geezeronthequad: A Prophet Cat on a Hot Gentile Roof – I Kings 17: 8-16
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with a neighboring couple. They were childless so I became their kid and they became Aunt Athleen and Uncle Vern. Like almost everybody around Pittsburgh back then, he worked in a nearby steel mill. One night at the plant, a ladle of molten steel he worked near burped out a “spit cloud”, hot steam trapped in the molten steel forced out at high velocity (read explosion) and temperature. The heat both stunned Vern and blinded his work goggles. Disoriented, he staggered blindly toward the hot steel. Everyone yelled and screamed but the roar of things drowned out their warnings. A friend did what had to be done; he snatched up an empty fifty gallon steel drum and knocked Uncle Vern flat with it.
God does what has to be done to love people. Elijah popped out of the Jewish woodwork, not to condemn Israel but so that they would turn back to the living God. Think about it. God didn’t need Elijah to judge Israel; all He needed to do was let them go on the way they’d chosen and do nothing. Saul of Tarsus – breathing out threats and slaughter until he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Let’s just say that Saul’s spiritual goggles were a little steamed and he was confused. Jesus had a steel drum ready; sitting helpless and blind for three days (and he didn’t know it would be three days) isn’t my idea of a good time.
Whatever God may be doing in and through us this summer, He has a plan. He will work to mold and morph us into the shape of One Who didn’t come to be served but to give His life as a ransom for many. He works to make us a ransom for someone. (See Mark 10:45) But as for now, we need to eat. Elijah had been riding out a famine (steel drum) by a brook with room service by ravens. Then his lease expired; the brook dried up. Then like many students in off campus housing, he needed a place. God had it covered but not where Elijah would have expected or chosen. A widow up in a place named Zarephath (Gentile country, non-Jewish) would be the next stop. But there was a problem. The widow hadn’t gotten the memo from God and Elijah found that not only did she not know about his reservation, she was in quite a pickle herself. Even though Elijah didn’t know what God was up to when he arrived in Zarephath and the widow wasn’t expecting company, God still was pulling the threads of His plan. God’s effectiveness in our lives cannot be measured by our seeing His hand or our approval of surface circumstances.
The famine brought her and her son to the edge of death. Just enough oil and flour for one last meal. Then they would die. Elijah then both said and did something strange. He said, “Don’t be afraid.” If we ran a quick search through the Bible to find every place where someone on Team God said, “Don’t be afraid.”, we’d find that most of the time, a lot of good reasons to be afraid screamed in someone’s face. And then Elijah said, “While you’re fixing your last meal, throw another cake on the griddle for me.” Elijah doesn’t sound very Christian here by some people’s yardstick. Shouldn’t we connect her with a food pantry or food bank or something?
This woman was something. Excluded from the nation of Israel, she showed more respect for the God of Israel through her words than Israel’s king (see v. 12) had done with his life. And then although it made no sense on the human plane to cut into their last meal to provide hospitality to a stranger, she did it. People unsurrendered to Jesus Christ can be pretty cool – even more pleasurable or admirable than some Christians we know. And there’s more. God tips His hand here with a little secret. His heart was never restricted to just being Israel’s God: His heart was always in pursuit of the whole world. His covenant with Israel cobbled out in the Scriptures and His mighty works was to be a showcase revealing God to the world. And so He moved Elijah in with a Gentile woman and her son.
And they ate…and kept on eating. The oil and flour never ran out (at least for a while, more later). This summer may not be what we’d planned or what we’d like. But the back story of this summer is that God will move us in with the Gentiles. It is both His way and His heart. The salt and light Jesus has both made us and that He lives through us must be out where it’s needed. So if we’re somewhere in a summer missions project, let’s suck it up and play through that fatigue, the other cranky selfish Christians in the group and the shock of the need assaulting our senses. We are interns in one of the Holy Spirit’s most advanced labs. The time is short and the lessons will shape the rest of our lives. If we’re in a summer job, God has placed us in a unique group of Gentiles every day. People always talk about their lives at work, spill their guts actually. They will tell us about the darkness that’s killing them sometimes without knowing it: the pain of the unwashed masses we will be around the rest of our lives. Another choice lab of the Holy Spirit. Take spiritual notes and pray lots. Maybe there’s no job – at least yet and we really needed one. One, keep looking. Two, go somewhere and give this life Jesus Christ is in the process of building in us away. Somewhere where we get dirt on our faith, calluses on our spirit and give our self-centeredness a kick in the rump. Somewhere where we’re not in it to be thanked, get a reference (although we might) or to feel good about ourselves. Look for Gentiles whose oil and flour are about gone and jump in – without complaining.
If something’s been chewing on us spiritually or life-wise, feel free to shoot me a question at firstname.lastname@example.org. No names required but I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with a better answer. Any question. About anything. Anytime.
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Meanwhile, please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post on geezeronthequad.com.