Evidently, while pretty good at a serving up prophecy, Elijah wasn’t much when it came to preparing a meal. And though they were both considered unclean, they could cook.
And the word of the LORD came to [Elijah]: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD.
Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath.
(1Kings 17:2-5a, 17:8-10 ESV)
Prophet-ing can be quite demanding work, especially when you’re prophesying against a wicked, power-wielding king and his crazed, vengeful wife. So, after Elijah tells King Ahab there’ll be no rain for years (17:1) because he led Israel into idolatry “more than all who were before him” (16:30), it’s not really conducive for long life for Elijah to hang around. But where to go?
First, God tells the prophet to go to the brook Cherith, where I have commanded the ravens to feed you. Ravens were unclean birds. To eat from their hand, or their beak, would have made the food unclean, I’m thinking. But God provides and Elijah eats. Then, when the brook dries up, because the rain’s dried up, God commands Elijah to head toward Gentile territory where a widow there will feed you. Gentile widows were also considered unclean. Is there a bit of foreshadowing here?
“What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15 ESV)
Initially, my focus is on God’s sovereignty — whether concerning the miraculous (birds serving up a daily meal of bread and meat) or, the not so miraculous (a widow cooking for three rather than two.) Whether it’s birds or people, when God commands something, it happens.
Then, it’s Elijah’s obedience which gets me thinking. With my purple colored pencil, I underline “so he went” in both verse 5 and verse 10. But, as I hover over those for a bit, I pull out my light green colored pencil, my color for faith, and shade both verses. Elijah heard the word of the Lord, Elijah believed the word of the Lord, so Elijah went according to the word of the Lord.
But Elijah’s not the only one who went.
And she [the widow at Zarephath] went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days.
(1Kings 17:15 ESV)
You see, while going from feeding two to feeding three may not, of itself, seem to be a leap of faith, it is when the cupboard is bare, and all you have is “only a handful of flour in a jar and little oil in a jug”, and your intention it to go cook up a last meal for you and your son before you both starve to death (17:12). So, when she went and did as Elijah said, there’s a bit of faith happening there as well.
But God commanded it. Could she have done otherwise? And if she couldn’t, then does she get “credit” for her faith? Hmmm . . . there lies a mystery.
It’s one thing for a raven to do the bidding of the God of creation, but I’m thinking it’s a very different thing when it’s an image-bearer of God who bears a sin-tarnished image and is able to exercise her free will.
Yet, God commanded. And so, she believed and acted on that belief. Thus, she, her son, and Elijah were able to eat for “many days.” I wanna give her an attagirl ’cause I think she deserves it. Ultimately, though, it’s God who gets the glory.
God is the giver of faith in order to accomplish what He has commanded.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
A sovereign God who ordains things to be. Sinners saved through their freewill exercise of faith. But not of their own doing; it is the gift of God. Did I mention something about a mystery?
Awe. Wonder. Gratitude. Worship.
Because of grace. For His glory.