The Long Hump of Wednesday in Zarephath

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1 Kings 17:10-12 (NIV)

10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive 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.”

CONSIDER THIS

Good morning Pilgrim Saints. It’s Wednesday. Before we get going, you know I love cheers, chants, and battle cries. The proper liturgical church word would be antiphonal responses, or “versicles,” which—no surprise to you—I hate. Well, it’s time for another one. I’ve been rehearsing it at the end of every day, but I want to bring it to the front now as well. I will say, “This is the way,” and you will respond, “From glory to glory.” 

ME: THIS IS THE WAY
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!

Now, there’s something else I failed to tell you about Zarephath. The Hebrew word for Zarephath has what turns out to be a quite fitting meaning. Zarephath is an eponym which is a person, place or thing for which something or some place is named. Zarephath became an eponym for a smelter or forge or metal working shop. It’s a bit of an eponymous serendipity wouldn’t you agree? 

Elijah definitely found himself in a sweltering, sweltering forge—kind of like an endless Wednesday. He’s on the front end of what will be a three year drought, and he is in hiding. The Word of the Lord directed him to Zarephath, where the fire would get much hotter. God’s solution for Elijah’s provision turned out not to be a super wealthy widow. Take a look:

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive 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.”

Perhaps it goes without saying she had not yet come across Robert Shuller’s (of Crystal Cathedral fame) famous book, Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do. 

Sidebar: I remember as an emerging adolescent when I first became aware of my weakness as a person. It wasn’t that I had weaknesses. I became aware I was constitutionally weak. I was missing something at the core of my being and I knew it. There began the long climb to try and solve this problem by constructing a version of myself that would be strong; or at least perceived as such. The technical term for such a persona turns out to be a “false self.” We all do this to one degree or another, and it works; at least for a while. The problem is we are not our accomplishments or our resume or our appearance or our impressive experience or our wowing rolodex. The good news is we are not the lack, absence of or even opposite of those things either. Back to me, I knew in those days and every day since that I was not poor and yet I was weak. I will forever remember when I read these words from Jesus and the utter relief they brought:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3. 

I was and continue to experience what Jesus calls poverty of spirit and names as the doorway into the quality and quantity of life he calls “Eternal.”  Eternal life is the very substance and essence of glory because it is the very life of God. And this is the gospel itself, not that you believe, behave ,and then wait to go to heaven when you die. It is that heaven comes to us now, while we are dead in sin and makes us gloriously alive in Jesus Christ. 

So back to our widow, who was as good as dead. She was not only poor in possessions but it had led her to deep poverty of spirit as well. 

“I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive 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.”

Shuller was right. Tough times never last. He was also wrong. Tough people don’t last either—at least not in the way Jesus intends. It is the weak, the poor in spirit, who not only last but they flourish because they have come to know a flourishing beyond the terms of the world; an abundance beyond possessions and monetary wealth; and a joy beyond temporary circumstantial happiness. They become in this world, simultaneously vulnerable to evil yet untouchable by Satan; subject to all the vicissitudes of life yet mysteriously held by the unseen God. 

Let’s not lose the gravity of the moment though. This, my pilgrim friends, is God’s plan for Elijah’s sustenance:

“I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive 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.”

Wednesday is going to take a while, like three years. And why God? Why this approach? 

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

This is the way—from glory to glory. 

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, this is confounding. Your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. We want this to change though. We know it is a process; indeed a from glory to glory process. I confess, I would rather be strong than weak and yet I will never be strong in you until I learn to embrace and celebrate my own deep weakness and stop trying to escape it. Holy Spirit, sow this unlikely and unconventional wisdom deep in my life. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.  

THE QUESTION

How do you relate to being or becoming poor in spirit? What is the shape and scope of your false self? 

P.S. Instagram Live Today with Lo Alaman and Carolyn Moore

Here’s some good news. We are getting ready to offer a new release from our dear friend, Carolyn Moore: When Women Lead: Embrace Your Authority; Move Beyond Barriers; And Find Joy in Leading OthersIt’s one of our Harper Collins Zondervan Books. Today Carolyn will be on Instagram Live discussing her book with Lo Alaman at 1 central time. Join them @newroomconf. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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3 COMMENTS

  1. For me, today’s D.T. relates to and explains why the initial step in my becoming a disciple of Christ required that I deny myself, in other words, die to self strength and will. As Paul recounts in 2 Corinthians:” “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me.”” My false self was in being clueless about what entailed true discipleship. I had been under the impression that discipleship meant being active at church and believing all the correct doctrines. Fortunately, God intervened along the way and revealed to me my complacency.

  2. Jesus is the way
    Beyond pride,
    Beyond self-effort,
    And beyond despair.
    Let Jesus be the air
    You breathe.
    Let Him continually fill you
    Like deep breathing,
    His Spirit,
    His very presence
    Always working in
    And through you.
    Even if you’re called
    A “fool for Christ,”
    It’s spiritually
    Advantageous
    To be so “poor in spirit”
    That your love for Jesus
    Is so outrageous
    That it becomes
    Contagious.

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