Summary: This widow starts off with a tiny sparkle of faith and instead of holding on to what little she has - she let’s go, and the rest is history.
Today on Mother’s Day, we are going to look at a woman of faith. This woman in our Scripture doesn’t start out as a woman of faith, but she sure ends up a woman of faith….and that is what we need to start with this morning: Whoever you are, and whatever your faith is like – to end up as a person of great faith, you start out as a person of somewhat less faith. Now that may seem obvious now that I say it, but I think, though it may seem obvious, in many ways we expect our faith – to just be there. But you know, God will still you use you even if you don’t have a great faith, we see this in our passage today.
The land is in the middle of a great drought, predicted by Elijah himself. Elijah has been in isolation in the Kerith Ravine, a small tributary to the river Jordan and in verse 8 the word of the Lord comes to him an directs him to go to Zarephath which was in what is today the state of Lebanon.
Now the prophet Elijah, he’s been around, he must know life is going to get difficult. Kerith, where he was staying, means separated, and the name depicts perfectly Elijah’s situation – he was alone, and without human contact for an extended period of time. God then sends him to Zarephath, which means, fiery trial, and depicts perfectly what his situation is going to be. So God calls him out of the frying pan and into the fire. You can imagine Elijah walking to Zarephath thinking, “Holy Smoke, what in the world has God planned for me next?”.
Notice, God doesn’t give him much to go by. God is light on details here. 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So, does the woman have a name? What will she be wearing? What is her address? Does she know I’m coming? Do I meet her in the morning? What if I’m late? Does she have a criminal record?
Does God do this to you too? Life is moving along, you’re doing your thing and bam, out of the blue something hits you and you ask, “God, what is going on?” and you get, no details….but still, your in your situation.
We saw this last week with the prophet Jonah. Now with Jonah God doesn’t give many details because Jonah might chicken out and not do as God asks - again But Elijah, he is different, he isn’t like Jonah, he is bold, confident, strong, and faithful. Elijah is a man who will do whatever God asks of him, so why the lack of details? Sometimes God is silent because we are like Jonah and will refuse to walk in faith if we know what is coming. But sometimes God is silent because his awesome power is revealed….slowly. Sometimes the time spent waiting will intensify the impact of the work of God on our lives. Sometimes the wait will make us more than ready to receive the Word of the Lord.
And here is a truth for you: if we have the details in advance, then, we wouldn’t be walking in faith would we?
So Elijah must walk in faith alone with minimal details to his Zarephath, his fiery trial.
Now at the gate he finds our woman of faith. What I love is that when Elijah arrives at the gate – there’s the widow, front and center. He doesn’t even have to look in the phone book, he doesn’t have to ask around, there she is. You know, we want the details of our circumstances from God upfront don’t we? But God supplies the details as we walk in faith – as we step out and arrive where God has directed us, and there are the details, standing right in front of us.
So here is this woman gathering sticks in verse 10, and Elijah calls to her. What he does is play a trick on her, so to speak. Elijah calls her and asks for a drink and as she is going to get the water he adds, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” In the ancient middle east hospitality was a very big deal. If someone asks for a drink of water, it is rude, even an unspeakable act to refuse the person a drink. It would be shameful for this woman to refuse him a drink of water. She may be broke, she may be at the end of her rope, but she still has her dignity and she can perform this act of hospitality, so she heads for the water jar – but to give away her bread, that is another thing all together. Yet she is trapped by Elijah adding on a second request. Understand this second request is asking for her life commitment, for the request is asking for all she has.