I was reading 1 Kings and not feeling inspired until I came to Chapter 17. There Elijah prophesies a drought and is told by God to hide himself – to self-isolate! It seems to me in this present pandemic that Christians can learn from this prophet as we self-isolate and perhaps feel spiritually dried up with no physical contact or fellowship in the church.
The Ravens! In isolation, Elijah was told by God that water would be available and food would come from the ravens. I know from our time in the Arctic that ravens are very resourceful and very intelligent. I can imagine them scavenging for food and bringing the scraps to Elijah. If we feel dried up spiritually, let us take heart from the world of nature and birds in particular. As Jesus reminded us that the birds of the air are provided for by God, so too, we can look to the world of nature to give us hope and encouragement.
The widow of Zarephath! Elijah could not rely completely on the ravens to keep on feeding him, so he approached this poor widow. She also was in dire straits, indeed, on the verge of starvation herself. How could she help? It is often said that only the poor help the poor! If we apply this to our spiritual poverty then there is hope. If we obey God's word and listen to his promises, we can help each other! The woman had limited resources and an obligation to her only son. We can understand her dilemma! Should she use what she had for herself and her son, or should she listen to Elijah? Perhaps we feel like this in our spiritual journey, not so much with the fear of starvation, but with the ever present fear of the virus inside us. It seems to me, that the poor in spirit should be more open to God's resources. It is a matter of trust – of belief in the God who made us.
The jar of meal! I remember vividly my Sunday School teacher telling us about this passage, that God's bounty is boundless. God gives and gives and his love never runs out. For Elijah, then, and the widow and her son there was the promise of more meal and oil for the future. Christians also can claim this wonderful promise. God's love and care for his people never runs out. As God gave us His only Son, so also He gives to his people all that they need, again and again.
In this present pandemic, let us be strengthened by the message from Elijah. There will be times of drought and spiritual dryness in our lives, but we believe in a God who is love and who gives and gives to his people. Let us then, put our trust in God and in Jesus our Saviour. Let us also support each other in prayer and in kindness. We are not alone. The Lord of Hosts is with us.
(The picture is Elijah receiving bread from the Widow of Zarephath by Giovanni Lanfranco, painted between 1621-1634 and currently owned by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA.)