7 – Widowed, Poor, and Helpful

7 – Widowed, Poor, and Helpful2016-11-27T17:36:35+00:00

Sabbath, November 15, 2014

“This woman

[the widow of Zarephath] was not an Israelite. She had never had the privileges and blessings that the chosen people of God had enjoyed, but she was a believer in the true God and had walked in all the light that was shining on her pathway. And now, when there was no safety for Elijah in the land of Israel, God sent him to this woman to find an asylum in her home.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 129. 

A message that also affects the messenger

1. What stern message did Elijah give from the Lord to Ahab, the apostate king of Israel? How was it possible for the prophet to state that it would rain again only at his word?

1 Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 

“Elijah’s faithful soul was grieved. His indignation was aroused, and he was jealous for the glory of God. He saw that Israel was plunged into fearful apostasy. And when he called to mind the great things that God had wrought for them, he was overwhelmed with grief and amazement. But all this was forgotten by the majority of the people. He went before the Lord, and, with his soul wrung with anguish, pleaded for Him to save His people if it must be by judgments. He pleaded with God to withhold from His ungrateful people dew and rain, the treasures of heaven, that apostate Israel might look in vain to their gods, their idols of gold, wood, and stone, the sun, moon, and stars, to water and enrich the earth, and cause it to bring forth plentifully. The Lord told Elijah that He had heard his prayer and would withhold dew and rain from His people until they should turn unto Him with repentance.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 263.

Isolation and protection

2. Since the prophet would be in danger after making this declaration, what instruction did the Lord give him? How long did Elijah remain by the brook Cherith, trusting fully in God?

1 Kings 17:2-6 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, 3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. 

“It was only by the exercise of strong faith in the unfailing power of God’s word that Elijah delivered his message. Had he not possessed implicit confidence in the One whom he served, he would never have appeared before Ahab…. He fully believed that God would humble apostate Israel, and that through judgments they would be brought to repentance. The fiat of Heaven had gone forth; God’s word could not fail; and at the peril of his life Elijah fearlessly fulfilled his commission. Like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, the message of impending judgment fell upon the ears of the wicked king; but before Ahab could recover from his astonishment, or frame a reply, Elijah disappeared as abruptly as he had come, without waiting to witness the effect of his message. And the Lord went before him, making plain the way. ‘Turn thee eastward,’ the prophet was bidden, ‘and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee.’…

“For a time Elijah remained hidden in the mountains by the brook Cherith. There for many months he was miraculously provided with food.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 121-123, 129.

One in need sent to a poor widow

3. When drought stopped the flow of water, where was Elijah sent? Who was bidden to provide for the prophet in that difficult time?

1 Kings 17:7-9 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. 8 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, 9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee

“The Lord knew that there was no safety for His servant among the children of Israel. He would not trust him with apostate Israel, but sent him to find an asylum among a heathen nation. He directed him to a woman who was a widow and who was in such poverty that she could barely sustain life with the most meager fare. A heathen woman living up to the best light she had was in a more acceptable state with God than the widows of Israel, who had been blessed with special privileges and great light, and yet did not live according to the light which God had given them. As the Hebrews had rejected light, they were left in darkness, and God would not trust His servant among His people, who had provoked His divine anger.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 274.

4. How limited was the widow’s food supply? What desperate situation did her answer to Elijah reveal?

1 Kings 17:10-12 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. 

“In this poverty-stricken home the famine pressed sore, and the pitifully meager fare seemed about to fail. The coming of Elijah on the very day when the widow feared that she must give up the struggle to sustain life tested to the utmost her faith in the power of the living God to provide for her necessities.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 130. 

Heathen, but willing to believe and obey

5. Was the widow of Zarephath willing to provide food and water for the Lord’s servant? When Elijah repeated his request and simultaneously gave her God’s promise, how did she receive the divine message?

1 Kings 17:13, 14 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. 

“But even in her dire extremity she bore witness to her faith by a compliance with the request of the stranger who was asking her to share her last morsel with him.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 130.

The Lord’s immediate response

6. When she believed and obeyed God’s word by faith, what miracle occurred every day for a long time? If this happened for a heathen woman, what will God do for every believer?

1 Kings 17:15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

While some Bible versions translate the expression in this verse as “for days” or “for many days,” other versions render the last phrase of 1 Kings 17:15 as “for an entire year,” indicating that the widow and her household had food for an extended time. 

“No greater test of faith than this could have been required. The widow had hitherto treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, regardless of the suffering that might result to herself and child, and trusting in the God of Israel to supply her every need, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing ‘according to the saying of Elijah.’ 1 Kings 17:15.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 130, 131. 

“That God who cared for Elijah in the time of famine will not pass by one of His self-sacrificing children. He who has numbered the hairs of their head, will care for them, and in days of famine they will be satisfied. While the wicked are perishing all around them for want of bread, their bread and water will be sure. Those who still cling to their earthly treasure, and will not make a right disposition of that which is lent them of God, will lose their treasure in heaven, lose everlasting life.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 173, 174.

7. Despite the extra burden of the prophet’s presence, that increased the number of people in the home, what happened with the widow’s food reserves? According to Jesus’ words, why was Elijah sent to a widow in a heathen country?

1 Kings 17:16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah. 

Luke 4:23-26 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. 24 And he said, Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 

“Wonderful was the hospitality shown to God’s prophet by this Phoenician woman, and wonderfully were her faith and generosity rewarded. ‘She, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah.’ 1 Kings 17:14.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 131.

8. What wonderful lesson may we learn from this woman’s faith? Do you wish to apply the principle taught by the Saviour?

Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 

Matthew 10:41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 

“The widow of Zarephath shared her morsel with Elijah, and in return her life and that of her son were preserved. And to all who, in time of trial and want, give sympathy and assistance to others more needy, God has promised great blessing. He has not changed. His power is no less now than in the days of Elijah. No less sure now than when spoken by our Saviour is the promise, ‘He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.’ Matthew 10:41.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 131, 132.

For reflection

  • What can be seen in God’s providence for Elijah at the first, without interaction with people?
  • Was the Lord testing only King Ahab and the Israelites, or His servant as well?
  • While the widow was poor in material things, in what sense was she rich?

For further study

Proverbs 19:17; Luke 6:38.

“Here is the reward for those who sacrifice for God. They receive an hundred-fold in this life, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many, I saw, that are first, shall be last, and the last shall be first. I was shown those who receive the truth, but do not live it. They cling to their possessions, and are not willing to distribute of their substance to advance the cause of God. They have no faith to venture and trust God. Their love of this world swallows up their faith. God has called for a portion of their substance, but they heed it not. They reason thus, that they have labored hard to obtain what they have, and they cannot lend it to the Lord, for they may come to want. ‘O, ye of little faith!’ That God who cared for Elijah in the time of famine, will not pass by one of His self-sacrificing children. He that has numbered the hairs of their heads, will care for them, and in the days of famine they will be satisfied. While the wicked are perishing all around them for want of bread, their bread and water will be sure. Those who will still cling to their earthly treasure, and will not make a right disposition of that which is lent them of God, will lose their treasure in heaven, lose everlasting life.” –Spiritual Gifts, book 2, pp. 243, 244.

“Like Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, like David among the hills of Judea, or Elijah by the brook Cherith, the disciples needed to come apart from the scenes of their busy activity, to commune with Christ, with nature, and with their own hearts.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 360.

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