“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
On September 20, 1919 the fishing vessel Andrea Gail departed on its last fishing expedition. Later Sebastian Junger would write a book about this vessel and its last voyage. This fishing vessel departed of from the shores of Massachusetts in search of fish. The crew of six was made up of hard working men who ranged in age from 28-37 years old. There last known location was 162 miles east of Sable Island. Having not been successful in fishing one area they were headed to new fishing ground in search of more fish. As the perfect storm came upon them Junger reported that there were waves of over 100'; some doubt that they were that big. Nevertheless, the storm was sufficient to sink the Andrea Gail and leave six crew members in the watery grave of the North Atlantic somewhere east of Nova Scotia. It's true that this kind of fishing brings inherent risk.
Some ways of life are more dangerous than others, but life is fragile and so is wealth. sometimes literal storms take lives and wealth; sometimes the storms come in the form of economic downturns, losses of jobs, or unexpected medical bills. Sometimes an accident can take away a person's ability to work or the loss of a spouse limits the income of the spouse that remains. This is what happened with the widow in 1 Kings 17. She had lost her spouse and was living moment to moment in the midst of a drought with almost no food. God was not blind to the needs of this woman even though she was not an Israelite, she was not one of the chosen people. She lived in a land where Baal was worshipped and likely worshiped Baal herself.
God's ways are no our ways. When Elijah found her she was preparing for her last meal. She planned to simply fade away into the dust having lost her husband and no longer having enough resources to feed herself and her son. She was desperate and God provided. She needed food, but she willingly made bread for Yahweh's prophet before feeding herself. God rewarded her faithfulness through Elijah by giving her enough bread and water to last until God restored rain to the land. It's true, God had bigger fish to fry, but He was not oblivious to the needs of a widow, even one who did not worship Yahweh. The story seems to indicate that she changed her allegiance after the prophet raised her son from the dead.
Elijah spent three years with the woman. The text isn't very clear about what was going on with Elijah during that time. One might imagine that her needs were provided by Elijah during that time. He provided and received companionship of some kind and likely provided guidance to her son. There is no indication that he became her husband, but it seems likely that the time spent together provided needs that both the widow and the prophet had. A destitute widow gained meaning an purpose in life not by getting rich, but by providing a place for the exiled prophet to abide.
It was a place of waiting for Elijah, he was waiting for the voice of God. Waiting is never passive with God. While details are not given, it seems safe to conclude that Elijah was busy while he was waiting. Even if, for a time, his ministry was limited to a widow and a boy he was doing the work of God. Whatever we are doing, whether it is standing before kings or serving the widow next door, we all ought to actively wait for God to accomplish His purposes in the world and in our lives.
This last Sunday at Grace Fellowship we started a new series on Elijah. The story of Elijah starts in 1 Kings 17, but he mentioned in many places in Scripture. His story seems especially relevant in the world in which we live. In his world Israel had gone down a very bad road. Israel had many kings who were evil, but the king Elijah would face was especially evil. 1 Kings says Ahab "...did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him." He married a woman named Jezebel who was not an Israelite and brought her foreign gods with her. Ahab turned his back on Yahweh and began to worship Baal. As is often the case, Israel followed the lead of their leader. It was desperate time for Israel as they seemed to declare, "Yahweh is dead."
It wasn't a sudden turn away from Yahweh, it was subtle at first, but as time went on they became more bold in their rejection of Yahweh. Solomon wasn't a saint, far from it, but he did worship Yahweh. As time went on king after king became more and more evil. It was time to do something drastic, and Yahweh did. What Yahweh did was not what you or I would expect. Yahweh seems to do the unexpected quite frequently.
I don't want to give too much away as we move forward in this series, but but in short, God takes the powerful and the arrogant (Ahab) and shakes their world with the powerless and the humble. Elijah was just a country hick, a small town, small time man with calusses on his hands and feet. He had courage, but he didn't have status. His bloodline wasn't anything to brag about. the most extraordinary thing about Elijah may have been his name and how his life reflected his name, "אֵלִיָּה." It is transliterated "Eliyahu" and it means "Yahweh is my God." Elijah's name was an affront to Ahab and Jezebel and all who had rejected Yahweh and worshiped Baal. Everything about Elijah was an affront to the powers that be.
Elijah had his own faults, but he worshiped Yahweh and God used him to speak truth to power. The powers in the world whether they be a politician (they often are), cultural norms, teachers, or bosses quite often do not honor God. Could it be that God is calling you to speak truth to power? Could it be that God has put you exactly where you are not because you have some unique talent or ability, but simply because He needs to do something great through you? Elijah was just a regular guy who worshiped God and God honored his pryaers (James 5:17-18). This Sunday we will be taking a closer look at Elijah's confrontation with Ahab, I hope to see you at Grace or listen online.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.