#1 “The Great Issues Of Faith From Elijah’s Life” Series




TEXT:         1 Kings 17:1-24


INTRO:       Not long ago I listened to an interview on TV with Sam Donaldson, a liberal newscaster.  He was being asked what he thought was wrong with America.  The lady interviewing him asked an interesting question, ... "Sam, you were raised a southern Baptist, do you ever wonder if maybe some of the things we were taught in that old time religion might have been right ... that we could use some of that old teaching?" His response was to first snort a snotty "praise the Lord" ... but then becoming reflective he said, "I don't know about going back to all that old fashion morality ... but I do think that this country is in deep trouble because we have come to believe that choices can be made without consequences!"  He continued to say, "We have got to teach and practice the reality that the choices we make have real consequences to them ... that we can't just get ‘out of trouble’ that easily if we choose to ignore the possible consequences of choices made now!"


We live in a "FIX IT" society ... we believe that we can fix anything so it really doesn't matter what we choose to do.  Take AIDS for example ... we are spending multiple millions of dollars on a cure for the disease (nothing wrong in that per se) but we are spending very little on teaching responsibility for the actions that bring about AIDS.


If there is something that we as Christians need to understand in the times we live it is that we must take responsibility for making wise choices!


This is not a POPULAR MESSAGE ... God's reality demands choices be made!  The world doesn't want to hear about hell ... but they don't mind hearing about heaven.  Everyone likes messages on LOVE ... but not many "AMENS" about responsibilities!


Pressing the truth that choices have real consequences to them will bring you opposition quickly, or at the very least unpopularity!  Yet, one of the basic expectations of an Old Testament priest was that they teach the people of God the difference between "the profane and the holy" ... and encourage the people to choose wisely, or consequences would result that they wouldn't enjoy!


PROP. SENT:   One of the great truths of the Christian life that cannot be ignored is that of choices and consequences!  Even in the face of great opposition we must practice and preach these twin truths!  If others don't choose wisely ... we must!




A.   Unpopular Pronouncement    17:1

1.   Elijah had the unpopular call to tell King Ahab of Israel that serious consequences were in the process of coming on Israel because of their stubborn refusal to get rid of their idols ... especially BAAL worship, the so called god of fertility, nature.  Sometimes called “Lord, Possessor, or “husband.”

a.   Baal was also a “storm” god, who brought fertility to the land through rain, often symbolized with a lightening bolt in his hand.

b.   Worship not only involved fertility worship, but sometimes also child sacrifice!

2.   A lengthy grace period had already passed for Israel ... their choices were becoming even more wicked ... possibly at the point where children were now being sacrificed!

a.   This aroused God's anger ... when innocent life is taken God does not sit idly by!

b.   The message of Elijah was intended to bring about a change for the better, not just to hurt people!

3.   In fact, the message would directly challenge their belief in BAAL … no rain would fall ... thus their crops would fail, their cattle would suffer and not reproduce, a direct challenge at their fertility god and storm god BAAL!  BAAL would become impotent!

a.   This would not just be a normal drought ... not even dew would fall.  BAAL wouldn’t be able to produce even a drop of dew!

b.   A clear message from God against a false god ... and to a nation to turn to the REAL source of life ... Jehovah God!

4.   As you might have guessed, Elijah would not endear himself to a stubborn people who did not want to hear messages of reproof ... they only wanted messages of blessing!

a.   Thus God planned to get him out of town for his own safety!

b.   This would also allow the Lord to provide for Elijah ... so he would not suffer the same exact consequences as his rebellious brothers!


ILLUS:     Some years ago in a lumbering town out west a town wanted to build a church and call a Pastor.  They built a beautiful wood church and called a young man who did accept the call.  All went well at first, until one day the Pastor noticed while visiting some of his flock down by the river.  He noticed that many of the townspeople had gathered at the river and were taking logs out as they drifted down from another town.  The logs had all been carefully marked on their ends to identify the owners.  To his dismay, he watched his parishioners saw off the ends of the logs, burn those ends and take the wood for themselves!  The next Sunday he decided to preach on "THOU SHALT NOT STEAL!"  To his utter shock at the end of the service the people lined up and congratulated him on the wonderful message!  That week he noticed the same thing take place ... this time his message was entitled, "THOU SHALT NOT CUT OFF THE END OF THY NEIGHBOR’S LOGS."  When he finished, the townspeople ran him out of town!  They wanted the messenger to come ... but they didn't want to hear the message! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


B.   Unfortunate Predicament!    17:2-4

1.   Though Elijah did not choose to sin as did his brothers he would also experience a measure of the loss brought about by their sin!

a.   This is the great tragedy of sin ... it doesn't only affect just you, it impacts others, a message being shouted today through afflictions like AIDS.

b.   We are not an island, we are a community of people, thus consequences brought on by one impacts others.

