Elijah: Prophet Of Courage And Confrontation
1 Kings 17:8-16
EMPTY BARREL GRADUATE SCHOOL
Intro: Elijah holds in his hand a diploma from Dry
Brook University. He has trusted God to take care of
him even in the most desperate of situations. He
trusted God to send the ravens to feed him, and he
trusted God to supply his water using the little brook
Cherith. He watched as God met his needs day in and
day out. He also watched as God allowed his brook,
the only source of water he had, to dry up before his
eyes. Surely, enduring this kind of trial would count for
something! Surely, things would get better for the
Yet, when God speaks to Elijah, it is to send him into
another difficult situation. You see, the prophet's
training isn't over just yet. God is creating a man of
God! Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook
University, but now he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel
Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet's
flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At
Zarephath, God will break Elijah's pride. Here, he will
learn that God, not Elijah calls all the shots of life. He
will learn that things are never like they appear. He will
learn that God can use the humblest of means to train
His children fro His glory.
Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty
way! When we get to chapter 18, we will see why God
put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is
building a man of God!
Now, with that in mind, there are times when it
seems that our trials come back to back to back to
back. That is, it seems that before one trial can end,
another begins! When these times come, we may be
tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing.
Simply stated, God is getting you in a position where He
can use you in a greater way. I will remind you that
before He can mold us, He must first melt us! After all,
God's goal for every saint of God is that we be made
into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:",
Therefore, let's join the prophet Elijah as he
continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School.
There are lessons here that we can glean from as well.
These lessons will help us when we face our times of
I. V. 8-11 A FRESH PATH
A. V. 8 The Call - As Elijah sat there beside that
dried up brook, it must have felt like he had been
abandoned by God. Have you ever felt that
way? It is a terrible feeling! However, God had
not forgotten about Elijah! God knew exactly
where he was. God knew al about that dry brook
and God had something else in mind for the man
Let me just remind you that the dried brooks
of life are merely those things which God uses to
move us along in His will. He will use the dried
up brooks you face to teach you fresh lessons of
faith and obedience.
(Ill. There is a lesson here for us, and it is a hard
one to swallow! That lesson is this: genuine faith
waits for God to reveal His plans. It will sit by a
dried up brook forever, even if it means death,
waiting on the will of God to be revealed.
Friends, this is where we get into trouble! We
have this tendency to run ahead of God and take
matters into our own hands. Yet, God's will is
that we learn to wait on Him, even when He
doesn't move on our schedule! If your brook is
dry this morning, do not fear! God has not
forgotten about you. He knows just where you
are and when the time is right, you will hear His
voice calling you to a fresh arena of service!
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall
renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not
be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.",
Isa. 40:31. We are action oriented people, but
sometimes God's command is that we just be
still and wait on Him, "And Moses said unto the
people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the
salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to
you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have
seen to day, ye shall see them again no more
for ever." Exodus 14:13.)
B. V. 9a The Command - when the Lord does
speak to Elijah, He commands him to go to
Zarephath. This is a strange command
considering the fact that Zarephath is in a
Gentile nation. It is country of Jezebel. It is a
land of idolaters. It is a wicked place filled with
wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the
Lord sends His prophet! To top it off, to get to
Zarephath from Cherith will force Elijah to march
over 100 miles through territory ruled over by
king Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere.
It seems like this command of the Lord makes
no sense at all! Of course, one of the reason for
sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly
illustrate the impotence of Jezebel's wrath and
(Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us in this verse:
Often, the life of faith will lead through
difficult pathways. Folks, God never promised
that this way would be an easy way. In fact, just
the opposite is true! God has promised us that
life will be filled with trials and troubles, Job
14:1; Job 5:7; John 16:33. Yet, that is the path
of faith! Yet, even when the command of God
makes no sense, faith simply obeys God
without regard for the consequences, v. 10!
You can see this truth displayed throughout the
- •Noah and the ark - Gen. 6
- •Abraham and Isaac - Gen. 22
- •Daniel and the 3 Hebrews - Dan. 1
There are times when the commands of God
seems harsh and strange. However, faith
recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd and
follows obediently wherever He may lead!)
