The Barrel of Meal Shall not Waste, Neither Shall the Cruse of Oil Fail (1 Kings 17:8-16)
Elijah was the man of God for the hour in the nation Israel (verse 1). Elijah was a mighty prophet who seemed to come out of nowhere; like Melchisedec (explain). Elijah was a man who preached the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He preached against the wicked sin in the land. He warned men of Godís judgment to come. But just like in our land today, most of the people would not hear the Word of the Lord, and would not take heed to Godís prophet.
Elijah announced to Ahab the king the coming drought upon the land. We are told in James 5:17 that the drought lasted for 3 Ĺ years. This drought was Godís judgment upon His chosen nation Israel because of their sins. Godís true preachers today are also preaching that judgment is coming upon America except we repent of our wicked sins. But when a nation and people will not hearken to the voice of the Lord, Godís judgment will surely come. And often times even Godís faithful people suffer because of the nationís sins, as we see in our text.
1. First, we see the importance of hearing and obeying the Word of the Lord (verses 8-11):
The Word of the Lord came unto Elijah. It is so important for Godís people to be sensitive to the Word of the Lord, and to hear it, and to obey it. It is so important for the man of God, that He be sensitive to the voice of the Lord, and that He obeys the Lordís voice. Beloved, donít think that pastors arenít tempted to go contrary to the Word of the Lord. We need your prayers and support to be a faithful pastor. It is equally important for the people of God to hear and obey the message of the man of God, as this widow woman obeyed the voice of the prophet. Beloved, be sure that your pastor knows that he is nothing, and less than nothing in himself. Nevertheless, I know that it will be best for you if you will hear and obey the message that God gives me to preach.
God told Elijah to ďArise, get thee to ZarephathĒ (Verse 9), which was a small Gentile town near Mediterranean cost between Tyre and Sidon. Zarephath means refinery, or a place where metals were refined. This was a time of Israelís refining because of their sins against God. Judgment was a long time coming for Israel, but Godís judgment, though it be slow, it is sure. Elijah didnít question Godís command to go to the gentile town of Zarephath, but he arose and went just as he was told. Godís preachers do well to obey the voice of the Lord.
God commanded this poor widow woman to sustain Elijah. The things that God uses to sustain His people are so contrary to human reasoning. God commands His people to do things that are unthinkable and unreasonable to the world. Who would think that this poor gentile widow woman, who was about to starve to death herself, could be of any help to Elijah? It is not our place to question God, but simply to obey Him. If God chooses to use a poor helpless widow to sustain His prophet, then praise the Lord! You see, in this way He gets all the glory and not man.
And so, in all these things it was vital that Godís people heard and obeyed the Word of the Lord.
2. Secondly, we see that circumstances may get desperate for Godís people (verse 12):
The circumstances were desperate for this widow woman, but she didnít deny the God of heaven in her trials. If fact, she acknowledged that the God of Elijah lives! This was a great testimony from a Gentile woman of a country that worshipped Baal. Although she was a Gentile, she probably understood the that the judgment of God was upon the idolatry in the land. She was despairing of her life because of her nationís sins. She was a worshipper of Jehovah God, but she was suffering because of the sins of her people and of Israel as well. So it is with saints today.
Although her situation was desperate, we see that she hoped to the end for the mercies of God. She was down to her last handful of meal and a little oil. But I believe that she was a praying woman, and through her trials she had been praying for Godís help, and she kept on praying and hoping that God would hear and answer her prayers. She probably had heard that God was merciful to the widows and the fatherless in their afflictions. But now she was down to the very end of her resources, and she knew that unless God sent a miracle that she and her son would perish. Sometimes, beloved, life comes down to needing a miracle.
Yes beloved, God sometimes allows our situation to get desperate before He comes to our aid. Donít give up hope, but rather keep on trusting, and hoping, and praying to the end!
3. Thirdly, we see that help from God came at last (verses 13-16):
Elijah told the widow to ďFear not.Ē Humanly there was great cause to fear. It appeared that the widow and her son were going to perish for starvation. But faith is the opposite of fear, and perfect love casteth out fear. Fear does us no good, but rather fear is paralyzing, and causes us to behave irrationally and to lose our senses. Fear not, but rather trust in the Lord, and He will bring us out of our troubles. Set our hearts and minds on the love of God wherewith He loves us, and our fears will be quenched. Godís love is our greatest weapon against the torments of fear.
