1 Kings 17.7-9
“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”
The Lord sent Elijah east of the Jordan to protect him from harm and prepare him for spiritual battle. Over the course of three years, the Lord put Elijah into situations that required great faith, and as a result, Elijah’s trust in God grew deep and strong. He developed from being simply a spokesman to becoming a true man of God.
As the drought got worse, the creek dried up, so the Lord directed Elijah to dwell in Zarephath, a gentile city in Sidon. Keep in mind that Sidon was the homeland of Jezebel, so as she searched Israel to kill Elijah, the Lord is hiding him in Jezebel’s country of origin.
God didn’t send Elijah to the wealthy or powerful or great men of Sidon; God sent Elijah to a poor, desolate widow.
“So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” (1 Kings 17.10-11)
It was a simple request, but it was not easily fulfilled. Because of the drought conditions, and because of the widow’s extreme poverty, she had almost nothing to give. What little she did have, she needed for herself and her son. In fact, she was so desolate, she was anticipating that she and her son would soon die.
“And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now 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 17.12)
In the midst of this dire situation, Elijah told the woman that God would continue to multiply her jar of flour and jug of oil until the drought was over, thus allowing her to feed her household, which now included Elijah.
“And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (1 Kings 17.13-14)
It required a significant act of faith for the widow to follow through on Elijah’s instruction. Or maybe it was simply desperation. Whatever the motivation, the widow complied.
“And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.” (1 Kings 17.15-16).
In response to the widow’s obedience, the Lord supernaturally multiplied her jar of flour and jug of oil, thereby sustaining the widow, her household, and Elijah during the severe hardship brought about by the drought.
This is a powerful example of trusting God and selfless, sacrificial giving in the midst of very difficult circumstances. The gospel of Luke gives us an account of another poor widow whose faith motivated her to give sacrificially.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21.1-4)
It is not that difficult to give when you are blessed with abundance. It is, however, much more difficult to give when you are in a state of poverty.