2.   The up-side of this section is that God would take care of his servant for making the right choices personally.

a.   Even in the midst of great peer pressure, if you choose what is right in God's eyes you might not be popular with the crowd, but God will take care of your needs!

b.   Elijah is sent to hide out for a while as the consequences fall on Israel, and as the consequences fall so does his popularity in Israel!

c.   This is the tragedy of unrepentant sin; the people direct their anger at Elijah instead of realizing they brought these consequences upon themselves!

3.   God had a river however to meet Elijah’s thirst ... and ravens to feed him twice a day!  For those who walk in obedience to God He always has a way of supply their needs.

a.   Ravens were unclean animals according to the laws of Moses ... and they were predators, takers not givers by nature!  They are such birds of prey that they tend to even ignore their own young!  It is ironic that God used such an unlikely source for ministry!

b.   God would change the raven’s nature, though they were unlikely choices for ministry!  God only can do this!  He still does this with those he calls for ministry today!


ILLUS:     In Great BRITAIN Ravens are hunted by Shepherds ... they are enemies to shepherds, killing small lambs! ... If need be, God can use unlikely sources to minister to us if we choose what is right! – SOURCE UNKNOWN


C.   Unfailing Patience    17:5-6

1.   Elijah was obedient, trusting God's Word that He would take care of his needs.

2.   There is no hint of Elijah becoming restless while waiting.

3.   Each day he had to trust God for his "daily bread" ... the ravens brought his need only as it existed, not a supply ahead of time!

4.   He must have been encouraged in his decisions to be obedient to God, at least for the time the brook had water!




A.   Universal Principle    17:7

1.   Israel should not have been surprised by the draught, this had been spelled out as one of the possible consequences of breaking the covenant they had made with God!

a.   Obedience would bring blessing.

b.   Disobedience would bring disaster! ... Real consequences to sin!

2.   There was nothing wrong with the covenant or God, they had agreed long ago to the terms.

3.   Israel under Ahab however had chosen idolatry, a very wicked variety at that!

a.   Just because they were Abraham's descendants didn't mean they would blessed without bearing responsibilities!

b.   Just as growing up in a Christian home doesn't guarantee God's blessings on your life if you ignore obedience to God's Word!

4.   As if to send a message to Israel, God devises a plan to show how universal the covenant promises really are ... HE WILL SEND ELIJAH TO THE LAND OF SIDON WHERE A NON-JEWISH WOMAN WOULD EXPERIENCE THE BLESSINGS OF THE COVENANT!


B.   Unusual Provision!    17:8-12

1.   Here is the irony ... Elijah is sent to the land of Sidon to bless a widow who would obey God's Word.  Ahab's wife was from Sidon, Jezebel was the one who encouraged the breaking of God's covenant in Israel and thus brought about this disaster on Israel!

a.   If a Sidonian would break the covenant and so bring disaster...

b.   God would bless a Sidonian who would obey the covenant; truly the principle of obedience and blessing was universal!

2.   Now Jezebel has 850 priests of Baal in Israel, while God has 1 prophet in Sidon!

3.   God would reveal His love and compassion on even an individual who would open their heart to Him ... found here in a Sidonian widow woman with one son.

4.   God would use this woman to provide for Elijah's needs and meet this woman's needs through her obedience to God's Word through Elijah as God’s prophet!

a.   It certainly was an unusual way for God to answer both their needs!

b.   Two people walking in obedience to God's Word would both be blessed by each other ... a picture of how wonderful it can be when brethren are united in obedience to God's Word together ... that church will be blessed -- and their needs met!

5.   Elijah finds the lady while she is gathering sticks for a fire ... a sure sign that she was poor and without a husband.

a.   His request is simple; “a little water!” (Something in short supply at the time -- thanks to his own ministry!)

b.   And he added to that request, "how about a bite to eat too please?"

6.   Her response was troubling; "I don't have any bread, just a handful of flour ... for a final meal for my son and myself and then we will die!"

a.   This would evoke embarrassment and compassion from any prophet of God worth his salt!

b.   Imagine the obvious implications of this statement to Elijah!  He has just traveled to the land of his enemies, entrusted himself to be taken care of by a Sidonian woman, only to find she is so poor she has no food!  WHAT A TRIP!

c.   If this wasn't bad enough ... the next request he makes is enough to embarrass anyone!


C.   Unbelievable Petition!    17:13

1.   Elijah first tells her not to be afraid ... good idea in light of what he was about to ask her!

2.   Before judging Elijah too harshly for what he asks for ... remember God told him this woman was going to be the divine source of supply for all his needs … so really he is simply believing God and taking Him at his word by what he is about to ask her!

