, your strength increases. When you give, the Bible says, it shall be given unto you, Luke 6:38. Listen to Proverbs 11:24, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.”
The meal and the oil multiplied, not in the hoarding, but in the spending. So, don’t hoard your goods or your talents, but use them in the cause of God and they will increase.
Now, think about this. When by the brook Cherith, Elijah was nourished on bread and flesh. But in the home of the widow, he was nourished on bread and oil. This shows a progression in health principles. The farther along we go with God, the simpler our diet will become. God, in His providence, revealed through Elijah how the subsequent “Elijah’s” would live. Elijah did not have flesh when boarding with the widow woman. Those who cannot live without flesh could not have boarded contentedly with Elijah at the widow’s home and thus would not have experienced the daily miracles there.
John the Baptist, the second Elijah, did not have flesh either. He had locusts and wild honey out there in the wilderness. Locust was a carob plant, not an insect as some people mistakenly think.
The lesson is clear. Those who will be part of the third Elijah just before Jesus comes again will not have flesh to eat. They will be vegetarians. If they cannot live without flesh, they will not receive from God the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17 and Malachi 4:6. So, my friends, if you want to be part of that, put away the flesh between your teeth. You don’t need it. You need the Holy Spirit more than that. Flesh is harmful to your health. It is also harmful to the mind and reduces our ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The same goes for dress. Simplicity in dress is quite important for God’s people in the last days if they want to bring glory to God, and refrain from vainglory in themselves. Elijah wore simple course garments, which was the clothing worn by the ancient prophets (See Prophets and Kings, page 121). So did John the Baptist, whose garment was made from camel’s hair (Matthew 3:4). These are an example to us, the third Elijah. God’s messengers, both men and women in the last days will be very careful to wear simple, modest clothing too.
The widow had food for essentially two years in recompense for that one cake that she made for Elijah first. Psalm 37:18 and 19 says, “The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.”
Friends, we don’t live in fear of the new world order and all its devices of control. Open your Bible and let God teach you how to think and how to live so you will be under His protection in the coming tribulation. Let God teach you how to be part of the third Elijah.
Let us pray. Our Father, thank you for the story of Elijah and how You sustained him in the midst of an oppressive government, and used him to win a soul to the God of heaven. We need the faith of Elijah. We need the prayer life of Elijah. Feed us as we study Your word. Reveal to us its richness and fullness. Show us our role as the third Elijah in the last days. Give us Your Spirit and help us to live like he did. May we live in such a way that others will see our love for God and our fellow man. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.