Only A Little Flour And Oil
The next story we are going to look at is that of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. The nation of Israel has had many kings. One of them was a king named Ahab. Unfortunately, he was a very evil king, for he worshipped a false god Baal and led his people to worship this false god (I Kings 16:32). God was very angry with Ahab and sent the prophet Elijah to him, with a message that there was going to be a drought in the land as a punishment (I Kings 17:1). No doubt, that would have caused the king to have become very angry with the prophet, so God sent him to a safe place where he could hide, and drink from a brook as well (I Kings 17:2-6). But then one day the brook dried up and God did not miraculously fill up the brook (I Kings 17:7). What was the prophet to do, since it was not his fault that there was a drought in the land? He had only been the one who had foretold the drought, but he had not been the cause of it. Let us now read how God provided for the prophet in I Kings 17:8-9 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” (Elijah) “I am a little tired and that is no wonder, for today I have walked all the way from the Kerith Ravine to Zarephath where I am now (I Kings 17:10a). The reason I am in Zarephath is was directed by God to do so. You see, I stayed in the Kerith Ravine because God had sent me there as a safe place (I Kings 17:2-3). Before that, He had told me to go to king Ahab for king Ahab is an evil king who has made the people worship the false god Baal. And God is very angry with king Ahab. So He sent me to him to tell him that there is going to be a national drought (I Kings 17:1). You can imagine that the king became very angry with me. So God, in His kindness, made sure I was in a safe place. And He provided water for me at the same time. But then the brook finally dried up and God did not fill up the brook with water. But He told me to go to Zarephath where, He told me, He had prepared a widow for me to take care of me (I Kings 17:9). So I arrived in Zarephath just outside the city gate. And I did see a widow there. I decided that I would ask her if she could provide me with something to eat and to drink (I Kings 17:10-11). And I have to say, her answer was not very encouraging. For she told me she was just gathering some sticks and then start a little fire so that she could prepare a final meal for herself and her son. It sounded like she planned to die (I Kings 17:12). But God had promised that He would have a widow ready for me to take care of me while the drought would last. So I spoke to her and I said, “Would you mind very much if you prepare a cake for me first before you prepare something for yourself and your son (I Kings 17:13)?” I know that may have sounded very selfish. But you see, I knew that my God would provide a miracle for her; He promised that He would provide food for the period that the drought would last (I Kings 17:14). That’s why I asked her to provide something for me first. The widow may well have known that I was the prophet who had declared that there was going to be a drought and that was indeed happening. So she may, therefore, have decided to believe me and to prepare something for me. For she did. She went home and baked a small cake (I Kings 17:15a). And after she had done so, there was still food left for her and her son. When she then realised that the food was actually more than she had originally anticipated, she invited me to stay with her (I Kings 17:15b-16).”
Unfortunately, sometime later, disaster struck the home of the widow, for her son became ill and died. And the widow blamed the prophet for his death as we can read in I Kings 17:1 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?”
The widow believed that the prophet was responsible for the death of her son. It seemed she had forgotten that, without the prophet’s intervention, she and her boy would have died some time ago already. But we cannot blame her for her emotional outburst because God had promised they would live through this drought, and it seemed He had not kept His promise. So who better to blame than the one who represented Him: the prophet? How did Elijah respond to her words? Did he get upset with her and walk out of the house, telling her he would have nothing to do with her anymore, for she was an ungrateful woman who had completely forgotten what he had done for her? Thankfully that is not what happened (I Kings 17:19-21). (Elijah) “What a situation God put me in today. It is not always easy to be a prophet of God. You see, some time ago God told me to go to king Ahab and tell him there was going to be a national drought because of his disobedience (I Kings 17:1). And I did. And God then sent me on to the Kerith Ravine where I stayed and where He protected me (I Kings 17:3). Then when the water dried up He sent me to the widow in Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-9). And He promised that He would provide us with food and water ( Kings 17:14-16). And He has been faithful to His promise. But then today the widow’s son died (I Kings 17:17). And the widow blamed me for his death (I Kings 17:18). But I am not responsible for his death. After all, I am only a human being. And death and life are in the hands of God (Psalm 139:16). So I did tell God what I thought of the situation (I Kings 17:20). But then I decided I better change my tune and ask God to give the boy back his life (I Kings 17:20) for He is a good God. And thankfully, God answered my prayer. And the boy’s life was returned to him (I Kings 17:22). Once the boy had received back his life, I brought him back to his mother who was extremely thankful (I Kings 17:23). And now I understand why this happened. Because it taught the woman that I am truly a prophet of God and that the word of God through my mouth is the truth (I Kings 17:24).”
God selected this widow, who was not even a widow in Israel, to take care of His prophet (I Kings 17:8-9). This proves that He knew who she was, knew where she lived, and knew her circumstances. And yet, He chose her for this special task. His prophet needed a safe place to stay where he could rest and where he would be fed. We may have expected God to choose someone who would have been more able to take care of Elijah. But God did not, for He knew that He would multiply the little that this widow had so that it would be enough for her, her son and Elijah to last for the time they would need it (I Kings 17:14-16).
We may feel that we are somewhat like this widow, for no one knows us, knows where we live, nor do they know our difficult circumstances. But the truth is that God knows us, knows where we live, and knows our circumstances. And just as God chose to use this widow, so God wants to use each one of us. And just as God used the little she had, and multiplied it in her life, so He will use the little that we have as we give it to Him. And He will multiply it in our lives. We may say, “Well, I don’t even have what she had for I do not have any flour or oil.” But we have something to give to God for God to multiply in our lives for the benefit of others. We can show kindness to someone who may not deserve it, can’t we? Or we can give forgiveness to someone who has hurt us, can’t we? These are some of the things God is looking for us to give away so He can multiply them in our lives for the sake of others. And as we give from our heart more shall be given to us so we will have even more to give away. Jesus teaches us these things in Luke 6:27-38. These verses start with the following, in verses 27- 28 “But I tell you who hear me, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.”
Jesus ends with the following words, in verses 36-38 of that same chapter, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The widow gave what she had and, because of it, she and her son lived. Likewise, God will cause us to truly come alive in Him when we are willing to give whatever we have, be it in the form of kindness, love, mercy, forgiveness to those who may not deserve it. And if we do these things we will experience His Joy, His Peace and His very Presence in a way that we may not have known before.