Elijah and Sacrifice
The Bible is full of stories of incredible sacrifice, and the discipline of sacrifice is better learned through observation and practice. The men and women of the Bible serve as our mentors and guides as we learn how to sacrifice.
Read or listen to 1 Kings 17:7-16.
After a while, the wadi dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there.” So Elijah got up and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the city gate, there was a widow gathering wood. Elijah called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup and let me drink.” As she went to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”
But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I don’t have anything baked—only a handful of flour in the jar and a bit of oil in the jug. Just now, I am gathering a couple of sticks in order to go prepare it for myself and my son so we can eat it and die.”
Then Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.’”
So she proceeded to do according to the word of Elijah. Then the woman, Elijah, and her household ate for many days. The flour jar did not become empty, and the oil jug did not run dry, according to the word of the Lord he had spoken through Elijah.
Read the blog below. What is one thing you learned about sacrifice?
A Different Kind of Last Supper
By Katie Morgan
What would you eat for your last meal? Perhaps a juicy steak, seared in butter with a side of a baked potato loaded with the works: bacon, sour cream, and cheese. A decadent chocolate torte? A freshly picked green salad with locally sourced, seasonal vegetables?
Whatever you would pick, the people in 1 Kings 17 did not have that choice as they were in the midst of a famine that the prophet Elijah had announced on God’s command. Not surprisingly, Elijah, as the bearer of bad news, was driven out of his hometown. But God does not leave his servants unattended to, and told Elijah to go to the Gentile city of Zarephath. There God would provide for him and work a miracle through a poor, humble, Gentile widow. God is the master at using unconventional people to do his miraculous rescue work, and this is no exception.
The Widow and Elijah
Elijah obeyed God and went to Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9). The widow was there, just as God had said. She was gathering sticks to bake a last supper. Unlike the excessive last supper I described, the widow had just enough flour and just enough oil to make just enough bread for her and her son to have as a last meal before dying. It seems unceremoniously and tragically simple, but God had a plan. He always does.
When Elijah asks the widow for bread, she says she only has enough for her little family to “eat it and die” (1 Kings 17:12). Elijah responds saying, “Don’t be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me.” (1 Kings 17:13). Elijah does some weird math. The widow only has a handful of flour. Just enough to eat and then die, not enough to first feed an exiled and wandering prophet before feeding her family.
But, Elijah goes on to do more weird math, “Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.’” 1 Kings 17:14. Elijah directs the widow to not only share the scant flour and oil, but tells her that after feeding him, she’ll have enough left over to feed her son. She’ll have enough left over to eat herself. And, she’ll have enough left over to eat every day until the rains fall again.
I am amazed when I think of the flour that never ran out and the jug of oil that never ran dry, but I am almost incredulous when I think of the widow’s response. An unknown Jewish prophet tells this Gentile woman not to be afraid and to let him eat the bread first. She doesn’t ask him a million questions. She doesn’t try to stretch the flour into three loaves of bread. She doesn’t offer to forgo her meal and give her portion to Elijah.
The widow trusts that what God says through Elijah is true and does exactly what he says to do. She mixes the handful of flour and oil, kneads the dough, and bakes the bread trusting that what Elijah said will come to pass. She sacrifices her last supper in obedience to the Lord.
As the smell of baking bread reached the widow’s nose, did she wonder if she had made the right decision? Did she worry that her trust was misplaced? Did she promise her son the second loaf of bread, perhaps rehearsing to herself the promise God had made through Elijah: there will be enough?
This season, do you worry if there will be enough? Enough money for presents? Enough time to make memories with those you love? Do you wonder if your trust is misplaced? Should you skip church Christmas Eve and just enjoy the fun of the season?
Day after day, until the drought was over, the widow, her son, and Elijah had enough because she was willing to sacrifice a guaranteed last meal in hope that the God of Elijah would do as he promised. God was true to his word to the widow and her son, and he is true to his word to us. He is who he says he is, and he does what he says he will do. Our faith requires something of us. It requires belief in an unbelievable story, and it requires sacrifice. Jesus directs believers, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25). The widow was willing to sacrifice her last supper in obedience, and as a result, they had more than one last supper. They lived.
Call to Sacrifice
Is God asking you to sacrifice something this season? Is he calling you to give up purchasing as many gifts for your children to have more money to donate to a local charity? Is he calling you to get up fifteen minutes earlier and spend some time with him? Is he asking you to love that person at work that you haven’t enjoyed all year? Is he asking you to give up one meal to focus more on him? Is he asking you to believe in him? Whatever he is asking, his sufficiency was enough for the widow, and it is enough for you and me. That is not in question. The question is, will you step out in faith, like the widow, not knowing where your feet may land, but trusting that the One who created the universe will direct your steps? Will you obey his still, small voice and experience his divine grace and sufficiency that is infinitely better than our temporal plans?
God, please guide me in ways to weave sacrifice into my life.