1 Kings 17:8-16

This week’s devotions were written by Kathy Patrick, a member of Faith Lutheran Church.

The Widow of Zarephath, Part 2

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath.

When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.”

She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:8-16

The widow is starving. She and her son are dying. She has gathered her meagre strength and resources like the sticks she is gathering, in the hope that she and her son can have one last meal—together—before they die.

And into the midst of her suffering and dying comes the voice of a strange God, telling her to feed Elijah. Did she think she was hallucinating as she neared death? We know she must have thought the voice she heard was strange, perhaps even cruel, because she responds to Elijah’s request for food, saying that what he asks is all but impossible. “As the Lord your God lives,” she says, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

But Elijah responds to her by saying, “Do not be afraid.”  Why is she afraid? There are probably lots of reasons. She’s dying. She may die before her son, leaving him an orphan. The man who appears before her asking for food is a stranger. She doesn’t know his name, but she knows he’s a refugee from another people, whose God is hostile to her own. She’s a woman. He’s a man. And on and on it goes.

Yet somehow his request for help, his dependence on her, touches her heart. She also hears his promise—in her desperate scarcity—that there will be enough, “For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied, and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth,” and it makes a difference to her.

Rather than fleeing or rejecting him, she opens her hand to help him. Will we open our hands to help, too?

Prayer:  Spirit of love, you speak into the midst of our fear, saying, “Trust me. There is enough. There will be enough.” As we hear your call to us to give generously to your church and to those in need, help us to trust that there is enough for us, not only enough for us, but enough to share abundantly with your church, as you have shared with us. Amen.

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