Let’s just say that I have taken a layover in my reading of 1 Kings. I needed to just stop for a while so that I may dwell on story of Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath. I am so captivated by this story right now. I keep rereading it. Part of me is trying to understand. The other part of me just likes to sit wide eyed in the wonder of it all.
So 1 Kings 17 opens with the Prophet Elijah saying to Ahab, the current king of Israel (who did evil in the eyes of the Lord), that there would be no rain over the next few years except at Elijah’s word. Elijah is then directed by the Lord to go to the Kerith Ravine where he could drink from the brook and the ravens would supply him with food.
How can I picture Elijah drinking from the brook and ravens bringing him food? I have to admit, I could produce a cartoon type imagine, which may indicate that I have seen way too many Disney movies in my time. What does that really look like? I wonder, where did the ravens get the bread & meat? What did it look like when it arrived to him? Did Elijah say a table prayer of thanksgiving over whatever it was the ravens had just dropped off? What did Elijah say to God in response to all of this? It says in 1 Kings 17:5 that Elijah did what the Lord had told him.
Would I do the same thing if I was in his shoes?
As the story continues, the brook dries up. The word of the Lord comes to Elijah again and now directs him to go at once to Zarephath. The Lord says, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food”. So Elijah goes.
I wonder what it was like to be this widow? After read the story a couple of times, I get the impression that she never saw it coming; that she would meet a prophet, or that she would be the recipient of multiple miracles.
I do imagine that life must have been exceedingly hard on her. To lose her husband, a loss of such pain physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and relationally. Trying to make it in a man’s world, literally, raising a son on her own and in the midst of a drought. I have cried for this poor woman.
It says in 1 Kings 17:10 that when Elijah arrives the widow was out gathering sticks. I ponder, what was on her mind? What did she look like? Were their tears running down her cheeks collecting a trail of dust as they rolled down her face? Was she praying while she worked?
Elijah asks for a little water in a jar so he may have a drink. Does the widow know who she is speaking to? What is it about him or what encounter did she have with God that would prepare her to give this man a drink of water in a drought that was so bad it was drying up brooks?
It says in verse 11 that she goes to get it and Elijah asks for a piece of bread. It is interesting to me that Elijah is not asking for much. A glass of water and a piece of bread. Does he know what she has? Is he asking her to give of what she has?
Verse 12 is so captivating to me that I have to share it all with you; “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
Does the widow know God, really know Him? Is that because she says “God lives”? I wonder how the widow expressed these things in words. Where there pauses, did she get choked up, did she cry? Was this the first time that the word die had been verbally released from her lips, even though the thought had been swirling through her mind?
Elijah’s recorded response is “Don’t be afraid”. Words of comfort so frequently offered throughout scripture. Do not be afraid Abram, do not be afraid Moses, do not be afraid Joshua, do not be afraid Daniel, do not be afraid Joseph, do not be afraid Mary, do not be afraid to the women seeking Jesus and do not be afraid Paul. How much comfort did the words provide this widow?
Elijah continues by telling the widow to go home and do as she has said, but first make a small load of bread for him from what you have, bring it back to him and then make something for herself and her son. Elijah then speaks a prophecy over her, in verse 14 “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 until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” The widow goes and does what she is told. It says there was food every day for Elijah, for the woman and for her family.
What an incredible obedience on the part of the woman! What an amazing miracle! Daily bread for the family! Elijah as a guest in her home!
How did this all work? Was their great thanks and praise each time their was flour in the jar and oil in the jug? Did everyone become accustomed to it? Did their praise and thanksgiving dwindle over time? Was there an incredible relief in her heart that death was not as near as it once was?
But this is not where the story ends with our beautiful widow. Her son becomes sick, growing worse and worse until he stops breathing. What were the cries of this mother? What anguish came to weigh upon her as his state deteriorated? What conversations were had with Elijah during this time?
It is documented in 1 Kings 17:18 what the widow says after her son stops 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?” To me, when I read that, I hear the cry of such bitter heartbreak.
So Elijah takes the son, carries him to the room he was staying in and laid him on his bed. He then cries out to the Lord, asking that God would return the boy’s life to him. Elijah stretches himself out over the boy and cries out three times.
I wonder in my mind, what is going on with the widow? Is she collapsed downstairs in tears as she hears this happening? Has she gone into a state of shock by now?
Then it says that the Lord heard Elijah’s cry, returned the boy’s life and he lived. Elijah carries the son down to his mother, proclaiming that he is alive. What joyous news. The son is alive. What an amazing parallel as Easter is quickly approaching, won’t there be joyous news remembered Easter morning that God’s son is alive.
The story closes in 1 Kings 17:24, “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.”
Did our precious widow throw her arms around Elijah at this point and cover him with her tears? How much time did she spend just holding her son in her arms before he wriggled away. What was life like for her after experiencing two divine miracles?
As I have been reading and attempting to study this story, I have been trying to figure out what I take away from this. I’ve read things that tell me that with the widow and the bread there is a golden nugget of obedient faith. The widow acted in faith first, she stepped out obediently and gave of what she had not knowing what would come next.
I’ve also read about the importance of trusting God for our daily bread and going to Him through every trial we face. We do not know what is coming, but God will get us through what we are experiencing in the present whether it be a lack of provisions or a dying child.
But, to me it just feels like there is more. From the seat at my desk, it seems like there is an unending list of questions and things to ponder. There is so much I do not understand, even though I have been asking for wisdom, insight and understanding. The conclusion that I reach at this point is simply to be in wonder of who God is and what He does. There is so much that I do not have an explanation for and so much that I know God will not give me an explanation for.
I do not have to have an explanation to be in awe. I wonder if I would be less in awe if I did have an explanation. Would God be so awesome to me if I had all of the details? Perhaps that is one of the great gifts of God, to leave us without the logical cause so that we can be in awe of who He is. Just at a point of WOW!
Isn’t that really the definition of a miracle? According to dictionary.com a miracle is
Something that surpasses all known human or natural powers. Well, that is who God is. Surpasses everything we know in our human selves. Greater than any natural power. Awe-inspiring, awesome and amazing God. That is who He is. He so beautifully reveals Himself through all of our stories.
One ordinary woman, blessed with incredible miracles. Ordinary women, incredible miracles. Not just for the widow, but for all of us. Miracles of provision, miracles in our marriages, miracles in the lives of our children. God is still alive and bringing truth to all of us through His messengers and His miracles. In this day, and in this Easter season, may it bring us all to a new state of awe and wonder.
If God directs us, if He asks us to step out in faith, or cry out to Him multiple times, may we have obedient faith that just keeps turning to God, understanding or no understanding.
Wow! Thank You so much for Your miracles that You bless us with in our lives. Thank You for taking us through the confusion of our circumstances and drawing us to the conviction of Christ. Thank You for the life that You give us. Thank You for the bread that You provide for us. You truly are the giver of all good things.
Lord, help us all to press on, encouraged by the ways that You so extraordinarily bless the seemingly ordinary characters in Your story, Your book of life. I am so grateful for the ways that You have made me absolutely ordinary, that I may see and recognize just how awesome You are.
Lord, my heart goes out for all of those who are lonely, who are hurting or are in some really hard circumstances, I cry out to You on their behalf, please meet their needs with Your bounty. Please see to those deep aches in their lives, comfort them with the message to “not be afraid” and provide incredible miracles that will leave them in awe.
In awe of Your son, Jesus, who lives, amen.