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Elijah and the Widow

Elijah and the Widow
Elijah and the Widow
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: I Kings 17:7-24
Devotional text: Matthew 5:42

As we come to the time of the year when we celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m turning to the Old Testament once more. This time we will look at 1 Kings 17:7-24. In this section, we meet the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.

We find in 1 Kings, and in the beginning chapters of 2 Kings, the life of Elijah, who ranks among one of the greatest prophets known to Israel. For instance, it was Elijah, who appeared with Moses, at the transfiguration of Jesus found in Matthew 17:1-3 (also in Mark 9:2-4 and Luke 9:28-31). It was also Elijah who did not die but was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12). It was Elijah who would better 450 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:1-39, showing Yahweh (the Old Testament name for God) to be the one true God.

To learn more about Elijah’s life, just read through the scriptures found in 1 and 2 Kings.

It was during the time that Elijah was hiding from the wrath of King Ahab and Jezebel that God sent Elijah to the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-24). Elijah first saw the widow as she was gathering sticks outside the town gate. These sticks were being gathered so she could make a last supper for herself and her son as they would then be out of food.

Elijah asked the widow for some water and, as she went to get it for him, he added he would like some bread. In these verses, the widow (who is unnamed) told him she had no bread and had just enough flour and oil for one last meal to make for herself and her son.

As Elijah spoke to her, he told her to go and make the bread, but first bring some to him, then for herself and son. Now, the widow might have been afraid for herself and son at Elijah’s suggestion, but the words of prophecy spoken by Elijah in verse 14 gave her time to pause.

These are the words of Elijah: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day of the Lord gives rain on the land.”

When the widow acted on the words from Elijah, she found truth in them, as the jar of flour was never empty, nor the jug of oil dry. The widow found the miracle of the flour and oil each day as she opened the containers.

We see in these verses that the widow was both kind and had a heart to serve others. Her simple faith in Elijah’s words, and her willingness to give both water and bread to Elijah, a stranger, speak to us. Her actions remind us of the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5:42: “Generously share with those who come asking for help, and don’t close your heart to the one who comes to borrow from you.”

We don’t know how long Elijah stayed with them, but it well may have been for over two years (1 Kings 18:1). For us, with our Bibles today, we can suppose that the widow’s faith in the prophet sent from God grew day by day.

We never know if Elijah ever told the widow his name, since he wanted to be hidden from those seeking to kill him, but we do know the widow knew him to be a “man of God,” because that is how we find her referring to him.

Let’s take a closer look at the widow. When Elijah met her, she was doing the last necessary things so she and her son could die after having one more meal. Elijah came into her life, and, as she served him, he served her in a miraculous way. She served him even in her own time of tragedy. Elijah served her even though she had asked nothing of him. God had brought them together to serve one another.

Isn’t that just like the God we know?

Jesus told us in Matthew 23:11, “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” In 1 John 3:18, the Apostle reiterated these words when he wrote, “Dear children, let us not love in words and talk but in action and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

The widow didn’t hold anything back from serving him. She gave him the water and bread first. She answered the call of God even in her distress. Can we do any less?

Finally, we look at the last part of the scripture concerning Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17. It is when her son became sick and died. The widow went directly to Elijah in her mourning, asking him why her son died and even supposing God was punishing her for sins of the past.

Notice, the widow didn’t run away from Elijah; she went to him. She didn’t scream at him in anger or condemn God. She went to him for answers. Perhaps, as she now really trusted that he was a man of God, she also came with hope.

What do we do in times of trouble? Do we run from God? Does our faith slip? Or, like the widow from Zarephath, do we go toward God, trusting in his help?

Elijah prayed to God to give life back to the widow’s son. He stretched himself three times across the son’s body, bringing the miracle of renewed life for the boy.

The faith of the widow must have grown a hundred times or more that day, when she put her arms around her son who was once again alive.

On Mother’s Day, what can we learn from the widow of Zarephath? We learn that having faith in God is not a one-time event. It’s living our own lives every day with our God. As our own faith grows, so does our willingness to serve God, and he is faithful to give us those opportunities to serve others.

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