Study 3 IN THE WIDOW’S HOUSE AT ZAREPHATH
(Scripture Portion: 1 Kings 17: 8-16)
There are three matters that constantly exercise God’s people. The first has to do with God’s guidance. ”Does God guide?” we ask. In these studies we see clearly that He does. Elijah was divinely led, a step at a time - Psalm 37:23. The second matter has to do with God’s discipline. Why do troubles and trials come to the Christian? Study Deuteronomy chapter 8, and Hebrews 12:3-11, and see also the answer to your questionings in the incident before us. The third matter has to do with God’s provision - look up Genesis 22:14: ”The Lord will provide”. Will He? Does He today? This study supplies the answer to that question.
After Elijah had been at the brook Cherith for about a year it dried up. Did that mean God had failed? No, it meant God was about to lead him on. Where to? To Zarephath, where He had commanded a widow to sustain him. Read 1 Kings 17:8-16 several times, and notice
1. THE WIDOW’S UNRELIEVED DISTRESS
We do not know how long she had been a widow, but we are told she had one son. Probably she had been well provided for, but now she was suffering as a result of the drought. We are told that:
- She had come to the end of her resources. Verses 10 and 12 tell us she was about to take her last meal with her son. Have you come to the end of your resources? Have your money, health, friends, patience, etc., all gone? Take comfort from this story and from Psalm 84:11-12.
- She was a believer, and yet the Lord allowed her distress. Verse 12 indicates this. He knew all about her extremity, as verse 9 assures us, but He was working out His purpose for her as well as for Elijah. He was causing Romans 8:28 to be true of her, and also Psalm 138:8. If you are experiencing trouble it does not mean that the Lord has forgotten you.
- She had lost hope. Verse 12 tells us that she thought she was preparing her last meal before she and her son died! Why did she lose hope? Because her eyes were upon the barrel and the little cruse of oil instead of upon the Lord. If we pin our faith to anything down here we shall certainly lose hope and our faith will falter, but if we put our faith in God He will never fail us - look up Isaiah 41:10.
2. THE PROPHET’S UNDAUNTED FAITH
Any man of smaller faith would have faltered and failed when the brook dried up, but not Elijah! His faith was evident in that:
- He had faith to take God at His word. Look at verses 8-10. Elijah lived on the word of the Lord, as we should - Matthew 4:4, and compare 1 Kings 17:8, 14 and 16. When our actions are regulated by the Word of God and our lives are lived in the centre of His will, we have nothing whatsoever to fear. Elijah’s faith was very strong, as was Abraham’s - look up Romans 4:17-21.
- He had faith to make an unusual request. This is recorded in verse 13. How strange that he should say to this poverty-stricken widow, ”But first make a small cake of bread for me!” What does this mean? It means that he was standing before her as God’s representative and that he was telling her to put God first. This principle is clearly brought out in Matthew 6:31-34 (particularly note verse 33). When we are prepared to give God the first place we may be quite sure that our provision is guaranteed.
- He had faith to declare God’s faithfulness. Verse 14 tells us this. Appearances were all against him, but Elijah had the word of the Lord upon which to rest, and faith is simply taking God at His word. Thus, he was able to tell this woman that because God had said He would provide, He would provide. Notice the lovely word to her in verse 13 – “Dont be afraid… !” The Lord says that to us over and over again – ”Christian, don’t be afraid!”
3. THE LORD’S UNFAILING SUPPLY
From verses 15 and 16 we see that as the woman obeyed the Lord the supply was given. Are you concerned about the matter of supply? Have you a pressing financial need and you wonder where the supply is coming from? Perhaps the Lord is leading you to set up home and you are wondering how you are going to provide?… or you are wondering how you will be able to make ends meet when you can no longer work? See what an old man said - Psalm 37:25, and remember that God’s supplies never fail where there is faith - compare Matthew 6:32 and Philippians 4:19. Concerning this gracious supply that the Lord made for Elijah and the woman, notice:-
- The promise of it. Verses 9 and 14: remember that all the Lord said and did for His servant then He is saying and waiting to do for you today.
- The duration of it. Verse 14: notice the three important words ”until the day…” How long will God supply our needs? – “until the day when we shall no longer walk by faith but we shall walk by sight in His glorious presence!”
- The sufficiency of it. Verses 15(b) and 16: it is the story all over again of Philippians 4:19, of God’s promising to meet all our need. He never gives us too much, often He only gives a daily supply, but always He gives us sufficient - compare 2 Corinthians 4:16.
Closing Thought: Isaiah 25:1.