Sermon Transcript – The Faith of the Widow of Zarephath

Series B – Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Pr. Chris Rosebrough

Welcome to the Teaching Ministry of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church. Kongsvinger is a beacon for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is located on the plains of Northwestern Minnesota.
We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sins and salvation by grace through faith alone, and now, here’s a message from Pastor Chris Rosebrough:
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0:29in the name of Jesus
0:32So based on our readings you would think
0:34today is Widow Sunday
0:37in a way it is I think maybe that’d be a
0:39good thing to call it in the future when
0:41these readings come back around we’re
0:43going to take a look at our Old
0:45Testament text today and we’re going to
0:46look at the Widow of Zarephath and the
0:48story therein and I’m going to be
0:51addressing a problem that exists well as
0:54a result of our sinful nature oftentimes
0:56when we approach the scripture we are
0:59looking for ourselves there and we’re
1:02trying to find a way to basically say
1:04I’ve done my part therefore I have
1:07earned something from God and so you
1:10read the scripture and you look at this
1:12miracle of the Widow of Zarephath and
1:15you’re looking for something that you
1:16can hang on to it’s something that you
1:18can apply to your life so that you can
1:19say Haha I’ve done my part therefore God
1:24owes me this is a wicked way of
1:25approaching scripture and this robs
1:27Jesus of his glory salvation and all of
1:30God’s gifts are given to us by grace
1:34through faith
1:35not a result of works and so let me read
1:38to you the story of the wood of
1:40Zarephath as the way some people today
1:42would read it they read this story and
1:45say look here’s the Prophet Elijah he
1:47has been sent to the Widow of Zarephath
1:49and well she’s got nothing she’s
1:52literally on the brink of destitution
1:54about to die her and her son and then
1:57Elijah says to her go and bake for me
2:00some bread
2:01and she says well I have none he says
2:03just give it to me first give me the
2:06first fruits give me a tithe and then
2:08God will bless the rest and you’ll be
2:11that is not what this text says
2:14and unfortunately there are a lot of
2:15people who read this text this way and
2:17we as Sinners well we want to read it
2:20this way ourselves but if we pay close
2:22attention to this text we’re going to
2:24find out that this has nothing to do
2:26with her tithing her giving the first
2:29fruits her somehow doing her part first
2:31and then God will do the rest
2:34the text explicitly teaches against this
2:37if you pay attention so let’s return to
2:39First Kings chapter 17 and we’ll look at
2:41verses 8 through 16. here’s what it says
2:44the word of the Lord came to him that
2:45would be the Prophet Elijah arise and go
2:48to Zarephath which belongs to sidon a
2:50little bit of context here in the
2:52previous chapter well actually the
2:54beginning of this chapter the Lord made
2:56it clear to the people of Israel who
2:58were steeped in idolatry and worshiping
3:00Baal and ashtareth that well they
3:04weren’t going to have any rain until
3:05Elijah said so
3:07and the reason why this is significant
3:09is because according to the mythology
3:11but all is the well the king of the air
3:14he’s the one who brings the rain and the
3:16rain is the thing that brings us the
3:17crops so who’s ultimately responsible
3:19for feeding you well it’s not Yahweh the
3:22one true God it’s but all and so Israel
3:26steeped in idolatry worships this false
3:29demonic God which by the way also
3:32demanded human sacrifice
3:34and he says that’s it you guys think the
3:36ball is the one who’s bringing you the
3:38rain not so it’s not going to rain until
3:40I say so and until Elijah says so for me
3:44and so well if it’s not raining you know
3:47what happens crops fail Brooks dry up
3:49and things like that and since it was
3:52not going to rain until Elijah since
3:55said so Elijah becomes Israel’s Most
3:58Wanted every Saturday night they show
4:00video of him on television have you seen
4:03this man right and he was hiding out in
4:06the brook cherith and there were Ravens
4:08that were feeding him miraculously quite
4:10the story well eventually the brook
4:12Cherry while it dries out and there’s no
4:15food so God sends Elijah into enemy
4:19territory into Pagan territory outside
4:22of Israel a place where idolatry is well
4:25running rampant if you would in order
4:28for him to hide out he’s got to find a
4:30safe house and so God provides a safe
4:32house for him in the house of the Widow
