Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Bless affectionately, gratefully praise the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great! You are clothed with honor and majesty -- You are the One who covers Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain or a tent. Who lays the beams of the upper room of His abode in the waters above the firmament, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind.”
Psalm 104: 1-3
“Oh, make my clouds thy chariots,
So shall I learn to see
That the mist that dims the glory
Is itself a light from Thee.
For the shadow of the wilderness
To me shall sing aloud,
When I find thy nearest coming,
In the advent of a cloud.
Today’s Study Text:
“Arise, and go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you. So he (Elijah) arose and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks.”
1 Kings 17: 9, 10
“A Home In Zarephath – Part 1
Arise, Dwell, Command and Sustain”
“Cause me, O Lord my God,
More and more to comprehend
What I owe You,
What I owe others,
What I owe myself.”
If I had been the widow in Zarephath, how would I have felt when God “commanded” me to assist in taking care of someone I didn’t even know?
What lesson can I learn about God’s ability to open my heart and my hands in service for Him?
What are some of the practical ways I can apply the words of Jesus in my own life: “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least (in the estimation of men) of these My brethren, you did it for Me?”
Matthew 25: 40
“The measure of an individual is not in the number of his (or her) servants, but in the number of people whom he (she) serves.”
Paul D. Moody
“We are intimately linked in this harvest work…This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
Matthew 10: 40, 42
The Message Bible
As a lover of poetry, I find I often gain a deep appreciation of spiritual concepts which is expressed in “lyrical” fashion. This is why the poem by hymn writer and poet Philip Doddridge, caught my attention, especially because it beautifully articulates the sentiment in the words of Jesus in Matthew 10: 40 and 42 which I shared above. Here’s the way Doddridge conveys the emotion contained in this thought:
“What is my being but for Thee,
Its sure support, its noblest end;
Thy ever-smiling face to see,
And serve the cause of such a Friend?”
As I reflected on the last line above, “and serve the cause of such a Friend,” I found myself thinking about the lengths we would go to do something to improve, serve, and care for the life of a close friend. I know there are those who have gone out on a long, long limb for me in my life. Frankly, I could never fully repay their kindness. But I know if there were any way I could, I would.
I was reminded of this fact over the past weekend when my friend Mary and I “partook” of our weekly phone conversation. Yes, for more than twenty plus years, we have spoken by phone every week -- no matter where we live or where we are in the world. When I was a young girl, during a very difficult time in my life, Mary and her husband did something for me which literally changed my life and helped set my little “ship” (it was more like a dingy) on a positive course. I can never balance the scales for my debt to Mary. It could never be paid if I lived a hundred lifetimes. But believe me, through the years, I’ve tried to do some things that would, in a tangible way, let Mary know that gratitude is alive and well in my heart.
One of the things I did accomplish was throwing a 60th birthday party for Mary. It was a blast. And everyone had so much fun that evening. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later that my enjoyment of the evening was fully realized. In one of our weekly chats, Mary said, “You’ll never know how much that party meant, Dorothy. No one ever before has thrown a birthday party for me in my entire life -- ever! I never would have known had Mary not shared this information. It was just a party -- one evening gathered with friends -- but there were life-lasting consequences.
And this, believe it or not, takes us right to the heart of our study text for today in 1 Kings 17: 9. Here’s how the passage reads in the King James Version of the Bible:
“Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.”
Let’s remember, I don’t think there’s a single one of us who would not bend over backwards, and every which way, for a friend. But here in this text, Elijah is told by God that a total stranger, a widow from the nation of Sidon, is going to go way out on a limb to “sustain” or “provide” for him. Truly amazing, isn’t it. In fact, it is so unusual that I was motivated by the message in this text to look closer at the Hebrew meaning of four particular words:
- Arise: Rise up with boldness and strength. To accomplish. To continue and endure. To remain and perform. To rouse and stablish. To succeed.
- Dwell: To sit down. To remain. To abide. A habitation. To inhabit. To stay still.
- Commanded: To enjoin, constitute, appoint. Charged with and put in order.
- Sustain: To keep in hence to measure. To contain and feed. To guide. To be present and make provision for. To provide sustenance.
