God’s Love Is Without Measure: His Encouragement #1

His Encouragement #1

What is “His Encouragement?”

Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. Since I’m a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning to my week.  Frequently by the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you “His Encouragement,” a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.

It is my prayer that these words of encouragement inspired by scripture will help to carry you through the rest of your week so that you can continue to be upheld by God’s grace. My prayer is that this weekly series will be a much needed reminder that God loves you. 


God’s Love Is Without Measure

“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family (1 Kings 17:15).”

I confess, I am obsessed with measuring things. I can tell you how many calories are in an apple (95), a banana (105), or your average slice of pizza (about 330).

I count every mile that I run each week (my goal is 25) and the number of calories I burn during each workout (last evening I burned 372 calories on the treadmill).

I measure my food portions, count my steps, keep track of my office hours, and even count the number of books I read (104 so far this year).

Apparently, I’m not alone when it comes to my obsession for counting things. There are a plethora of apps that help me on my quest. My Fitness Pal, Map My Run, and Good Reads all serve as a handy little programs that I use to help me to organize my life. The popularity of such applications shows that our society has a love of keeping count and keeping score.

In the story from which this verse was taken, the prophet Elijah encounters an elderly widow who also has an infatuation with counting.

 

A Place of Scarcity

A painting by Strozzi of Elijah and the widow
Strozzi- Elijah and the Widow (From the Wikimedia Commons)

(You can find the entire story in 1 Kings 17:7-16)

The story that this verse was taken from begins with the entrance of an elderly widow who is also obsessed with counting; however, her reasons are far better than mine. She is functioning under a death sentence.

The language of scarcity permeates the widow’s language. When Elijah asks for something to eat and a piece of bread, she answers has no bread “only a handful of flour” and a “little” olive oil. She tells Elijah that she is gathering just a “few” sticks so that she can build a fire in order to cook a last supper for she and her son before they starve to death (1 Kings 17:12).

I live in a comfortable home with an abundance of food (honestly, there is are a dozen homemade cookies AND a pie sitting on my desk at this very minute).

In stark contrast, this widow is functioning in a world of scarcity. Her land has been struck by a terrible drought. In a world where most opportunities for financial security were forbidden to women, this elderly widow finds herself at a loss for how to provide for her beloved son.

The widow’s efforts to carefully count and measure her family’s food supply were rooted in the desire to extend their lifetime on this earth. I’m certain that she thought to herself, “If I can just count this one more time- if I can just ration this properly- surely my son and I will be able to live a few more days.”

 Although my circumstances are less dire, I must admit that my love of counting things stems from my desire to be in control. I can’t help but think, “I might not be able to control all the crazy things in my life, but at least I can control how much food goes into my mouth or how many miles I run.”

Elijah, the prophet of the God of Israel, knows that only God is in control.

God Is Always Present

In an effort to evade his Kingdom’s corrupt government, Elijah had fled deep into the dessert. At this point in the story, his journey had brought him all the way to the homeland of the wicked Queen Jezebel.

Jezebel worshiped the pagan god Baal and encouraged all the people of Israel to do the same. Jezebel and the followers of Baal believed that Baal controlled the rain and the thunderstorms. Every year, the people prayed to the god Baal to bring an end to the dry season by granting them rain.

In order to show that God alone has power, God withheld rain from Israel and the surrounding lands.

While on the run, the Word of the Lord eventually leads Elijah to Zarapheth. One would be hard pressed to locate this place on a map today, but the key fact about Zarapheth is that it is the land from which Queen Jezebel came. If anyone should have had power in Zephareth, it should have been Baal. But the God of Israel is greater than all other false deities and idols.

The Miracle

The best mathematician couldn’t calculate God’s love!

The true miracle of this story is that God is with us wherever we go. Furthermore, God cares even for those that society has marginalized. God showed love for the widow in a foreign land. She was a foreigner and not a member of the tribe of Israel. She lived in a foreign land that worshipped false gods. Even so, God loved her. God loved her and cared about both her and her family.

“For the jar of the flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah (1 Kings 17:16, NIV).”

God also took care of the prophet Elijah. Even during Elijah’s time of exile and wandering, God was always present with him.

God provided for the widow and her son by multiplying her meager food supply so that they would have enough food to eat. This miracle foreshadows a later miracle we will see later in the New Testament, when Jesus multiples just two loaves of bread and a few fish in order to feed over 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13-21).

The miracle of God’s love gets even bigger as the story continues. If you read on for just a few more verses, you will find that God’s love becomes even more miraculous. As the story continues, the widow’s son dies (1 Kings 17:17). Understandably, the widow is completely grief stricken.

Yet even in the midst of this dry dessert where false deities should hold sway, the love of God rules. God uses the prophet Elijah to bring the widow’s son back from the dead.

This miracle echoes another miracle that we will encounter hundreds of years later in the New Testament, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44). It also foreshadows the most important miracle of all: Christ’s triumph over death on the cross.

The love of God is so great and so amazing that it can even conquer death itself.

God’s love is so vast and immeasurable that it covers all the earth. God loves each and every one of us. There is room in the heart of God for the widow, the foreigner, the poor, the broken, the marginalized, and the hungry.

God’s love is taller than the highest mountain and deepest than the deepest ocean. The love of God cannot be measured in miles or even light years. Most importantly of all, there is room in God’s heart for you and for me.

That is the true beauty of this story that I hope you will carry with you throughout this week: even the best mathematician in the world could not calculate how much God loves us.


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Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series! 

Jacquelyn @ A Heavenly Home

Sources: 
Chan, M. J.  (2016). “Commentary on 1 Kings 17:8-16.” Working Preacher. Retrieved from : http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2885
Cameron, Howard. (2013) “Commentary on 1 Kings 17:8-16.” Working Preacher. Retrieved from: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2885
Koester, Craig R. “Elijah, the Troubler of Israel.” Reading Biblical Literature: Genesis to Revelation. Retrieved from https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/reading-biblical-literature-genesis-to-revelation.html