by Duane Maust
November 12, 2006
1 Kings 17: 8-16
This is one of those neat stories that are not told enough. I am going to tell about two widows that gave till it hurt. One gave her last food and one gave her last money away. They weren’t afraid to give their last items away to the Lord. Or maybe they were afraid, but they did still give it away. Back when these stories took place, they didn’t have life insurance on their husbands or social security plans to get money from. Most likely they were homemakers with little education and little way to make money. They can be great examples of living by faith for us today.
What is the setting of this first story today? Elijah took the task of praying against his own nation as it fell deeper and deeper into sin. Jew and Gentile, young and old, people and livestock were all in the midst of a deep drought and the famine that went with it. Why? Because Ahab, King of Israel, had decided to worship the god of his wife, Jezebel. This was just 50 years after Solomon when Ahab rose to power. The once peaceful nation had been torn apart by war inside and out.
Now to complicate matters, Baal, a Canaanite god often linked to rain, had begun to be worshipped in earnest in Samaria. And God had had enough. If the people wanted to worship this Baal, then let Baal provide the rains. You can read about their rain dances in chapter 18. I am not planning to look at it today.
Today we are looking at chapter 17. We see Elijah on the run. This servant of God was staying by a stream where he was being fed by ravens. This was an unclean bird for the Jews (a buzzard). But the creek had shriveled up from the drought and so it was time to move.
But where can he go?? A homeless, hopeless man with nowhere to go. The Lord told Elijah to go to Zarephath of Sidon.
Read verse 9.
So here comes Elijah into this little town. I suppose the sun was beating down, the land being bone dry. This is in the northern part of Palestine. There is this woman out gathering sticks. I suppose other people had already picked up most of the sticks. She is going to build her a cooking fire to cook the last food she has.
What do you suppose her emotions were like? Do you think she was crying as she was looking for her last sticks? How bad was her son hurting? Knowing the future wasn’t good. Everything is dusty and dry. She was out to try to just survive. Do you think her hunger pains were painful?
She sees a man coming toward town. She glances up and as he comes closer, she can tell by his attire that this stranger is a Jew. He looks like he has been eating well. He walks up to this stranger and asks her for a drink. She is preparing to die, with barely enough energy to complete her chores.
What do you think was going through her mind? Here this stranger asks for a drink of my precious water? You are kidding. Then Elijah has the nerve to ask for her last bread.
Maybe she had the feeling I had over the gas I had last fall after Katrinia. It is easy to get selfish when you don’t know if you can get any more.
She turns to the prophet and sadly confesses her problem. She explains that she only has enough flour and oil to make one last meal for her and her son. She explains that they are starving and near the point of death.
After this you would think Elijah would back off. But he still stood there and asked her to make the last meal for him.
What do you think her son said when she started to mix the last meal for a stranger?
What went through her mind as the aroma went through the house and into the yard? Maybe a neighbor could smell it.
Then she notices that the jars still have flour and oil in them. She had all the food she needed because she was faithful. The next day they still had some in when she got done baking. The next and the next till it rained.
She was faithful to God, and God was faithful to her.
What are ways that we can be faithful to God? What is God asking of you and I today?
This widow’s faithfulness saved her and her son’s lives. God blessed her for helping his servant. Did she even know she was helping God’s servant? She did eventually.
The other widow that I want us to look at today is in Mark 12:38-44.
Jesus is getting on to the scribes and Pharisees. Some of them took advantage of the widows. What Jesus wanted to point out was that even though the widow gave less, she gave the most. Her small coins were not worth much. But it was all she had. She gave from living money for the next week.
It is easy for us to give from our surpluses. Do we know what it is to give it all? These two ladies knew what it was to give from the heart.
This passage from Mark seems so insignificant in some ways. I was wondering why God put it in the Bible for us today. He was wanting to show us how to give. If we have things, God wants us to hold it in a way we can let it go. Both of these women know how to give. It may not be just giving money, it may mean our time. It may mean just giving our complete selves to his work.
Barclay’s commentary says, “Real giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not have been much but it would have been something, yet she gave everything she had. There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our tragedy that there is so often some part of our lives, some part of our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give to Christ. Somehow there is nearly always something we hold back. We rarely make the final sacrifice and the final surrender.”
It is about giving our hearts to God for His complete control. Am I ready for that risk of giving my last food or money to the kingdom? Am I ready to give my last gas away? What is he asking of you?