As her son fell asleep for his afternoon nap the widow left the house to gather some wood for a cooking fire. She leaned against the outer doorpost as tears pooled at her feet. She pushed off, wiped her cheeks with her sleeve and walked away to do what she needed to do. A whispered prayer went up from her heart.
“God of the prophet Elijah, I’m sure I heard You tell me to care for Your man when he comes here, but, I don’t have enough for me and my son. How can I do as You say with the small amount I have?”
She walked out to the olive grove and picked up two branches. Then she broke off some dead twigs from the trees. A man approached from the country. She recognized him as Elijah.
Elijah looked at her. “Will you bring me a cup of water?”
She nodded and turned to re-enter the village gate. I can get him some water. That’s easy enough, we have a good well in the village square. Her shoulders drooped as Elijah made a second request.
“Would you please bring me a piece of bread?”
She turned and hugged the wood she was carrying. “As surely as the Lord your God lives I don’t have any bread. All I have is a very small amount of flour and oil in the whole house. I’m gathering enough wood to cook so my son and I can have our last meal before we starve to death.”
Elijah stood and looked into her eyes. “Go and do as you’ve said, but, first make some bread for me. Then make some for you and your son.”
Her eyebrows dropped as tears gathered in her eyes.
Elijah continued. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: The flour will not be used up, nor the jar of oil run dry until the crops are harvested from the time rain returns to the land.”
She dabbed the tears with her sleeve to see the seriousness in the man of God’s face. She nodded as she turned to go home. Hope filled her heart for the first time in a long time.
A week later Elijah entered the kitchen from his room. “What’s for breakfast?”
The woman smiled as she pulled some fresh bread from the oven. “We’re having God cakes.”
“God helps those who help themselves.” We’ve heard it so many times in the United States that we’re convinced it must be a verse in the Bible. I’ve read through the entire Bible several times and have yet to come across that verse. Neither has anybody I know of who studies the Bible more than I have. Why? Because it’s not in there.
It doesn’t really make logical sense. I mean, why would God have to help somebody who’s already capable of taking care of themself? God is in the business of helping the helpless. Those who are doing all they can with what they have and are struggling to make it will get God’s assistance.
A prime case in point is this account found in 1 Kings 17:7-16.
There’s some interesting back story leading up to this event. Ahab has become the king in Israel. He’s worshipping a false god rather than the one true God. Elijah appears on the scene to pronounce a drought on the land for more than three years. Elijah is then sent into hiding east of the Jordan river to escape Ahab’s wrath. While there ravens bring Elijah food and he drinks water from a brook. Because of the drought the water source dries up, so God sends him to the village of Zarephath north of Israel to be fed miraculously there.
I notice some interesting things about this unnamed widow:
1) She’s on speaking terms with the God of Israel. In verse nine God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath because He told a widow there to supply him with food. That means she had a deep enough relationship with the One true God that she heard His voice. Not everybody takes their acceptance of God to that degree. It usually takes a very firm commitment and belief.
2) She passed the test of faith that was set before her. Elijah told her to make some bread for him first, then there would be an unlimited supply. She knew there wasn’t enough flour and oil for three people. She calculated she had only enough for one last meal for her and her small son. A man would require the entire amount. She had to choose to believe the man of God or selfishly do as she’d planned. Her faith led to a miracle.
3) Her reward sustained her family and God’s man. The miracle of multiplied flour and oil was more than enough to satisfy her own immediate need and an additional person. Because she trusted God’s voice her impact was stretched past her original sphere of influence. When we’re first introduced to her she’s concentrating on her own dilemma. At the end of this story she’s helping God’s work by helping God’s man.
So, what does this have to do with us today? I see a lot of similarities with Elijah’s culture and our own. Few leaders are following the One true God and there’s a drought in the land. Who’s willing to step up and take a stand for what’s right? There’ll be a high price to pay for being different, but the rewards are out of this world.
Jesus has provided a way for us to come into a deep relationship with the living God. It’s up to us to strengthen that relationship to the point of hearing His heart and doing the right thing. Accepting Jesus as our personal Savior and reading the Bible are essential to being mighty in this fight. Have you taken that step?
As we’ll see next time this woman’s problems aren’t over just because she obeyed God this one time.
I’ll see you later. Wade