Hope In Hard Times

Sunday, November 1, 2020
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier 

1 Kings 17:1-16

2020 – The Worst Year Ever.

Have you heard this phrase? Maybe you have even said it.

2020 – The Worst Year Ever. It is even the name of a podcast!

2020 has been quite a year.

A global pandemic with hundreds of thousands of untimely deaths, strained healthcare systems and exhausted healthcare providers. Then, the pandemic sparked an economic downturn, loss of jobs, upended plans, remote working and learning and even – parking lot worship services in November.  We are seeing climate change wreak havoc with the environment, producing widespread fires and devastating storms. Our country has not been this divided since the Civil War.

And now… Winter is Coming.

It makes you want to scream.

2020 is The Worst Year EVER!


It was about 870 BC.   David and Solomon’s kingdom had fractured into two. Israel, the northern kingdom was perched on the edge of a desert – and the climate constantly threatened them with drought and famine. Not only that, the Israelites knew disease, poverty and violence from enemies. Life was HARD.

And Then… there here was POLITICS.

A series of evil kings had ruled over Israel, and now…

King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were sitting on the throne… Scripture says:

King Ahab “did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him.”

The distinguished WORST KING EVER award.

Ahab and Jezebel were quite a couple, those two. Theirs was definitely not a match made in heaven. No – It was one of those political, arranged marriages between nations.

Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who came from the city of Sidon.   And when she moved to Israel, she packed both her ruthless personality and Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility, the god of storms – and rain. There was No WAY she was moving to a bone-dry climate without her rain god.

And for his part, Ahab thought Jezebel’s plan to set up pagan altars for Baal was a great idea.  You know, just for insurance, in case they need rain.

SERIOUSLY?!  Ahab should have known better. Isn’t there a commandment about such things– Like, “You shall have no other gods before me?!”

Scripture tells us that Ahab actually “served and worshipped” Baal.

This Royal Couple is SO CORRUPT that God sends the prophet Elijah to remind them just WHO is in charge of things here…including the RAIN.  And to make sure they get the point, Elijah announces there will be NO RAIN – not even any dewdrops – for a long time, “except,” he says, “by my word.”

You just gotta ask, in the words of Dr. Phil… So, Ahab, how is that new rain god working out for you? (Sidenote: The drought lasted over three years.)

God tells Elijah to hightail it out of town – and to hide in a desert wadi, where ravens feed him, and he drinks from a brook. Okay. That is Strange. But Elijah does it.

When the brook dries up (because, NO RAIN) God sends Elijah on…. to of all places, Zarephath (Zar -e-fath), outside of Sidon – Jezebel’s hometown!

There, God tells him, a widow will feed him.

Okay – So God sends Elijah:

  • to a land that has traditionally be considered enemy territory, and to
  • depend on the generosity of a stranger there,
  • who is a poor widow,
  • and most likely a worshipper of Baal?

This is crossing ALL KINDS OF boundaries to say the least, But Elijah goes.

And, sure enough, a widow is gathering kindling sticks at the edge of the village.

It seems strange to us that Elijah would walk right up and ask her for water – but women were the water bearers and it was a core value to provide hospitality to strangers in this middle eastern culture. As she turns to fetch it, Elijah calls out, “Oh and please…. Along with the water, a morsel of bread.”

“A morsel of BREAD?”

It wasn’t much, but it was a dagger into her heart.

As a widow, she had nothing. Only men – you see – were allowed to own property. She had no way to make a living. She was among the most destitute and downtrodden of society – she is not even named here, for Pete’s sake.

When Elijah asks, she despairs. “Bread? I don’t have any bread! I was just about to mix my last bit of oil and my last handful of meal – the very last food I have – to make a small cake. It is the last meal my son and I will have before we lay down to die.”

Can it be any more desperate that that?

Elijah responds. “Do Not Be Afraid.”

Do not be afraid. Have you ever heard that in scripture before?

Yes, this is scary. Yes, you are walking in dark times. It is the worst ever. Still.

Do not be afraid.

Go ahead and make that cake and bring it here. Then go back and make more – lots more, for you and your son, and you household. Because with God – the worst ever NEVER has the last say.

You will have enough – Because the God of Israel is more than enough.

And so, A destitute widow on the edge of death gives away her last morsel of bread –all she has…  In the hope that the God of Israel just might bring new story, a new future, a new life.

And God shows up. There is enough meal, enough oil, enough to last. God takes her from scarcity to an abundance. From certain death to a new life.

She didn’t know what the future held. But she soon found out who holds the future. And he is GOOD.

Things are hard. 2020 is quite possibly the worst year we have experienced as a church. The pandemic has caused us to be more depressed. More isolated. More anxious.

You may be here today grieving the loss of a dear loved one who died this past year. Their death has left your days empty and bleak. We miss our loved ones. We miss our old life. It is really hard.

Don’t be afraid, God tells us.

Go ahead and share your bread. You see, this – It is not the end. There is a new story, a new future.  New life waits for you – in God’s hands.

We don’t know what the future holds. But we do know the One who holds the future. And God is waiting for us there. With bread, with hope, with life that never ends.


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