C. V. 9b The Challenge - Notice that again Elijah is
told to "dwell there". He is to go to Zarephath
and stay there until he receives new instructions
from the mouth of the Lord. Often, God's times
of testing do not come with a time limit attached!
He merely sends unto it and leaves us there until
His work in us is finished!
However, the real challenge is in what God
told the prophet next, "behold, I have
commanded a widow woman there to sustain
thee." That must have been a serious blow to
the pride of the prophet. You see, in those days,
widows were the poorest of the poor! In times of
drought and want, the widows were the first
group to die off. Instead of God telling Elijah, "I
have a widow over there in Zarephath and I
want you to go take care of her." God says,
"Elijah, I am sending you to another place of
testing where you will have to look to me for
all you receive, every day." For Elijah,
Zarephath was a place that would live up to its
name. The name Zarephath means "smelting
furnace, or refining". It refers to the furnace
into which metal is placed so that it can be
heated up and have any impurities removed.
Cherith was the place where Elijah had been
cut off and cut down. Zarephath would be
the place where he would be refined. It would
be here that the last vestiges of Elijah's pride
and self-reliance would be stripped away.
(Ill. We are a self-reliant people aren't we? We
always want to believe that we can "handle it"
ourselves. We would like to think that we are in
control of our lives and that we are calling all the
shots. However, when the Lord begins to work
in your life to reveal Himself in you more clearly,
He will send you to a Zarephath where you have
to depend on nothing but Him. When you have
been brought to the place where you can lean on
nothing but God, He has brought you to the
greatest of places that life can afford. For it is in
that place that you will learn Who is in control.
That is the challenge we all face in our faith life.
We all face the challenge of getting to the place
where we are trusting God and Him alone for all
the needs we have in life! That is where He
wants each of us, "The just shall live by faith.",
D. V. 10-11 The Comfort - When Elijah receives
this command, he does not hesitate, he just gets
up and goes where God tells him to go. When
he arrives at Zarephath, he sees "the" widow
picking up sticks. Evidently, the Lord lets him
know that this is the vessel He has chosen to
sustain Elijah. When he sees her, he calls to her
to fetch him a drink of water. It must have been
a comfort to his hear to see her turn to fetch his
drink! It must have appeared like God had
things lined up for the prophet.
(Ill. There is a lesson here as well. Our God is
a God Who works on both ends of the line.
Let me illustrate. When Jacob and his sons
needed food, God provided a Joseph in
Egypt. When the children of Israel sent their
spies to Jericho, God gave them a Rahab.
When the Jews faced a Haman, God raised
them up an Esther. When an Ethiopian
Eunuch needed salvation, God sent him a
Philip. The point is this: When your time of
need arises, rest assured that your Father has
already gone ahead to spread the table of
provision in your behalf, Phil. 4:19.)
I. A Fresh Path
II. V. 12-15a A FANTASTIC PROMISE
A. V. 12 A Doubt - When Elijah asks the widow for
a cake of bread, her fear is brought to the
surface. God had already commanded her to
care for His prophet, v. 9, but she is trapped is
the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on
the circumstances and not on the God Who
controls the circumstances!
(Ill This is the place where many people are
living this morning! When we look at our
problems and our needs, we feel like we are
trapped in a hopeless situation. We are guilty of
looking at the problem and not at the Provider!
As much as Elijah was sent to Zarephath for his
benefit, he was also sent for the benefit of this
widow. She needed to learn the value of faith in
My friend, are you trapped in doubt this
morning? Does it appear that your situation is
hopeless and that you are helpless to do
anything about it? The answer lies in looking
beyond your problem and getting your eyes on
the Provider, Heb. 12:1-2! If you are saved, then
you are in the family of God. God is your Father
and He has promised to take care of you, Matt.
6:25-34. Therefore, when you doubt, you are
saying that God cannot do what He has
promised to do! Is He God or isn't He? Your
doubt says that God is dead! Your faith
recognizes His power and position!)
(Ill. It must have been a discouragement to Elijah
to hear the widow express her lack of faith. If he
had focused on first impressions instead of on
the word of God, then he might have lapsed into
despair. However, he believed God more than
he believed even what he saw! Real faith
knows that God is greater than what the eye
can see. Real faith knows that God can make
the impossible possible, Heb. 11:1!)
B. V. 13-14 A Demand - When Elijah hears the
widow's sob story, he makes what appears to be
the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to
go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him
first! On the surface this appears harsh and
cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and
surrender to the will of God.
1. Involved Encouragement - "Fear not!"
Elijah comforts her heart in this matter. She
is told that she can trust God.
2. Involved Enlightenment - "Thus saith the
Lord God of Israel." She gets a direct word
from God concerning her situation. She has
God's word that she will be taken care of.
3. Involved Excitement - "Neither the barrel of
meal nor the cruse of oil will fail until God
sends rain upon the earth. This widow hears
the news that she is about to be center stage
for a miracle designed to care for God's man.
She is about to be caught up in a
manifestation of the power of God.
(Ill. The point here is that God's calls on our lives
often make demands that are difficult to
understand. Why would He call me to do that?
Why would the Lord allow that to happen? Why
this and why that? However, when God's
demands are accompanied by a clear word of
God, then we need have no fear, but we can
respond in faith, knowing that God will take care
of us. Remember Abraham? He was called on
the sacrifice his son Isaac - Gen. 22. It must
have been the most difficult demand he faced in
his life! Yet, he responded in faith and came to
know God is a brand new way. Abraham
learned that God is Jehovah-Jireh! That is, He
is the Lord Who will see to it! That is what you
learn when the demands of faith are placed upon
C. V. 15a A Decision - When this widow heard the
word of God, she went and did as Elijah had
commanded her. it must have took great faith to
use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare
bread for a total stranger. Yet she did it by faith!
(Ill. This is the place that God wants to bring us
all to. He wants His Elijahs and His widows to
learn to trust Him in every circumstance,
regardless of what outward appearances may
suggest. Have you reached that place in your
walk with God? If not, then don't be surprised
when God's paths lead through dark valleys and
uncertain ways. He is in the process of training
His servants. We can do not better than to learn
to obey Him promptly, just like Elijah and the
(Ill. God wants us to get to the place where we
can give it all away!
Legend has it that a man was lost in the
desert, just dying for a drink of water. He
stumbled upon an old shack--a ramshackled,
windowless, roofless, weatherbeaten old shack.
He looked about this place and found a little
shade from the heat of the desert sun. As he
glanced around he saw a pump about fifteen feet
away--an old, rusty water pump. He stumbled
over to it, grabbed the handle, and began to
pump up and down, up and down. Nothing came
Disappointed, he staggered back. He noticed
off to the side an old jug. He looked at it, wiped
away the dirt and dust, and read a message that
said, "You have to prime the pump with all the
water in this jug, my friend. P.S.: Be sure you fill
the jug again before you leave."
He popped the cork out of the jug and sure
enough, it was almost full of water! Suddenly, he
was faced with a decision. If he drank the water,
he could live. Ah, but if he poured all the water in
the old rusty pump, maybe it would yield fresh,
cool water from down deep in the well, all the
water he wanted.
He studied the possibility of both options.
What should he do, pour it into the old pump and
take a chance on fresh, cool water or drink what
was in the old jug and ignore its message?
Should he waste all the water on the hopes of
those flimsy instructions written, no telling how
Reluctantly he poured all the water into the
pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began
to pump, squeak, squeak, squeak. Still nothing
came out! Squeak, squeak, squeak. A little bit
began to dribble out, then a small stream, and
finally it gushed! To his relief fresh, cool water
poured out of the rusty pump. Eagerly, he filled
the jug and drank from it. He filled it another time
and once again drank its refreshing contents.
Then he filled the jug for the next traveler. He
filled it to the top, popped the cork back on, and
added this little note: "Believe me, it really works.
