OPENING OUR HEARTS & SPIRITUAL EYES TO BLESSINGS: YHWH God deals in abundance, yet many miss out on their potential blessings. Seeing the blessings which God has for us is not simple or automatic. It’s the poor in Spirit who receive the Kingdom of God’s blessings. Therefore, it can be truly said of that small special group who receive, “Blessed are your eyes for they see…”(A)
WHEN THE COMMONPLACE OFFERS THE UNCOMMON. The city of Nazareth was offered the greatest healer, an incredible blessing, in the person of the Messiah. For centuries the Messiah had been longed for. Yet, when he told them he was there to bless them, to heal them & liberate them, they got angry & rejected their blessing.(B) They were not ready to receive their blessing. The blessing did not arrive & was not packaged as they had expected. Christ (Messiah) then says, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.”(C) And then adds, “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah…but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath…to a widow.” (D)
ELIJAH & THE WIDOW ARE DIVINELY BLESSED, WHILE THE REST MISS OUT. The story of Elijah & the widow is an excellent example of this message. Both of them had to look beyond surface appearances to receive the blessings YHWH God had for them. There was a remnant of 7,000 in Israel at the time(E), but YHWH God sends Elijah to a Phoenician widow living under the control of Sidon’s govt. & its Baal worship. Elijah meets the widow at Zarephath during a time of severe drought & economic stress during the reign of Israel’s evil King Ahab & Sidon-Tyre’s King Ittobal.(F) This episode occurs about 930 B.C., & this drought is recorded in secular history.(G) It is Jezebel’s father who rules Sidon. Jezebel is a patron of Baal worship(H). Her husband King Ahab call’s God’s prophet the “troubler of Israel”.(I) Have you, my friend, ever been called a troublemaker for speaking the truth?!
PARALLELS TO TODAY. Before explaining how Elijah & the widow had eyes to see, and were poor in spirit, let’s cover the similarities of that period to modern America. Israel in Elijah’s day chased the wind (of materialism) & ignored the Spirit (of God). It was a time of apostasy. Like today, in spite of their materialistic focus, it was an era of economic hard times. The righteous & unrighteous faced the same stresses & perils. God had quit working with His local pastors & priests, and was concentrating on His prophets, who by the way, Jezebel was threatening & trying to kill.(J) The Spirit of Jezebel is no friendlier to prophets today. The Spirit of Jezebel battles with the Spirit of Elijah today. Meanwhile, the entire world receives blessings from the Creator, & now as then they serve materialism, even having at times a kamikaze spirit to get rich. Baal was the god of rain & materialism, so the circumstances back then were God’s subtle message to Israel that Baal was not so great.
BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT.(K) Spiritual beggars are not choosy, they accept what God provides. Elijah’s blessings come from unlikely surprising sources, which not only require miracles, but challenge everyone’s expectations of how God would work. Yet both Elijah & the widow have spiritual eyes to see, and the poverty of spirit to receive. God takes Elijah to 2 places outside of Israel to bless him: first a wadi west of Jericho, and then to a Phoenician town to get food & drink from a widow. In the Wadi Cherith, he is fed by unclean, greedy, dirty birds of prey (Ravens). These unholy birds surprisingly share their food with the prophet. Afterwards, God directs him to a woman to get food & water, but she is a destitute widow who has given herself and her son over to the fate of death by starvation. On the surface, what Elijah needs does not seem to fit her circumstances, but both her & Elijah have faith. She has no hint that Elijah is coming, nor what he needs before he asks, but she realizes that Elijah is a man of God.(L) She sacrificially decides to give him the last of her provisions.
FACING DEATH, GOD GIVES LIFE. Elijah does not feel cheated by what he initially receives when God’s help turns out to be a destitute woman ready to die. Nor is he disillusioned by the expectation that God could do better. We of faith, give our expectations to God, and embrace His kingdom with humility. The Word describes the man of faith’s humble flexibility in receiving God’s gifts: “…the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed…”(M) In the end, YHWH God miraculously takes care of Elijah, the woman & her son.
ELIJAH & THE WIDOW’S STORY LINES UP W/ OTHER SCRIPTURE. Isaiah wrote 2 centuries later under inspiration, “…the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought…”(N) Christ preached, “Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.”(O) And… “If your [spiritual] eye is diseased, your whole body will be darkness.”(P) The suffering of those with apostate blind spiritual eyes reminds me of JOB 11:20, “But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.” The faith of Elijah & the widow overcame the worst troubles of the world. As the Word says, “This is the victory, that overcomes the World [Order], our faith.”(Q)
WE APPRECIATE THE INVISIBLE THINGS OF GOD, SEEN BY THE VISIBLE (R) Christ accepted God’s provision, & viewed an insignificant donkey as a blessing. When he made his grand entry into Jerusalem, he did not say, where is my beautiful white stallion? With his poverty of spirit, he accepted God’s provision, thereby fulfilling the prophecy foretelling of his humility…”Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion…behold thy king comes unto you…he is…lowly, and riding upon an ass…”(S)
ROBBERS– A GIFT FROM GOD. Francis of Assisi’s disciples saw two robbers & beat them badly. Francis first asked his disciples for forgiveness for not teaching them better. Then he sought & found the robbers. With genuine sincerity, he got on his knees & begged their forgiveness. He tended & mended their wounds. Impressed by his kind godly sincerity, the two robbers changed their ways and became two of his best disciples. Those who are poor in spirit react to life with God’s Spirit at their core. And His blessings are predictive, pointing to greater fulfillments of God’s purposes.
OUR DIVINE APPOINTMENTS WITH PEOPLE. It’s a blessing when unfortunate events lead to the good things of God. For those of faith, we need to ask, “What’s God’s purpose in this?” As an example of how easy it is to see positives as negatives, allow me to list some godly qualities which people have but due to misuse (or misinterpretation by others) display themselves as negative traits. Each godly trait is listed with its negative display in parenthesis: amiability (gullible), analytical (pickiness), courage (brashness), courtesy (superficial flattery), creativity (day dreaming), discernment (fault finding), efficiency (impatience), enthusiasm (aggressive), flexibility (indecisiveness), frankness (tactless), honesty (bluntness), neatness (perfectionism), persistence (stubborn), and sensitivity (touchiness). This list is only a few of the positives (and their flip sides). I merely mentioned some of those positives which I have come across to others in the negative form. Perhaps you could identify with some of these. When we have encounters with people, if we are people of faith in God, then these are divine encounters. “All things work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose…” (T) With this understanding, we are prepared to accept the blessings of God no matter how camouflaged they may be. Christ was ready for the full deal when he said, “Not my will but thine be done”.(U)
Are you ready for your blessings???
(A) MT 13:16b (B) LK 4:16-30; At JN 1:46, Nathaniel likewise rejects Yahshua, “Can any good come out of Nazareth.” (C) LK 4:24 (D) LK 4:25-27 referring to 1 KGS 17 (E) 1 KGS 19:18 (F)1 KGS 16:31 (G) Josephus quoting the previous history of Menander, Ant. VII, 13:2. (H) 1 KGS 19:1-2 (I) 1 KGS 18:17 (J) cf. 1 KGS 19 (K) MT 5:3 (L) 1 KGS 7:18, 24 (M) PHIL 1:19b-20a (N) ISA 58:11 (O) LK 6:21 (P) MT 6:22-23 (Q) 1 JN 5:4 (R) ROM 1:19,20 (applied in a different context) (S) ZECH 9:9 (T) ROM 8:28 (U) LK 22:42, see also MT 26:42 & MK 14:36; cf, JN 17, his end prayer for restoration to his former glory.