4:35of Zarephath and here’s what it says the
4:36Lord said to Elijah rise go to Zarephath
4:38which belongs to sidon dwell there hide
4:41out behold I have commanded a widow
4:45there to feed you
4:48a widow
4:50widow’s got nothing
4:53widows are really poor no one’s going to
4:55look for Elijah there because widows
4:57aren’t supposed to have the means to be
4:59able to do things but you’ll notice here
5:00it says that the Lord has commanded this
5:03Widow to feed him
5:06now it doesn’t say how
5:08maybe it was a dream maybe it was a
5:09direct Revelation it doesn’t say how the
5:11Lord told her this but being a widow not
5:14having enough food of your own and then
5:17being told by none other than the god of
5:20that you are to provide for a prophet of
5:24God and feed him that’s quite the
5:26command now keep this in mind with the
5:29Lord commands the Lord supplies
5:31right so God is not being cruel
5:34so Elijah Rose went to Zarephath and
5:37when he came to the gate of the city
5:38Behold a widow was there Gathering
5:41sticks now Elijah’s got to figure out is
5:43this the right widow or is this the
5:45wrong Widow you know there’s lots of
5:47widows you know so how do we know this
5:50is the right one so he engages her in
5:52conversation to kind of test to see if
5:54she’s the one whom the Lord has
5:57for her to feed him so he called to her
5:59and said bring me a little water in a
6:01vessel so that I might drink
6:04she doesn’t complain she gets right to
6:06it so as she was going to bring it
6:09all right he called to her and said
6:10while you’re at it bring me a morsel of
6:13bread in your hand
6:15she stops
6:17she said as Yahweh your God Lives I have
6:22nothing baked only a handful of flour in
6:24a jar and a little oil in a jug and now
6:28I’m gathering a couple two sticks so
6:30that I might go in and prepare it for
6:32myself and my son
6:34so that we may eat it and die they’re on
6:37the brink of starvation they’re in the
6:39brink of starvation so he’s asked for
6:42something that is like Way Beyond her
6:45in fact it’s so dire they’re down to
6:47their last meal we’re Gathering up
6:49sticks for firewood once we bake this
6:52thing this is all we got and after that
6:54the only thing that we’re looking at is
6:56death itself that’s what she’s saying
7:00so Elijah said to her
7:03do not fear
7:05go and do as you have said by the way
7:07he’s not saying go ahead and go do your
7:08thing and go die that’s not what he’s
7:10saying you that would be rude he says go
7:13and do what you’ve said make a cake
7:15right make this but he says make a cake
7:19of it bring it to me for thus says but
7:22first make a cake of it bring it to me
7:24and afterwards make something for
7:26yourself for thus says the Lord the god
7:28of Israel the jar of flowers shall not
7:31be spent the jug of oil shall not be
7:33empty until the day that the Lord sends
7:36rain upon the earth now you notice he
7:38says first make a little cake of it and
7:40bring it to me he’s not saying if you
7:44make a cake of it and bring it to me
7:46then God will multiply the rest
7:50he doesn’t say that at all this is not a
7:52conditional statement he’s making an
7:54exclusive non-revocable promise and he’s
7:58not speaking on his own authority he’s
8:00speaking via direct Revelation from God
8:02because the Lord said the jar of flower
8:05shall not be spent the jug of oil shall
8:08not be empty doesn’t matter if she gives
8:11him the first little cake that comes out
8:13of the oven or if she ends up making it
8:15and giving it to somebody else it
8:17doesn’t matter the sure and certain
8:19promise of God is unconditional it’s not
8:22based on a condition
8:24your jar of flour will not run out your
8:27jar of oil will not run out
8:29so go ahead and make some for me first
8:31I’m hungry I’ve been on the road for a
8:33while and then go ahead and make some
8:35for yourself
8:36absolute Promise This is Gospel this is
8:39not law she did not fulfill some
8:42requirement in order to earn the miracle
8:45the miracle was promised to her
8:50just the same way the gospel has
8:52promised to us unconditionally
8:57she went
8:59and she did as Elijah said
9:02I want you to think about the craziness
9:04of the situation
9:06so what you’re saying Elijah is is that
9:08I’m down to my last bit of flour
9:10I’m down to my last bit of oil and
9:13you’re telling me that the Lord says
9:14we’re not going to run out of any of
9:16this stuff so go ahead and make you some
9:20but she did it
9:22and by doing that as crazy as it sounds
9:25what does that tell you about her
9:29she believed
9:31she trusted the word of the Lord in the
9:34mouth of Elijah
9:37doesn’t make any sense
9:39seems kind of odd
9:41but you know what
9:43all right
