As the prophet Elijah hid by a remote brook, the effects of a severe drought, God’s judgement upon the land, began to take its toll.
God sent this judgement on the Northern Kingdom of Israel to bring them to their senses and to turn their hearts back to Him. He had brought His people out of slavery in Egypt and planted them in a “land of milk and honey”, with prosperity and abundance beyond anything they had known before. But the leadership of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab misled them and helped to turn their hearts away from the Lord – the people were now worshiping the false gods of Baal and Asherah. This drought was God’s way of getting their attention and revealing Him, not these idols, to be their true Provider.
God had brought the prophet Elijah into this plan by using Elijah’s faithful prayers to initiate the three-and-a-half-year drought event. Ahab and Jezebel learned of Elijah’s involvement and sought to kill him.
Water levels throughout the land began to drop, and soon food shortages and famine began to take hold. Even the brook where God had sent Elijah to take refuge began to dry up, so God gave him a new directive:
7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.8 Then the word of the Lord came to him (Elijah), saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 1 Kings 17:7-9 NKJV
God preserved Elijah by sending him to a town in Sidon where a particular widow lived. This was an unusual choice by the Lord for several reasons.
First, the widow’s town was in Sidon, the nation of Jezebel’s origin. It was not likely a place that knew the Lord. The widow indicated that she was familiar with the God of Israel but did not believe in Him or worship Him. She was likely worshiping the same false gods and idols that everyone else was at that time.
Second, the widow’s land was close to Israel and was also feeling the full effects of the drought. Food shortages and famine were as much a problem there as they were in neighboring Israel.
The third reason that the widow was an unlikely choice for God to use to provide for Elijah’s preservation was that the widow and her son were on the brink of starvation. They did not have enough food to keep themselves alive, let alone Elijah.
10 … And he (Elijah) called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 1 Kings 17:10-12 NKJV
On the surface, this was a bleak situation. But the Lord always reveals a soft spot in His heart for widows. He consistently commands that they be provided for, along with orphans and sojourners, out of the tithes and offerings collected for the temple.
Centuries later, Jesus would sit down at the temple to watch a widow put her last two coins into the offering box. He marveled at her faith and pointed out her actions to His disciples. The struggles of a widow are always a high priority for God. We can only imagine what pleasant surprises He blessed her with on her journey home.
In Elijah’s case, he asked the widow to take a step of faith to share her last bit of flour and olive oil with him. She obliged, and a remarkable thing happened:
13 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. 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.’”
15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:13-16 NKJV
Just as when Jesus fed five thousand people using the miraculous multiplication of a small boy’s lunch – five loaves and two fishes – here three people were fed for three years from a never-quite-emptying flour bin and oil jar. Like the manna God provided for the Israelites in the desert to gather each day, there was just enough miracle given to make it through one day and into the next. There must be some reason that God chooses to work so often in this manner – One Day at a Time.
God chooses unlikely people like us to do any number of things for Him and for His kingdom. We may know Him well, or we may not know Him at all, but one day we all find a window of opportunity to join Him lying open before us. If we respond with a small step of faith towards Him, we will never be disappointed with the results, and with the many blessings that will flow thereafter into our lives.
Every great advancement we experience in life begins with a small amount of willingness. Just as the Lord multiplied the flour and oil for the widow and Elijah, He will multiply our willingness into great things that will happen as we choose to draw closer to Him.
Where is God nudging you to take a step forward? A new ministry or person to work with? Joining a small group or a Bible study? Resuming a spiritual discipline that has fallen by the wayside?
Perhaps you do not know the Lord, and the Holy Spirit is nudging you to reach out to Jesus Christ to invite Him into your heart and life. If so, may you take that step of willingness today.
Lord, show me where You want me to take a small step of faith to honor You today. Amen