I had heard the story many times of the widow who fed the prophet Elijah when she had only enough flour and oil to feed her son and herself and then they were going to die. The prophet said to her, “Don’t worry, if you make me a cake first and then you and your son eat what is left, the Lord promises that your barrel of meal will never be used up and the cruse of oil will never fail until the Lord sends rain again on the earth.” God told Elijah to move from the brook Cherith where he was being fed by ravens to Zarephath where the widow with little food lived because the brook had dried up. It looked like he was moving from dryness to dryness, but he obeyed God.
Because Elijah was obedient and the widow was obedient, she and her household (which included Elijah by now) ate for many days. Ironically, during this time of provision, the woman’s son gets ill and “there was no breath left in him”. How confusing! She is angry with the prophet. In my mind’s eye I can imagine her beating her fists on his chest as she says, “Have you come to punish me for my sins by taking my son?” Interestingly to me, the prophet seems just as confused. He cries to the Lord, “O Lord, my God, why?” How is it that you spare the family just to destroy it a little while later? Elijah spreads himself out over the child, crying out to the Lord and the Bible says, “the Lord heard the voice of Elijah and the soul of the child came into him again…”
The next verse made me laugh as I read it out loud during devotions yesterday, “And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:24) Week after week of food provision did not convince the woman that Elijah was really a prophet, only the raising of her son from the dead did. Could this, perhaps, be why she had to go through the prospect of the loss of her son?
I remember adopting our first daughter from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. She was a very sick baby and there was delay after delay with her visa to get her into the US. Once here it took another month to get her a diagnosis. She almost died several times because she was unable to breathe. I was like the widow when I asked, “God, you brought this child thousands of miles to live in our home. You performed miracles to get her here. Are you just going to let her die?” He seemed to say, “You must move. If you don’t, she will die.” I was at a community hospital where no one was helping her. I got her admitted to Hershey Medical Center and at first the care was much the same. It seemed as though I had moved from dryness to dryness, but God said, “Trust me.” One day she stopped breathing and then everything changed. People became interested in her case. There “just happened” to be a visiting heart-lung doctor at the medical center. He diagnosed her, a visiting surgeon from South Africa operated on her and she is a healthy 30-year-old today. When the Lord saved my little girl’s life, I knew Who had brought all the pieces together.
The widow in I Kings wasn’t even named. She was just a mother caring for her child, but she, my friends, incarnates the passionate focus that changes everything. Focus on Him this third day of Advent. He changes everything.