Elijah was sent to a woman in a town called Zarephath. The woman was a widow (we are not told what happened to her husband) and she had a son (again we have no details about him). This means the attention in this story is supposed to be on the woman not on her husband or her son. How we sometimes concern ourselves with the irrelevances of life. Some would have asked what happened to her husband, what killed him and some would have asked after her family.
She had a challenge of feeding, unknown to anyone. She had a little cake which she planned to cook for herself and her son and afterwards they will die from hunger. She had mapped out her life even till the day of her death. She had given up on life. She didn’t think there could be a way out of her predicament. She had lost hope even before she began to live. She made that choice because she could see nothing else that could bring hope. The pressures of life would make you focus on the so-called ‘realities of life’ and by these realities you tend to make decisions and draw conclusions.
She was oblivious to many things, especially when we look at issues relating to God. Unknown to her, there was help from God already on the way to her in the person of Elijah. Unknown to her she had been chosen by God to house Elijah until the set time when Elijah would be revealed to Israel. Unknown to her that there would be a great famine in that land and unknown to her God had sent Elijah to help her through her challenges. She is just being a natural woman.
The story of this woman is so significant that even Jesus had to make mention of her when he read for the first time in the synagogue. He said there were many widows in Sidon but Elijah was sent to this very one. He meant He had been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (that is, those that considered themselves lost and not those that think they are not lost).
Elijah appears to this woman and the first thing he asked for was water, which is something that is not too hard for anyone to give. According to the law, asking anything from a widow was a taboo. They were supposed to be taken care of. As she went to get the water, Elijah told her he was hungry. Immediately she expressed that as an uphill task. She explained how what Elijah was asking for was her last meal after which she expects to die of hunger.
Immediately Elijah interjected and told her to make him a piece of cake first and then make for herself and her son afterwards. He also promised her that the bowl of flour will not be exhausted and the jar of oil will never be empty, until the day God sends rain upon the face of the earth. She believed him and did accordingly. The resultant effect was that she and her son ate for many days. The bowl of meal did not waste neither did the jar of oil become empty according to the Word of God spoken by Elijah.
After this one would think that because of what she experienced, the woman would trust the Word of God through his servant. She thought she and her son would die initially but that wasn’t the case. She thought she would because of the pressures of the moment; now the pressure is off and she has a new perspective to life. Would she want to die now? No. The many times we make summations and deductions only to find out that we have made them because of something we don’t know. One thing she didn’t quite know was that God was already on her case. If she knew that, she wouldn’t have made those summations. If you know some things today, you might not have said many of the things you’d said not to talk about the ideas and conjectures you have had.
Elijah stayed with this woman and her son. God hid him there because they were already looking for him in the city of Sidon, and the time for him to be seen had not yet come. While he stayed there, he was faced with another challenge: the woman’s son fell sick and the sickness was so severe that the Bible records that there was no more breathe in him. In other words he died. The woman in her rage and rancour went ballistic!
One would expect for the woman to continue to believe like she has always done. At least since she met the man of God there must be reasons for that to have occurred. She is still feeding and there is still oil at home. No, it was the opposite; she started on her suppositions again. She said, “Why have you come to me, have you come to make me remember my sin by killing my son?“. To her, her son’s death implied Elijah was no more a man of God.
Elijah took the child from her and prayed to God to restore the child. The child was restored after he called on God, stretching himself on the boy three times. God heard him and the boy was restored to his mother. After spitting fire, the mother was kept quiet. She was wrong in her utterances; God wasn’t thinking of killing her son because of her sin, Elijah was not sent to her to reveal her sin as she thought. Her son is no longer dead. The pressure and the challenges of life took over her mind: and out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Now she is about to say something again. When the bowl of flour was not exhausted and the jar of oil didn’t run empty, she just ate without a word. Now her son has been brought back to life, she has to say something and that’s how the story ended because it was time for Elijah to go.
She said, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the Word of the Lord in your mouth is truth”. Did Elijah not know that he was a man of God? Again the atmosphere dictated the tune of the day. Things are going on fine for her, some will say she has it together, hence the nice words coming out of her mouth.
This is the picture of the average Christian painted here, we have allowed the things we see to dictate the moment God is with us or not. When things are going on fine, it is easy to say ‘thank you Lord’. When things are not going the way we have hoped, with tight lips, we murmur, ‘why am I going through this now’. Not only do we murmur, we begin to think about the things we have done wrong that has caused us to be in this predicament.
Show me a thoughtful person, I will show you someone who thanks God in all things. Charles Haddon Spurgeon nailed it again when he said, “An enlightened man is grateful to God for temporal blessings; but he is much more grateful to God for spiritual blessings, for temporal blessings do not last long; they are soon gone. Temporal blessings are not definite marks of divine approval and support, since God gives them to the unworthy, and to the wicked, as well as to the righteous”.
God remains God whether he does what you want Him to do or not.