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Friday, April 26, 2013

How Can We Stay Faithful?

Are you like me? Sometimes you pass the test and sometimes you don't? In reading in I Kings 17, I recently saw with new eyes someone who went from trusting God to abandoning that trust. The story is familiar, but read it with me:

"Then the word of the Lord came to him [Elijah], saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”  


Here's a photo of Sidon today.
File:Sidon-coast.jpg

 
First notice the immediate responsiveness of this woman. Even though we're going to find out that she is on a death march, she does what the prophet says. Although she lives in a Gentile city/area and is assumed to be a Gentile, we assume she must believe in Jehovah because of what she says next. And whether she recognizes Elijah as a prophet we don't know, but she knows he is a Jew (by her words). 

So, she starts out really well. She is responsive and believing. Let's continue:


But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

I can't help but notice the seeming calmness of her words. She's not hysterical. She's not even upset. She's matter-of-fact. She is at peace by being surrendered to the death of herself and her son.  

Though she knows Elijah is a prophet, she doesn't ask him to intercede or change her situation. Should we take from this that she knows of Jehovah and even believes in Him, but she doesn't look to Him for her personal needs? Possibly. Let's go on:

Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.

I so admire this woman. She obeys without a question. I would have asked, "Are you sure, Man of God? But don't you know there's a famine going on and everyone is hungry? And by the way, I'm not even one of your countrymen, I'm a woman, and I have no status in society. Why would God want to provide for me?"

Sound like someone we know? Like the Woman at the Well? hmmm. Except that the Woman at the Well had some objections. This Woman of Sidon didn't. Good for her. She's doing well.

But we're not finished yet. Two years pass. In the midst of a continuing famine, the woman and her son are never hungry. The flour and oil are not exhausted. This woman continues to see God's miraculous provision and her faith must be growing stronger and stronger. Then verse 17 continues the story:


Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” 
Commentator Barnes gives this insight: 
What have I to do with thee? - i. e., "What have we in common?" - implying a further question, "Why hast thou not left me in peace?" The woman imagines that Elijah's visit had drawn God's attention to her, and so to her sins, which (she feels) deserve a judgment - her son's death.
Commentator Clarke writes, 
 To call my sin to remembrance - She seems to be now conscious of some secret sin, which she had either forgotten, or too carelessly passed over; and to punish this she supposes the life of her son was taken away. It is mostly in times of adversity that we duly consider our moral state; outward afflictions often bring deep searchings of heart.
Reading these comments, how are you feeling about the Woman at Sidon?  

What do you think of her seeming lack of faith and trust? 
Does it seem like she's forgotten all that God has done for her? 
Do you, like me, relate to her--when a deeply disturbing event can shake our faith and trust? 
Do you think she's forgetting to be grateful? 
Or do you want to defend her?

Think about it. Can you relate to her struggle? Maybe you also had experienced God's amazing grace yet when trials came, you struggled? Give me your comments, if you'd like. 

We'll continue in my next post.
  
Photo found at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidon

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