I Kings 17:8-24; Luke 4:24-26 HCSB
I am reminded of the widow of Zarephath every time I get to the bottom of my flour canister, or when I am cooking for a group of people and I am not sure if I have enough food to feed everyone. These instances are mild compared to the real story, but I am prompted to remember God’s provision in times of need.
The widow of Zarephath was in a real crisis, not like my situation where a nearby grocery store solves the problem. There had been a famine in the land of Israel due to the rebelliousness of the people. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel were especially responsible for leading the people astray in the worship of Baal. Even though Zarephath was on the coast, outside of northern Israel, they were still affected by the famine. There had been no rain in the land for three long years. All the surplus food had been consumed. The poor widow had only a little flour and oil left to make one last loaf of bread. This would feed her and her son for one more day and then, apart from a miracle, they would die. Unexpectedly, at God’s direction, the prophet Elijah showed up. “The word of the Lord came to him: ‘Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there’” (I Kings 17:8-9).
Of all the starving people in Israel, why did God choose this foreign widow to bless? We find the answer in an unusual place, Luke 4:24-26. Jesus was reading the Old Testament in Nazareth and those listening were astounded by what they heard. They had known Jesus as a boy and could not think of Him as anything other than the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus sensed their unbelief. “He also said, ‘I assure you no prophet is accepted in his hometown. But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them – but to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon’” (Luke 4:24-26). God sent Elijah to this particular widow outside of Israel because He knew she would believe Elijah. Sure enough, she did believe, and she gave Elijah her last piece of bread. True to His promise, God provided, and the oil and flour never ran out until the famine was over.
Although I have never completely run out of food, I have been short of other things. One day when we were just out of seminary and new to the ministry our refrigerator went out. We did not have the money to buy another one and were not sure what we were going to do. We had a toddler at the time and we needed a fridge! We bought a cheap cooler and some ice and prayed. The next day, my husband got a phone call from a banker in our church. Jeff had visited a man in the hospital who was dying of cancer. He had only visited him a few times and barely knew him. However, the man left $500 in his will for us and the banker had the check ready. Of course, the new fridge cost $499.95. God saved the day! We have not been named in a will before or since, but at the moment of our need God provided through a man we barely knew.
There have also been times when I did not think I had the strength to press on for another day. At the end of my emotional strength, God has proved faithful. He has given me the strength to carry on. I have learned to pace myself, and to take some time to rest. But when my strength was gone, God’s power was more than enough to see me through.
In these days of financial strain on our country, I pray we remember God provides. I pray we remember He is our source of income. May we learn to trust God alone for our provision by following biblical principles about money. May we live by faith in God in spite of our earthly circumstances.