07 September 2011

"For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the Lord sends rain on the earth." (v. 14)


King Ahab worshipped the god of Sidon (in today's Lebanon): Baal, the god of the rain-clouds. (The word 'Baal' is still used in modern Arabic to describe farms that are irrigated solely by rainwater.)

So, when Elijah told Ahab that the Lord, the God of Israel, was going to control the dew and rain, it was a direct challenge to the power of Baal. No wonder he had to go into hiding.

But God not only withheld; God also provided - though the provision to Elijah and the widow only came after they had each placed their trust in God.

It was a big ask of God to tell Elijah to go to the king and tell him that Baal didn't really control the rain. And then for Elijah to go and hide by a wadi and wait for the waiters in black coats to come and feed him!

It was even more of a big ask of Elijah to go to the widow and ask her for the last meal, most of which belonged to her son. And then to tell her not to worry, because God would provide. Even when her son had died?

Yet if you believe in God, that God wants the best for you, and will take care of you, should you not act as if you believe that? Jesus himself told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow; if God can feed the birds of the air, then God will provide for God's disciples (Matthew 6:25-34).

This does not mean that I need simply pray that my wallet becomes like the widow's jug, and I never have to ask for cashback again at the supermarket. Rather it means trusting that I will have enough to get by. Elijah's brook and the widow's jug did eventually run out - but only when God provided alternative help.

The raising of the widow's son was to have a parallel in the ministry of Jesus when he raised Jairus' daughter to life, saying to Jairus "Don't be afraid, just believe" (Mark 5:21-43).

To Ponder

What prevents us from sharing what we have, down to the last meal in the house? And what does this say to us about our response to mass starvation in Africa?

What do you think that Christians mean when they pray to God, "Give us this day our daily bread"?

If Christians should trust only in God, does that mean they shouldn't trust in anything else? Should they have life insurance? Why?

Bible notes author: The Revd Neil Cockling

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