In 1 Kings 17: 7-24, we read the story of Prophet Elijah and the widow at Zarephath. At the beginning of the chapter we read that Elijah brings word about the drought on the land – divine judgement on the nation for turning to idolatry. God then withdraws Elijah from the land and tells him to hide in the Ravine near the Jordan. Here we read how he was sustained by food brought to him by ravens and has water from the brook, the brook eventually dries up and the Lord instructs Elijah to go and stay with a widow.
This story begins with God providing food and a place for Elijah through the widow, but we get to see His ultimate provision to the widow.
God says to Elijah in verse 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”
In a time when food was scarce because of the drought, God sends Elijah to stay with a widow. A poor widow is not someone you would look to for help especially in times of need. Living in a patriarchal society compounded widows with a diminished ability to meet financial needs and were usually dependent on others for their survival if they did not have family. And she was not a wealthy widow, but a widow facing starvation.
For us: This reminds us that God is our ultimate provider. His tools of provision were via a widow in the middle of a drought. A reminder to never overlook or underestimate what the Lord can use in our lives to meet the needs of others and what He can use to make way for a provision in our own lives.
In verse 9 God tells Elijah that He commanded the widow to supply him with food. In the chapter, there is no mention of God appearing to the widow or through another means giving instructions to her to do so.
I understand it as God working in her heart and readying her to be willing and open to supplying food for Elijah. God was about to change her life when she meets Elijah, and she was not yet aware of it.
For us: God is working for us. Even when we do not see it or know it, He is working on our behalf, to provide for us, to reveal more of Himself to us, to grow us in our faith and trust. He is working indeed.
When the widow meets Elijah, she was going to cook her last meal with the little she had for herself and her son and then die. Elijah sees her and says “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink? As she was going to get it, he called ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread’.”
Notice that the verse says as she was going to get it (the water for Elijah). For a woman facing her last days and as a mother to know that she will see her child starve, it was interesting to notice that even with that overwhelming reality, she was willing to look beyond her despair and give a helping hand to Elijah. How many of us can say the same when we are facing a tunnel of despair?
She also could have used an excuse and said I do not have anything to give you to eat, but she was honest with what she had and that made a difference.
In verse 13-14 Elijah says “First, make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 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 util the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”
For her to experience this miracle from the Lord, she had to do something first. Trust in God’s word and His promise of provision. There required an element of surrender, of obedience, to give her all and place her trust in Him to truly and fully experience His provision in a miraculous way. Her obedience and trust were not only to be within but substantiated with her actions, the making of the bread with the little she had and giving it to Elijah.
She does as Elijah had told her and the jar of flour and jug of oil do not run empty. There is enough every day for Elijah, the woman and her son. Notice that she does not get large amounts of flour and oil, but every day when she uses what is in those jars to cook, there was just enough for the day. It was like cooking their last meal every day and she had to choose to trust in the Lord being faithful in providing for them every single day. It caused her to seek and rely on God every day and cultivate a daily relationship with Him.
We read on in verses 17-18 “Sometime later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son.?”
With Elijah, a man of God staying in her home, I would assume that she would have seen and felt God in him, in his actions and words. Heard from him and had conversations with him about God. Remember that this was a pagan woman, her standards of sin and what is right would be quite different from God’s.
Did her time with Elijah, make her more aware of the way she led her life, the sin in her life? But she views it through a lens of punishment, probably influenced by her pagan beliefs rather than turning to God with repentance and seeking forgiveness.
Elijah prays over her son “O Lord, let this boy’s life return to him.” The boy is restored to life. In verse 24 we read “Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
Her confession is reflective of knowing in an experiential way who God truly is. Her eyes are opened to God who holds all life in His hands, His forgiveness, and a hope in Him that cannot be found anywhere else. For a widow at that time, to lose her son, the one source of her security in life, God shows her that He is her true source of security.
God not only provided for her temporal needs but also provides for her within her spirit only that which God can fulfill.
From the great needs of our soul to our daily needs, God sees and He provides, He truly is our Jehovah Jireh.