Luke 4:25-27 – But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” NKJV
Welcome to 2021! I’m so thankful to see the new year, and I am looking forward to all that God has for us as His people.
I was reading in the fourth chapter of Luke when I read our text for today. I was actually considering another portion of this chapter when these verses resonated with me.
Jesus had just finished reading from what we call Isaiah 61. He then announce that this scripture had been fulfilled in Him that day. As usual, there were many who were opposed to Him and His words. Then He made the comment that a prophet is without honor in His hometown.
After He made this comment, He said something very interesting that I would like to focus on today. Jesus told the listeners that when Elijah was the prophet of God and there was a famine in the land, God sent Elijah to a widow to be taken care of. He went on to say that even though there were many widows in Israel, God chose a widow in Zarephath. This was an insult to the Jews in that this widow was a Gentile. Let’s review her encounter with Elijah!
God sent Elijah away from Israel to hide out from Ahab because Elijah told Ahab that there would be a drought in the land of Israel for three years, according to his word. Not a drop of rain, not even dew. Since the Israelites livelihood was based on agriculture, this lack of rain would create monumental problems in their society. Not only would there be a drought, but this would cause a famine that would affect this entire region. (1 Kings 17)
When Elijah arrived in Zarephath he saw a widow gathering sticks and asked her for a cup of water. As she was going to get the water, he also asked for a morsel of bread. The woman replied that she didn’t have bread, and she only had a little flour and a little oil to prepare one last meal for her and her son. Then they would eat it and die. Things were really tight for her. By the time Elijah had arrived in Zarephath the drought was taking a toll on the land. Every one was feeling it. As a widow, with no one to support her, she was really struggling to find enough to keep her and he son fed. And since we know that she felt she was preparing her last meal, she had run out of options.
Traditionally, we use this as an offering scripture. We talk about this widow as one who sacrificed for the prophet and therefore she was blessed. And this could be applicable to her story. But Jesus gives us another perspective on this woman.
Jesus said that Elijah was sent to this woman. During the famine, there were a lot of widows who were struggling, but this woman in Zarephath was the woman that got God’s attention, causing Him to send the prophet on a very long journey to get to her and give her a miracle. Yes, this was about Elijah being sustained during the drought by her, but I believe it was about her as much as it was about him. And giving an offering was not the main point of the event.
2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…NKJV
What caused the God of the universe, the God who was in covenant relationship with the Jews, to bypass the widows of His people, and to send Elijah to Zarephath? God had told Elijah to leave Israel and to go to Zarephath. Before He sent Elijah to Zarephath, He sent Elijah to a brook to be fed by the ravens. He is a Jewish prophet, being fed bread and meat, twice a day, by an unclean animal. God is preparing him to be sustained by the Gentile widow since he probably had little dealings with the Gentiles. After the brook dries up, He sends Elijah to Zarephath. God could have easily protected Elijah and provided for him in Israel, as He did at the brook, but God sent him away. Back to why I think Elijah was sent to this particular woman: God saw something in this widow that drew Him to her.
Here’s the point that I think Jesus was making. God passed a lot of widows in Israel to get to the one in Zarephath. And if that wasn’t enough, He went to a Gentile. All of the widows had needs in Israel, but only the widow of Zarephath got the attention of the Father, and therefore, the servant of God. Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Jewish individuals who were acting as if He, the son of Joseph, couldn’t really have anything of spiritual value for them. They knew Him, and His entire “earthly” family. Not only that, Joseph, His earthly father, was not a rabbi, but a mere carpenter. And yet, Jesus stood before them and said that He was their Messiah! What? And did He just slam them and their Jewishness by pointing out that God overlooked their widows and provided for a Gentile widow at the command of a Jewish prophet? These were stoning words!
They took great offense at Him saying this. In the days of Elijah, when he declared a drought for three years, the people of God were in a spiritual drought. They weren’t listening to God, seeking God, or available to God, because their hearts had been turned towards Baal. So when God needed someone to minister to His servant Elijah, He just went to the Gentiles, where there was a woman who (for whatever reason) caught His attention.
Due to the fact that she was preparing for her and her son to die, it doesn’t look like she had any faith. When she was asked by Elijah to make him something to eat before she made them something to eat, she probably wanted to keep walking. Then Elijah spoke these words:
1 Kings 17:14 -For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ”NKJV
I don’t know what she had before Elijah spoke these words. I don’t know where she was at in her thinking as she stood there. But when she heard the words of the prophet, Elijah, I believe hope and faith kicked into high gear, propelling her to do as Elijah requested. The Bible states that she went and did as he asked; and it happened as he said. They had flour and oil throughout the remainder of the drought.
God gave this widow a life changing miracle. He didn’t provide her with food for a day or even a week. He provided her with enough flour and oil to feed the three of them for the remainder of the drought! That’s something to shout about!
We have seen some turbulent times in 2020, and we may see more in 2021; but they don’t have to be the focal point of our lives. We can decide for ourselves, if we are going to be people who will draw God’s attention and cause Him to move on our behalf, or if we will be the ones He will pass over.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been a Christian, and it doesn’t matter what your denomination is. It matters only what you believe at the time you are before Him. Yesterday’s faith won’t take care of today’s situations. You need a right now faith to draw God’s attention to you. A faith that says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name”!
Faith moves the hand of God. It moved His hand in Zarephath when He found no one worthy in Israel, and it will move His hand on our behalf. And another important truth, faith without works is dead! More to come in the next blog. Wonderful Jesus!