Fertility vs Famine

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Text: 1 Kings 17:1-16

Title:  Fertility vs Famine

Theme:  The Living God is the only one that provides true life

Goal:  to encourage Christians to acknowledge God as the only one that provides true life.

Need:  We often live as though true life comes from sources other than the Living God.

Sermon Outline:

  1. Introduction about looking for life apart from the living God.
  2. Where God’s Spirit is not present, there is no life.
  3. Where God’s Spirit is present there is never ending abundance.
  4. Trust in the Spirit of the Living God involves entrusting him with our own life.
  5. Conclusion:  Nail it.  GOD is the only…only… only place for true LIFE.

Sermon in Oral Style:


          Absolutely, totally, completely free!  Have you seen an ad like that before?  They pop up all over the place now-a-days.  I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to it, but my dad always picks something out in North American use of the English language that just doesn’t make sense.  The quirky guy that my dad is, he’ll make mention of it whenever he find the chance to bring it up.  He’ll say, “absolutely free.  Because the rest of the time the offer is only for something to be partially free.” 

          I do get his point on it.  If something is free, that means without cost.  You can’t be awarded something for somewhat free.  If you do its only a discounted price.  Not free.

          But at the same time, I can understand why advertisers like to advertise when something is completely, totally free.  I’ve had it where I go with a coupon for a free burger at McDonalds, I get my order and they say, “that comes to 38 cents.”  “Excuse me?  Free…  See it says it right here.  F-R-E-E.  That means it comes to nothing.”  They’ll give me the burger but they won’t pay for the sales tax. 

          Those times are so frustrating that some advertisers try to reassure people that their offer isn’t a gimmick.  Its really, absolutely, completely free.

          Reading through this passage, I get the sense that God is starting to have to make a point to the people of Israel again.  Israel.  The Northern Kingdom.  And it’s a point that is potent and applicable for our lives yet today.

          God is sick and tired of other nations and other gods claiming that they will offer prosperous life to those who follow them.  Baal is the main god that has infiltrated the hearts of the people of Israel.  There are prophets of Baal in Israel.  King Ahab worships Baal. 

Do you know who Baal was?  He was the chief god of the day.  He defeated numerous other gods in order to take control as the most powerful god of the day.  And he was worshipped because he was the god of fertility.  They believed that Baal was the god who sent the rain, who made the crops grow, who made their animals have healthy stock, and would give lots of offspring to peoples families.  The people believed and celebrated Baal’s ability to give them true, full life.

          God is sick and tired of his people looking elsewhere for true life.  The point throughout this passage to the Israelites, and even to us reading the passage today, the point is that there is no other place were we can find true life except with the true God, by his word, by his Spirit.  It should be enough that God is God.  But he’s going to show again that he is the true God of true life.  Not like the stone dead, worthless Baal.

          Elijah is the one who is going to do this.  In Verse 1 Elijah represents the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  He is the one that God is going to speak through.

          So Elijah goes to king Ahab to prove to him that Baal is just a hunk of stone that can’t provide true life.  He is not a real god.  Elijah brings God’s word to Ahab.  It says, “as the Lord, the God if Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

          Why no dew or rain?  Because these are exactly the things that Israel had started to believe would come from Baal.  “Make your sacrifices to Baal, and oh boy will he hear you.  He will make it rain at the perfect time.  The seeds will come rushing out of the ground and you will have everything you could have possibly wanted to eat.” 

          What better way to bring the people to realize that Baal has nothing to him?  The point God is making is that fertility has nothing to do with Baal.  But it has everything to do with faithfulness to the LIVE God, the one true living God. 

          But God is going to prove to Ahab and to Israel where God Word is forgotten, and where God’s Spirit isn’t present, then true life, true fertile growing life is impossible.  Elijah makes special mention of it in verse 1.  As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives!”  Baal, Ahab’s God, does not live.  He cannot give life.  God, Elijah’s God, lives.  He gives true life.

