1 Kings 17:10-12
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
As we have covered, Elijah’s brook had dried up. The Lord had been taking care of him for possibly as long as a year, and likely as the drought had progressed he had watched his brook slowly dry up and his raven fly away. Then, The Lord had commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, and Elijah as usual, got up and went.
Elijah has spent some substantial time camped out alone beside that brook, and was now a graduate of, as one writer said, the B.B.I, or Brook Bible Institute. This is important, as Elijah is a man in training. God had big plans for this man, and these things happening to him were no more than his training ground for the final act of God’s great play here. Elijah is now ready to move in to higher level studies as God hones and grooms him for his ultimate mission.
We covered some how this instruction to go meet the widow must have been puzzling to the Prophet. First, he was being sent to be provided for by a widow woman. In the economy of the times, this would have been the most unfortunate of people in the best of times, much less during a nationwide drought. The location where Elijah was being sent is also of note. Zarepath was a Phonecian city about 100 miles from where Elijah had been camped out. This was not an Israelite city, but a Gentile one. It was not actually not that far from Sidon, which was Jezebel’s home town! So, Elijah’s brook was dry, he is being sent to be provided for by the poorest of the poor, and he is being sent into likely a Godless, gentile area, and the almost the hometown of his greatest hater. That’s pretty interesting.
Why did God allow the brook to dry up? Why didn’t God just keep the water flowing, and the raven coming? He is God, of course, so He could do these things. Well, as with anything, God has a point and a plan. God was still honing Elijah to be the man He needed him to be, and lessons still needed to be taught. As one writer I read noted, we can become so focused on the fountain that we forget the source. Perhaps this change was to reinforce in Elijah’s mind just who was protecting him and where his sustenance was coming from.
Perhaps in our own lives, as we step out willingly to obey God even when things look too rough, we will encounter situations like this. Perhaps when it seems the rug has been snatched from under us, it is just God making us keep the focus on Him rather than what He gives us.
A last note for this section. He has a calling and a mission for each and every one of us. If we obey and execute, He will take care of us. We may not understand the whys of His method, but if we are performing His work according to His plan, we will be taken care of.
1 Kings 17:12-14
And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
How dire were the circumstances faced by the widow woman in our story? Just read above, and the situation seems abundantly clear. Elijah had trooped into town, encountered the widow woman, and asked her to prepare something for him to eat and drink.
Her initial reaction was very telling. We can see here that she did not have the resources to do what Elijah asked. In fact, she was gathering sticks for a fire to prepare what she suspected would be her last meal for her and her son. Their last meal. She had nothing left other than a little flour and oil to make one last cake for the two of them. Can you imagine if you only had a biscuit left to eat, with no hope of there ever being another? Starvation is not a good way to die, and that is what she and her son were facing, and she knew and understood that. Her situation was hopeless. Then, this man pops up and says basically, “Hey, fix me supper please!”
A question seems to arise here. Was this woman a believer in the on True God? We really don’t know, to tell the truth. It seems likely that in that moment we was not. She said to Elijah, the Lord thy God. Maybe He was her God at this point, maybe not. We will see later, however, that she trusted what the Prophet told her and did as he asked.
Back in verse 9 of our chapter, we had learned that God had communicated with the woman; Elijah’s showing up was not a surprise to her at all. God told Elijah that he had already commanded a woman to take care of Him after his brook dried up.
I find the woman’s response interesting. If she did believe in God, then she is a great example of obedience even in the face of simply awful circumstances. Who, after all, was this man telling her that things would be okay?
If she was NOT a believer, then her response is even more interesting. A God she perhaps did not even believe in communicated with her. We don’t know how that communication happened, just that it did. The important part is that she responded. She had no proof of the validity of God, just the fact that she apparently understood of His existence. On that meager knowledge, we see her stepping out in faith initially. More importantly, later we will see how that, in response to her initial faith, that God continued to prove Himself to her.
A final note. Why this particular widow woman? Surely there were others in the city. Did God just pick one because He wanted to? Did He pick her because He know her heart was responding to a drawing by Him? Who knows, really, but it is something to think about.
1 Kings 17:13-16
And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
One of the things God wants to teach us as he prepares us for our missions in life is that He is trustworthy and can be counted on; God wants us to understand that, when He asks us to obey, He will not leave us hanging, unprepared, and without resources.
Earlier we saw how, when Elijah asked the widow woman to provide him food and water, she had pointed out that she and her son were just about to eat the last meal they had. Her plan after that was to simply await their deaths. Elijah’s response?:
“Look, go ahead and give me what I need. You have this promise from God, that this won’t be your last meal. In fact, your barrel of flour and pitcher of oil will not go empty again as long as I live in your house, and until God finally restores rain to this country.”
She trusted. Elijah trusted. God provided. Think about this. If Elijah was by the brook for something approaching a year, and the drought lasted three years, then Elijah and that woman lived on nothing but the provision of God for two years!
What can we learn here relevant to reviving us as servants of God?
God has a mission for each of us. It may be a difficult, challenging mission for which we feel totally unequipped. God will equip us. He does not, however, necessarily just hand us the stamina and ability to accomplish this mission. Sometimes we have to learn these things, and sometimes the lesson may seem painful.
If God calls us for a mission, and we accept and obey, He will provide for us what we need in order to be taken care of. It may not be the things we would have preferred, but it will be sufficient for our needs.
If God says it, it will happen. It may not be on our schedule, or in accordance with the way we would have done it, but it will happen.
This may be simply my personal spin on this, but it struck me as relevant. Elijah was there in that house, several meals a day, for possibly as long as two years. During that time, the flour and oil would deplete, then it would fill up. It would deplete, and it would fill up. It, however, never went dry. What do you think Elijah, the widow, and her son did all day? They were probably NOT watching TV. Is it possible they spent their time in worship, prayer, study and fellowship with one another? If we spent more of our time in worship, prayer, study and fellowship with one another perhaps, like the flour and oil, we would never become empty but be constantly refilled by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we would become REVIVED!
Next: Things take a turn for the worse