“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.” (I King 17:8 – 9)
Editorial decision – I decided to go with the other Old Testament passage rather than continuing on with the story of Naomi and Ruth. I sort of gave away the ending of the story. I suppose, beloved reader, you already knew how the story ended. The Lord God looked down on Naomi and provided for her as well as for her daughter in law Ruth. That same theme is also found in this passage. But in this instance it is/was Elijah who was provided for, and the widow in Zarephath who found herself and her son under the protection of Elijah’s God.
“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.” (Verses 10 – 13)
It might be very much outside of our experience, beloved reader, (at least I know it is outside mine) to have such a shortage of food that a last morsel might be all that is left and starvation is imminent. I have known lean times, both as a child and as an adult, but never lean enough that I would starve to death. On the face of it, Elijah’s instructions to the woman seem rather harsh – take care of me before yourself and your son! I thought so, until I went back and read that the Lord God had already designated this woman and her son to survive the famine. Which, incidentally, Elijah started as a lesson to King Ahab. This widow and her son were not the only ones whose very life was endanger. But they were designed to be saved.
“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.” (Verses 14 – 16)
I said above that I have known lean times. There was a time our family was on the WIC program, where nursing mothers and young children are provided with the means to buy healthy food – fruits, meat, grains, dairy products. It is not the same thing as food stamps which provide a broad range of grocery items. But because I had young children they and I were eligible. It helped during a very rough time in our children’s growing up years. Thankfully better times came along, and now we know no want or need.
It is also humbling to be in such a position. And thinking about that, maybe Elijah’s gruffness in his demands covered and offset the woman’s despair. For the benefit of this prophet of God, she and her household were saved. She did not have to feel that charity was done to her, but expedient need was given for the benefit of the Divine’s prophet. I disliked receiving charity on the state’s dime, and was not treated with the dignity that I expected. I was very grateful that better times came. And actually, as I look back on it, the Lord’s hand supported and under girded us so that I need never threatened our lives.
In our day and age, starvation is a reality for many. Those who study such things say that if the distribution of resources was more fairly and equitably divided, starvation could be eliminated. I do not know if that is true. It is unnerving to think that our abundance is at the cost of another’s life. And maybe in the face of that, it is hard to belief that the Lord God the Divine provides. The truth of the matter – the bottom ground-level truth is that the Lord provides through the actions of others. And if others do not act, then there is overwhelming and life threatening need.
May you, beloved reader, wherever and whenever possible, let your umbrella of sufficiency (or if I dare say abundance) shelter and provide for others. Shalom and Selah!