          So the land goes with out rain.  No water.  Not even a refreshing dew comes.  It is dry, deadly desolation.  All because King Ahab has led them to disobey God and forget his word.  Even go completely against its warnings like Hiel rebuilding Jericho.  They haven’t realized that Fertility comes through Faithfulness to God.

          Another dynamic point that comes through in this passage is that even in the midst of punishment and desolation, wherever the Spirit of God is, and where his word is obeyed, there is true life.


          God does it in miraculous ways to prove his point.

          The first way we see how God provides when his word is followed and his Holy Spirit is present is in the protection of Elijah during the drought and famine.  God gives Elijah specific instructions, and Elijah immediately obeys.  1 Kings 17:3-4  “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”[1]  The next two verses tell us that Elijah follows the word from God and he is provided for.  Ravens come down and provide him with meat and there is a little brook that provides him water.

          The brooks of the area, even the one that Elijah fled to, are only seasonal brooks called Wadis.  They go dry during the driest seasons.  The same thing happens with the brook that Elijah is near.  As it begins to go dry, God gives a new word to Elijah again.  In verse 7-9 we hear, “Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”[2]

          This is no simple command.  Elijah has every reason in the world to turn around and say, forget it God.  First of all, Zarephath is no short journey.  He is east of the Jordan river.  He has to travel the rugged terrain in the drought far to the North and to the coast of the Mediteranean Sea. 

          This is not Israel anymore.  Zarephath is not part of God’s promised land flowing with Milk and Honey.  Why would Elijah go to a foreign land and expect the abundance of the living God to happen there?  Its because God is done with giving his abundance to Israel.  They have not listened to word.  They have not obeyed him.  They don’t love him over all other gods.  God’s word is sending him to the foreign land.


        God shows his abundance in the most humble place.  In the home of a foreign, starving, widow. 


          Elijah asks her for food and drink and even though she is running out because of the drought, she is used by God to let his faithfulness show and his abundance flow.  Verse 14 says, “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’”[3] 

What’s her response to the Word of the Lord from Elijah?  “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. For the jar of 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.[4]

Ahab’s god, Baal is impotent as a fertility god.  He is unable to give life.  Elijah’s God, the true God of Israel is the living God.  HE is the really, truly, absolutely, real life giving God. 

The last thing we need to notice in the passage is the role that faith plays in this blessing of abundance.  How much flour does the woman have left?  A handful.  A handful.  And a little bit of oil.  She’s going to make one more lump of mash, split it with her son and then just wait until their body starts feeding on itself and they starve to death.

I am sure its not like they have been eating good up until Elijah shows up.  A healthy woman… “oh you know we just started to run out of flour.”  No, I am sure she is skin and bones.  Already starting to starve, holding off on the very last bit of flour and oil until they are at the point of starvation already.  Here comes a stranger from a different land who dares to ask a starving widow for food.

It takes an emense about of faith and a realization that no other option will give life.  This last bit of bread is not going to save her life.  She will eat it and die.  She might as well give it up because she has found that no other direction is going to give her life.  But listening and obeying the prophet of the living God of a different land, there may just be life through him.

She trusts in nothing else, and puts her faith in Elijah and his God. 

Can you imagine what that must have felt like for this widow and her son.  Just waiting to starve, and suddenly she reaches into the jar and pulls out a second handful and third handful of flour.  And she pours the oil and it keeps coming, and coming and coming until she is able to make enough to live.  Enough to LIVE!  TO CONTINUE LIVING!  God and where his word is obeyed, there is absolutely, totally, truly, real life.

          The Devil had Jesus in the desert for 40 days without food, testing the limits of his humanity.  He tempted Jesus to turn the stones to bread.  Jesus’ answer:  Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. 

          Its not about the bread.  Its about living by faith in God.  Its not about fertility.  Its about faithfulness to God and his faithfulness to us.  Trusting in what God says. 

How about your life?  Will you chase after the popular way to try and find life.  Are you going to look for the rush, or the good feeling, or the comfortable way of life, and forgetting that it about Jesus Christ, about his blood and about living by the word of God that brings true life.  Turn away from your Baals, the other places you think your life might flourish.  Find completely really true life with the one true God.


[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984

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