Summary: Trusting God results in: 1. the ability to give. 2. the ability to be thankful. 3. the blessing of God.
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
The two Scriptures this morning contain the stories of two widows — one from the Old Testament and one from the New. Both were impoverished. Neither asked for anything. Both gave everything they had. Both exhibited incredible trust.
Let’s seek to understand these wonderful women so that we might be more like them. These are women who had an amazing ability to trust God. They did not do what they did because they had hidden reserves somewhere; they did what they did when they were down to their last scrap of bread. So here is the first point amazingly demonstrated in the lives of these two women: Trusting God results in the ability to give. Let’s look first at this unnamed widow of Zarephath. She is so poor that she does not even have a name in the story. It was the author’s way of saying she had no social standing whatever in her community. If you read the story in context you will discover that everyone in the region was suffering. There has been a famine for the last three years. And by the way, it came because of the prayer of Elijah. At this point, only the very wealthy have reserves of food and water. The thing you begin to wonder about as you read the story is why God did not send Elijah to one of the wealthy families in the region. Why this widow? Widows were always the first to run out of bread during a famine. Why ask her for the last scrap of food she has when she and her son are dying from starvation? Why send Elijah to a Gentile in Sidon (now Lebanon), and not a Jewish person who was a part of the people of promise? Why go to one who is supposed to be the enemy of Israel, and having Israel as her enemy? Elijah and the widow are strangers to each other and their nations are in conflict with each other. They worshiped different Gods. They must have eyed each other suspiciously when they first saw each other. I wonder if she knew Elijah and that it was his prayer which was the cause of the famine — a judgment brought about, not because of Sidon’s sin, but because Israel had turned to worship Baal, the storm god?
Elijah had been living down by the brook Kerith, and the ravens had been feeding him there, but the brook dried up because of the drought. In order to survive he had to seek another resource. As he enters the city gate, he sees a widow gathering a few sticks. He calls to her and asks for some water — the very thing that is in short supply throughout the land. But without a word she proceeds to get him some. She obviously is a person of compassion rather than judgment. She recognizes him as a man of God, but as she is on her way to get his water, he calls to her and says, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” But she informs him that she is gathering sticks because she only has a little bit of flour and she was going to build a small fire to bake the last bit of bread for her and her son — then they would probably soon die of starvation. Elijah tells her that the Lord has promised that she will not run out of bread or oil until it begins to rain again, if she will only do what he has asked.