From Jim O'Brien
November 15, 2019

Opinion That Matters

Hi Friend,

Few people know the story of Israel. The name David is familiar but most don't know that a civil war took place dividing Israel into two nations shortly after Solomon's death. Even during David's life Israel came close to splitting but David, in an act of humility fled Jerusalem to prevent a catastrophe.

But division came. Despite all of God's blessings the people were discontent with life. During the approximate 200 years of Israel's existence as a divided kingdom there were 19 kings that ruled. The astounding fact is that not one of those kings was good! How strange that Israel, the people of God, never had a good king. So much for the theory that God's people can put their trust in government.

But some kings were worse than others. The worst of all was Ahab, a religious man, who was married to Jezebel, a religious woman. The problem with their religion was that it was corrupt. And their lack of ethics was tolerated by Israel.

The nation that had once been great made an about face. A family with values grew into a nation that doubted its cornerstone of founding. It became hard to recognize as the same country founded on the values God had once given them. Leaders with character were gone. They were replaced with politicians who dressed well but had no substance. The nation that had once worshiped God became a nation that rejected everything God taught.

It was onto this scene that Elijah appeared. Almost as if dropping from a cloud this Prophet of God materialized, a rare bird at the time. So rare in fact that Elijah believed he was the only one in Israel who still worshipped God, which meant the only worshiper of God on earth. Elijah chastised Israel for its lack of justice, eventually calling for a famine to sweep across the land for three and a half years. Elijah suffered through the famine with others and God provided an unexpected refuge. "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in the place to supply you with food." (1 Kings 17:9 NIV)

When wicked men are in power the citizens suffer. A woman with a child and no husband in such a land would have been in abject poverty. It's interesting that God sent Elijah to her for help. When Elijah instructs her to bring him food, she replies "As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don't have any bread-only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it-and die." (verses 10-12) It's hard to imagine the frame of mind of a woman looking at her last morsel of food knowing that after it's gone her son will starve.

There are so many questions in this account and every answer leads to another question. That a Prophet of God needed to depend on a starving widow with a child to provide food for him is one perplexity. That she complied is another. But both placed their faith in God and they were blessed with food for the duration of the famine.

But that isn't the end of the story. In the book of Luke Jesus reminds the pompous Pharisees of this account. He is speaking to men who refer to gentiles as "dogs" and will not even eat with them. So he cuts to their hearts by saying "there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years....yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zerephath in the region of Sidon." (Luke 4:25-26)

Imagine the anger that boiled inside the Pharisees! Jesus was saying that a gentile widow was more respected by God than these scholarly men of the law.

Even more astounding; the widow would probably have agreed with the Pharisees. From the sound of her reply to Elijah she did not have a high regard for herself.

After the miracle of grain and oil her son became ill. She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" (1 Kings 17:18 NIV)

After all these miracles she remembers a sin which was probably long forgotten by God. God seems to see man in a different light than man sees himself. He values the humble and despises the proud.

What's the moral of the story? Maybe men should not think too highly of their own opinion, even of themselves. The opinion that is important is the One who made us.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien