The Right Time And Place
1 Kings 17: 8-10: "Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'Go at once to Zarepath of Sidon
and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.'
So he went to Zarepath."
In a few short months, God has moved Elijah from Tishbe to Samaria to Kerith to Zarepath.
Change is unsettling, but essential.
It should make us less demanding, less complaining, and more willing to let go of
what we want, and more willing to do what God asks.
Change teaches us that we must put our roots down into God and find our resting place in Him.
So Elijah set out for Zarepath in Phoenicia -- 100 miles away.
It was a place that could only be reached by traveling across a land in which his name was hated,
and his life was in constant danger.
He had to elude Jezebel's hit men.
So, he probably hid in the daylight hours, and traveled under cover of darkness at night,
and always looking over his shoulder.
Zarepath was also a dangerous place for Elijah.
This was the headquarters Baal worship, and Jezebel's father, Ethbaal was the ruler of this place.
So, Elijah had been sent to to a dangerous place.
There are times that God may place us in perilous places, and we wonder
what will happen to us there.
The only way we can know what will happen is to do what God asks us to do.
At the beginning of such situations we may feel awkward and tentative, but when we obey God,
we will find a path laid out before us.
We will be strengthened for the next situation and the next challenge.
One day at a time and one step at a time is all any of us can do.
We don't know what will happen next -- or tomorrow -- or next month.
But God knows, and that's God's business.
Our task is to obey and leave the rest to God.
George MacDonnell wrote: "We do not understand the next page of God's lesson book.
We see only the one before us. Nor shall we be allowed to turn the leaf until we have learned
David tells us that "Our steps are ordered by the Lord." (Psalm 37:23)
That verse assures us that if we concern ourselves with His will,
and if we heed His warnings each day, and if we walk by faith,
we will discover that God will get us to the right place at the right time.
God wants us to know His will, and He will reveal it to us, if we will seek it.
Usually, those who do not know His will don't want to know it.
Alexander McLaren wrote, "The one who is firmly settled upon this, 'whatever God wants,
God helping me I will do it,' will not be left in doubt as to what God wishes him to do." .
So Elijah went boldly to Phoenicia, just as he had gone to Samaria and then to Kerith.
Elijah was doing what he was told.
All that he did was because he had a willingness to obey.
Following Jesus means a commitment to unending availability -- to always be ready,
to be willing to go wherever we are sent, and be expandable if it need be.
In the words of slogan on a moving van:
We must take that step of obedience, and God will bless and empower us to do
what He would have us do and to guide us were He would have us go.
Elijah was willing to go to Zarepath or to anywhere else that God would send him,
but he had a problem.
How would he find the widow that God has commanded him to find?
Elijah arrived in Zarepath, hungry, thirsty and weary after his 100 mile hike.
As he passed through the city gates, he saw a woman picking up sticks
in order to prepare a meal.
To some, it might have seemed to be a coincidence to find this woman here,
but not so for Elijah.
Elijah believed that God was in control of everything.
Elijah asked the widow for a cup of cold water, and the woman responded with kindness,
and gave Elijah a cup of cold water.
Elijah found that this woman was uniquely prepared by God.
Encouraged by the widow's response, Elijah asked her if she would prepare a meal for him.
And she answered, "As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don't have any bread --
only a handful of flour in a jar and a little 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." (1 Kings 17: 12)
The woman was starving.
She had only a handful of grain in a barrel, a little oil in a jar, and was preparing
to make one last meal for herself and her son, and then, die.
She was filled with deep despair, and was very close to death.
But God had told Elijah that he would be fed by the widow, and Elijah believed
that God would provide.
"Don't be afraid," he said, "Go home, and do as you have said.
But first, make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me,
and then, make something for your self and your son.
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 gives rain on the land.' "
(1 Kings 17: 13-14)
Elijah only needed to know that he was in the right place that God wanted him to be,
and then, God would take care of the rest.
The woman did as Elijah told her: "So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman
and for her family.
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." (1 Kings 17: 15-16)
Elijah, the widow, and her son lived each day by faith on God gracious provisions.
The meals were meager but were sufficient for their daily needs.
Elijah and the widow probably would have preferred to have a roomful of sacks of meal
and barrels of oil, but they didn't -- God provided it for them day by day.
Those who have lived like this are constantly reminded of God's love and their dependence on God.
They are led again and again as a little child, waiting each day for what their Father will provide.
Elijah was such a child -- content to trust the living God, waiting for each day's gift
given to him from a loving Father.
He was trusting his Heavenly Father who graciously gives us all things to enjoy.
Each day, God provided Elijah's needs.
Each day, the widow and her son observed Elijah resting under the shadow of God's wings.
Each day, Elijah's simple life of faith was drawing this woman closer to the heart of God.
But then, her world collapsed.
"The widow's only son became ill, and lapsed into a coma, and died.
In her despair, the grieving woman lashed out at the prophet:
'What do you have against me, man of God?
Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?'
'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.
Then, he cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon
this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?'
Then, he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord,
'O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!'
The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.
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!'
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.' ' (1 Kings 17: 18-24)
Because of Elijah's presence and quiet witness, the woman was drawn to God.
And if you and I walk with God each day, our witness to others by our life and words
will draw them to the Lord Jesus.
Now notice this remarkable thing: Elijah -- this great prophet -- was not sent
to battle with the King of Sidon, but he was sent to a widow in the little town of Zarepath.
She was a Canaanite.
She was a pagan.
That is the kind of God we serve.
He sends his great spokesman 100 miles across Israel to Phoenicia to find
this pagan widow woman to draw her to Him.
That's the way God is.
He is not willing that any should perish.
He loves all people, great and small.
Whatever changes God is bringing into your life, He will bless you and all those
with whom you have a relationship.
But you and I must say, "Lord, your will, your way, every day."
"I said: 'Let me walk in the fields.'
He said: 'No, walk in the town.'
I said: 'There are no flowers there.'
He said: 'No flowers, but a crown.'
I said: 'But the skies are dark,
There is nothing but noise and din.'
And He wept as He sent me back --
'There is more,' He said, 'There is sin.'
I said: 'I shall miss the light
And friends will miss me, they say.'
He answered: 'Choose tonight
If I am to miss you, or they.'
I pleaded for time to be given,
He said: 'Is it hard to decide?
It will not be hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your guide.'
Then into His hands went mine,
And into my heart came He,
Now I walk in a light Divine
The path I had feared to see."
God's love demands and deserves our complete devotion and commitment.
Saying no to God leads us into failure and depression and despair.
Saying yes to God leads us into victory and joy and peace.
God is speaking and you have heard Him speak to you.
So, whatever God is asking of you -- right now -- say "yes" to God.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White