The book of I Kings, chapter 17, verses 8 to 24, document the story of the widow of Zarephath, Elijah and the God of Elijah. God clearly told Elijah, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So, the meeting between the widow and Elijah was a divine appointment; the challenge for this woman was, God and Elijah knew of the divine appointment but she did not.
A person could be excused and forgiven for thinking, “If God is going to involve someone (me) in His divine plan, He could at least give that person (me) a “heads up.” We (I) can be excused and forgiven for thinking in this way but the truth is, He is sovereign, and owes us(me) no “heads up,” no explanation for anything. That being said, the fact is, God did give her a “heads-up.” And here in lies Challenge # 2 – the notice did not come in the manner the word of God likely came through His prophets in those days. For example, Elijah saying something like, “Hear, O widow of Zarephath. The Lord has sent me to dwell here and has commanded you to provide for me.” (Another lesson – God is unchanging in His character but how He chooses to execute His plan can vary).
The “heads-up,” the invitation to be part of His divine plan, came in the form of an ordinary request by Elijah. Umm. Makes me wonder … how often have I missed an opportunity to become involved in God’s work, to engage in one of the works He has for me to do, because the invitation or notice did not come in a manner that is familiar to me, e.g., an inner prompting, a word of knowledge? Umm. I am thinking in this moment that every time I become aware of a need, it could be useful for me to at least consider if my awareness of the need could mean that I have a part to play in meeting it. Umm.
(I cannot get away from the fact that God had chosen her to meet the need of His servant and her obedience would result in her needs being met, but she did not know this. She could have kept what she had for herself and her son, consumed it, and died. Sobering).
Elijah asked for “a little water” and then “a morsel of bread,” all small amounts. The water she seemed quite willing to give because the Bible records that she was going to get it without saying a word. “The morsel of bread,” however, must have seemed like too great of a request. Listen to her words, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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” (verse 12).
I so identify with this woman, and recognize her as kin, my sister. The “family trait” is, too often when God asks me to give sacrificially, I list what I have and all that I have to do with what I have, as if God was ignorant of these details when He asked me to give. He also knows that for both my Sister Widow and I, the fear of not having enough to meet our own needs is behind our “listing” behavior. Admittedly, her fear had some basis in reality – she was living in a “for real” drought. My fear, however, tends to be of the “False-Evidence-Appearing-Real” variety. God said to her and says the same to me, “Do not fear. Trust Me,” for all obedience is an act of trust in the Father, just as disobedience can be seen as a lack of trust and rooted in unbelief.
May I like my sister, the widow of Zarephath, obey Him even when what He asks does not make sense, just plain defies human comprehension. Because, as with her, He will do for me what He says He will do and I will reap the harvest of obedience and trust.
Here is the ending of this chapter of the story of the widow of Zarephath, Elijah, and the God of Elijah. “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah (verses 15-16; italics added). Her obedience continued to bear fruit but I will let you read that chapter of the story for yourself in I Kings 17: 17-24.