To see what God is doing in our reading from 1 Kings 17:8-16, we need to start with geography. God sent a message to the prophet Elijah, telling him to go to the Zarephath, a village in the land of Sidon. Sidon is a small country situated on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, bordering the northern part of Israel. Sidon is not Jewish even though some Jewish people lived there. Sidon was a community that traced it’s history to the Phoenicians who famously battled with David and other early leaders of the Israelites. When Elijah received this message, he was sitting in a dried-up wadi to the east of the Jordan River. No rain had fallen in the area for 3 years because God was unhappy with Ahab, the King of Israel. As we will discover later, King Ahab recently married Jezebel, a princess from the land of Sidon Jezebel is not Jewish and when she arrived in Israel, she brought her religion with her. The importation of gods and idols into the royal household was something God wasn’t happy about. God brings about a drought and compels Elijah to tell King Ahab what is going on (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah, rightly, fled Israel after making this statement to the King and he kept a low profile, waiting for the next word from God to come. And when that word comes, God told Elijah that a woman in the land of Jezebel would be the one who would take care of him.
We shouldn’t separate the miracle in this story from the geography because the geography tells us who God is. God isn’t a divine being that only operates in a small geographical area. God, according to 1 Kings, has authority everywhere. This might seem obvious to us but in ancient times, gods were local. Their power was centered in specific places and people. A war between neighboring cities and kingdoms wasn’t a battle between secular rulers: it was also a war between gods. A god needed to defend their own turf or be considered beaten and weak. For the people of Sidon, God was a local deity who operated in the land Israel. God’s power was limited by geography. But 1 Kings 17 shows Elijah, the widow, Ahab and the people of Sidon that God is the God of everywhere.
Imagine, for a moment, if we lived our lives knowing our God is everywhere. What would it look like to trust Jesus is with us in church, at school and in our homes? How would our lives grow if we truly believed that the God who helped a prophet in Sidon is the same God who will help us even if we’re not feeling pretty religious today? What would you do differently today if you knew that wherever you are, Jesus is there?
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week (or about our liturgy). This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, 11/11/2018.