June 25, 2017
1 Kings 17: 8-24 (C0mmon English Bible)
Through the summer we are cycling through three patterns: a psalm and using the labyrinth; a new testament story about call and discernment; and the stories of the prophet Elijah. This morning is the first of those Elijah stories, so I thought it would be helpful to add some background information as we hear this story.
Elijah lived about a hundred years after King David. By that time, David’s kingdom had split into two nations: Judah in the south and Israel in the North. Elijah lives in the northern kingdom during the time of King Ahab. Ahab was married to Jezebel, who is a Phoenician, not an Israelite. She worships the Phoenician gods. The main god is Baal, a god of thunder and lightning and thus also rain Baal’s followers claim that he and his bride credit make the crops grow. This religion is called Baalism.
Jezebel is using her political power to increase Baalism in the nation of Israel, even suggesting the two religions can be blended together. The prophet Elijah preaches against this blending and calls Baal a false God. But then King Ahab builds a temple to Baal for his wife, and she brings an entourage of Baal’s priests and prophets into the capital city of Israel. King Ahab worships at both the temple to Israel’s God and the temple of Baal.
And so Elijah accuses Ahab of being a sinful king, abandoning the promises of Israel’s God. Elijah was particularly angry that King Ahab would encourage faithlessness against God in order to ensure political success. And Elijah announces that as long as this unfaithfulness continues, there will be no rain or dew in the country. A terrible drought overtakes the land. With the drought comes famine. Here begins our story.
8 The Lord’s word came to Elijah:
9 Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there.
I have ordered a widow there to take care of you.
10 Elijah left and went to Zarephath.
As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks.
He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.”
Consider the foolishness of the prophet. During a drought, he asks for water. He asks this from a widow, one of the poorest people in society. He asks this outside a city known for its temple to Baal.
11 She went to get some water. Continue reading