“Bring me a cake…”
1 Kings 17:8-18
Today is Thanksgiving Sunday, and our text is the same as last Sunday. Last week, from the story of the widow of Zarephath, we learned that this widow was in severe trials, like being in a smelting or refining place as the name of the town she was living in “Zarephath” means. Without going through such refining process, in which one removes all the impurities of self, one cannot know or recognize that God is the only one who exists in the ontological sense: “My God is YHWH” (“I am who I am”), as the name Elijah means. In a smelting place, one realizes that God is the only one who can help, provide and give life to all humanity whose destiny is death. No one and nothing can keep people from dying, who are eating to die, as this widow of Zarephath said, “I may prepare a meal for myself and my son and eat and die!”
For those people who met God and confess “My God is YHWH” as this widow of Zarephath met Elijah, one has to obey God’s command no matter how irrational, illogical and nonsensical it may sound in order for that person to be helped and saved from one’s dire situation, as this widow obeyed God giving up everything what little she had in preparing a meal for a stranger, which meant nothing left for her and her son. When she obeyed, no one had to die. Everyone survived: the widow, her son, and Elijah. When we obey, a miracle happens; death sentence was changed to a miracle of living for everyone involved in the story!!
Today, we will look at the same text from a theological angle to think about ‘what do we really have to be thankful for’. God has given us this message especially on Thanksgiving Sunday today. We learned last Sunday that this widow was a believer in Jehovah God as she swore by the God of Elijah, not by Baal, the god of the land she was living in. She swore, “As the Lord thy God lives”. We covered last Sunday that referring to God as “your God” was a common expression in the Bible, meaning ‘our God’. This means she swore, ‘As the Lord, our God lives’ if we restate what she said in our expression. With that said, let us look at vs. 12, “… As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks…” This widow of Zarephath had a handful of flour. “A handful of flour” signifies sin offering. Lev. 5:11, “… If he is not able to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering…” Typically for a sin offering, a lamb was used, but for those who could not afford, two turtledoves or two pigeons they could use, instead. The poorest people who could not even afford two turtledoves or pigeons, they were to bring the tenth of an ephah, which was one day meal for a person. This flour offering typifies the “humanity of Jesus” which indicates Jesus as the sin offering being burned wholly on the altar. In the same verse, we noticed that she gathered “two sticks” which signifies the cross, on which the perfect Christ as our sin offering shed all His blood and water for the redemption of fallen humanity, including you and me.
In this story of the widow of Zarephath, we can see that the handful of flour and two sticks being figurative, they had their end in Christ, who by his death and blood-shedding caused the sacrifices to cease. Since once and for all, Christ was offered upon the altar as the sin offering, and on the cross, the law of sacrifice is no longer in need believers. Instead, we are to experience the sin offering daily based on our absolute dependence on God and our knowing that apart from God, we are the source of all kinds of evils and sins toward God and humans whose destiny is ultimate death, eternal hellfire. This knowledge is followed by our acknowledgment that by the grace of God we are saved, which calls for celebration found in peace or fellowship offering daily, as we can see that the widow, her son, and Elijah had fellowship bread daily.
In other words, we are to experience the sin offering in the context of our enjoyment of Christ as the peace offering in the fellowship of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with fellow human beings.
That was why Elijah commanded this widow to bring baked cake, a morsel of bread, which signifies peace or fellowship offering. The bread was used as part of thanksgiving offering to God. In this offering, the bread can be leavened to make it rise using yeast. Leviticus 7:13 “Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings”)
Do you know why leaven is allowed in making bread in this peace or fellowship offering? We know that leaven puffs up, and it is usually a symbol of sin and pride that permeates the entire entity bubbling up. But, since in the sin and guilt offerings in the person of Jesus our sin has been completely dealt with, in the whole burnt offering all of the self has been placed on the altar, our works are now motivated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So in response, we are filled to overflowing, puffed up, not with pride, but filled with a fullness of joy that is uncontainable! In that context, leaven was allowed.
Elijah was in a way saying to the widow, ‘Now is the time for you to bring thanks offering as a voluntary response to grace. You have experienced something you did not earn, something you do not deserve. You are forgiven! Your debt has been paid! You are released from guilt and shame. You have been declared righteous by God. Your most inward affections are now directed toward God the source of all grace.
Do you know that this peace or fellowship offering is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper partakes of the sacrifice? Voluntarily, the worshiper brings the sacrifice of thanksgiving and slay. Voluntarily, in response to God’s grace and mercy manifested in Christ Jesus, people are to bring a thanksgiving offering. In other words, the sin offering does not complete without the thanksgiving offering that follows the sin offering in the order of things. If we say we are saved by the grace of God, being covered up by the blood of Christ through which we can come to the throne of merciful God, yet we do not have the thankful heart, overflowing joy in our heart crying our undying love and devotion to God in responding what Christ had done for us, then we should seriously question whether we are on the right path.
Do you know that this offering is a shared meal with the priest and people? Thanksgiving offering is expressed and celebrated with people in the presence of the LORD. It is a feast!! If we say we are thankful for Christ’s sacrifice for us, yet we do not share, that cannot be thanksgiving offering. If we do not share our thankful heart, our gratitude by sharing the meal with people around us who do not have food to eat, that cannot be satisfied as peace or fellowship offering in thanksgiving. It is a mandatory condition to share. Do you hear what I am saying here? It is our responsibility to share our meal with people who do not have. That is the only way for us to be abundant in God’s love. If we do not share what we have, then what little we have will be depleted, resulted in starvation and death. This widow of Zarephath had not been sharing what she had, so was dying being depleted of what little she had, which can be multiplied only by sharing. That was why Elijah commanded her to bring fellowship offering to share a meal. Bring a baked cake to me so that I can eat!! Why don’t you offer a fellowship offering and share your meal? If you do, your barrel of flour would not be used up and your oil would not be used up. You have to share!
The Phenicians depended on Israel for cereal supplies. They were merchants, seafarers, living on trade. Israel was to supply food while Phenicians supplied other goods Israelites needed. 1 Kings 5:9, “My men will haul cedar tree down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.”
Our responsibility is to supply food, the most essential things for any human being to survive. Our responsibility is to share The Good News of Jesus with those people who do not have Jesus in their lives. If not, they will die. Do we take that job seriously? Do we share with our family members, our children, our grandchildren or our neighbors? It is mandatory for us to share to survive in our spiritual life. Think about the parable of talents! The one who had one talent did not do anything but kept itself hidden from people ended up being taken away what little s/he had, and thrown away from God’s kingdom. What is most important in the world? What is the most essential thing in life? –Money? Good job? Or fame? Good reputation? When we die, we concern about our souls, whether we are saved or not; nothing else concerns us.
Are we today enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God? Are our deepest affections fixed on God? Does our heart overflow as we enter His courts with praise and thanksgiving? Are we giving enough thanks to God and sharing this meal with the people around us?