Many Old Testament stories are familiar. If you grew up going to Sunday School, and if you are as old as me, you might remember flannel boards. Sunday School teachers would put up pictures of the Bible story, move the characters around on the board, as the account of that Old Testament man or woman would come alive. I loved flannel boards.
I thought of that today as I read about Elijah. I remember the flannel board story of the prophet lying beside a stream, hand stretched upward while ravens brought him dinner. I remember the same man standing before an altar, with fire coming down from heaven and burning up the sacrifice while terrified priests looked on. I remember seeing Elijah in the kitchen with a widowed mother.
And that’s the story that spoke to me this morning. The widow was starving. There was a serious famine in the land and the food supply was dwindling. When Elijah meets her, she tells him she is getting ready to fix dinner from the last of her resources. She was going to use the last of her flour and oil to make bread for her son and herself, knowing that would be their last meal before they starved to death.
Elijah, upon hearing their situation, said to the woman, “Feed me first.”
Really Elijah? You want this woman to use her last bit of food to take care of you before she takes care of her son? What are you thinking? I am sure none of us would condemn the woman had she turned the prophet down and fed her son.
But Elijah promised the woman that the flour and oil wouldn’t run out until God made it rain. What speaks to me is the woman’s reaction. She fed Elijah with her last bit of flour and oil. She fed Elijah instead of feeding her son.
When this dear widow went back to her kitchen she probably didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think she could prepare herself for what she saw. There was flour in the jar and oil in the jug. She fed her son! And she continued to feed her son. In fact, Scripture tells us:
“So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (17:15-16, emphasis mine)
If you are like me, you might be missing out on God’s provisions because you don’t give Him the first of your day or you’re finances. You might read your Bible when you find time, and give to your church after you pay your bills. You make sure you take care of yourself before you obey God’s command to take care of widows, or to go and make disciples, or to love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.
In fact, there is a popular lie out there, touted by some Christians, that say we need to take care of ourselves first. They will tell you you can’t love others until you love yourself. They say you can’t serve until you are satisfied, can’t be effective unless you are happy. That is totally opposite of what Scripture teaches us.
I’m pretty sure the widow didn’t feed Elijah because she felt good about herself. She fed Elijah while her own tummy was growling and while she feared the future. She fed Elijah, knowing her own son was starving.
And because she did, there was food every day.
Do you trust God? Really? Do you trust Him with your time and money, with your family and friends, with your job, your health, your future? Then give Him the first of what you have. Paul tells us to die to self, not build ourselves up. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not get revenge. He tells us that the first will be last and the last first, that we who give up our lives find life.
God can, and wants to, bless us every day beyond what we ask or think. The only thing that is holding Him back is you and me. He promises that if we give Him all we have, if we surrender ourselves, if we don’t hold back, He will bless us…