You have to give it all away before you can get
anything back." That is the essence of genuine
faith! It is not a risk, but it is a challenge to
human reasoning. Faith will call on us to do
the unthinkable so that we might receive the
I. A Fresh Path
II. A Fantastic Promise
III. V. 15-16 A FABULOUS PROVISION
(Ill. The Bible tells us here that until the rains
returned to the earth, the meal barrel and the jar of
oil did not run out. Every time the widow went to get
meal and oil to prepare a meal, there was more to
be used. When she decided to bake that cake for
Elijah, she traded the certain for the uncertain
and received the impossible in return!)
A. The Grace Of It - Because this widow took God
at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God
allowed the widow, the widow's son and Elijah to
enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds
starved to death. That is grace! The difference
in the widow's home was the she learned to live
by faith and she was supplied by the hand of
God. God honors faith because faith honors
B. The Greatness Of It - For years, until it rained,
every meal time was a miracle. God worked a
miracle in that barrel and in that jar every single
day. He took nothing and made it last until it was
no longer needed. Friends, we serve a God
Who specializes in doing the impossible! It may
look hopeless to us, but we must never count
God out! He can take the little that is dedicated
to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous
proportions! (Ill. The 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed
a multitude - John 6:5-13.)
C. The Glory Of It - The glory of this story resides
in this fact: that barrel of meal and that cruse of
oil were never full! Elijah and the widow were
taught to live day by day. Everyday she scraped
the bottom of the barrel and everyday there was
just enough meal to fix their food. Everyday she
watched the last drop of oil drip from that jar, but
the next day there was always more. The glory
in the story lies in the fact that Elijah and the
widow were taught to trust God day by day! As
the days passed, their faith was strengthened as
they saw the Lord provide! You see, the
difficulties of life are to faith what barbells are to
muscles. They will strengthen its very fiber!
When God has brought you to the place
where you are forced to trust in Him for today's
provision, He has brought you to the best place
you can be. He has blessed you beyond words!
You may not think so at the time, but when His
path leads to a greater trial, it is a blessing to
know that God always takes care of His children!
Conc: George Mueller, born into a German tax
collector's family, was often in trouble. He learned early
to steal and gamble and drink. As a teenager, he
learned how to stay in expensive hotels, then sneak out
without paying the bill. But at length he was caught and
jailed. Prison did him little good, for upon release he
continued his crime spree until, on a Saturday night in
1825, he met Jesus Christ.
Mueller married and settled down in Bristol,
England, growing daily in faith and developing a burden
for the homeless children running wild and ragged
through the streets. At a public meeting in Bristol on
December 9, 1835, he presented a plan for an
orphanage. Several contributions came in. Mueller
rented Number 6 Wilson Street, and on April 11, 1836,
the doors of the orphanage opened. Twenty-six children
were immediately taken in. A second house soon
opened, then a third.
From the beginning, Mueller refused to ask for funds
or even to speak of the ministry's financial needs. He
believed in praying earnestly and trusting the Lord to
provide. And the Lord did provide, though sometimes at
the last moment. The best-known story involves a
morning when the plates and bowls and cups were set
on the tables, but there was no food or milk. The
children sat waiting for breakfast while Mueller led in
prayer for their daily bread. A knock sounded at the
door. It was the baker. "Mr. Mueller," he said, "I couldn't
sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn't have bread
for breakfast, so I got up at 2 A.M. and baked some
fresh bread." A second knock sounded. The milkman
had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he
wanted to give the children his milk so he could empty
his wagon and repair it.
Such stories became the norm for Mueller's work.
During the course of his ninety-three years, Mueller
housed more than ten thousand orphans, "prayed in"
millions of dollars, traveled to scores of countries
preaching the Gospel, and recorded fifty thousand
answers to prayer.
Friend, where does this message find your faith?
Does is seem that God is moving you from one hard
place to another? Does it seem that things just get
harder and harder for you as you journey through life?
You must remember that God is refining you! Just like
fine wine is transferred from vessel to vessel to remove
the "lees" so God will pass His servants from one
difficulty into another to remove from our lives those
things that are not pleasing in His sight. Don't fight Him!
Your best course of action this morning is to surrender
to His will now!
Others of you are lost, you need to be saved today.
Some are not walking in close communion with the
Lord, you need to be restored. Whatever the need, this
altar is open for you and there is help to be found in
Jesus. Will you come and trust God for whatever your
need may be?