3.   He asks her, “… But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.”  WHAT A REQUEST!

a.   This woman had tremendous need in her own life ... and now to be asked to give first to him?

b.   How biblical this principle really is, out of our greatest needs many times comes some of our finest ministry!

c.   Her obedience would reflect her belief in the God of Elijah ... and her obedience to a covenant that required Elijah’s God be put first ... then blessing would result!

d.   Though she is not Jewish, her obedience to God's covenantal principles would open the windows of heavens to provide her own daily bread as needed!


ILLUS:     The problem with many in the world today is that they try and go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands!  – SOURCE UNKNOWN


4.   She had learned the secret of God’s covenantal blessings, obedience to God's Word!

5.   The results would be very clear ... AN UNMISTAKABLE PRIZE!


D.   Unmistakable Prize!    17:14-16

1.   She could not have imagined the depth of the blessing she was about to receive ... she could not have done better!

2.   The oil would flow until the drought ended ... and the flour would not be used up until the drought ended!

a.   This miracle would not excuse her from manual labor or responsibility!

b.   She would still have to mix, knead, and bake the dough, etc.

c.   And when the drought ended and normal growth patterns returned so would her need to sow, plant and reap.

d.   Miracles are not intended to take responsibilities away from us ... but to demonstrate the value of responsibility!

3.   Like earlier, Israel's disobedience impacted others ... now her obedience would impact someone else, ELIJAH and her own son!

a.   Obedience by one brings blessings to others as well!

b.   Just think how much blessing can be poured around by a bunch of obedient saints!




A.   Unexpected Pain!     17:17-20

1.   Had the story stopped here it would be nice, but a miracle at one point in life doesn't mean the absence of pain at other points in life!

2.   "Some time later..." perhaps this incident was intended to freshen the faith and renew covenant obedience after a protracted period of blessing!

a.   Blessings flowing can have a tendency for us to think ourselves above suffering!

b.   It can breed arrogance ... as was often the case with Israel following great periods of prosperity!

3.   In the midst of tremendous blessing suddenly the greatest pain strikes!

a.   The woman's only son gets sick and dies!

b.   A son was a widow's only hope for social security in those days!

c.   Her means for future hope was suddenly taken ... "what would she do when the draught broke if she had no son to help her seed and harvest?!"

4.   A new challenge to her faith has arisen!


B.   Unequaled Power!    17:21-23

1.   Yet, this greatest of tragedy would provide just a greater demonstration of God's power ... this is the first recorded instance of someone being raised from the dead in the Bible!

a.   The first miracle of this kind happens to a GENTILE! ... A WOMAN! ... A SINGLE PARENT!

b.   God doesn't care who you are ... just that you believe in HIM!

2.   It is important to note that this incident really tries her faith ... she is quite distraught, her earlier faith was being quite challenged by this event!

3.   So was Elijah's faith challenged, you can hear it in his prayer, "0 LORD MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU BROUGHT TRAGEDY ALSO UPON THIS WIDOW I AM STAYING WITH, BY CAUSING HER SON TO DIE?" (17:20b)

a.   Elijah’s faith is being challenged too!

b.   God's credibility was also at stake ... she had been obedient to God's covenant, how could God ignore His promises to the children in the covenant?

4.   God didn't ignore the faithfulness of the woman or the earnest cry of His prophet!

a.   The boy is raised to life again!

b.   The text is clear that the boy was dead and not just unconscious ... his body was already cold, evidenced by the fact that Elijah did his best to try and warm it again ... but clearly stating that God sent the child's soul back into the body, it wasn't a physical healing by Elijah's technique of body warmth transfer!

c.   The 3 times also indicate the depth of the boy's death ... it took a while just to transfer some heat!


C.   Unquestionable Perspective!    17:24

1.   As you might imagine this brought a very bold faith alive in this woman!

2.   It is one thing to have your food stretch quite a ways, quite another to have the dead raised to life again!

3.   This would settle the doubts for this woman, ONLY THE REAL GOD COULD DO this stuff!  The local god BAAL (who had been taken to Israel by Jezebel) could not stand against the living God of Elijah ... he couldn't even break Jehovah God's drought.  BAAL couldn’t even give life to no plant life, much less give life to a human, only ELIJAH'S GOD COULD DO THIS!  BAAL “bailed” out on them!

4.   In the life of a couple of obedient people God demonstrated His faithfulness to meet their needs, this in contrast to a disobedient nation whose choices had brought devastating consequences.

5.   No matter what the crowd chooses ... you can choose wisely ... stick with God, obey His Word and enjoy His covenantal blessings!


CONCLUSION:   No one said the walk of faith would be easy, but it will be rewarding!  Even if everyone around you ignores God's Word, as an individual you can lay claim to God's best by choosing His ways and His Word.  God always has His eye open even for one obedient servant!  It is possible to serve Him even AGAINST THE OPPOSITION!