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1 Kings 17:8-16 (Matthew 6:31)
Please turn your attention to our first lesson for today from 1 Kings. We will see how it’s an illustration of what Jesus teaches us when he says, Don’t worry.
A number of years ago there was a popular song with a catchy reggae beat. I’m guessing a lot of you can finish the title: “Don’t Worry, ________.” It’s a fun song. It kind of makes you feel happy, but, if you think about it, it never gives you a positive reason not to worry. It just says, if you worry when you have trouble you just make it double, and if you frown you bring everyone down.
What a difference when Jesus tells us not to worry. He reminds us that, if we are worried, it might be because we are chasing after mammon, the things of this world that don’t last. We are giving the kind of food we eat and the kind of clothes we wear too much importance. As Paul says, if we have something to eat and something to wear, we should be content. But then Jesus provides us with a wonderful, positive reason for not worrying. Certainly your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. He gives us concrete examples. Look how your heavenly Father dresses the lilies of the field, and their beauty only lasts a few days. Look how your heavenly Father cares for the birds. Remember, you are worth much more that flowers and birds. You are the crown of God’s creation. He appointed you to rule over everything else he created. It was all created for your use and enjoyment. Since this is true, why wouldn’t he make sure that you have food and clothing when he knows better than you do exactly what you need?
The apostle Paul adds another powerful reason that we never need to worry. He says, What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all– how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Forget the birds and the flowers. The Father sacrificed his one and only perfect son in your place to save you from the eternal consequences of your sin. If he did that, how could you doubt that he will provide for all your earthly needs? After all, worry is rooted in doubting God’s promises. Or as Jesus says, if he clothes the grass of the field will he not clothe you even more, you of little faith?
But Pastor, we like to argue, my situation is different. Anyone in my situation would worry. Even God would understand that anyone who has it as bad as I do would worry. Well, your situation may be very bad, but I would venture to say that no one here has ever been in as difficult a situation as Elijah was, or as the widow of Zarephath was.
Elijah had been sent by God to denounce King Ahab and his Sidonian wife Jezebel for promoting the worship of Baal in Israel. He delivered to them God’s message of judgment that there would not be any rain in the next few years except by the word of God through him. And there wasn’t any rain for over three years.
Now before you are tempted to cheer that God was bringing judgment on the wicked and wishing that he might do the same today, remember that this drought and famine it caused affected Elijah and the other believers who remained as well. On top of that, Ahab and Jezebel had put Elijah on the most wanted list, even contacting foreign governments and demanding that they turn him over if they found him. Elijah was hiding in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. His life was in danger every day. He had no house, no pantry, no closet. But, God provided for him. He had water from the stream and the ravens were directed by God to bring him food.
But things got even worse, if you can imagine anything worse. The stream dried up. Now what! God told Elijah to go to Zarephath near Sidon and a widow there would provide for him.
Did you catch that? Zarephath is near Sidon. Jezebel was the daughter of the king of the Sidonians. God was telling Elijah to go into the belly of the beast, so to speak. And, did you notice that God didn’t give him any details about who this widow was- no name, no description of what she looked like? But, like Abraham, Elijah went. He did what God asked even though what God asked defied human logic. Being human, he may have worried about being recognized as he traveled and that his location might be reported to Ahab. He may have worried about how he would find this widow God mentioned with the little bit of information God had provided, but the power of God’s promises created trust in his heart and overcame his worries.
When Elijah got to Zarephath, he immediately saw a woman he recognized as a widow. Maybe because she was out alone gathering sticks, maybe because of the type of clothing she was wearing, but it was clear to him that she was a widow. So, he asked her to do some things for him that would help him determine if she was the widow that God had chosen to provide for him. He asked her to bring him some water. And, as she went to get him some water, he made an even stronger request, please bring me a piece of bread.
Elijah’s request led her to reveal a lot about herself and her situation. She recognized who he was for she said, as surely as the Lord your God lives. She recognized him, probably by his clothing, as a man from Israel, a worshiper of the Lord, Jehovah, the God of Israel, and possibly also as a prophet of the Lord God. His question led her to reveal that she was indeed a widow. It was just her and her son. It led her to reveal that she was gathering sticks for what she believed would be her last meal. If you were in her situation would you trust the Lord to provide?
Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do just as you said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from the flour and bring it out to me. Then go and make another for you and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says. The jar of flour will not run out and the pitcher of oil will not become empty until the day the LORD sends rain to water the surface of the ground.”
Did he say, “You are about to eat your last meal, but don’t worry, be happy?” No, he said, “Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. God is promising that he will provide. Don’t worry, trust God. Put him first and what you need will be provided.”
Would you have done what the widow did? Would you have gone home and made something for this foreigner who gave you a promise from the God of Israel, the one who was causing the famine to show that he was the one true God, not Baal, the god who was worshiped in your land? Would you have made a small loaf for Elijah, or would you have turned, shaking your head, and gone home mumbling about how crazy Elijah was to even think about asking you to let him have anything when you have to take care of yourself and your child, much less give him something first?
What happened? She went and did exactly as Elijah said. He and she, as well as her household, were able to eat for many days. The jar of flour did not run out, and the pitcher of oil did not become empty, just as the LORD had said through Elijah. She put the Lord first, even when she thought she was facing her last meal on earth. She trusted the promise of God given through his prophet, even though she had never met him before and he was from a foreign country. She, Elijah, and her whole household, learned by experience what Jesus promised to us. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (the basic necessities, something to eat and something to wear) will be given to you as well.
It’s so easy to worry, isn’t it? Don’t you feel bad for these young people who are making national news because they are so worried about the changing climate? Don’t get me wrong. We should do everything we can to take care of the earth and all that God has given us. He has made us rulers over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and all that he has made for us to care for and enjoy. But he has promised that, as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. The earth will not endure forever. A day of judgment is coming. But until that day when Jesus comes again in the clouds of heaven, the rainbow reminds him and us of what he has promised. I’m guessing that these young people that are so worried about the changing climate don’t even know what God has promised. To them the rainbow means something completely different. And that reminds us how important it is to do everything we can to proclaim the promises of God before it is too late, before Jesus comes again in glory.
It’s so easy to worry. But when you are tempted to give in to worry, remember Elijah. Remember the widow of Zarephath. They had a lot more to worry about than you do. Remember the birds. Remember the lilies. Look at how God cares for them. Remember Jesus. Remember that the Father sacrificed him in your place so that all your sinful worrying would be forgiven, and you wouldn’t have to worry about being punished in Hell for all eternity for your lack of faith. Remember God’s promise. Remember the rainbow. Remember how God provided in the midst of the famine for Elijah and the Widow. Remember how God provided manna for Israel in the wilderness. Remember his promise that when you seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness all you need will be provided.
Don’t worry. Trust God! Let his promises and the record of his faithfulness drive out your worries and increase your trust every day.