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May 15, 2022

Obey Is Not a Four-letter Word

Obey Is Not a Four-letter Word

Passage: 1 Kings 17:2-16

Speaker: Patrick Lafferty

Series: Easter Egg, the hidden figure of Elijah in the life of Jesus

Keywords: word, follow, eat, obey, feed, do not fear

The gospel is news about being reconciled to God, not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done for us. It is all by grace. But how does obedience fit into that mix? How do we avoid diminishing its importance while at the same time not being ground into the dirt in our struggle with it? Elijah’s story offers us a window into how obedience functions.

Readings & Scripture

PREPARATION: Psalm 86:8-11
LEADER: There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.

ALL: Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

CENTRAL TEXT: 1 Kings 17:2-16
1 Kings 17:2 And the word of the LORD came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

1 Kings 17:8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

LEADER: “And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. . . .28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.” This is the word of the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God.


ALL: Merciful God,
you made us in your image,
with a mind to know you,
a heart to love you,
and a will to serve you.
But our knowledge is imperfect,
our love inconstant,
our obedience incomplete.
Day by day, we fail to grow into your likeness.
In your tender love, forgive us
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON: Zechariah 13:1-2 and Ephesians 1:7
LEADER: “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. 2 “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty.”

ALL: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Thanks be to God.

BENEDICTION: Romans 16:25-27
LEADER: Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

ALL: to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.


  • Deuteronomy 32:21-22
  • Proverbs 14:31
  • Jonah 1:1, 2; 4:11
  • Matthew 5:43-44
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 10:41
  • Mark 1:12-13
  • Luke 4:16-30
  • John 4:1-26, 31-38
  • John 10:16
  • Philippians 2:8
  • Hebrews 5:8
  • Hebrews 11:1, 6


  1. Word association game. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word: obedience. Don’t think–speak. Now explain why you picked that association?
  2. What are unintentional errors Christians can make when it comes to understanding obedience?
  3. If we had only this passage from the life of Elijah, how might we define obedience? What examples of it would we find in the text?
  4. We heard an association between Elijah and Jesus about the nourishment we derive from obedience. How would you expand upon what Jesus means by the food he receives from doing the will of God?
  5. Venture a guess: why might the LORD have commanded Elijah to go first to the eastern edge (if not outside) the land of Israel, and then later to the coastal territory of Sidonia clearly outside Israel? If he’s a prophet of Israel, why conduct these sojourns far from its center and life?
  6. So how, from the sermon, is care for the outsider and the vulnerable–as the Sidonian widow was–a test of our obedience?
  7. How are we to see our obedience in light of the obedience of Jesus?
  8. What is the next right thing–the next obedient thing–the moment is calling from you?



  • . . .the gospel of Jesus the Nazarene is a justice-bringing, slavery-crushing, illness-healing, debt-remitting, low-status-reversing, sin-cleansing, outsider-including, and truthing-to-power gospel. If the gospel is not good news to the poor in Nairobi slums, to the Maori of New Zealand, to engineering students in Norway, to Wal-Mart employees in Nashville, to inmates in a prison in Nova Gama, then it ain’t really good news in the biblical sense. Michael Bird
  • those people who live most obviously with their backs against the wall—for instance, the homeless, the working and jobless poor, the substance abused and abusers, the alienated, misguided, and essentially abandoned young people—are rarely within hearing or seeing range of the company of Jesus’ proclaimed followers. Howard Thurman
  • Obedience isn’t legalism, it’s a symptom of salvation. C.S. Lewis