Author: Ron Graham

Old Testament

—The widow of Zarephath, 1st Kings 17

Turn to 1st Kings 17:1-24 where we read about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. We are going to look at six statements about the widow of Zarephath, starting in each case with the word “she”. That's why I have given this lesson the very short title, “She”. The six statements starting with “she” and referring to the widow are most instructive, and “she” sets us a most excellent example.

1 She obeyed God readily

"She was going to get it..." (verse 11).

When God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, God said, "I have commanded a widow there to provide for you" (1Kings 17:8-9). So the widow was aware that the man of God was coming, and that she was to provide for him.

She was also aware that she was the victim of a severe drought, and had just this very day used up all the food she had, except for one final meagre meal for herself and her son. She was expecting to starve.

Nevertheless, she was willing to do what she could, and when Elijah asked for a little water in a jar, that was something she was able to provide. So she readily obeyed, and "she was going to get it..." (1Kings 17:11).

2 She was a widow of the last mite

"She said, 'As the Lord lives, I have no bread'" (verse 12).

The next request was different. When Elijah asked for a morsel of bread, he was asking her to give him the only food she had left for herself and her son —too little to share. But she did not refuse Elijah, she simply explained the situation.

"She said, 'As the Lord lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in a bowl and a little oil in a jar. And behold I am gathering a couple of sticks so that I may go in and prepare for me and my son that we may eat and die" (verse 12).

Elijah told her to do what he asked anyway. He promised that if she did this, then there would always be enough oil and flour in her jars, however long the drought lasted. So, like the widow that Jesus commended, she gave all that she had to the man of God. Then God gave her what she needed (1Kings 17:12).

"...Jesus said, 'This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they put in from their surplus, but she from her poverty put in all that she had to live on'" (Mark 12:41-44).

3 She did not ask “Why me?”

"She went and did according to the word of Elijah" (verse 15a).

When she did as God had commanded, and provided for Elijah, she never asked, “Why, of all people, has God chosen me for this task?” She simply obeyed. "She went and did according to the word of Elijah" (1Kings 17:15a). That is a lovely attitude.

4 She did not abuse God's gift

"She and her house ate for many days" (verse 15b).

The result of her obedience was that her house was supplied with enough to eat from that day forward. Her containers of flour and oil never got empty. She was able to feed her son, and to have Elijah as a guest in her upper room. They could all eat all the johnnycakes they needed (1Kings 17:15b). However, she could have done much more than that.

She could have gone into business selling flour and oil; pouring out as much as she could sell; getting a premium price because of the famine. However, she did not take advantage of God's gift beyond what was intended. In this she showed integrity and respect for God's gift.

5 She did not blame God

"She said to Elijah, '...You have come to bring my iniquity to remembrance'" (verse 18).

The true story continues with another black moment. The widow’s son took sick and stopped breathing. Trying to make sense of this test of her faith, she did not blame God, but herself. She apparently thought, “It must be my iniquity that has caused my son's death” (1Kings 17:18).

"She said to Elijah, 'What have I to do with you, O man of God? You have come to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!'" (verse 18).

She was right not to blame God, but she was mistaken in blaming herself. God showed this by healing the child.

6 She let God do his work upstairs

"She said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God'" (verse 24).

When Elijah took her son from out of her arms and carried him upstairs, she did not protest. She did not shout, “What are you doing up there?” She waited on God to do upstairs whatever he willed. And she was rewarded...

When Elijah brought down the child alive, she humbly acknowledged the power of God in Elijah. "She 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.'" (verse 24).

We have a similar test of faith in that our lives are "hidden with Christ in God" Christ is in the upper room so to speak, and we wait for him quietly to do his work and then come down. We humbly acknowledge the power and truth in Christ (Colossians 3:3-4).