Monday, June 13, 2016

You Want Me To Go Where?

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know that the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is one of my favorite Bible passages.  There is so much meat there to chew on and so many blessings to be had.  Today, I'd like to share with you a bit of what happened right before that showdown when Elijah was running from his enemies.

I think you know the story.  Per God's orders, Elijah went to King Ahab and told him that it wasn't going to rain until God said so.  Obviously, Ahab didn't take this well, so God sent Elijah into hiding. First, He commanded him to wait by the brook Cherith where the ravens would feed him.  Strange instructions, to be sure, but nothing compared to what was coming next.

And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. - I Kings 17:7-9

To understand the irony of this command, we need to know a little about Zarephath.  First off, it was a Gentile nation, which means God wasn't even using His people to take care of Elijah.  Strange, huh?  But it gets worse.  The name "Zarephath" actually means "smelting furnace."  Perhaps Elijah was the first one to utter the phrase "out of the frying pan and into the fire."  Seriously, what kind of name is that?  But believe it or not, it gets worse still.  Zarephath was part of Zidon, and would you like to guess who the king of Zidon was?  Jezebel's father.

I don't know how much of this information Elijah knew at the time, but I imagine he at least knew that he was walking in foreign territory.  I wouldn't be surprised it he was a bit leery of the entire situation.  After all, weren't there people in his own land who could have cared for him?  Was it necessary for him to seek shelter and provision from a Gentile?

Imagine Elijah's surprise when he turns up in Zarephath and spots the widow who is supposed to take care of him.  He asks her for some food and water, and she informs him that she's gathering some sticks so she can fix the last meal for herself and her son.  I would have been like, "Seriously, Lord?  How is this woman supposed to care for me when she doesn't even have enough food for her household?"  Fortunately, Elijah had more faith than I do, and things worked out exactly how God had planned.

Let's face it, sometimes God's directions don't make sense to us, do they?  They seem odd or even dangerous.  But if there's one thing I've learned through life and Bible study, it's that God works in mysterious ways.  Seldom does He do things the way we expect Him to do them.  He has His own methods, and they are always right.  Our job is to be obedient to His commands, however strange they may seem to us.  Elijah trusted God, and God met his needs. We can trust God to do the same for us, even in the midst of what seems like a smelting furnace!

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