When did you first hear about God? Who was it that told you about Him? What did it take for you to discover Him as Your God and to establish a personal relationship with Him?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Widow of Zarephath a pagan woman living in Jezebel’s homeland who discovered that God wasn’t just the Israelites’ God, He was hers, too.
Although the widow is a nameless woman in the Bible, her story is a most familiar one. It wasn’t until I began researching her, though, that I realized that she wasn’t actually a Hebrew, but was instead a native of Zidon, the homeland of Jezebel. Somehow, in this Baal worshipping land, this woman became a believer in the one true God.
How perfect that when Elijah fled Israel in order to escape the wrath of Jezebel that he found refuge with a destitute widow in Jezebel’s pagan homeland.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
We meet the Widow of Zarethath in 1 Kings 17. At the beginning of the chapter Elijah announces to Ahab that there will not be rain until he proclaims it. God tells Elijah to get away to the Brook Cherith where he drinks from the brook and ravens feed him. But after awhile, the drought causes the brook to dry up.
God directs Elijah to head to Zarephath and dwell there with a widow who will provide for him.
He gets to the city gates, and indeed, there is a widow gathering sticks.
He asks her for a cup of water, and as she’s going to get it, he also requests a cake of bread. She explains to him that she doesn’t have any bread, that in fact, all she has is a handful of flour and a tiny big of oil in a jar and she was gathering the sticks so that she might prepare a last meal for her and her son before they die from starvation. She’s not being melodramatic or seeking sympathy. She’s merely letting Elijah know why she can’t provide for him.
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 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.’ ”
So how does she respond?
She went and did what Elijah requested. And she and her son and Elijah ate for many days and her flour and oil didn’t give out.
Elijah had received word from God that he was to go to Zarephath and stay with a widow. He was expecting her and knew she was part of God’s plan to provide for his needs.
The widow didn’t have that advantage. She had no way of knowing that the scruffy looking stranger was a prophet sent by God to take care of her and her son. All she knew was that he was an Israelite. But he could have been any Israelite.
Imagine her joy when he said, “thus says the Lord God of Israel” and proceeded to tell her that God would provide for her.
You would think the story would end there with the widow and her son living happily ever after. But real life often has unexpected plot twists.
In this case, the widow’s beloved young son takes a sudden sickness and dies. The distraught mother blames herself. She asks Elijah if he came to them just so that she might be made aware of her sin and watch her son die in response to her sinfulness.
Elijah knows that’s not how God works, but he’s equally confused as to why God would allow this kind woman’s son to die after she had proven so selfless.
He carries the young lad to his room and prays over him. Three times he pleads to the Lord, begging for God to bring this child back to life.
And God heard his cries and healed the boy. Elijah carried the boy downstairs and presented him to his mother.
When the widow saw that her son was raised from the dead, she proclaimed, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth.”
The widow of Zarephath had heard of God and knew Him as the Israelite’s God.
When God used Elijah to provide for her earthly needs, she recognized that Elijah’s God took care of her.
But when God delivered her son from the dead, she understood that He wasn’t just a God for the Israelites. He was her God, too.
I’ve often wondered how people can get saved if there’s no one in their life to introduce them to God. But God puts a hunger in our hearts and questions in our heads. And if we head that longing and go seeking to find Him, He will reveal Himself.
Just as Rahab had heard stories of the Israelite God, so had this widow. Both were in pagan lands surrounded by evil idolators. But they heard talk. Little comments here and there piqued their interest. And when God brought godly men to rescue these women from imminent death, they were receptive to what He had in store for them.
What about you? Are you in the seeking stage? Have you heard talk, it sounds interesting, but you don’t really understand it all and you have no idea where to begin? If so, start praying for God to send people your way who will share truth with you, who will answer your questions and draw you near to God.
Or maybe you’ve heard about Him for a long time. You’ve gone to church. You’ve read the Bible. You’ve gone through the motions. But something’s missing. You see Him more as other people’s God. You’re missing that personal connection. You’ve not truly made Him your God.
Maybe you’re a believer and you’re going through a really difficult time right now. You’re in a dark place and you don’t see any way out. You’ve prayed. But God doesn’t seem to be listening. Nothing makes sense right now as you watch your world crashing all around you.
Have faith. The widow thought for sure her days were numbered. She knew there was no way for them to survive another day. But God provided. Then, God took her son. It made no sense. Was God punishing her by killing her son? Why would He do that? What kind of God was He?
She felt forsaken. But she wasn’t. God heard her cries. He heard Elijah’s prayers. When the situation looked beyond hopeless, God sent a miracle.
The widow would have preferred that her son never got sick. She would have loved for him to have had perfect health. It would have been nice had he been healed before he died so that she didn’t have to go through all that anguish. But God’s timing is not our timing. It was in the miraculous way that He worked that the widow truly understood just how amazing God is.
Whatever you’re going through today, get down on your knees and talk to God. Tell Him what you’re thinking. Yell at Him if you want. Pour your heart out to Him. Keep praying, however long it takes, until you feel the gentle peace of God pouring over you. Whatever happens, He will be there with you, never leaving you or forsaking you.
Lord God, we come to You thanking You for your goodness. For the way that You provide for our needs, going above and beyond what we expected, we thank You. For those times when we feel desperate and alone, thank You that You are there, quietly holding our hand and comforting us even when we don’t realize it. Forgive us those times we grow impatient and lose hope. Restore our faith. Grow our faith. We love you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes this week’s episode of All God’s Women. Next week we talk about another widow who witnessed a miracle. This one is the prophet’s widow and her pot of oil.
I love storytelling. Did you know that before starting this podcast I was a filmmaker? My husband and I produced 7 feature films, 5 of which are currently available. Like this podcast, they all share stories of faith and redemption.
Summer of ’67 is a Vietnam War love story told from the perspective of the women left behind. It is inspired by my parents’ story and is especially relevant in these days of political unrest. You can watch Summer of ’67 for free on IMDbTV, Amazon Prime, and TubiTV as well as many other streaming platforms.
Another one you might enjoy is The Good Book, a silent film that tells the story of a small New Testament that’s passed along to strangers. Some accept it. Some reject it. But for 7 of the strangers, it’s life changing. The Good Book is an hour long music video with the story told visually. Since it has no dialogue, it can be enjoyed by non English speaking audiences. The Good Book is available on Amazon Prime, TubiTV, and the Dove Channel.
To find out more about our movies, just head over to sharonwilharm.com/films where you’ll find trailers and links to all the places where you can watch each of the movies.
1 Kings 17
Bible Study Review
- Why did Elijah go to Zarephath?
- What was the widow doing when Elijah found her?
- How did Elijah help the widow?
Thoughts to Ponder
- How did the widow know about Elijah’s God?
- Why did God send Elijah to a pagan land?
- Why did God allow the widow’s son to die?
- Have you ever given up hope and had God send someone to offer you renewed hope?
- How generous are you when you have little to nothing?
- Think about a time when God did a miracle in your life.
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