What can we learn from Elijah? #1: We're called to stand with the poor

A Malawian child looks on as a trader sells maize near the capital Lilongwe, Malawi February 1, 2016Reuters

Elijah was one of the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets. He played a crucial role in the politics of his day, and gave some grandstand performances.

But one of the most memorable stories about him is small-scale and domestic, and is told in 1 Kings 17:7-16. There's a famine, and Elijah asks a widow for a piece of bread – in ordinary times nothing, but in a famine it was to ask for the world. When she tells him she's going to make one last meal for herself and her son and die, he tells her not to be afraid: her oil and flour will last until the rains come again and there's food enough for everyone – and sure enough, it does.

There's a message here for everyone who feels that they're at the end of their tether and just can't cope. At the right time, we'll often find that God is there, with the resources that we need. We'll find that just the right word has been spoken, or some gift is given which is right for the time, and helps us get through whatever dark valley we're facing. It may not be much, but it'll be enough.

That's a precious truth, and it's right to read that from this story. But if that's all it says, we've cheated – because the story's about a desperate physical need; not a spiritual or emotional one. The family's starving.

Famine is all too real in the world today, and that's a rebuke to us as a human race: there is enough food for everyone. Maybe the best way of reading the story is to say that it's a pattern for us, to tell us to come alongside the poor and needy until they're able to flourish again for themselves.