Friday, January 13, 2017

The Widow of Zarephath

On the second Saturday of every month, I teach a women's Bible study at my church.  I have considered writing these up as blog posts for awhile, and I feel now that this is the most appropriate time for me to begin this work.  My first online Bible study officially starts on Monday, and this is not related to that, but I still would like to put these out there for anyone to read, and hopefully receive a blessing from.  These will not be written as the online Bible studies are written.  These will be more like true bog posts - the Scripture with my thoughts attached.  As always, I challenge you to study the Scripture verses on your own.  Always check the Bible before you assume that what someone else says is accurate.  If you find something that sounds questionable in this post, please write me a comment.  I am always looking to grow more and more in my spiritual life, and I know that I am far from perfect in my interpretation of the Scripture.

All that being said, today's post talks about the Widow of Zarephath.  Her story is told in 1 Kings 17:1-24.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.17 Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” 19 He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed.20 He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
 Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
The first few verses in this passage give us some background knowledge on who one of the key players was in this story, and the circumstances that he was living in at the time.  Elijah was the prophet during this time in history.  He presented a word of the Lord to Ahab, the king of Israel, that promised a major drought to the land.  After that word, Elijah was told by the Lord to go eastward and hide near the brook Cherith.  The Lord promised Elijah that he would be able to survive by drinking the water in the brook, and that ravens would bring him food.

Let's stop for a minute and talk about the Lord and His provision.  In a miraculous event, the Lord kept Elijah alive and well by bringing his food to him by birds.  Birds!  The Lord has promised to take care of us and our needs in life.  He showed His great power by using birds to bring food to Elijah.  More specifically, God had the birds bring bread and meat to Elijah every morning and every evening.  We haven't even talked about the Widow of Zarephath, yet, and already the Lord is teaching us a valuable lesson through His Holy Word.  God will supply our needs!  Philippians 4:19 makes this quite clear.
19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Not some.  Not one.  All!  He knows what our needs our before they even arise, and He is faithful to us to make sure that we have what we need.  Once the brook that God told Elijah to drink out of had dried up, God didn't forget about Elijah and let him die there.  Instead, God used His miraculous sovereignty to provide for him again.  This time, the provision was going to come in the form of a person, not a bird.

God told Elijah to go to Zarephath.  God said that He had commanded a widow to provide for Elijah.  Can you imagine being that widow and hearing God's command at that time?  This was not a happy time in her life.  We go on to read that she is at the brink of starvation, and she is preparing for her final meal with her son (which isn't going to be much), and she was planning on dying very soon.  This widow was miserable, starving, thirsty, and most likely lonely.  She didn't have much to her name, and she had very little, if any, hope.  God spoke to her, and commanded her to take care of His prophet Elijah.  Before Elijah came to Zarephath, I could imagine what her response to God was.  "How am I supposed to take care of this prophet when I can't hardly take care of myself?"

When Elijah gets to town, he finds the widow.  She is very honest with him, and tells him that she has no bread, and just a small amount of flour and oil.  She tells Elijah that she is getting ready to prepare her and her son's final meal before they die of starvation.  She is in a low, low place in her life.  Elijah the prophet tells her to not be afraid, and to go ahead and prepare a bread cake for him, for herself, and for her son.  He then tells her that the Lord God of Israel has promised that her flour and her oil will not run out during the entire length of the drought that is in the land.

At this point, the Widow of Zarephath has two choices:
  1. Obey God and live.
  2. Disobey God and die.
Oh my sisters, isn't it just as simple as that for us, too?  We have two choices in this life.  We can choose God, or not choose God.  One way leads to eternal life, the other to eternal death.  I pray that you have chosen to obey God and have eternal life.  If you haven't done this, please get in contact with me or someone else that you trust, that can lead you to knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior.

In this story, the widow did not hesitate.  She didn't ask any questions.  The widow had faith that her needs would be met by God, so she went and did what Elijah had her do.  Because of that choice, she and her son continued to have as much flour and oil as they needed to survive.  The Lord supplied the needs of the Widow of Zarephath because she chose to trust in Him.

Once again, we could stop here and have heard two great lessons from the Bible.  However, the widow's story doesn't end here.  After all of these things happened, after the widow obeyed the Lord and took care of Elijah, after the Lord took care of the widow and supplied her with food to last throughout the drought, her son becomes deathly ill.  This is her only family.  Her son is all she has left on earth.  And now, he is sick to the point of death.

When things were going right in her life, she trusted in God.  When tragedy came, she immediately placed blame.  She blamed Elijah for her sons sickness.  How easy is it for us to immediately place blame on someone or something when tragedy hits?  It is so easy!  But, we have to remember that God is in control of situations in the good times, and God is in control of situations in the bad times.  God is sovereign.  He knows what is going to happen before it even happens.  God knew that the widow's son was going to get sick.  We have to remember in the good times and in the bad times that God knows what is going on!  We have to continue to trust Him, and believe that His will will be accomplished in our lives.

Elijah intervened on behalf of the widow and prayed for the healing of her son.  The Lord heard Elijah's prayer and healed the son.  God showed His faithfulness to her by healing her son, and her faith in God was renewed.  If you have lost faith in God, please return to Him!  He has not left you, He is just waiting on you to come back.  God is faithful, just and true.  God may do things that we do not understand, things that may not fit pretty into our plans, but God's ways are always better than our ways, and we have to continue to trust in Him, no matter what.

There are so many things that we can take away from this passage of Scripture.  We have learned that God will supply our needs, even when things seem so dim for us.  But I think the major lesson from today is about God's faithfulness.  God is faithful to us and He will supply our needs.  It is important for us to remain faithful to Him, even when we go through tough times.  For this widow, it took a major tragedy and a major miracle for her to really trust God.  What does it take for us to really trust Him? A huge tragedy? A minor hiccup?  Or do we trust Him every day knowing that He will do the right thing for us, according to His will?  Oh sisters, trust God!

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