All Sufficient God

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When I have read about Elijah and the widow at Zarephath in the past, I have thought it an interesting story. But my interpretation of what the widow was facing, and how she faced it was short-sighted. My take on it is a bit different this time around.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah the prophet is nearing his last days on earth, and there has been a severe drought and famine in the land. For a time Elijah has lived by a brook and was being fed by ravens sent by God. (Amazing thought in itself.) After awhile the brook dries up so Elijah is told by God to find lodging with a widow woman in the city.

When Elijah meets the widow, she, like almost everyone else at this time, is slowly starving to death. He asks her for water and “a morsel of bread in your hand.”(vs. 10-11) The widow responds by going to get Elijah some water but adding, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (vs. 12)

In reading this narrative previously, I thought “Wow, kind a defeatist attitude!” But I see now that the woman was merely being realistic. There was simply no more food, and nowhere to get any more. The famine was so severe that there was no remedy.

I don’t believe the statement she made was said with bitterness. When I look deeper at this widow, I see something more.

She had Courage: She planned to make a last meal from a “handful of flour and a little oil”. Wouldn’t most of us in this same situation just say, “Oh forget it, why bother?” Now, that would be defeatist! But the widow was looking at death as bravely as she could.

She had a heart of Obedience: She took the very small amount of supply she and her son had—not enough for two people, let alone three—and she made bread and gave it to Elijah, FIRST. Because he asked, which would have been a huge trial of faith on her part. The widow tithed, in essence, to God’s representative.

She understood Giving: She gave to her guest before she and her son ate, knowing full well “this is it, all we have.” (It is thought by some scholars that her son was sick at this point, not just slowly starving.) The widow was willing even then to share whatever she had, enough or not enough.

And look what God did! Elijah tells her not to fear, that if she makes him food, God would take care of her and her son throughout the drought. “For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” (vs. 14)

Was God showing the widow He was enough? Yes. Was He building her faith and blessing her right attitude? Yes. There is a lot going on in this tale of the widow of Zarephath—she struggles with provisions, with trust in God, and with this prophet who has entered her home. But she does what she should do, she does the right thing—even in full face of the starvation and death of her son—and God heals her son and is sufficient for them both.

Where we think there isn’t enough, He multiplies. The widows lack of resources in 1 Kings is one example. Another is in the gospels, where Jesus feeds the 5,000. Think of the loaves and fish, five and two. The disciples thought of those five and two. Their perception was put into words we all would have been thinking. Andrew said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what is that among so many?” (John 6:9) But we know how that dilemma ends. Jesus created more from a little, plenty from not enough.

Our God is sufficient, enough, and MORE than enough for us! “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

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