The Right Place -- At The Right Time

1 Kings 17:8-10: "And 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
."

Elijah was traveling light, and it was well that he was.
In a few short months God has moved His prophet from Tishbe to Samaria to Kerith to Zarepath.

Change is unsettling, but essential.
It should make us less demanding, less complaining, more willing to let go of what we want,
more willing to do what God asks.
Change teaches us to place ourselves completely in 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, by hiding during the daylight hours, and traveling under the cover of darkness.
He was always looking over his shoulder.

Zarepath was also a dangerous place for Elijah.
This was the headquarters for Baal worship, and Jezebel's father, Ethbaal, exercised dominion over this place.
Elijah had been sent to a very unsafe place.

You remember when Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:16,
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves."
That is where God had sent Elijah.
God may set us down in perilous places – neighborhoods, offices, fraternities, sororities, workplaces,
and classrooms where danger dwells.
And you wonder: "What will happen to me there?"

The only way to know for sure is to do what God asks us to do.
Our first steps in such situations may be awkward and tentative, but as we obey God,
we will find the ground is firm underneath us.
We will be strengthened to take the next step and the next.
One step at a time is all any of us are capable of taking.
That is how we learned to walk.

But you ask, "Suppose I take that first step. What will happen next?"
That is God's business.
Our task is to obey, and leave the rest to God.
Directions for this day is all we need.

George MacDonald 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 that lesson
."

David assures us, "Our steps are ordered by the Lord." (Psalm 37:23)

But what does that mean?
It means that if we concern ourselves with His will.
It means that if we obey His directions each day.
It means that if we heed His warnings each day.
It means that if we walk by faith we will find that God will get us to the right person
in the right place at the right time.

God's will is easy to find – if we want it.
God wants us to know it.
The only ones who miss His will are those who don't want it.
If you want to know His will, God will reveal it to you.

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 does wish him to do
."

And so Elijah went boldly to Phoenicia, just as he had gone to Samaria and then to Kerith.
He was getting acquainted to doing what he was told.
All he did, in fact, had one route: a willingness to obey.

Following Jesus means a commitment to unending availability.
Following Jesus means to be ready and to be willing to go wherever we are sent,
and to be expendable, if need be.

In the words of the slogan on a moving van:
"Any load – any distance – any place – any time."

There are times that unbelief and questionings fill our minds at the beginning of any uncertain enterprise.
And we are inclined to quibble with God for a while, but He is wonderfully patient.
We may look back, complaining, waiver, weary, or run when God asks us to do difficult things.
But if we will take that step of obedience, God will bless and empower us to do what He has for us to do.

Elijah was willing to go to Zarepath or to anywhere else God had for him, but he had a practical problem.
How would he find the widow that God has commanded him to find.
God did not give him specific directions

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 would have seemed to be a coincidence to find this woman here, but not to Elijah.
Elijah believed in God's sovereign control of everything.

Elijah asked the widow or a cup of cold water, and the woman responded with kindness.
Elijah found a woman uniquely prepared by God.
Encouraged by the widow's response, Elijah asked the woman 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 jar, a little oil in a jar, and was preparing to make one last meal
for herself and her son, and then die.
She was living close to death and was in great despair.

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 for what you have, and bring it to me,
and then make something for yourself 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 place that God wanted him to be.
And God will take care of the rest.

The woman went, and did as Elijah had told her.
"So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.
For the jar of flour was not used up in the jug of oil did not run dry,
in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah
." (1 Kings 17:15-68)

Elijah, the widow, and her son lived each day by faith on God's gracious provisions.
The family's fare was frugal, but sufficient for their daily needs.
I'm sure Elijah and the widow would have preferred to have had a room full 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 their Fathers giving.

Elijah was such a child.
He was content to trust the living God, waiting for each day's gift handed to him from a loving Father.
He was trusting His Heavenly Father who graciously gives us all things for him 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 fell apart.

The widow's only son became ill, 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 I bought tragedy also up on this widow I am staying with,
by causing her son to die?"

Then he stretched himself out of a boy three times and cried to the Lord,
'O Lord my God, that this boy's life return to him!" (1 Kings 17:18-24)

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 them 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 a
nd that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth."
(1 Kings 17:18 to 24)

Because of Elijah's presence and his quiet witness, the woman was drawn to God.
And if you and I walk with God each day and as we witness to others with our life
and with our words -- we will draw them to the Lord.

Now notice this remarkable thing.
Elijah – this great prophet – was not sent to battle with the King of Sidon.
He was sent to a solitary 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 Phoenician to find this pagan widow woman
and to draw her to God.
That is the way that God is.
He is not willing that any should perish.
He loves everyone regardless of color and whether they are great or small.

Whatever changes comes to us, and that God is bringing into our lives,
He will bless us and all those with whom we have a relationship.
But we must say to our Lord: "Lord, your will, your way in my life."

"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 the your guide.'

Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He.
Now I walk a light Divine
The path I had feared to see."
-- Source unknown

God's love demands and deserves our complete devotion.
Saying "No" to God leads us into depression and defeat.
Saying "Yes to God leads us into delight and great victory.

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White