Sermon for Sunday November 11th, 2018, the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity


The Lessons: Ps. 146; 1 Kings 17:8-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

The Text: 1 Kings 17:8-16

The Topic: Faith in God’s Provision


Sophia’s husband, John, an ardent soul-winner, spent his short life preaching on the streets, in the parks, in halls and theaters, wherever he could. But at age twenty-seven, he contracted typhoid and quickly died, leaving Sophia Ironside with two small boys and no income.

One of the boys, Harry (later the world-famous pastor of Moody Memorial Church), watched his mother closely. On one occasion, he recalled guests were coming for supper. Sophia’s cupboard was nearly bare, but she scraped together a meal with the little that remained. After the visitors left, she found under one of their plates a ten-dollar bill – a vast sum in those days. With eyes full of tears, she offered thanks to God.

Some time later, the cupboard was again empty. Sophia gathered her two sons to the table for breakfast, but their plates were empty, and there was only water to drink. “We will give thanks, boys,” she said. Closing her eyes, she prayed, quoting Isaiah 33:16, “Father, Thou hast promised in Thy Word, ‘Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure.’ We have the water, and we thank Thee for it. And now, we trust Thee for the bread, or for that which shall take its place.”

Just as she finished praying, the doorbell rang, and the boys ran to the door to find a man there. “Mrs. Ironside,” he said, “I feel very bad. We have been owing you for months for that dress you made for my wife. We’ve had no money to pay you. But just now we’re harvesting our potatoes, and we wondered if you would take a bushel or two on account of the old bill.”

“Indeed, I’ll be glad to,” replied Sophia.

In a few minutes, the potatoes were sizzling in the frying pan, and the boys had answered prayer for breakfast. [1]


In today’s First Lesson, we read of how the prophet Elijah was sent to a widow in Zarephath in Sidon to share in her means of sustenance. As Sophia’s sons in the account above learned that God provides for the needs of his people according to his word, so the widow in our Lesson learns the lesson of trusting God’s word through the prophet Elijah that she and her household will be provided for during the remaining months of the three year drought. Elijah had experienced God’s provision at the brook Cherith, where God had commanded ravens to feed him, but the brook from which he drank water eventually dried up (1 Kings17:7), since the drought continued. Then God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, where a widow would sustain him (1 Kings 17:8).

One might well ask why the Lord would send the prophet Elijah to such a poor widow, who barely had food enough for herself and her son, let alone Elijah. God could have sent Elijah to a wealthier person, who would have had plenty of resources. He could even have sent Elijah to a Hebrew widow, as the Lord Jesus commented many years later in his sermon at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:25-26). But God showed his love for the Gentiles and his wonderful provision for them when he sent Elijah to a Gentile widow who was very poor. The water was easy enough for the widow to bring to Elijah, but when he asked for a morsel of bread, it seemed an impossible request to her, since she had only a handful of meal in her barrel, and a little oil with which to bake a little bread for herself and her son.

But now the word of the Lord through the prophet changes the whole situation. “Fear not,” Elijah begins, and then tells her to do what she intended to do, but to bake him a little cake of bread first, and afterwards bake bread for herself and her son, for God’s word to her was that barrel of meal and cruse of oil would never give out until rain broke the drought. The widow might have been tempted to ask, “Are you sure about this? Is it really going to happen as you say?” But she believed God’s word and trusted Elijah that, as a prophet, he spoke God’s word.

God fulfilled his message spoken by Elijah the prophet by continually replenishing the widow’s supply of meal and oil, so that she, her household and Elijah were sustained throughout the rest of the drought. The fruit of her faith and obedience to God and to his word, led to the survival of her and her household through the drought.


What can we learn from this example of the widow’s faith in God’s word and obedience to it?

We learn firstly that man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, a lesson which God taught the Israelites in the wilderness (Deut. 8:3), which the Lord Jesus knew when he rejected the Devil’s temptation to turn stones into loaves of bread in the wilderness (Luke 4:4). God’s word is more important than the provision for our material needs, but may actually be the means by which these things are provided. In accordance with this insight, though many people today can earn enough, or even more than enough, to sustain them and their families, as Christians, we still give thanks for our food, and we still pray, “Give us today our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer, for it is by God’s sustaining word and grace, that we have the health and strength to earn our bread (Deut. 8:18; Prov. 10:22; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).

Secondly, even if our material needs in this life are met easily enough through our work and the well-stocked grocery stores where we can buy our food, we still depend on the Lord’s provision for many things. There are those that apply for position after position, but need the Lord’s guidance and wisdom to find the right employment opportunity. There are prayer requests which we have brought before the Lord for a long time, and for which we need an answer from the Lord. Perhaps there are needs in our family for which we have been praying for a long time. None of us can really say, “We need nothing from the Lord.” We all need many prayers to be answered.

Thirdly, there is the drought in our state, the exceptionally dry conditions, and the potential for so many wildfires. Then there is the spiritual drought in our country. We so badly need good, godly leaders in every area of our civic life, in every state, in every county, and in every city. We need to pray not only for such leaders to be raised up by God, but for all the people of the USA to pray and to seek God with all their being, and to hunger and thirst after righteousness, so that God may hear their prayer and send a great awakening, a time of deep repentance and new life. Will you pray for these things?

[1] p. 619, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

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