The Widow God Commanded… Elijah pt 4

And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.  And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.( I Kings 17:7-9)

Eventually, in God’s preparation of His Prophet, the brook of Cherith, (Separation) dried up, for it was time for Elijah to learn to Pastor. He would still remain in Exile, but would have to move to Zidon, which is in southern Lebanon, at Zarapath.

The name Zarapath has a meaning also, it refers to the smelting fire. Elijah was commanded to enter into the very district which was governed by EthBaal, Jezebel’s Father. He would be hidden by Jahweh, right in the heart of a hostile Pagan country.

Ravens would be replaced by a poor widow woman, suffering under extreme poverty and starvation, due to the drought which had been announced by Elijah in Israel. She would be the means by which God would sustain his servant whilst in hiding. There in her home and with her Son also, God’s prophet would learn compassion before He brought the Word to Israel again.

How was the prophet to find this woman whom God had commanded?

In somewhat of a replay of the story of Gehazi, Abraham’s servant, who was sent to another pagan and foreign land to find a bride for Isaac. Rebecca fetched him some water and went even further, she watered his camels also!

Elijah saw a poor widow woman gathering sticks in order to make a meager cake of bread, for She and her son, and asked her for some water. As she turned aside to bring water to the Prophet, He asked her for something else, the morsel of bread in her hand. But it was her last morsel, and just enough for a last supper for her and her Son.

Elijah challenged her, in the name of the LORd God of Israel, to make Him a cake and then to continue preparations for her supper. Would she hang onto what little life she had , or would she let go in faith, believing the promise of the God of this prophet?

The woman gave Elijah the cake, in faith, and found that the promise was true, she never ran out of flour or oil, according to the Word of the LORD for the entire remainder of the famine.

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.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( I Kings 17:10-16)

What lessons can we learn about faith in God in this account, which is not only a true historical narrative, but a rich spiritual account which speaks to all of us for all times. Jesus referred to it in his sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4,

 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.  But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow ( Luke 4:22-25)

  • If the chosen people prove nearly totally faithless, God can and will call other people from the ends of the earth, to his salvation. He will see to it, that there will be faith somewhere, even if in the least likely setting.
  • Is God limited as to who He uses? How will God supply his servant in a time of famine and want? Through the poorest and least likely benefactor, a dying, desperate widow. After all, who were Abram and Sarai? Barren and dead as regards children, yet from them God raised up the Holy Nation and brought forth the Messiah.

Finally in a time of utter famine and want, how would God supply his servant? Through the poorest and least likely benefactor, a dying widow in a Pagan country, ready to eat her last morsel and die.

But there was of necessity one more severe trial for the Prophet and the Widow who had been commanded to sustain Him. The death of her Son.

And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.  And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. ( I Kings 17:17-19)

The Widow, her son and the Prophet of God had been dwelling together, sustained by the miraculous supply of food, during the famine. But when death struck, the anguished widow connected the loss of her son, with her sin, and with the utter separation between herself and the God whom Elijah represented. What have I to do with you, O Man of God?

Had Elijah’s appearance brought this judgment? Was He a messenger of misery to this woman, as He seemed to be to his own people? The widow is a new believer, who had the consciousness that sin brought death and that as a punishment from God.

Elijah’s only answer was to ask for her (dead) Son. He took the boy and laid him out on his bed, in his upper chamber, and stretched himself out upon the body of the Son, and thrice, in intense agony of prayer He called upon the name of His God.

His laying out alongside the body of the boy was a pictorial sign that the problem of Death would ultimately be solved by someone living, who would ‘lay alongside ‘us in death, pouring out his life unto our resurrection.

“See your Son Lives!”

Yes there is Sin and judgment, including death, but the God of Elijah offers something more, for His mercy can triumph over judgment through forgiveness and propitiation, and that the Last Word with God is Life and resurrection for those who know and Believe.

“Now – thus – I know that a Man of Elohim thou, and that the Word of Jehovah in thy mouth is truth.” 

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1 Response to The Widow God Commanded… Elijah pt 4

  1. bryan Johnston says:

    “Wow!” Even though i know this story very well, with it’s familiar sequence of events, nevertheless it evoked the “Wow” response at the end.
    “Why?” i wondered. Simply because in reading it through as presented here, it CAME TO LIFE, so details i knew were more deeply impactful, causing me to IMAGINE the DYNAMICS between the people involved. For example the widow and her son, abiding with the prophet Elijah, AFTER he’d already performed the miracle of the perpetual oil and flour. This surely must have created an atmosphere of awe and expectancy in the household (plus/minus some tension too?)
    THEN Elijah raises her son back to life, PRESUMABLY continuing to stay awhile longer. I
    t’s reminiscent of Lazarus, AFTER Christ raised him back to life on Day 4 post-mortem, when his flesh was decomposing. THEN the orthodox Jews COULDN’T claim it was a within-three-days natural recovery (during which time they believed the soul was still attached to the body by a “silver chain” or golden cord.) But on the 4th day NO ONE could deny that a corpse lived and breathed again, then walked and talked.
    What a challenge for Lazarus then to resume his daily life, having been the centre of attention in an astonishing, yet very public resurrection!

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