TEXT: I Kings 17:7-24
INTRO: We are living in days when being a mother is not as honored as it once was. Today if you are a mom it is thought odd if you stay home to be one full time. In 1995 31% of all births in the United States were to unwed mothers, so the idea of being a mother in a home with a father has been altered by our society also. Many moms today turn their kids over to others to keep all day long while they continue in their careers … it is a day of great challenges for motherhood!
Sometimes the odds seem overwhelming for being a good mother! Our kids have access to things that teach them values we don't hold, it is nearly impossible to keep influences away from children today that pull them in ways the world would have them travel in. What's a mother to do?
The truth is that many a successful man has had a godly mother to point to in his life, so often men who knew God had mothers who knew God!
ILLUS:When the will of Henry J. Heinz, wealthy distributor of the famous "57 Varieties" line, was read, it was found to contain the following confession: "Looking forward to the time when my earthly career will end, I desire to set forth at the very beginning of this will, as the most important item in it, a confession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I also desire to bear witness to the fact that throughout my life, in which there were unusual joys and sorrows, I have been wonderfully sustained by my faith in God through Jesus Christ. This legacy was left me by my consecrated mother, a woman of strong faith, and to it I attribute any success I have attained." - James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 381.
The Apostle Paul could point out a young man named Timothy that could attest to his faith from the example of his Mother and Grandmother …
There are clues in God's Word for successfully navigating the challenges of motherhood … and there is a way to beat the overwhelming odds mothers face in this demanding world!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that a faith and confidence in God is a mother's best tool in dealing with the overwhelming demands of a sinful society, godly moms get God's attention and help!
I. BRAVE & OPEN 17:7-14
A. Conflicts & Suffering! 17:7-12
1. Elijah was in trouble … he had prophesied no rain for the next few years, and indeed this had happened.
a. Though God had miraculously fed Elijah by ravens and put him by a brook … the brook dried up due to the lack of rain!
b. Though God provides a miracle and supernaturally feeds Elijah he is not exempt from other normal affects of nature such as the drought.
2. God tells him to go to Zarephath, a widow will be used to meet his needs!
a. This was extraordinary! First - Zarephath was in Sidon which is where Jezebel's father ruled as king (see I Kings 16:31) - in other words, RIGHT IN THE HEART OF THE ENEMY!
b. King Ahab of Israel had married Jezebel - a clear violation of God's Word, and she imported the Baal worship from Sidon to Israel.
c. Ironically, Baal was the storm god - of rain and lightening - yet Elijah had prophesied no rain for 3 years as proof that the God of Israel was the only God and that Baal was powerless and nothing.
d. Now God wants Elijah in the heart of the enemy's land, and it will be here that God will provide a mom to take care of him!
e. When God wanted to get something done He often looked for the right mom!
3. This mom was a widow with one child … and as a single mom in that day and society she was in deep poverty!
a. There is something about her however that is different from Jezebel who also came from this part of the world, this widow was a selfless, loving, and committed mother.
b. Jezebel was so different, she demanded everything to be her way, but this widow did whatever she could for others, especially her son.
c. Why would God ask a woman of hardly any means, a woman who herself was suffering to take care of Elijah? -- Because God knows the heart of a mother … that she will give even when there is nothing left to give!
ILLUS:Years ago, a young mother was making her way across the hills of South Wales, carrying her tiny baby in her arms, when she was overtaken by a blinding blizzard. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard had subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow. But they discovered that before her death, she had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it about her baby. When they unwrapped the child, to their great surprise and joy, they found he was alive and well. She had mounded her body over his and given her life for her child, proving the depths of her mother love. Years later that child, David Lloyd George, grown to manhood, became prime minister of Great Britain, and, without a doubt, one of England's greatest statesmen. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 375.
4. God never looks for who has the most money to do His work, He looks for who is most willing to be used by Him!
a. Moms by nature are giving nurturers, Elijah would be in good hands with this poor widow!
b. Our society and our kids don't need rich moms, they need moms who demonstrate the qualities of giving, caring, etc.
5. This widow faced more conflicts and suffering than the average woman of her day, yet she is chosen by God to meet the needs of God's servant.
a. Ahaz would never have thought of Eljiah being in Jezebel's home territory, much less being provided for by a poor widow mom … it was the perfect hiding place for Elijah!
b. So many times in the Bible God used moms to do the extraordinary things … like Moses' mom Jochebed, she defeated Egypt long before Moses did! (She taught Moses all during his childhood … and it paid off later!)
B. Challenge & Supply 17:13-14
1. It almost seems cruel for Elijah to ask this poor mom to bring him cold water (which was in short supply thanks to Elijah!) and the last piece of bread she had!
a. How could Elijah make such a request when she clearly tells him that she was gathering just a few last sticks to cook her last bread for herself and her son? (note: Bread making in those days involved using charcoal - hence the sticks)
b. Though she was expecting this to be her son's last meal she was busy being a mom to the very end.
2. Elijah is NOT being selfish, he knows that if she is willing to obey God's Word the covenant blessings Israel had lost through disobedience would come to this poor obedient woman.
a. The reason Israel was experiencing drought and no food was because they had rejected God and was disobedient to His Word.
b. The Old Covenant had clearly stated that if they obeyed, God would open the windows of heaven for the early and latter rains and their crops would be abundant - but failure to obey would mean he would shut the windows of heaven and cause their crops to fail. (see Lev. 26:3-4, 15-16)
c. Rather than be selfish, Elijah was testing this mom to see if she would trust God and thus enter into God's covenant blessings which would mean great supply for her and her son.
