Friday, 9 March 2012

17. The widow at Zarephath - when the food runs out

Evil rulers bring bad consequences for everyone under them. We all know this. In the Old Testament, national sin and drought appear to be linked, which is very bad news if you are a widow whose crops have utterly failed. Countless poverty stricken people across the world attest to this. Famine, to be honest, tests even the most ardent believer in a good and just God.

But God provides doesn't he? Even in famine? That's pretty difficult.

Elijah is wandering through famine torn Israel, trying not to bump into evil King Ahab, when God commands him to go to a widow in Zarephath. What use is that going to be? This widow has nothing much to offer, humanly speaking; only a small jar of flour and a jug of oil. She is a poor creature, gathering a few sticks to go home and bake for the last time. Beyond this lies starvation.

Surely you can do better than this, God? Can't you send Elijah, the mighty prophet, to the house of a great military leader, or at least to the home of a wealthier person who has some spare food stored up? And can't you just send the rain anyway?

But God is God and has his own timing. Man does not live by bread alone...He has noticed this starving widow, a non-Israelite. To her and to her alone comes the word of the Lord through Elijah: 'The jar of flour will not run out and the jug of oil will not run dry before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought' (1 Kings 17: 14).

As long as Elijah, the man of God, stays in her house, the miraculous provision of God continues, even extending to her son who dies and is brought back to life by the prophet. In the severest of testing times, her faith holds up; 'Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth' (v. 24).

So whilst at the very top of social ladder there is evil; at the very bottom there is obedient faith.

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