October 25, 2010

Nameless But Notable X: Widow of Zarephath

"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 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." 1 Kings 17:7-14

"I tell you the truth," he [Jesus] continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon." Luke 4:24-26

A foreigner approaches a widow under unusual circumstances with an unusual request. A request that she go home and bake/make a small cake of bread and little jar of water...and she even gets to make something for her son and herself. This is being asked of a woman that (1) has little or no food for her or her son and she is now in the process of gathering sticks to cook a last meal for themselves and (2) is a widow that has no person to support or protect her which is pretty much a death sentence in this society. This is not unusual if the person you are asking is not on the verge of starvation or if you know the person but this is not the case. Her response isn't so much incredulity as it is a rational evaluation of the situation and a decision that the resources for three people just were not there. It took a supernatural portion of faith to trust that this stranger would pull through on his promise, "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."

Things went well until the widow's son dies. Then she wavers. What does this stranger which she now knows as Elijah do? Elijah prays and God answers that prayer. We must understand that this was done for a woman and her son who were from Sidon and it was done during a time when God was only dealing with His own people. So what we see is God giving grace and mercy to people that, at the time, were not His people in the same way that Israel was. He was giving grace and mercy to Gentiles. A shadow of things to come.

For contrast I add the passage from Jesus referring to this widow and her son. Just as Jesus did for His hometown. Jesus depicts the widow and how she comforted and fed a complete stranger (and foreigner). And why did Jesus bring this up in Luke? Jesus had returned to His own people (not foreigners). People that had been privileged enough to have been able to be in His presence, the Son of God when He was growing up as a carpenter's son. Do they bring Him bread? Do they bring Him water? No. They bring Him derision, scoffing, ridicule. Ostracizing and trying to oust him from their presence. Some even wanted Him dead. Being this inhospitable to even a stranger in Jesus' day would've been unheard of and shameful. To the people of Nazareth, He wasn't even a stranger He was their native son.

This is also a challenge in our day. In light of all the evidences and changed lives people continue to reject Jesus and the Gospel in staggering numbers. They do so while simultaneously embracing other worldviews that are clearly inconsistant or irrational while at the same time accusing Christians of the same thing they are guilty of...being ignorant (blissfully so).


Anonymous said...

I love this story. Thanks for reminding me of the goodness of God. Blessings Darrell

Andy Pierson said...

As always, thank you brother.

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