Summary: Are you willing to go where God sends you and speak and act in his name? It all boils down to a matter of trust.
Have you ever had an occasion where you thought that your faith was being tested, especially in unusual circumstances? If so, you’re not alone. Sometimes God uses unusual circumstances to test a person’s faith. For example, in 1 Kings 17:8-24 he told Elijah to go to an unlikely place-Zarapeth, the very centre of Baal worship and the home of Queen Jezebel. He told Elijah to go at the unlikely time when King Ahab of Israel wanted to kill him. Then God sent him to an unlikely person-a poor Gentile widow from a Baal-worshipping nation. In addition to testing Elijah’s faith, the circumstances provided God with an opportunity to demonstrate his power and his compassion to people living outside of Israel.
Elijah is in foreign territory where the people worship a different god. They were very different, but they taught him something about God. God sends people like Elijah to tell us about God all of the time, and sometimes they come from the unlikeliest of places. Elijah heard God’s commands and acted on them. To hear God, one must first adopt a discipline of listening for God’s word.
Elijah went outside of Israel’s borders to provide for a widow’s needs and to heal her son. The church has to go outside of its comfort zone in order for its members to find true faith in God. The widow in this story is a good example of faith found in someone who wasn’t a Jew.
The widow’s resources were too limited to meet the need in her own family. Elijah asked her to act in faith, feeding him first, and when she put God first, he provided. People often worry about future needs, but Elijah’s experience reveals God’s miraculous provision for each day, just like he provided every day for the needs of the Israelites when they spent 40 years in the desert. When God is the supplier, he has what a person needs. He does not run dry. With God, a little goes a long way. A good example of this is the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus took the lunch of one small boy-a lunch that was just enough for the boy-and used it to feed the multitudes. God’s choice of a widow to feed Elijah is a demonstration of his power. He uses the least and the unlikeliest to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.
The widow was convinced of the truth of Elijah’s religion by the demonstration of God’s power. In a world where there is only one true God, everything in the end must rely on his power. When Elijah asked the widow to use her last supply of oil and flour to bake a cake for him, it was a true test of faith. She stepped out in faith, giving up the certain for the uncertain and obediently trusting his word. Her reward was an unending supply of oil and flour.
Those who suffer will receive comfort from God, even in dire circumstances. We might be standing in front of an almost empty cupboard, staring at the very little we have when God is inviting us to participate in his generous, life-giving abundance. If that's the reality we're living by, then we have given in to life-stealing circumstances and world-imposed limitations and forgotten that God's reality for our lives can be so much different.
Our love for God is measured and tested by the hold we have on our possessions. Everything we have starts from God. He gives us our possessions and our jobs. If we put God first in our lives like the widow put God first, we will give him the first fruits, not the leftovers. If we put God first, he will take care of us.
The ultimate test of her faith was the resurrection of her dead son. Her faith was immature, and she assumed that her son’s death was God’s punishment for sin in her life. That was a common belief at that time. Unfortunately, some people have the same belief today. She believed that Elijah’s saintly presence drew God’s attention to her. When the boy came back to life, the miracle reinforced Elijah’s faith. It gave him courage to face King Ahab. Ahab would only be a puppet in God’s hands. As Elijah later prophesied, God played a role in Ahab’s death.
Tragedy comes into the lives of both believers and the ungodly. Part of life involves dealing with the unexpected circumstances life sends our way. When her son died, the widow blamed God. In contrast, Elijah took the situation to God and asked him to restore the boy’s life. In the lives of believers, God can take tragedy and use it for his glory. He will wipe away our tears. He is a friend who is closer to us than a brother.