Obedience in Hardship

8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.

11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.

15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. 1 Ki. 17:8-16

As with the Shunammite woman, this fair lady’s name is not mentioned. But she was equally great. Oh, to be great in God’s sight!

This widow woman was a Canaanite (Oba. 1:20). She was not an Israelite.

Notice it was the Lord who commanded her to sustain Elijah. A command is something that has to be obeyed. This Canaanite woman heard and obeyed God’s Word. This is what makes her so great. In other words, she heard the Word of the Lord in her spirit, and she obeyed it. By obeying God’s Word, this poor widow became a great woman of faith.

In Luke 4:26, Jesus also speaks of this woman:

“24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” (Lk. 4:24-26)

Notice the reason Jesus says that Elijah was sent to this Canaanite woman was because she would receive and obey Elijah’s word, which was God’s Word. Even though there were many widows in Israel during the famine, yet none would accept God’s Word to do what this Canaanite widow did – to serve the servant of God their last meal in the face of a deadly famine.

During the time of this great famine, we read that Israelite women were boiling and eating their own children in order to preserve themselves (2 Ki. 6:28-29)! That speaks of character. It would not have been easy for Elijah to convince such a person to let him eat any food that they had prepared first. These people were faithless and desperate.

But God knew the Canaanite widow would obey Him in spite of her grim situation. So He sent Elijah to her.

True faith is obeying God in the face of difficult times, including persecution. I cringe when I think of the many times that I have failed to obey God in the face of just such situations. When I consider this poor, primitive Canaanite woman’s faith, I deeply abhor myself. I realize I am the least in the Kingdom of God. I repent, even this morning. May God have mercy on me.

It does not matter to God who we are or what we do. God is God, and He has commanded us to obey Him. He uses hardships and difficult situations to test our faith. Great faith is not when we are raising the dead. Great faith is when we are obeying God in the face of hardship and trouble.

The Bible says:

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)

“Be thou faithful unto death”. That is God’s commandment to us.

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Our God is a God of compassion

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother Lk 7:12-15.

We cannot begin to imagine the commotion that followed the execution of this high-end miracle. In fact, the Bible takes note of three things that took place as a result of this sensational deed:

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (v.16).

And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about” (v.17).

“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things” (v.18).

Likewise, we today are easily taken in by the “activity”. But don’t get distracted by the hyper-action. Whatever else that was accomplished through this miracle, and whatever importance that was attached to it – and there certainly was much – the Bible nonetheless makes clear the one thing that drove Jesus to resurrect that young man: He was driven by compassion.

Today there is much emphasis on the practical aspect of Christianity, but the “practical” we want to deal on is the works per se, as it were. We want to show off the miracles, the healings, the so-called deliverances, etc.

Yet, with Jesus, the practical was always about the heart. He invariably did all the great works He did out of the deep compassion that filled His heart. This is as it should be for the Bible says the reason that God sent Jesus to earth in the first place was to “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant” Lk. 1:72. Moreover, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” vs 77-79.

We see the same pattern of conduct with the early Apostles, as can be seen from what is written in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. The Apostles were not men who overly emphasized the works. They had something else to talk about, something much more profound. They talked about the revelation of the cross, and the power it has to change a man’s heart and make it tender and compassionate like Jesus’ heart was.

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount? The only reference there to workers of miracles is one that should make us sit and consider more the condition of our hearts rather than the miracles themselves.