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Nothing Left: The Elijah Cycle (1)

. 4 min read

2016/05/29 Christ Church,
Mountain Top (Memorial Day weekend)
Call to Worship, Psalm 30
Children, 1
Kings 17.1-7
Message, 1 Kings 17.8-24
Introduction:
Richness of the story in itself,
e.g.
      Elijah’s
audacious request of the widow
      Her
unknown reasoning for complying
            What the hell?
            We’re going to die anyway
It is the LORD God of Israel who
has withheld the rain, this is my chance to LIVE
“I have commanded a widow to feed
you” – Did she know in advance? (Ephrem the Syrian, ACCS OT V, 104)
Echoes of Moses:
Battle with the gods of Egypt
(Leithart, 127), as plagues/Moses
Baal the sky god, sender of the
rain
“When there is drought, it is
presumed that death … has been victorious and that Baal is dead” (Seow, 126)
Echoes in later Scripture:
Amos 8:11-12  The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD,
when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for
water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. 
12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not
find it.
“Famine of hearing the word of
the LORD” enacted by Elijah leaving Israel for brook Cherith (Leithart, 126).

Generosity:
Scarcity – our struggle with
never having enough
      NOTHING
left – 3 times in the story
      Brook
dried up
      Widow
and son preparing LAST meal before death
      Boy
dies: “no breath left in him”
He certainly did not make this
request because he was hungry but to teach the widow that … some of the first
fruits … had to be offered to God (Isho’dad of Merv, ACCS OT V, 104).
Prayer:
James 5:16-17  The prayer of the righteous is powerful and
effective.
  17 Elijah was a
human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for
three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
      What
sets Elijah apart is not that he never fell asleep when he prayed or that his
mind never wandered in prayer (Woodward). It is that he was obedient –
righteous. He goes to Cherith Ravine. He goes to Zarephat. The LORD commands,
and Elijah obeys, his obedience reported as an echo of the command (Leithart,
130-131).
At the end of the story, when
Elijah prays for the widow’s son to be raised, the sequence and the language is
reversed. It is as if Elijah gives a command to God and God complies!
      1
Kings 17:21-22
 Then he stretched
himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my
God, let this child’s life come into him again.”  22 The LORD listened to the voice
of Elijah; the life of the child
came into him again, and he revived.
Aside from powerful answers to
prayer – the conventional focus of conversation on prayer – things “get real”
when we pray out of our pain, when there is “nothing left” but pain:
“You have come to bring my sin to
remembrance”
      Justice:
Bad things come as a consequence of bad behavior
      Holiness:
When we get close to Holy One, things get dangerous
Elijah repeats the woman’s pain
and makes it his prayer!
1 Kings 17:20  O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even
upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?
Mission:
Sidon
      The
HQ of Baal worship
      The
land of Jezebel the queen
Surely that represented a risk
for Elijah, as he was PNG in Israel
      Mission
is about risk-taking
Jesus refers to this story in his
“inaugural sermon” (Luke 4.25-26). Elijah sought out a foreign woman! (Much of
the OT reacts against “strange women” leading Israel astray by prohibiting
contact and marriage.) Other unexpected rule-breaking for a man of God:
Unclean birds (ravens) feed the
prophet (Seow)
Goes near, touches, lays upon,
breathes into, an unclean corpse – and corpses radiate uncleanness (Leithart,
129).
      Mission
is about boundary-breaking
“While the church may suffer
setbacks, however, Yahweh never does, and his word never does. If the word is rejected
in Samaria, he finds a place where it will be welcomed in Zarephath; if he is
ignored and despised in Los Angeles, he will go to work in Lagos” (Leithart,
126). If Jesus is refused in Mountain Top, Jesus will go elsewhere, to Hazleton
or Wilkes-Barre or – God help us – Syria.
      Mission
is God’s, and it goes forward with or without us
Resources:
      Seow,
Choon-Leong. 1999. The New Interpreter’s
Bible, Vol III,
The Books of 1 & 2 Kings. Abingdon Press: Nashville,
TN.
      Conti,
Marco. 2008. The Ancient Christian
Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament Vol V.
InterVarsity Press: Downers
Grove, IL.
      Leithart,
Peter. 2006. 1 & 2 Kings (Brazos
Theological Commentary on the Bible). Brazos Press (Baker): Grand Rapids, MI.

      Woodward,
Dick. Sermon remark.