Today we’re looking at The Widow of Zarephath. Her story can be found in 1 Kings 17 (it’s super short but absolute gold so I recommend giving it a quick read).
A bit of background: Elijah has travelled to Zaraphath in Sidon, as commanded by God, to seek the refugee of a widow there. He arrives to find her gathering sticks and approaches her, asking if she could bring him some water and some bread.
7 ‘As surely as the Lord you God lives…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.’
Here we have a desperately poor woman, a widow who is living with struggle and deprivation and yet despite her protests, her fears, she does do as requested, she makes that bread -the bread she cannot in anyway afford to make- and presents it to Elijah.
Why does she do that? Why share your last morsel with a stranger, when it’s clear you and your child are in dire circumstances?
The promise of the Lord.
Elijah explains to her, after presenting his request for food, that God has told him ‘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’.
The widow has lived through the death of her husband, a terrible famine and yet when she hears the promises of the Lord proclaimed she instantly sets about sharing what little she has, fully trusting that God has got her situation under control- that He will provide for her.
The Widow was convinced that this would be her final meal. She was expectant for death and yet all of a sudden there’s a shift. She hears the promises of the Lord, realises that He is for her and suddenly her expectations are for life, for provision, for a future for her and her son.
What I find particularly interesting is a small action that can easily overlooked but is really worth noting. Take a glance to the beginning of the story where Elijah asks for water. The widow is quick to act, in fact she’s on her way to collect the water when Elijah calls to her for a piece of bread. Suddenly the demand seems too great, the sacrifice too much for her to bear. She stops in her tracks, suddenly uncertain.
‘Can I spare that?’
There are always going to be areas of our lives where it’s a struggle to give over control to God- whether that’s a habit, a relationship, a behaviour. We just want to do things our way, on our own strength and figure it out alone.
Sometimes you may feel a little stretched, like the woman does here, to give a little more- whether that be financially or in terms of time, effort, prayer, obedience.
We see the woman struggle with this very dilemma- should she do the sensible, rational thing and remain in control of what little she possess’ or loosen her grip, trust the Lord and be generous?
She chooses the latter and we are told that ‘there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family’.
When we put our faith in God he doesn’t just bless us with enough but with plenty. He is able to do miraculous acts when we submit to Him and allow Him to work. Let Go and let God.
A final note: Elijah asks for a ‘piece of bread’. The woman doesn’t physically have any bread to provide him with, only flour and oil but he asks for the finished product. When God looks at you he doesn’t just see the separate ingredients but a whole. He doesn’t just see independent skills and talents but a future where they are weaved together for His glory. He sees all that’s to come, all that’s to be achieved for His glory.
The Widow of Zarephath demonstrates perfectly the internal struggle we can have for control over our possessions but also how God can do the unthinkable, provide an abundance of food in the midst of a famine, when you let Him. Perhaps you feel like you’re surrounded by famine, everything seems dry, barren but you can still be fruitful in a desert environment if you place what little you have and commit it into His hands. Never forget that He is your source of life and He is faithful in your struggle.
Check out the rest of the Women of the Bible series here!