Saturday, April 1, 2017

Widow of Zarephath

Women In An Era Of Political Decline
Widow of Zarephath

Widow of Zarephath: "The Woman Who Shared Her Last Morsel."

Key Scripture: 1 Kings 17:8-24; Luke 4:25-26

Her Character: A foreigner facing starvation, she showed extraordinary hospitality to one of God's prophet's, providing a safe harbor for him.

Her Strengths: The Lord knew her, her situation, and the condition of her heart.

Her Sorrow: To suffer extreme poverty, famine, and the loss of husband and son.

Her Joy: To experience repeated miracles of God's provision.

Pre-Story: 1 Kings 17- Elijah is first mentioned by name in the Bible. Ahab and Jezebel were ruling the Kingdom of Israel in wickedness. Elijah had came from Gilead to visit King Ahab to give him a message from God that there would be no rain in the land until he declared it.

In order to avoid the wrath of the king, God told Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith where he was fed bread and meat by ravens sent from God. After a while, due to the drought, the brook dried up so God told Elijah to go to the town of Sarepta and to seek out a widow that would find him water and food.

Her Story: She was from Zarephath, a city in Zidon when the land of Israel was apostate and unsafe, Although brought up among worshipers of strange gods, it would seem as if she had come to know about the faith of the Hebrews before Elijah the prophet came her way. Of an alien race, she was a widow with a child to keep. she had the humble home her husband had left her, and from a few olive trees and a small barley field she was able to eke out a frugal living for herself and her growing boy.

When seasons were favorable what she was able to gather sufficed for her modest needs, but when a terrible drought killed the growing harvest, she did not know where the next meal could come from to keep the two of them alive. Little did the distressed widow realize that deliverance was at hand, that never again would she and her son suffer the pangs of hunger, that the rough-looking stranger who appeared at her door one day was to be her provider for many a day.

When Elijah met the widow she was gathering sticks to make a final scanty meal out of the last cakes and oil she had. Elijah requested a drink of water and a morsel of bread. While God had marked her out as the widow to sustain Elijah, she had not received any advance word that the beggar coming was a prophet. She did not know beforehand of God’s purpose for she was preparing to die. Although she felt sharing the final meal would hurt both herself and her boy, she ventured out to give the hungry man who had come her way a portion of it, not realizing that her venture was to be one of faith, and would become the evidence of things not seen.

Truly the guest with whom she was willing to share, was a prophet! Elijah lived in the widow's household throughout the famine. She would experience a continuing miracle. "The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail." What a difference the God-sent prophet had made to the home of the widow! All trial was past and daily their need was met by Him who opens His hand and supplies what His own require. As the weeks and months rolled by Elijah became part of the home.

One day the peace and contentment of the home miraculously sustained were disturbed for the widow’s son was suddenly seized with illness and died. Once again the widow knew despair. Before Elijah came to the home, she feared the death of her boy because of the famine. Why was her child rescued from death the first time, if only to die now? She felt that this man of God had looked into her heart and had detected that it was sinful, and that divine vengeance had fallen upon her. But Elijah knew the bereaved mother was beside herself, and had committed no evil meriting the death of her son. This anguish was to be another trial of her faith.

Elijah simply said, “Give me thy son.” Elijah asked God why He had allowed such a grief to overtake the widow who had been so kind to him. Three times he stretched himself upon the child and prayed most earnestly that the child might live again. The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, the child’s soul came into him again, and, hastening down the stairs, the prophet handed over the precious burden saying, “See, thy son liveth.” Now she believes as never before that Elijah, God’s servant, is indeed “a man of God.”

It must have been a sad day when after two years God called Elijah to leave the shelter and love of the widow’s home and go to show himself to Ahab and pronounce the end of the three and a half years drought. While, possibly, Elijah never lost contact with the Sarepta widow who had become such a part of his life, the Bible does not tell us anything further about her and her son whom God raised from the dead. Yet because of our Lord’s reference to her, she is held in everlasting remembrance.

Her Place in God's Divine Plan: She was the one whom God had singled out to shelter the prophet for some two years as a heaven-protected guest, with fearless faith. This woman of true hospitality who, in her willingness to share her only mouthful of food with a stranger whose face indicated a weariness born of fatigue and thirst, and exhaustion due to long travel, knew not that she was to entertain an angel unawares.

Her Challenges Along the Way: She and her son were dying of starvation. She had to make a decision to either keep the one meager meal of flour and oil for herself, or to give to it a stranger. By giving it up, she had miraculous abundance.

Her Victories: Because of her kindness and obedience God multiplied her handful of meal and cruse of oil. Daily, the widow proved that sharing what she had with another needy one did not impoverish her life, but greatly enriched it.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: There are so many lessons to learn from this story.

1. It is important to know that she did not know who Elijah was, and she did not know that there would be more meal and oil left over after she had fed him. She gave all she had and put her trust in the Lord. She went to the very edge of her faith, and God caught her and sustained her by his hand. Often times God asks us to go to the very end of our limits, the bottom of our barrel, calling upon all our resources before he provides deliverance. He asks us to sacrifice all that we have, in order to gain much greater blessings.

2. Every day we are dependent on God for our lives. Whether we recognize it or not God sends us manna from heaven each day we are alive. We live by faith. God does not leave us alone. He hears our prayers, and he answers them. Often in ways that we never imagined. We can receive personal revelation from the Lord. When we are obedient he works miracles through us.

3. What struggles some women have after they become widows. Difficult circumstances and oppressive cares make life difficult. With the able breadwinner taken, widows frequently have more cares than they can cope with. Yet, godly widows have the promise of divine provision and protection. Jesus immortalized that lowly woman who was so hospitable, to emphasize the immortal truth that in this dispensation of divine grace God is no respecter of persons. Our strength begins when we rely on His strength alone. The Lord knows us and is acutely aware of our needs.

850 BC

*The renowned widow of Zarephath, or Sarepta, so sympathetic, kind and self-sacrificial, must have had a lovely name. Yet both her own name and that of her boy are not given. The prophet Elijah who lived with them for so long must have come to know them well, but he has left us with no clue as to their identity. Even the Lord, who has our names engraved upon the palms of His hands, does not lift the curtain of anonymity, but simply refers to this commendable female, as “a woman that was a widow.” Evidently, attention is focused on what she did, rather than on who she was.