1 Kings 17 begins the story of Elijah, the great prophet who stands as the pattern for other prophets (Malachi 4:5–6). As we open our passage today we are in the middle of a three-and-a-half-year drought (Luke 4:25; James 5:17). Because of this drought there was no food in the land. Therefore, God, wishing to preserve his prophet, orders Elijah to go to a widow who will provide for him.
Not only was he to find a widow, but he was going to Zarephath of Sidon. Zarephath was located in Phoenicia, the very center of Baal worship. Likewise, this is the home of Jezebel the wife of Ahab, King of the northern territory of Israel, who led his kingdom into the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:30–32).
Don’t let the irony of this order from God to Elijah pass you by, widows were not well off, and if famine hit, they would feel the effects first. In addition, although Elijah arose to combat Baal worship in Israel, he was going to the seat of the enemy camp to show the power of Yahweh. Both the idea of going to a widow and going to Zarephath were farfetched.
Although Baal was impotent to combat the drought and famine, Yahweh multiplied the widow’s resources so that she never ran out of flour and oil to sustain the three of them. As the story continues, and we think things have settled down, the widow’s son dies. In yet another example of Yahweh’s power, the boy was brought back to life. All of this leads to the key verse of chapter 17 when the woman declares to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
This chapter of 1st Kings provides us with the introduction of one of the greatest of all Old Testament prophets. However, Elijah’s coming points us to the fact that Yahweh is Lord and that nothing should detract from our worship of him. Elijah acted according to the Word of the Lord and, by faith, was used by God to magnify the name of Yahweh in an unbelieving land. In the same way, we are called to take God at his word and, by faith, magnify the name of the Lord in the midst of unbelievers.
Like going to a pagan widow in a famine, God often calls us into unusual situations.
What might God be calling you to do today that seems farfetched or unusual to those who do not know him or his power?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate