Psalm 37:19). Let us meditate upon -
I. THE COMMAND OF GOD TO THE WIDOW.
1. She is to sustain the prophet of the Lord.
(1) What an honour is this! For two years and a half to entertain the man that "stands before Jehovah," at whose word the clouds are sealed or the windows of heaven opened! (See ver. 1 and 1 Kings 18:41.) The man whose prayer was to bring fire down upon the sacrifice on Carmel to the confusion of idolatry! (ch. 18:38.) Who was to bring the same element down upon the soldiers of Ahaziah I (2 Kings 1:10-12). Who was destined to ride alive into the heavens in a chariot of fire! (2 Kings 2:11). Who was destined, many centuries later, to appear in glory with Messiah on the mount of transfiguration! (Matthew 17:8). And who is yet to come before the great day of judgment to gather back the children of Israel from their dispersion! (Malachi 4:5, 6).
(2) How could she hope for such distinction? A poor widow, so poor that she has no servant and no fuel in her house! A widow with her son, both at the point of death! A stranger, and a stranger of Zidon too - the land of Baal - and the land of the wicked Jezebel! Note: God's ways are not as our ways. He brings unlikely things to pass. How little do we know what may be the thoughts of His heart concerning us!
2. But how is she to accomplish this?
(1) Unbelief might murmur at such a requisition. It might charge God foolishly as a tyrant requiring brick where he had not supplied straw. Those who shrink from Church work because of fancied incompetence fall into this error, neglecting to trust God.
(2) It is enough that God has commanded. His commands are promises. (See Exodus 3:10-12; Judges 6:14.) See how the meal and oil are multiplied in the hands of the widow. The more difficult (humanly considered) the undertaking, the more gloriously will the excellency of the power of God appear. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9.) Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.
II. THE REASONS OF THE COMMAND. I. Elijah needed succour.
(1) The brook is dried up. Now is the time to test the prophet's faith. But he is a man of prayer, so is familiar with God. Those who best know God have most confidence in Him. Let us be much in prayer.
(2) Then "the word of the Lord came." Man's extremity is God's opportunity. In no strait let us despair of help while we keep a single heart. God knows all things. He can do whatever He will
2. The woman needed succour.
(1) She too had come to extremity - to the last handful of meal. What a touching spectacle is that widow at the gate of Zarephath gathering a few sticks to prepare the last meal for herself and her son!
(2) Had she not prayed? No doubt; and most sincerely. She was evidently a believer in the God of Israel. Jehovah was not unknown in the land of that Hiram who "was ever a lover of David," and so materially aided Solomon in building the temple (1 Kings 5.)
(3) But then she was not an Israelite to whom "were the promises." So in addressing Elijah her words are, "As the Lord thy God liveth." She believes in the "living God," but cannot presume to call Him her God. (See Romans 9:4.) What right had a poor stranger of Zidon to lock for any special consideration from the Lord?
(4) "He giveth grace unto the humble." He that reads the heart saw that she would believe if only she had a promise to authorize her faith. He accordingly gave her the opportunity which she seized and improved. (See Acts 10:1-6.) Let us act up to our light, and God will guide us into all the truth.
3. But were thee no widows in Israel?
(1) Upon the best authority we know that there were "many," and as needy as this Zidonian. In the severity of such a famine deaths from starvation were no rare occurrence.
(2) But the same authority informs us that there were none so worthy as this widow of Sarepta (Leviticus 4:24-26). No widow in Israel would have received the prophet as this widow received him. The moral is that if we would have special favour of God we must have special faith to receive it. Let us ever be in that attitude of wholehearted consecration to God which will make us eligible for any service he may be pleased to promote us to. To be permitted to do anything for God is an unspeakable honour. - J.A.M.
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning.
Homilist.I. A MORALLY GREAT MAN IN GREAT PHYSICAL NEED. Elijah was a morally great man. Worldly greatness is but tinselled paper. He only is great who is great in thoughts and noble purposes. Elijah was such: a greater could not be found. Yet he was reduced to the greatest need.
II. THE GOD OF NATURE MINISTERING TO A LONELY MAN. The Infinite Father knew His servant's destitution, sympathised with it, and sent relief to him morning and evening by the ravens. Observe,
1. God makes the humblest things in nature serve His people.
2. God supplies His people as their wants return.
Homilist.I. IRRATIONAL CREATURES DIVINELY DIRECTED. All creatures, from the lowest up to the greatest, are under the Divine rule. Generally they are ruled by their own instincts. Here is an exception.
II. LOWER CREATURES ENGAGED IN THE SERVICE OF MAN.
III. GOD'S ATTENTION TO THE AFFAIRS OF THE INDIVIDUAL.
IV. HELP COMING FROM UNLIKELY SOURCES.
1. Notice, in the first place, in the story of my text, that these winged creatures came to Elijah directly from God. "I have commanded the ravens that they feed thee." They did not come out of some other cave. They did not just happen to alight there. God freighted them, God launched them, and God told them by what cave to swoop. That is the same God that is going to supply you. He is your Father. You would have to make an elaborate calculation before you could tell me how many pounds of food and how many yards of clothing would be necessary for you and your family; but God knows without any calculation. You have a plate at His table, and you are going to be waited on, unless you act like a naughty child, and kick, and scramble, and pound saucily the plate, and try to upset things. God has a vast family, and everything is methodised, and you are going to be served, if you will only wait your turn.
2. Notice, again, in this story, that the ravens did not allow Elijah to hoard up a surplus. They did not bring enough on Monday to last all the week. They did not bring enough one morning to last until the next morning. They came twice a day, and brought just enough for one time. You know as well as I that the great fret of the world is that we want a surplus — we want the ravens to bring enough for fifty years. You have more confidence in the Long Island Bank than you have in the royal bank of heaven. You say: "All that is very poetic, but you may have the black ravens — give me the gold eagles." We had better be content with just enough. If, in the morning, your family eat up all the food there is in the house, do not sit down, and cry, and say: "I don't know where the next meal is coming from." About five, or six, or seven o'clock in the evening just look up, and you wilt see two black spots on the sky, and you will hear the flapping of wings, and, instead of Edgar A. Poe's insane raven, "alighting on the chamber-door, only this, and nothing more," you will find Elijah's two ravens, or the two ravens of the Lord, the one bringing bread and the other bringing meat — plumed butcher and baker. God is infinite in resource. When the city of Rochelle was besieged, and the inhabitants were dying of the famine, the tides washed up on the beach as never before, and as never since, enough shell-fish to feed the whole city. God is good. There is no mistake about that. History tell us that, in 1555, in England, there was a great drought. The crops failed, but in Essex, on the rocks, in a place where they had neither sown nor cultured, a great crop of peas grew, until they filled a hundred measures; and there were blossoming vines enough promising as much more.
3. Again, this story of the text impresses me that relief came to this prophet with the most unexpected, and with seemingly impossible conveyance. If it had been a robin redbreast, or a musical meadow lark, or a meek turtle-dove, or a sublime albatross that had brought the food to Elijah, it would not have been so surprising. But no. It was a bird so fierce and inauspicate that we have fashioned one of our most forceful and repulsive words out of it — ravenous. That bird has a passion for picking out the eyes of men and animals. It loves to maul the sick and the dying. It swallows, with vulturous guggle, everything it can put its beak on; and yet all the food Elijah gets for six months or a year, is from the ravens. So your supply is going to come from an unexpected source. You think some great-hearted, generous man will come along and give you his name on the back of your note, or he will go security for you in some great enterprise. No, he will not. God will open the heart of some Shylock toward you. Your relief will come from the most unexpected quarter. The providence that seemed ominous will be to you more than that which seemed auspicious. It will not be a chaffinch with breast and wing dashed with white, and brown, and chestnut, it will be a black raven. Children of God, get up out of your despondency. The Lord never had so many ravens as He has this morning. Fling your fret and worry to the winds.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
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