Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A handful of grain...

1 Kings 17

7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food." 10 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?" 11 As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread."

12 "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 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."

13 Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 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 gives rain on the land.' " 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" 22 The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."

Today I'd like to look at the Widow of Zerephath. She's a very interesting figure to me, a figure on whom God poured down incredible mercy. When the brook had dried up, God told Elijah to go to Zerephath in Sidon because there would be a widow there to give him food. What God doesn't tell him is that she doesn't have much food to give.

Zerephath is in Sidon, and Sidon is not in Israel. This widow is a Gentile. In fact, she lives in the center of the worst Baal worship. Jezebel was from this area, and her father, a big Baal worshipper, ruled it. Interestingly enough, God sends his prophet straight into the mouth of the lion. He also doesn't send his prophet to an Israelite who knows His name. He does, however, send Elijah to a woman who is in great need.

This widow has probably been affected horribly by the drought. Her husband is gone, and she is left alone to provide for her young son. Day after day, conditions have gotten worse for them, and she is despairing of her ability to keep going. She probably sits in the corner, watching her son, seeing him getting thinner and thinner day by day. And I'll bet her heart breaks a little more all the time. He is all she has left. He is her treasure.

She resigns herself to the fact that they will both die of starvation. In quiet desparation, she goes out to gather sticks to make their last meal. And then God shows up. He was always there. He saw her desperation, and He had a plan. Even though she doesn't know Him, He sees her. He knows that she will respond to Him, and He sends Elijah to her to show her His power and incredible mercy.

When Elijah sees her, he asks her to bring him some water. Water! In a drought parched land! And if that doesn't seem audacious enough, then he asks her to bring him a little bit of bread. She tells him that she only has enough for her and her son to eat as a last meal. It will give out, and then they will die. The Hebrew says that the widow only had a handful of grain. It would've been barely enough to make one small cake of bread. But Elijah asks her to make a cake for him first, and then tells her that there will be enough left over for her and her son to eat. He makes the incredible promise that God will supply enough bread and oil for them to eat until the drought is over.

And the widow does what he asks. Do you have any idea what kind of faith that must've taken? I am in total awe of it. I don't know that I have that much faith. I put myself in her shoes, and I'm not sure that I would take that kind of gamble, when it came to be crunch time. I hope I would. If I had a stranger standing before me, and I had to choose between giving him and giving Seth my last morsel of food, I think I'd probably give it to Seth. I would do anything to save his life. I don't know that I would've believed Elijah's promise. But she did, and her leap of faith was so great that Jesus comments on it. This is what he says in Luke 4: 25-26:

25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

God did not send his prophet to the widows of Israel because they would not have faith in the God he represented. But this widow did have faith. She believed that the Lord, Elijah's God, lived. She staked her all on the Lord, and He proved faithful. I want that kind of faith. If she had that kind of faith when she didn't know God, and she hadn't seen His work in her life, then what excuse do I have for doubting Him when he has worked so powerfully in my life, time and time again? Lord, help me to trust you with everything precious to me... my daily needs, my beloved child, with everything. You have proven faithful; help me to trust You.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

Ian's two front teeth on the bottom have poked through, but nothing else looks close. We just started testing foods that don't come in jars a few days ago. Since he did well, I think we'll continue. It simplifies things a little and will (hopefully) save some money.

Ian doesn't mind being on his stomach (in fact, he always rolls over to sleep on his tummy), but he can't push up to his hands and knees or get himself into a sitting position if he's lying down. If he's sitting, he can lean forward and gradually be on all fours, but he can't go anywhere yet. It's actually very refreshing to know he's not the only one like this! The other babies in our church (some younger than Ian) are bigger and have all been crawling for months! If Ian can't reach a toy he wants, he'll get frustrated for a few minutes and then give up altogether and go to sleep. I hope that doesn't mean we'll have trouble with motivation! Ha ha...

The signs...I just picked some that were easily associated with food and started there. "Milk" and "more" were Ian's first, and I'd just sign and say the word to him at the same time as offering him whatever the sign was for. He picked up on the notion that I made "milking-the-cow" motions with one hand every time I nursed him, so he started doing it too. Now he also does that when he wants his sippy cup at meal times. Similarly, I'd do the sign for "more" (tapping closed fingertips together) and say "more?" in between bites of babyfood. (Note: this didn't work well for me at the beginning of meal times because he'd get frustrated that the food wasn't coming fast enough, and at the very end he doesn't want more food badly enough to cooperate...so I stick it in the middle somewhere.) There are several good sites with little video tutorials if you google "sign language." I like http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm because there's such an extensive dictionary available. Let me know if you find other useful things...I'm by no means an expert!