Step of Faith 1: Our relationship with God
Our story begins in 1 Kings 17:1, where Elijah the prophet informs King Ahab that both rain and dew will cease in Israel for a period of three years, that dialogue introduced a severe famine.
Elijah understood God. His relationship with God was more to him than food, drink and a pillow for his head. He was a pure conduit.
It takes great faith and expectation to pray to manipulate the elements. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much. Have you heard of anyone today endowed with that degree of God's power?
Step of Faith 2; The trial of prayer
The second step of faith comes in verse 2, where God informs Elijah to live at the brook Cherith if he wants to survive the famine he just initiated.
What a lesson for us? Could we endure the result of our prayers?
As somebody once said, "if you pray for rain, expect to walk through some mud."
I believe Elijah expected to go hungry but had faith that God would come through. He was fed morning and evening on "bread" and "flesh" brought to him by ravens, and drank from the brook. (V6)
Not once in that time did Elijah enjoy a hot meal or flavoured or warm drink, or a modification to his diet. Neither do we read of him whinging.
How would we have gone? Let's pause on this point and look at our own lives. A couple of weeks at the brook and many of us would have thought God had abandoned us. Would you have expected to go through the famine you've just prayed for? Instead, would you think everyone else would, except you, considering you are so righteous? (Remember, Elijah thought he was the only believer left in Israel).
How would the conversation go? "Sob, sob, sob, Lord, when can I have something decent to eat and drink?" "All you've given me is this filthy food and muddy brook. I expected more from you. Why have you left me like this?"
Thankfully, Elijah was of the spiritual genes of Joshua and Caleb. Instead of his cup being half-empty, it was brimming over. He didn't think, "why do I have to put up with this?" his attitude was, "Praise God he has kept me alive."
When we think of that food, we imagine crows on the roadside plucking away at roadkill. But I have a suspicion it was different to that. I wouldn't be surprised if God instructed the ravens to take it directly from the King's palace, as he and his wife Jezebel would have ensured they ate well, even in a famine while others were dying. They were also seeking Elijah's life, blaming him for the famine, so I can see the Lord's irony if in fact the palace was the source of his sustenance.
Step of Faith 3: Maturity
We see that God's miracle had a timeframe. The brook dried up. Elijah was then told to visit a woman outside of Israel, in Zarephath, to where the famine seems to have extended. This is another difference we see in the way Elijah viewed himself, and is a sign of maturity. If it were us, we might have thought, "Great, finally I can get something to eat other than crow food," and visited expecting to be fed, to be a receiver.
Elijah went there expecting to be the giver. Despite his third-world food and lodging for months at the brook, he still expected to be the bringer of good tidings. Along with his title of Prophet, he chose to be an energy giver instead of an energy taker or energy waster. These decisions are also ours. We can choose to be givers or takers.
Elijah arrived just in time. The lord's timing is always perfect. This woman was preparing the final meal for her and her son. All she had left was a small jar of oil and a couple of handfuls of oats. It was a custom to provide board and lodging for itinerant priests and prophets, but what would we have thought if we saw Elijah turn up for a feed?
She stated the fact of her rations to Elijah, "As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die." (V12)
However, appearing to disregard her statement of poverty, Elijah still required her to make a cake for him first and, out of whatever was left, for herself and her son. This sounds so priestly arrogant, doesn’t it? As if the poor woman and her son were irrelevant when it came to Elijah’s needs.
She didn't realise that by faithfully following Elijah’s instructions, she was actually preparing an offering unto the Lord through his servant.
What would you have done? Perhaps this response?"Didn't you just hear what I said? We don't have enough!"
No, this woman was maturely faithful, even in what seemed her final hour.
I Kings 17:15-16, says, "And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah."
Oats and oil weren’t the saving grace for Elijah, the woman and her son. They lived exclusively on faith. Faith was the substance, not oils and oats.
The evidence of faith
Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Both Elijah and the woman stepped out in faith. How hard is it to follow the Lord's command when it seems foolish or contradictory to sound judgment? But we can't lose sight of the fact that the ways of faith so often clash with common sense.
In this brief story, there was much evidence of faith. For instance, the evidence of no rain or dew, of raven-Uber Eats free of charge, of a brook full of water, of solitude surrounded by the presence of God instead of the usual sin, and of the answer to a woman's silent prayer for help.
Yet the evidence did not come until after the faith was displayed. That's why it is called faith. It is believed before it is seen.
We say we have faith, but in troubled times are we still demanding to see the evidence first, like doubting Thomas?Do we actually believe God when the chips are down, when our world looks like it has turned against us, when we seem forced to go through the valleys of our times?
Question yourself. Is your faith-cup brimming over or half-empty?
While we have breath we have time to correct any lackings of faith. Learning to rely on the living God is one step of faith at a time.
Today’s prayer:Dear Lord, thank you for Elijah and this woman. She displayed so much faith, yet I don't even know her name. Also, thanks for Elijah’s commitment to remain so close to you that he could stop rain and dew, and that he was prepared to endure as others were, and rely solely on your provisions. Please help me to also rely on what you provide for me, and remind me to be both appreciative and satisfied, whether in feast time or famine.
Photo by Evelyn Tomic