Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land. – 1 Kings 17:7-14
One of our favorite restaurants to go to on special occasions is Red Robin. They make a pretty fine burger and the bottomless steak fries are amazing. They used to bring you a large container of fries at the beginning of your meal. Now they only give you a small portion of fries and wait for you to ask for a refill. That is in a sense what God is doing in this passage with Elijah and the widow.
I really like this passage. What a refreshing “hidden well” among this otherwise difficult book. The water in this passage, as well as the language surrounding the oil and bread, have many layers of meaning. This is by far my favorite passage in 1 Kings so far. It features Elijah, following God where he leads; and a widow and her son…a single mom.
First the brooks of water….Back in Deuteronomy 10:6-11 the Israelites traded hidden wells for brooks of water. They preferred the regular flow of water to the day to day reliance on God to provide for them. God has provided for Elijah in a miraculous way as drought has stricken the Israelites because of their wayward ways. As we see in this passage the consequences of the Israelites poor choices are beginning to effect Elijah. The brook that God provided has dried up and God sends Elijah to Zarephath so that God can provide food and water through a widow and son.
Elijah shows up in town and finds the widow. He asks for water and she goes to fetch him some in a jar. Then Elijah asks her for bread too. This must have created a conflict in her mind as she had only enough flour and oil for one more batch of bread for herself and her son. They must have been on the edge of starvation as she says this is the last batch of bread they will make then they will die. Elijah essentially tells the widow to trust God and make him bread first, then God will provide for her through endless oil and flour. God shows up in a big way for the widow, her son, and Elijah.
The widow did not think she could provide for Elijah in her poverty and desperation, but God used her anyway to provide food and water to Elijah at a time when drought was affecting all of Israel. There are several nuggets of spiritual truth embedded in this passage: 1) Elijah was faithfully following God even when it seemed the brook had run dry; 2) the widow was able to provide for Elijah even when she did not think she was able, and the provision of oil and flour required a reliance on God daily; 3) the daily reliance on God would not end until God sent rain upon the land.
Elijah is doing a great job of showing us what it looks like to follow God unconditionally. He did not get upset when the brook ran dry…he simply trusted God to provide in another way. God showed up in a miraculous way and provided for Elijah and God used a seemingly unlikely person to do it. The widow was not rich or powerful. She was merely obedient and willing to listen.
The widow (I wish we knew her name) sounds like an amazing woman. She is trying to provide for her son amid a drought that has made it very difficult to survive. Her faithfulness and trust in God is rewarded by the equivalent of daily manna for her, her son, and Elijah. God was meeting her physical needs, but she had to rely on him daily. God also meets our physical and spiritual needs but I think he wants us to rely on Him daily too. It may look different for each one of us, but I believe God still provides for His faithful followers in miraculous ways.
The end of this passage makes an interesting allusion to the coming Kingdom of God. It is saying in essence that the daily reliance being practiced by Elijah and the widow will continue until God sends rain on the land. I think this applies to followers of Christ as well. We need to rely daily on God for his spiritual and physical provision until the coming of His Kingdom, or perhaps more accurately until we find ourselves there. This blog has been a reminder for me that I need to rely daily on God for my “oil and flour”, an Omer of blog post.
Prayer: God you provide for us in miraculous ways both spiritually and physically. Help us to daily rely on You for our spiritual “bread”.