Disclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar! I love reading God’s word and learning and studying it – but I do not claim to be a deep theological thinker or teacher. You’ve been warned. This is the first of this type of blog – a type of small group study – to share ideas and thoughts and answer some questions. So here goes.
The text for this story is I Kings 17:8-16
The story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath is found in the 17th chapter of I Kings. When I first heard/read this story, I thought it was mostly a story about the great prophet Elijah. And it is…but there is a lot to be learned from the obedient widow in the story as well. First of all, she was living in the land that was associated with the worship of Baal – a god thought to be responsible for nature – rain, crops, etc. She did not worship the one true God. This is evident in verse 12 when she says to Elijah, “I swear by the Lord your God…” (emphasis mine). She and her son are in the middle of a famine. They are both facing starvation. Along comes Elijah and asks her for the very little bit of food that she has left. She doesn’t know this guy. All she knew was that she had very little food left…so little that she told the great prophet that she was going to “cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” verse 12. But you know what she did…she gave it to him. She was obedient to Elijah and to God. She gave it to him knowing that it would leave her with nothing. She gave it to him not knowing that God would provide. But Elijah told her “Don’t be afraid.” So she was obedient, trusted him, and stepped in faith to do what he said. She was such a shining example of faithfulness. True faithfulness means that we must place the kingdom of God above any personal concerns. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
So here is why I love this story…my lessons and takeaways. First, God used this dying widow (whom we assume worshipped a false god) to take care of and sustain one of his greatest prophets. God knew her situation, he knew her needs and he knew her heart. He used her as an instrument to demonstrate amazing faith. If God knew her like this, this says to me that he knows each of His daughters – including me! He is aware of my needs! She had so much faith. She did not know how the situation would turn out. She did not know that God would truly provide enough to sustain her and her son…but she walked blindly – by faith – into the unknown. She sacrificed what very little she had to be obedient. God wants us to be willing to sacrifice everything for him. Even when it looks like there is nothing left in our “barrel” we should be willing to be obedient to him. And here is the part I really take a strong lesson from. God gave the widow enough flour and oil in her jar to make that day’s meal. And each day she was faithful to know that it would be there. He didn’t give her an endless supply all at once. He gave just what she needed on a daily basis. I believe that God truly does know what we need and asks us to trust him to supply it as we need it. We just have to be faithful and obedient.
So here are some follow-up questions for ‘discussion’. You may choose to answer any or all of them. In your comment, either refer to the question number, or refer specifically to the question.
1. Why does God ask us to sacrifice?
2. What made the widow’s faith remarkable?
3. What other examples can you find in the Bible when the Lord asks for complete surrender?
4. When was the last time you had to reach out in raw faith trusting in what you could not see or understand?
5. How is this woman similar to you and experiences you have had in your life?
Here are some follow-up verses that I think connect well with this story; Philippians 1:6, Proverbs 28:27, Luke 6:38