3. To obey seemed illogical from a worldly point of view, it just didn't make sense by any standard in this world … in fact, Elijah would have been scoffed as a selfish religious leader taking advantage of a poor widow if this had happened today!
a. But God's economy works different, the simple obedience of this poor mom could change her life for the better, obedience to God's Word always does!
b. She could not image what God had in store for her simple obedience to give her last piece of bread to God's prophet!
c. God does great things with great faith and little amounts of earthly supplies!
ILLUS: Years ago a Sunday school in Philadelphia was overcrowded, much like some of our children's departments today. A little girl was turned away. She began, that day, to save her pennies to help the Sunday school have more room. Two years later, she died. They found a pocketbook by her bed with 57 pennies and a little scrap of paper with a note saying to help the church build a bigger Sunday school. The pastor of that church, Dr. Russell Conwell, used that note to make a dramatic appeal to his congregation. People's hearts were touched. One realtor gave the church a piece of land. He said he just wanted a down payment of 57 pennies. The local newspaper picked up the story, and it was carried across the country. The pennies grew, and the results can be seen in Philadelphia today. I've never been to that spot, but I'd like to go see that church. It seats 3,300 people with a large Sunday school department. I'd like to visit Temple University and Good Samaritan Hospital that came about as a result of that initial effort. I'd like to visit the room at Temple University where that little girl's picture is on the wall with the reminder that she gave 57 cents with an amazing result. -- Bob Russell, "Take the Risk," Preaching Today, Tape No. 143.
4. Never underestimate God's work mom, even when you seem to have so little to contribute!
a. Elijah tells her to "not be afraid" …. "For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.'"
b. Elijah clearly is telling her that her obedience will bring the covenant blessings of God's provisions for her … so his asking her for her last bread was not an act of selfishness but a challenge for her to experience God's best by faith! He clearly tells her what will happen if she obeys.
II. BEATING THE ODDS! 17:15-24
A. Commitment & Scripture 17:15-16
1. She goes away and does EXACTLY as God's word through Elijah had asked of her.
a. This is faith at work!
b. She had no frame of reference to believe that her last flour would supernaturally replace itself, and her oil would not run out … this was completely blind trust in God's Word!
2. Not only was her life on the line by this act of faith but so was her son's!
a. No child will suffer from the likes of a godly parent!
b. This young boy was fortunate to have a mother who was not afraid to believe!
ILLUS:No man is poor who has had a godly mother. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 7851.
3. This mother was modeling faith to her son!
a. And sure enough what God said through Elijah was true, as she made more and more bread the flour never ceased nor did the oil!
b. Notice that it says in verse 15 that there was food for Elijah, the woman, and HER family. This would seem to indicate more than just her son, it may also indicate that she was giving to her extended family members during this drought since she had an unending supply!
c. She was not content to satisfy her own needs, she gave to others out of her abundance just as she had been willing to give when she had no abundance!
d. Givers are not created when people finally get enough to give, they are usually givers long before they have enough to give!
4. This son of hers was a lucky little boy to have a godly mother teach him lessons of faith … often moms are the best examples of what God is like to their children!
ILLUS:As we began to pastor our first church, my wife, Lori, and I found we were going to have a third child. Several weeks later, Lori was going through her clothes, which no longer fit. Watching her, our 5-year-old son asked, "Mom, now that you're going to have a baby, are you going to have to wear 'eternity' clothes?" -- Rev. Bill McKibben, Woodlake, Cal. "Kids of the Kingdom," Christian Reader.
5. She learned that when she kept God's Word, God's blessings followed! This was the lesson Israel was suppose to have learned, but they rejected it!
B. Confidence & Salvation 17:17-24
1. Succeeding in one test however does not mean that there won't be other tests to follow!
a. Though God continued the miracle of the flour and oil he didn't exempt this mom from other challenges of faith … and indeed her biggest challenge showed up!
b. Her son suddenly becomes ill and dies, even Elijah seems confused by all this … after all, wasn't God still miraculously providing the flour and oil, how could this happen?
2. For a moment she becomes distraught enough to begin to look for past sin in her life that might explain this sudden catastrophe.
a. While the first challenge of the bread seemed more a test for the woman, this incident seems a test for both the mom and Elijah!
b. The text indicates that Elijah is just as confused by this turn of events as is the widow.
3. Elijah takes the lifeless body of the boy and pleads for God to show kindness to this widow … he doesn't start digging to find out what sin she might have been speaking about!
a. He cries out to God, a cold body may have been thought beyond hope so he stretches out on the boy to keep his body warm in hopes God will yet rescue him.
b. This is the first recorded raising of the dead in the Bible, so there were no precedents to go by.
4. This mother had no where else to go except to God and His prophet, her confidence and hope was completely in God!
a. The same faith that gave life to them when they were starving to death would give life to her son in this situation also.
b. God heard Elijah's prayer and answered by raising the boy to life again.
5. Elijah brings the living boy back to his mother, and she understands the power of God and His Word … both she and this boy came to know the power of God's saving grace!
6. It is important to note that this was not the end of challenges, after 3½ years the drought ended and the flour and oil no longer ran supernaturally, so they had to return to normal ways of providing again … but they would never be the same now that God had touched their lives.
a. How about you mom? Has God touched your life? Have you shown your family the faith in a living God that can make all the difference?
b. If a single poor mom could overcome overwhelming odds through faith in God, so can you mom today! (and this is true for dads, kids, and everyone!)
CONCLUSION: A mom from Zarephath discovered what many moms know -- it is hard work being a good mom in a culture that frowned on her position. This mom had little power to help herself or her family, but with faith in God she beat all the odds and was favored by the Lord even though she was not Jewish by birth! Moms, it is possible to overcome the odds and see God's work in your life and your children, trust in God!