1 Kings 17:7-16 New International Version (NIV)
The story of Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath is one of my favourite bible stories now that I am older.
If you read my other piece You are the Solution Someone Needs then you may know where this is going but let’s dig in. I will post the passage first from the New International Version (NIV) so you can understand the context for my thoughts.
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there, gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Imagine a single mother with a child with no job and food running out in hard economic times. Hmmm, sounds like the story that many women are experiencing today.
This mother was also a widow and preparing her last meal for her and her child when the prophet Elijah comes by. The river he had been living next to was dried up because of the drought. He receives instructions to go to this woman who God had prepared to feed him. I am sure for a few moments Elijah the man may have simply been relieved that he could eat and trusted God had sorted him like he’d been doing with the ravens bringing his food every day. What a deal. The prophet in him would have wondered what God needed him to do or maybe he’d already envisioned what was next knowing it was a time of famine.
Verse seven says that God told Elijah, this woman will “sustain you” in the King James Version and here “supply”. That meant it wasn’t to be a one-time meal, Elijah was going to need food for as long as he was to stay in that area. Now Sidon, where this woman lived, although in Israel had never been settled by the Children of Israel and so the inhabitants served other gods. However, this did not stop the widow from knowing that Elijah was a servant of the one true God and she told him that when he made his request.
He finds the woman gathering sticks for her fire and he asks her to get some water. She walks away to get it willingly but then pauses with his next request. He asks for a piece of bread and she responds “I don’t have enough to share. It’s just enough for me and my son to have our last meal.” She believed that this was the end. She had every expectation that death would follow this meal as she could not conceive or a future meal.
I would be wondering what kind of man is this asking me a widow to feed him, especially in these times. We see however she was willing but felt unable to do so given what was in her barrel. How could she put a man she did not know ahead of her own needs and that of her child? God often puts us in those tight spots. You want to ask Him if He’s blind and cannot see the state of your bank account, refrigerator or house. But He does know and that is why He is making the request. He created the system/principle of seed-time and harvest. It is still the way to get what you need. Use what you have to help someone. Obey God.
I often wonder if Elijah felt any embarrassment asking her for the food. After all he is human and male. No insult intended but as men are purposed to be providers to see a woman in need and not be able to help, ego can sometimes get in the way of being a blessing. Yes, I know that he eventually did provide but imagine for a moment the twinge he might be feeling from being in a place of lack and having to ask someone else who also lacked to help.
Both of these people needed to do the same thing. Obey. Elijah had to leave the river and go towards the town and his future supply and she needed to obey his request as a servant of God but also what seemed to be the willingness of her heart to help a man in need. This is where many of us give up and run the other way. Very hard to ignore the sound of your belly grumbling when you are asked to do something like give away your last meal. He reassured her it would be okay and that God had a plan to provide for her and her son. She brought him the meal and then she did as he said and fed her son.
Incredibly there was enough and it remained enough until the famine ended and her season of lack was over.
You may be in a bind today and you are being asked to do like this woman…give your last.
It is important that you have a word from God on this. A settling in your spirit that it is the right thing to do and a peace which remains even when naturally you should feel fear. God is not one to tell you to do something without a word or without an explanation. You can ask Him for answers. You can ask what’s in it for me? When your faith is young, you ask and He answers. As you grow in Him and you see that He does not lie, cannot fail and always takes care of you, it becomes easier to trust on His word without knowing all the specifics or even the benefit to you. Elijah obeyed God and the widow obeyed Elijah.
After you have heard…obey.