Whenever I read the story of the Widow of Zerephath in the book of First Kings 17 I always wonder if the prophet Elijah was at least a little bit embarrassed when he met her for the first time.
After all, there had been a drought going on for some time and people were literally starving to death. At the very moment that they met the widow was, in fact, gathering sticks so that she could bake the last bit of flour and oil that she had left in her house before she and her son died of starvation themselves.
I imagine that as she gathered sticks, she may have been sobbing silent tears. Perhaps she wasn’t devastated over her own loss of life but to watch your child die is an unimaginable thing. Their situation was beyond hope as far as she could see.
On the other hand, the only person in all of the land that wasn’t physically hurting from the drought was Elijah. All this time, he hadn’t missed a meal! God had provided meat and bread for him twice a day every day.
And yet, Elijah found himself approaching this widow. He was a total stranger to her and a foreigner at that, and yet he (with his obviously healthy body) asked this starving widow to spend the last crumbs of food that she had left in the world to make him something to eat.
Even after she explained her situation, Elijah still insisted that he make him something to eat. Honestly!
Now, I hope that I am a generous person, and I can imagine a situation where I might give up my own last meal, but if a grown man asked me to give up my child’s last meal, I can assure you that I wouldn’t hesitate to give him a piece of my mind. The nerve!
And yet, our widow agrees.
It’s beyond comprehension! The only logical explanation for her generosity is that God had prepared her heart to care for his prophet. In verse nine, God told Elijah that He had commanded a widow (obviously this particular woman) to take care of him for the rest of the drought. In some way, this widow knew what God wanted her to do- though it defied all logic- and she bravely obeyed.
It’s a good thing she did because her selfless obedience is the very thing that saved both her and her son’s life. Her jug of oil and flour jar miraculously never went dry and they always had food to eat. Had she clung to those precious crumbs too tightly, they would have been her last meal. Instead, she trusted God and lived.
What a lesson for us! Let’s you and I be generous people and see what God does.