Summary: This is about God using what is little to do big things.
One think I like about this job is that I get to take a closer look at Bible stories I remember from when I was a kid in Sunday school. The stories always seem a little different than I remember. The passage that we are looking at today is one of those great stories that I remember from when I was a kid. The story always seems a little more exotic in my memory. The characters are larger than life in a child’s mind. Some of the details may be a little different than I remember, but the truth is still the same.
Our passage today is about the widow who fed Elijah the prophet. She had only a little flour and oil with which to bake bread, but it lasted until the drought ended because she was faithful.
To fully appreciate what is happening in this passage, let’s backtrack a little. In the first seven verses of 1 Kings 17, Elijah announces that there is going to be a severe drought in the land, without rain or dew. Elijah then heads out to a little stream. God commanded ravens to feed Elijah. With the food that the ravens brought and the water in the stream, Elijah was taken care of. Then the stream dried up, and Elijah had no water to drink. That’s where we pick up the passage.
Turn with me to 1 Kings 17.
Read 1 Kings 17:8-16.
Do you remember the show “Unsolved Mysteries” with Robert Stack? They investigated mysterious happenings. They investigated missing persons, unsolved crimes, and generally strange happenings. I can picture Robert Stack investigating this scene. He’s standing outside the widow’s house with his trademark trench coat on. He says, “I am standing outside a small house in the city of Zarephath where some unusual things have been happening. A poor widow, and I mean poor widow lives in this small house behind be. As you have heard, there is a severe drought in this area. Food is in short supply, and rationing has begun, but this widow has reportedly had an unending supply of food to feed her family, and a prophet named Elijah. She hasn’t been to the market to buy flour, oil or other goods for months. Tonight, on “Unsolved Mysteries” we will investigate this matter. Is it a case of the widow having a secret supplier, or is this a miracle from God? Stay tuned as we dig deeper.”
When we dig into this mystery, the first thing we find is…
Poverty was a real issue in that day and age. This was heightened by the plight of most widows. Compounding the problem was the fact that there was a severe drought and famine. These things all worked together to intensify the problem of poverty. Life was a day-to-day struggle for food for most people. The only people who didn’t really have to worry were the wealthy land owners and the royalty. Everyone else lived pretty much day-to-day. The routine was to get up and go to work. Then when you got paid, you stopped at the market to buy food, just enough for the day. Widows were in more desperate conditions than that, but we’ll get to that a little later.
We see the poverty of both Elijah and the widow. First is…
A. Elijah’s poverty.
As we noted earlier just before out passage, Elijah was living by a stream, and ravens brought food to him. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure I would feel terribly comfortable to have ravens bring me food. Ravens are noted as scavengers. They are not the birds one would think to be the food delivery service.
We can see from this that Elijah has nothing. He has no system of support other than what God provides for him. Here is a guy relying on ravens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and perhaps even a midnight snack. This is a definite sign that he has nothing.
Then the stream dried up. The water is gone because of the drought. This guy is in big time trouble. His source of water is gone. Where does he turn now?
God tells him to go the town of Zarephath, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. God then informs him that a widow will give him food. What? A widow? How can that be?
If it wasn’t bad enough that he had to be fed by ravens, now he has to rely on a widow. This shows the desperate situation for Elijah. He had to rely on a widow for food. There’s nothing wrong with widows, but the fact is in that day they were among the poorest of the poor. That brings us to…
B. The widow’s poverty.