Elijah said ďMake me thereof a little cake first.Ē Even in the hardest of times and in the severest of trials, Godís people would do well for their own selves to take care of Godís prophet first. Put God first, and His ministers, and His work, and He will take care of you.
Elijah told the widow by the Word of the Lord (vs. 14) that ďThe barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil failÖĒ. Though there be only a handful of meal in the barrel and a little oil in the cruse, they shall not completely run out until and drought and famine are over.
In other words ďYou wonít starve to death, but you will have enough for you and your family. You will not have steak and lobster, and the other delicacies of life, but you will have enough, and the Lord will sustain you.Ē I wonder how we would do if we were in this widows shoes.
Again, we see that the woman obeyed the Word of the Lord by the prophet Elijah (verse 15). True faith takes action, and obeys the Word of the Lord. I wonder what would have happened if the woman refused to obey Elijah. I wonder if she and her son would have starved to death.
I want to expound on verse 14 for a moment. We read in Amos 8:11:
ďBehold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORDÖĒ.
There is a famine in our land today. It is not a famine of bread and water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Think with me for a moment about the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil.
We might liken the meal in our text to the bread of life, the Lord Jesus Christ. All who have partaken of this bread shall never hunger. Jesus will eternally satisfy every soul who partakes of Him by faith. The life that Jesus gives shall never run out. It shall never fail. It is eternal and everlasting. But the people will not hear about Jesus. They will not partake of the bread of Heaven by faith in His work on Calvary. Yes beloved, there is a famine in the land. People are starving spiritually for want of the Bread of life. But for all who will receive this Bread, the Lord Jesus, there is an unfailing supply. His virtues shall not waste. They shall not spoil or fail. All who taste of Jesus by faith shall be satisfied. All that partake of Him shall live eternally.
We might also liken the meal in our text to the Word of God, which is spiritual bread for our souls. ďMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GodĒ, Jesus said. There is a famine in the land today for the hearing of the Word of God. But for all who will receive His Word, there is a bountiful supply. The Lord is still speaking to his children today, even in the refinerís fire of Zarephath. For those who will trust and obey the Lord, He is still speaking through His written word and through His churches and His pastors. And the Word of the Lord wonít fail or run out, but it is perpetual and perennial, and new every day, to all who will trust and obey.
The cruse of oil in our text we might liken to the Holy Spirit. The Bread of life and the Word of life can only be received by the preparation of the oil of the Spirit. Otherwise they are only dry meal to the starving sinnerís soul. But when the meal and oil prepared together under the fires of repentance, and served to the lost sinner by the servant of God, they give life to the lost soul.
And as Godís children we may not be filled with the Spirit as we should be, but if He is in our vessel, He will never fail, or run out, or leave us comfortless. He we abide forever within our hearts and souls. Again, if we would be filled with the Spirit, and with His power and blessings, then we need to trust and obey the Word of the Lord. We cannot be filled with the Spirit if we are leading disobedient lives to the Lord. This is a contradiction to the Word of God. But if we will trust and obey the Word of the Lord, then will we be filled with the Spirit, even in times of spiritual famine in the land.
Not only did the barrel of meal not waste and the cruse of oil not fail, but the promises of God didnít fail either (verse 16).
Sometimes physically we may feel like weíre down to our last handful of meal in our barrel and the last little bit of oil in our cruse. But donít give up trusting, and hoping, and praying to the Lord. He will come through for us, if we will trust and obey His Word. He may not work things out the way we hoped He would, but if we trust in him to the end, He will work things out for His honor and glory, and for our good.
Sometimes spiritually we may feel like weíre down to our last handful of meal and little bit of oil. But we can stand upon the promises of God and we be sure that the Bread of life and the Word of life shall not waste, and the Oil of the Spirit shall not fail until the time of refreshing come from on high, when Jesus shall come again for His people.
No beloved, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail the children of God. Do we hear His Word today? Are we trusting and obeying what we hear? May the Lord help us to hear Him and to trust Him and to obey Him in all things! Beloved, if we will do this, it will be well with us.