“And the word of the LORD came unto him [Elijah], saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:8-16)
The widow in the story thought that she and her son were about to die because of the famine that had devastated the land. She had just enough food for a tiny meal before they starved to death. She probably was unaware that God had ordained this famine because of the idolatry that King Ahab had allowed into Israel (1 Kings 16:28-33), but here was an innocent victim of his sin who would experience a wonderful miracle. God would change her poverty into prosperity, her fear into faith and her anxiety into assurance.
“I have not” (:12)
While she was gathering together a bundle of twigs for fuel to bake her last morsel of grain, the prophet Elijah appears on the scene. She must have been taken aback by the visit of the famous man of God, but since it was the custom in those days to feed travelling preachers, what could she lay before him! The Lord had told him that she would not only feed but “sustain” him, so he was unaware of her plight. We can almost imagine her sighing with relief when he only asked for a cup of water, but her heart must have sank when requested some food! How embarrassed she must have felt as this important visitor turned up on her doorstep at such an inopportune time. If she had given up hope of life, she must have been thoroughly depressed now. All she could see ahead was the death of her son and herself. Simply put, she did not have enough to feed herself let alone Elijah.
Maybe we find ourselves in situations were we react like the widow. While it is doubtful that we will ever have to suffer such deprivation, we do allow other things of life to get us down. We usually get depressed over what we do not have, so if only we had more, then God could mightily use us. The woman only had a handful of meal and a drop of oil, but it was enough. “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). What do we have that God can use? Jesus’ disciples thought they did not have enough either, but with a few loaves and fishes over five thousand people were feed (Matthew 14:13-21).
“Fear not” (:13)
We are all prone to fear when difficulties arise in our lives. This is not the way God created us, but instead it is the result of sin and unbelief. “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). We have fears about ourselves, our family, health, money and belongings. This can quickly dominate our thoughts and bring us into bondage. Have you noticed how fear disables us so that we cannot even complete the everyday tasks of life! Often self-preservation kicks in and we aim to look after ‘number one’ first.
Elijah did not rebuke her for the fear she displayed, for it was quite natural under the circumstances, instead he encouraged her to do what she could with the meagre supplies that were available. He saw her plight, but still told her to give him the first piece of bread. Sounds selfish does it not? Not really, for he knew that she must put her faith in God before her fears. All fears will die the moment we put God first in our lives. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33). This kind of faith is one of the many facets of perfect love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Giving God priority despite our woes, is the best way to overcome our fears.
“Wasted not” (:16)
Look at what happened when she took God at His word! She only looked forward to death, but things turned out better than she expected once she stepped out in faith. That which she feared the most did not happen, all because she put God first. On Elijah’s arrived she did not have enough, but now she had plenty to see her through the famine.
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). As Jesus promised, if we put God first we will find that He will bless us in more ways than we can imagine. He is faithful at all times. If we give to Him, He will supply at that we need. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38). It is impossible to out give God.
Fear destroys our faith. It robs us of joy. It makes the future a depressing prospect. Just like the widow, we can trade in our fears for faith. When we put Jesus first, then the bountiful blessings will flow our way. “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).