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How Did “Food Insecurity” Affect a Troublemaker, a Widow, a King, and Jesus?

The term, of course, is increasingly part of the COVID-19 jargon that dominates the news and implies hunger in America.  Some argue that those are distinct concepts.  “Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of financial resources for food at the household level.”  If weary food-bank workers and worried folks waiting in long lines do wish more “toilet paper insecurity” on such nitpickers, I understand. 

When James wrote his letter to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” he wasn’t into semantics, but firming the faith of believers forcefully distanced from their place of worship and church leaders.  His final pitch for resilient faith pointed to the “powerful and effective prayer of a righteous person.”  Just when we warm up to this “comfort zone” of sorts, James stunningly thrusts us into the “throne zone” of King Ahab. The clincher? “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain…” (James 5:17).

He makes his debut unceremoniously in 1 Kings 17:1, where he informs the spineless spouse of the infamous Jezebel, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”  Elijah’s beginning “food insecurity” is addressed by ravens that bring him meals.  When the brook dries up, the Lord sends him to “Zarephath in the region of Sidon,” where He has instructed a widow to feed him.  She is ready to die of starvation along with her son, but uses her remnant of flour and olive oil to bake the bread their house guest has requested.  As a reward, the LORD miraculously replenishes her staples from then on.

Luke 4:14-28 describes Jesus’ preaching debut in Nazareth.  His hometown folk are enamored with the gracious words of “Joseph’s son.”  When He speaks as God’s Son, they want to kill Him.  He has merely pointed out that Elijah was not sent to a widow in Israel, but to a stranger in a heathen town.  The plight of the unappreciated prophet came home to Elijah when he prepared for the epic showdown with the Baal priests on Mount Carmel.  King Ahab called him the “troubler of Israel,” but when he rallied the support of wavering Israelites, “the people said nothing.”  That, too, might have deepened the depression that had Elijah long for death, after Jezebel gave him hell for killing her priests.  Eight hundred of them had fattened themselves daily at her table.  Unbeknownst to the royals, a God-fearing servant at court, Obadiah, had hidden the Lord’s prophets by fifties in two caves, and supplied them with food and water.

It doesn’t take long to read the fascinating details of faithful Elijah’s ministry in 1 Kings 17-19.  The question is if “Food Insecurity” will still be an issue, or if we have to revisit James 5:17?  Surely the Holy Spirit prompted him to write, “Elijah was man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly…”  How could this claim possibly AFFECT you and me, the forcibly dispersed by an unpredictable pandemic?

-Vreni Schiess


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