What a strange feeling, especially for me! It started off as a calm, united, mutual decision my wife and I made this time last year. She had been working for a couple of school districts (she is a teacher) and had dealt with MANY problems; from disrespectful students of all ages– that’s putting it mildly—to parents to administrators (who don’t back up their staff- taking away any leverage one has to enforce discipline and maintain order). When we were living in Perú, I was also a teacher. It was totally a “G-d thing” and it was a Christian school. Since a part-time position came up at a similar school where we live now for her to be a part of, and since I knew and wanted her to experience the unity of a staff who were all believers as I had been blessed with in Surco (a suburb of Lima), we trusted the Father with the massive cut in pay. While He graciously provided for our needs as He promises us He will do when we put Him and the kingdom first, we had no idea how long, how different and how difficult that season would be to live out. While we trusted the Lord to get us by, I’m not so sure we didn’t unknowingly and unwittingly put Him to the test as we are most certainly NOT supposed to do.
Fast forward to this week. My wife has accepted a position with a public school system due to a few factors: one, the kids at the Christian school were not a whole lot better (most students and parents are not believers). Two, we needed more to live on and we wanted to give more. And, three, the parents weren’t much, if any, better either. However, we won’t see her first paycheck for over a month and we’ve already received her last remuneration from her outgoing institution. We need every bit of our combined incomes to tithe, give offerings, pay the bills, get food and buy gas. One thing the Lord has somehow worked into me incrementally the last year that still amazes me from time to time is how, not long ago, I would have been stressed and freaking out—at least, internally—over FAR less than what I am facing now. I say “I” because I am the one who handles the bills and checkbook. I trust the Lord implicitly and have been saved for seventeen years now, but never have I been on this kind of a journey nor for so long. He has been patient, faithful, kind and generous all the while! I still don’t know specifically how we made it through a single month, let alone a full year (of course it’s the big “G” word we love from Ephesians 2:8, but I can’t cite anything directly).
In my wanted and needed daily time with our King in the early morning hours recently, He brought to my mind the factual account found in 1 Kings 17:8-16. Father G-d spoke to the prophet Elijah’s spirit and told him to journey to a town called Zarephath in the city of Sidon. The Lord had directed him to go there to be fed by a widow. One thing you must understand is that widows had a hard time of it, to be sure. Their husbands were the only sources of income virtually all of the time. To make daily living even more taxing was that this woman had a young son to care for in addition to having her own needs met. Bearing that in mind, it seems quite unnatural for the Lord to be sending Elijah to be fed by her, rather than to feed her. Now the Bible says in verse twelve that after the man of G-d arrives, sees her and makes a request of her for only “a little water” and “a morsel of bread” that the widow responds that she is, at that very moment, gathering a few sticks in order to make a fire and to use just a handful of flour and an equally meager amount of oil to prepare their last meal for her son and herself, and then to die. Please don’t make the assumption that I have in the past in thinking she is melodramatic or that the short phrase is just biblical hyperbole. No. There was a divinely-ordained famine in the land due to drought at the hands and word of Elijah. It was not nearly over and there were no crops, nor would there be for the foreseeable future. This woman, worse than my wife and I, was “accustomed” to lean times even when food was available. When she used the word “die,” that’s what she fully expected to happen to herself and her son. Our straights are not as dire, but I’m sure you can see why the Lord of Hosts chose this genuine narrative to speak to me. For those of you who say or think that the Bible is antiquated and not “relevant,” check your doubts at the door here and read on.
What happens next is hope-filled, unexpected, exciting and SUPERnatural! Here we pick things up in verse thirteen with a very strange turn of events once again. Even after hearing of the woman’s plight, the prophet has what appears to be no care (even though we know that’s not the case because the Father told him he was going there to be fed) when he says, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.” As one person noted, most of us would have responded much differently than this poor woman. She might have very well said something like, “Pardon me sir, but we barely have enough for ourselves, and you not only want us to share our very last meal with you, but you want to eat first? I need to care for my son and myself first, then I will share IF there is anything left.” But this woman obeyed Elijah. By the way, in her doing this, she set an example for her young son to learn and to emulate throughout his life ( the Lord Jesus said “it is better to give than to receive”, although this widow lived long before our Savior came to earth). Then Elijah delivers the unexpected but wonderful words, “For thus says the Lord G-d of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” Wow! We know from verse seven that the lack of rain had just begun and we know from chapter eighteen, verse one that Elijah was told “in the third year” that it would rain upon the earth. And again in James 5:17-18 it confirms, “For three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.” So the handful of flour and small amount of oil lasted three-plus years!!! The Lord of all gave abundance in and through His SUPERnatural provision! Praise His name– Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord provides”—His goodness, His love and mercy and faithfulness!
If that wasn’t enough to flood me with a FULL measure of peace, joy and reassurance (but it was!!!), the next day He reinforced His truth, and my faith in Him, by reminding me there was a very similar occurrence with another prophet named Elisha, who was not only Elijah’s contemporary but also his student; and this involved a widow as well. This testimony is found one book later in 2 Kings 4:1-7. This time around, a different widow has two sons and her deceased husband has left the family with some unpaid debt. We read that she relates to the man of G-d about a creditor who is coming to take her children away as slaves until things are settled monetarily. Elisha asks her what she has in her house and she replies, “nothing… except a jar of oil.” He proceeds to tell her to go to her friends and neighbors to borrow many vessels and to then pour into these receptacles from the miniscule amount of oil that she possesses. He further instructs her to pour from the same original jar into one after another of the borrowed ones until, as she filled the last one, “the oil stopped flowing.” Elisha’s final words to her are these, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, AND you and your sons can live on the rest.” Wow again! Now you can possibly imagine the renewed trust I had in my G-d’s ability to do the impossible and to fulfill His promise to His sons and daughters—those who have been born again, those who belong to Him and are called by His name! This is not for just anyone and everyone, but it can be for you. His promises are for His own. So the Lord G-d Almighty summarizes His amazing lesson to me by showing me that He wants to, is able, and will meet BOTH my need for food (as He did with Elijah) AND He will make sure my bills are taken care of (as He did with Elisha). Praise His glorious and mighty name! Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!
Is the Bible relevant? Absolutely! Does G-d care for His creation? Of course! Romans 8:28 asserts, “And we know that for those who love G-d, all things…” (trials, tribulations, suffering, discipline, persecution, affliction) “work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” You might be tempted at times to ask, “Where is G-d?” in relation to you during times such as these. But since His promises are for those who have acknowledged their sin, felt true sorrow, asked for forgiveness, repented of their evil ways and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Master and Savior of their eternal souls, maybe you should instead be asking yourself, “Where am I?” in relation to Him.
G-d bless you. Jeremiah 3:13-15…
“Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your G-d and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed My voice, declares the Lord. Return O faithless children, declares the Lord; for I am your Master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
Now THAT’S a promise.