(1 Kings 17:1-24)
Two of the most celebrated Bible characters are Elijah the Prophet and an unnamed woman who is simply described as the Widow of Zarephath. Although one was an Israelite and the other a Gentile, both of them are celebrated in the Bible as examples that others should emulate. James said, concerning Elijah, in James 5:17-18, “17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
And about the widow of Zarephath, the Lord Jesus Christ said, in Luke 4:25-26, “25 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. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” Both Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath experienced unusual blessings from God, and this is why they are very important examples for our consideration this morning.
What were some of the unusual blessings experienced by the two?
First, the blessing of divine provision (1 Kings 17:2-4, 6, 7-9, 15b-16). At a time of drought and famine in the land, God miraculously provided for Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. The Lord told Elijah to go down the brook of Cherith, where He would provide for him. It was at the brook that Elijah would drink and the ravens would bring him food. This shows us that God would use unusual means to bless him. When the brook dried up as a result of the drought, the Lord gave Elijah a word telling him to get up and go to Zarephath in the region of Zidon and live. He would provide for him there through a widow. Zarephath was an unusual place for God to show His providence, and the widow was an unusual person for God to use. What made her unusual was her personal plight. She was a widow woman. She was poor because she had no man to help make ends meet. Yet she was the one God chose to help out His prophet.
Second, the blessing of divine protection. God protected Elijah when Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, sought to destroy his life. God first instructed Elijah to hide out in the Kerith Ravine, which was east of the Jordan River. The hideout would give Elijah seclusion and safety from Ahab’s frantic search for him (1 Kings 17:2-3). Later, God asked him to go to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there (1 Kings 17:9a). The amazing thing about this is that God provided a place of safety for Elijah in the very nation ruled by Ahab’s father-in-law, Ethbaal, the king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31).
Third, the blessing of divine power for ministry and divine answer to prayer. God did not let Elijah’s words fall to the ground (1 Kings 17:1; 1 Samuel 3:19). God also answered Elijah’s prayer for divine manifestation of God’s power (1 Kings 18:30–39).
Fourth, the blessing of divine renewal of physical and emotional strength. God renewed Elijah’s strength when he was gripped with the spirit of discouragement and despair while fleeing from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:5-8).
Fifth, the blessing of divine restoration to the life of a dead child (1 Kings 17:17–24). Elijah was used by God to bring back to life the widow’s son, who had died. This miracle is striking proof that the Lord alone—not the false god Baal—has the power to sustain life and to raise the dead.
Sixth, the blessing of divine translation to heaven without tasting death (2 Kings 2:1, 11–12).
Seven, the blessing of being a lasting example of a life and ministry that pleases God. Bible prophecy seems to point to another Elijah-like work that will arise at the end of this age before the coming time of God’s great wrath upon the earth. The prophet Malachi declared, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5-6).
But why did Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath experience these unusual blessings?
First, Elijah was zealous for the Lord God Almighty. Just who Elijah was is not known, other than the simple statement that he was from Tishbe, which was located in Gilead, the northern section of East Jordan. But for years, Elijah had apparently been observing the wicked lives of the Israelites. Their idolatry and false worship were a constant affront, an offence thrust in the face of God. Elijah was outraged by the idolatry and sinful behaviour of the Israelites (1 Kings 16:29-34; 19:14). At some point he became broken before the Lord over the terrible evil of the Israelites. And God moved upon his heart, giving him the mission of proving to the people that the Lord Himself was the only living and true God. Armed with the mission of God and the promise of God’s presence, Elijah marched to the capital of Samaria to confront the evil King Ahab. Abruptly, dramatically, he burst into the royal court, standing face-to-face with Ahab. He declared the message of God: “The Lord God of Israel lives. And because He lives, there will be neither dew nor rain for several years to come.” God had previously predicted that the land would suffer drought and famine if the people rejected Him and turned to idolatry and false worship (Leviticus 26:18-20; Deut. 11:16-17; 28:23-24). Through the drought, the Lord would prove that He, not Baal, was the true God. He and He alone controlled the rain and fruitfulness of the earth. Because of his zeal for God, Elijah was not bothered about how the drought would affect him.
Second, both Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath had great respect for the Word of God. God said, in Isaiah 66:2b, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Obedience is the key that unlocks the blessings of God. Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath had such a tremendous respect for the Word of God that they obeyed all that He commanded them. When God told Elijah to go to Kerith Ravine, he obeyed; when asked to go to Zarephath to be looked after by a widow, he obeyed. He obeyed all that God commanded him to do. The same is true of the Widow; she obeyed the commands that the man of God, Elijah, gave her in the name of the Lord. When she narrated her difficult situation to Elijah, Elijah said to her, in 1 Kings 17:12-16, “13 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. 14 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.'” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.” It is sad when you see unbelievers more obedient and more submissive to the authority that God has instituted in the Church than so-called Christians. We as believers are rebellious and do not like to submit to God’s ordained order. We want to do our own thing and then we question why we get in trouble. Our rebellion according to 1 Sam 15:23 is as the sin of witchcraft.
Third, Elijah and the Widow made God and the things of God their first priority. This is another unusual action that must precede God’s unusual blessings. God must be foremost in each one of our lives. If God is not first, then we are committing idolatry. You say, “What do you mean, preacher?” What I’m saying is this: If you worship your money more than God, you are an idolater. If you love yourself more than God, you are an idolater. If you put anything or anybody on the throne of Jesus, you are committing idolatry. God is a jealous God. He won’t compete for your affection. He will just turn you over to those false gods. Elijah told this Widow to make him a cake first before preparing something for herself and her son. Elijah, in this context, is symbolic of divine authority. Therefore, give what you have to God first. When you give to God first, there is a promise attached to it. In verse 14, Elijah gave a prophetic word that the jar would not be empty and the oil wouldn’t fail. It is not going to run out! This is what happens when you give to God first. All your needs will be met and then some! Jesus echoes this promise in Matt 6:33, “to seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you”. Finally, Elijah was committed to the salvation of the lost, turning sinners back to God (1 Kings 18:36-39). The Bible says, in Daniel 12:3, “3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Elijah was committed to turning back the children of Israel, who had veered into idolatry, to God.
In conclusion, two of the greatest promises in God’s Holy Word concern His provision and protection. God protects and provides for His dear people. But there is a condition: we must trust and obey God’s Word. Just as the widow trusted and obeyed the Lord, so we too must trust and obey Him. If we truly believe in the Lord and His promises, He will meet our every need. No genuine believer will have his needs unmet nor lack the necessities of life, not unless the Lord is using the experience to strengthen the believer or to take him home to heaven with Him. If we seek the Lord and His righteousness first, He promises to provide food, clothing, and shelter for His dear people. He also promises to protect us through all the trials and difficulties of this life, through all the hardships and misfortunes, the temptations and seductions. Note that His protection is not from the hardships or trials but through them. As believers, we will endure most of the same misfortunes and temptations as unbelievers—and even some that unbelievers will not experience—but God will be with us every step of the way. He will hold our hands, hold us up, and even carry us when needed. This is the clear promise of God’s Holy Word.
Your eternal salvation and spiritual well-being are our concerns. If you wish to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, you can pray the following prayer to God: “Dear God, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to die for my sins. I repent of my sins right now and invite Him into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you offered this prayer to God, please write to let us know through the address below. You are also invited to join us in worshipping the Lord every Sunday in the Yoruba language at 7.20 a.m. and in the English language at 9.00 a.m.
- Good News Baptist Church,
47/49, Olufemi Road, Off Ogunlana Drive,
P. O. Box 3781, Surulere, Lagos.