Miraculous Provision (ravens, widow’s offering, etc…) and Obedience

6 08 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-SEVEN : 1 Kings 16 v. 8 – 18 v. 15; Acts 17 v. 1 – 21; Psalm 78 v. 9 – 16

1 KINGS
Elah King of Israel – Elah reigns for two years and then is killed by Zimri, one of his officials. Zimri becomes his successor. Elah is punished for the sins of his father Baasha, whose whole family is killed through this action. His deeds are all recorded in the annals of the kings of Israel.

Zimri King of Israel – Whilst Asa is in the 27th year of his reign in Judah, Zimri rules for seven days in Tirzah. Once the Israelites had heard of Zimri’s treachery, they proclaimed army commander Omri the king over all Israel, and they laid siege to Tirzah. Zimri sets the palace on fire, and dies there. His death is an example of how he had led the Israelites to commit sins against God. His acts are recorded in the annals of the kings of Israel.

Omri King of Israel –
The people of Israel are torn in two with half supporting Omri as king and the other half  supporting Tibni; Omri remains king because his followers prove stronger, and Tibni loses his life.
Asa has been ruling for 31 years in Judah, when Omri became king of Israel. He reigned for twelve years. He builds a city on the hill of Samaria. Omri also leads his people into sinning against God – ‘more than all those before him’ – leading them to worship false idols.
Omri’s acts are all written in the annals of the kings of Israel – he died and was buried in Samaria. His son, Ahab, succeeds him.

Ahab King of Israel –
Now Asa has been ruling for 38 years in Judah. Ahab becomes king of Israel, where he reigns in Samaria for 22 years. Ahab leads his people to even greater sinfulness – ‘more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him’. He marries Jezebel, who was the daughter of the king of the Sidonians, and who led him to worship Baal, setting up a temple for Baal in Samaria, and making an Asherah pole.
During Ahab’s rule, Hiel rebuilt Jericho’s foundations – a task which cost Hiel his firstborn son – and Jericho’s gates – a task which cost Hiel his youngest son. 

Elijah Fed by Ravens –
Elijah, the prophet, speaks with king Ahab, warning him that God has shown him there will be no rain (or even dew) in the coming years, except only what God allows by His word. God directs Elijah to go east of the Jordan, hiding in the Kerith Ravine, where Elijah will be able to drink from the brook, and‘I have ordered the ravens to feed you there’.
As Elijah does as the Lord says, so, God kept His promise – the ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and the water from the brook refreshed him.

God is teaching Elijah (and desires to teach us) a healthy dependence upon His provision – ‘give us, each day, our daily bread’.

The Widow at Zarephath – But there comes a time when the brook dries up, and Elijah is facing a bleak future. God tells him to go to Zarephath (in Sidon), where He has commanded a poor widow to provide for him. When he gets to Zarephath, Elijah meets a poor widow gathering sticks – and he asks her for some water and for some bread.
The widow tells Elijah she only has a small amount of flour and oil – ‘to prepare a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die’ – these are the most desperate times. The widow expects that she and her son will starve to death.
Elijah reflects God’s word to His people at all times in all situations –
‘Don’t be afraid’
Then the widow is encouraged to trust God, and to allow Elijah to first have a small cake of bread, then to do the rest for herself and her son. There is the promise, if she is obedient, that ‘the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not dry up…’
Amazingly, she does as Elijah says and makes him a cake of bread before serving themselves. The miracle is a response to an act of faith on behalf of the widow – it was a BIG ask for her to give first to God’s messenger!
‘So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family’.
God’s miraculous provision ! 
When the widow’s son becomes seriously ill and dies, Elijah is blamed by the widow for having brought this suffering upon them; then, when Elijah is responsible for praying for the boy – ‘O Lord, my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’ – and he stretches himself over the boy three times, the boy is revived, and Elijah returns the boy to his mother – ‘Look, your son is alive’.
If she didn’t already know it (and she’d had her doubts when her son died), we are told she now knows that Elijah is a true prophet.

The ‘true’ prophet has both the words and the deeds which have the hallmark of God’s miraculous activity.

Elijah and Obadiah – Three years on, and Elijah is told by God to go back to Ahab. As the famine had been so severe, Ahab had commissioned Obadiah (his palace officer, a devout believer in the Lord), to go through the land looking for springs and lush grasslands for feeding the horses and mules (Ahab went one way, Obadiah the other).
Obadiah had hidden 100 prophets in caves, supplying their need for food and water, during Jezebel’s rampage, killing off God’s prophets.
Elijah meets Obadiah and asks him to go and tell Ahab where Elijah is, so that he may come out to meet him.
Obadiah is REALLY worried at this suggestion. He knows the fate of those who, in the past, have suggested knowing where Elijah is, and have been wrong. Ahab has been seeking Elijah for a good while, and has failed this far to track him down.
‘If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me.’
Elijah pledges that he will present himself to Ahab.

These OT stories remind us that there can be real risk involved in being obedient to God’s call – a sharp test of faith. Obadiah needs to have faith that the consequences of this task will be beneficial.

ACTS
In Thessalonica – Paul and Silas arrive in Thessalonica, and they went to the synagogue, and over a period of three Sabbaths, Paul ‘reasoned with them from the Scriptures’, seeking to prove that Jesus did rise from death, and presenting Christ to them.
Some joined the band of believers, including God-fearing Greeks and ‘a few prominent women’.
But there is a jealous opposition amongst the Jews which is growing. It’s interesting how they have some choice contacts, and can mobilise the local ‘bad characters from the market place’ (like a scene from Eastenders), forming a mob and starting a riot. Although they can’t find Paul and Silas to arrest, they grab Jason and the others, (Jason had been putting Paul and Silas up in the city), and they put them on bail.

In Berea – a midnight flit to Berea for Paul and Silas, where they head for the synagogue (will they not learn ?). Apparently Bereans are of a ‘nobler character’ than the Thessalonians, taking on board everything they were being taught, and checking it out in the Scriptures. Again, many Jews, Greeks and women are among those who believe in Berea.
But the agitators from Thessalonica arrive in Berea, stirring up the crowds. Paul is sent off to the coast, and to Athens, whilst Timothy and Silas remain in Berea, preparing to join Paul later.

In Athens – Paul is horrified by the number of idols being worshipped in Athens – so he finds himself in the synagogue, debating and reasoning there with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks. Also, Paul entered the debates in the market-place – where is our equivalent, today, of the debating / discussion forums, both in the ‘church’ and in the ‘market-place’? – engaging with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (they are wondering about his ‘babbling’ and the challenge to them of Paul’s assertion that Jesus has been raised).
They bring him to the Areopagus, where they ask him to present his teaching (Athenians are keen to hear the latest philosophy / thought / idea).

The Areopagus overlooked the market-place, and served as a court and a place for discussion / debate.

PSALMS
Ephraim’s men forgot what God had done,
and refused to live by His law.
They forgot His miracles, His creativity, His guidance.’
 

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