Day Three ‘Faith in a place of testing’
“ Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”(1 Kings 17:9 ESV)
The first thing Elijah is recorded as doing in the Bible is to declare the word of the Lord to King Ahab and proclaim a drought , which will only come to an end when God decrees ( 1 Kings 17:1). Elijah in complete obedience to the word of God goes first to hide at a brook where he is fed by ravens . He is then sent to Zarephath on the Mediterranean coast in what is Lebanon today.
What can we say about this ? Well as we saw on day one Elijah’s own name like others in scripture has great spiritual significance., so too do place names. Zarephath means ‘a smelting place’ a place where iron ore would be smelted and refined.Zarephath was to prove to be a place of testing and refining for Elijah too.
‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.’ Proverbs 17:3
In the first place would he show obedience in going in response to God’s Word to him? Would he then trust God to protect and provide for him there as He had promised? Zarephath was enemy territory in the land of Ahab’s evil queen Jezebel. It would be as dangerous to him as modern day Baghdad would be for us.
In the second place would he obey God in terms of morals ? He as a single man was being sent to lodge with a widow , far from prying eyes and gossiping tongues .
Elijah was to be tested in both his obedience to the express will of God to Him , and in his obedience to God’s moral law through His written word.This then was the test, would he believe,would he trust and would he obey God in a new ,strange and challenging environment? As far as Elijah was concerned though , this was merely preparation for harder testing to come.Later on Elijah was to be tested in his faith in God not only to provide for himself and the widow with the miraculous supply of flour and oil( verses 14-16). He was to be tested far more in his faith that God would answer his prayers for the widow’s son.( verses 17-24). There were further and sterner rests ahead at Carmel and Horeb as we shall see .
The sobering lesson for us from this is that before God can trust us with greater work or service , he will test us in smaller things too. It is not easy going through the refiners fire, but we must remember it is for a reason . If Elijah had proved untrustworthy, or unable to obey God, in all probability he would have died, as would the widow and her son. Elijah’s faith in God in a place of testing, proved he could be trusted. Our times of testing may be different, but we should take encouragement from the letter of James when these times come.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (James 1:2).