9:44the Lord commanded me to feed you
9:48did he not yeah he did and now the Lord
9:51is saying that he’s going to be the one
9:52providing all the food for you
9:55all right I believe you and she went and
9:58she did and she did as Elijah said and
10:00she and he and her household you can
10:05also say family eight for many days
10:10in other words you’ve got this
10:12unconditional promise so she not only
10:14took advantage of this she and her and
10:16her boy ate says her family also ate she
10:19invited the neighbors over she invited
10:21some of her extended family over
10:22barbecue at my place
10:24of course we only got bread you know but
10:27that’s okay we got lots of it an
10:29unending Supply would you like seconds
10:31thirds that’s how Grace is is it not
10:34always giving us what we need and a
10:36little bit more to share with others
10:38and so the idea is this
10:41is that this was not something she did
10:43to earn this miracle and we misread this
10:46text if we turn it into a text like that
10:48and unfortunately I’ve heard this text
10:49preached in the context of why you need
10:52to tithe
10:54there’s pastors around the country who
10:56use this text and basically say see she
10:58had to give to Elijah first so you need
10:59to give Elijah first and then God’s
11:01going to give to you this is not a
11:02tithing text this is a gospel text this
11:04is a text about the promises of God and
11:07the faithfulness of God and the mercy
11:09and the grace and the abundance of God
11:11as he cares For Those whom he loves
11:13remember what we read in our Psalm Psalm
11:18146 verse 9 the Lord watches over the
11:20sojourners the Lord upholds the Widow
11:23and the fatherless but the Way of the
11:26Wicked he brings to ruin
11:28now the question is is it talking about
11:30literal widows here
11:33in one sense yes God does care for
11:36literal widows but in another sense
11:38think of it this way if you were to
11:40think of this Widow of Zarephath is much
11:43like well Christ’s bride the church
11:48the church before Christ is betrothed to
11:52his church
11:53the church is utterly poverty-stricken
11:58completely in need
12:01wearing thread-worn clothes at best that
12:05can barely cover anything up and
12:07starving to death This is how Christ
12:09finds his bride the church
12:11what does Jesus say
12:13in The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5
12:15verse 3 blessed are the poor in spirit
12:17that means the bankrupt blessed are the
12:21poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom
12:23of heaven
12:25and so Christ finds US each and every
12:28one of us
12:30literally in complete desperation and
12:36complete desperation and you know what
12:39God does
12:41he gets his hands dirty
12:43he’s born of the Virgin Mary
12:45lives a perfectly sinless life
12:48is crucified for us under Pontius Pilate
12:50see the gospel says believe and you will
12:52live believe and you will live
12:56it’s a command is it not believe this
12:59and you will live but see what the
13:00gospel commands the gospel provides
13:03God commanded the Widow of Zarephath to
13:06feed Elijah and God commands you to
13:09believe and live
13:10but we are dead in trespasses and sins
13:14and so what does God do through the
13:15preaching of his word he raises us to
13:18life and he gives us faith
13:20and then he sustains us on our way in
13:23this short sojourn of a life of ours
13:28sin riddled in complete need
13:32stained with sin
13:33he gives us his righteousness
13:36covers us up washes Us in the blood of
13:39the lamb and makes a spotless white snow
13:42he provides for all of our needs What He
13:45commands he gives he says believe in you
13:47will live and so I will give you Faith
13:49so that you can believe and you will
13:51believe not just in nothing but you will
13:53believe in me who has come into your
13:57has lived among you worked hard
14:02and without sin
14:03and then took your sin upon myself
14:07and then died this is what God does for
14:10he gives you everything you need so that
14:13you can get through the Famine of this
14:15lifetime he finds you in complete
14:20and he feeds you richly from his table
14:22with his own body and blood washes away
14:25your sins and the Waters of your baptism
14:27and so this is not a text about you
14:29doing your part and then God doing the
14:31rest this is a text that teaches us that
14:34whatever God commands of you he per
14:37first provides and gives to you richly
14:39out of his abundance so that you might
14:42live rather than die
14:44and when we understand that correctly
14:47we will say nothing to you Lord I bring
14:54to your cross I cling
14:57in the name of Jesus amen
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