Here comes my favorite part -- putting the text together. What God came to Elijah with, was a message that went something like this:
“Stand up with boldness and strength. I have something for you to accomplish and what’s more, I’m giving you the strength to do it. You’ll succeed. Get going to Zarephath (Yes, I know it is a 100 mile walk and that it is in Jezebel’s homeland). However, you are going to stay there -- remain for a while, so sit down. This will be where you are going to live -- you will inhabit a home there for I have directed with emphasis and authority (enjoined) and set up everything ahead of time. I’ve put everything in order. My plan involves a widow woman (yes, again -- in Sidon!). She will provide sustenance for you. She’ll provide all you need.”
Now, there are a couple of things I learned, about this passage, as frequently happens when we really take the time to study God’s word. It is additional information that I find not only interesting, but comforting -- like a friend who comes to your rescue for no other reason than they care about you.
First, the command that God gave to the widow of Zarephath, in Hebrew, is the same word we find in the verse above where God commands the ravens to feed Elijah -- to provide provision and sustenance for him. Seems God’s “little helpers,” His “friends” recognize His call to caring action, be they big black birds or a pitiful widow woman in a foreign country. This fact only reinforces the words spoken by Pastor Charles Spurgeon which are taped to the reading light by my bed:
“Say not my soul, ‘From whense can God relieve my care?’ Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere!” And I say to this, “Amen and Amen!”
What’s more, you may be God’s helper who at a moment’s notice, becomes the friend who sustains and provides. Or it may be, that out of nowhere, an unknown someone, becomes the “sustainer” that flies in from the sky or walks out the gate of Zarephath.
But there’s one over-riding thought that 1 Kings 17: 9 lead me to which is found in Psalm 55: 22. There are only four places in the Old Testament where the word “sustain,” as found in the Hebrew in 1 Kings 17: 9, is used. Of course, this interesting information peaked my curiosity, so I checked out all four texts. The first is our study text today where God sends “sustenance.” The second passage is found in Nehemiah 9: 21, Amplified Bible, where the prophet Nehemiah reminds God of the way He has sustained His children. “Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.” If you ask me -- that’s a whole lot of “sustaining” by God. But the third text, adds the whipped cream and cherry on the top of God’s “sustaining” love. This text is found in Psalm 55: 22, Amplified Bible, and is what is called a “reflective” Psalm of David -- an individual who was on the receiving end of a great deal of God’s “sustaining” love. Here’s how David expressed what God had done for him: “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you: He will never allow the righteous to be moved, made to slip or to fail.”
Just as though we were walking on stepping stones of God’s sustaining power, the final verse, containing this particular Hebrew word in the Old Testament is found in Proverbs 18: 14, Amplified Bible, where David’s son Solomon writes: “The strong spirit of a man (or woman) sustains him (her) in bodily pain or trouble.
As I read through these texts, I thought about the way God took care of Elijah, first by a creek in a setting which this man of nature found comfortable. But then God said, “If I can care for you where you are comfortable Elijah, don’t get concerned about My ability to care for you where you aren’t as comfy -- in Zarephath.” And then the prophet Nehemiah reminded God that He is the friend of those who need providing for. And the Psalmist David even went a step further by exhorting his listeners to dump every care on God for He is the ultimate sustainer whom Solomon tells us will give us the heavenly Spirit to be able to bear the pain and the trouble we face in life. I tell you -- it isn’t that the Bible just amazes me -- it’s the fact that if we take even a few moments each day to spend in God’s Word, we will find a “sustaining” support that not only carries us through the tough times, but gives us a gift we can share with our friends -- a payback so to speak, given to us by our ultimate heavenly Friend who says, “As I have given to you, so you can give to others.”
As God said to Elijah: “Arise, Dwell, Command, and Sustain. I’ve got it all taken care of for you. My friends have swung into action. Don’t you worry about a thing.” Can you and I do any less for those in our lives whom we call our friends?
“Open my eyes that they may see,
The deepest needs of men;
Move my hands that they may feed,
Touch my heart that it may bring warmth,
To the despairing;
Teach me the generosity,
That welcomes strangers;
Let me share my possessions,
To clothe the naked;
Give me the care,
That strengthens the sick;
Make me share in the quest,
To set the prisoners free;
In sharing our anxieties and our lives,
Our poverty and our prosperity,
We partake of Your divine presence.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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