Today’s text is the story of Elijah and the widow living in Zarephath. However, as you read the story, more than one or two parts feel strange. First, the strange thing is that God chose a foreign woman out of many people. Second, and even more strange, he chose a widow among foreign women who raised her son. This shows what a difficult life she was living. Indeed, the widow in the text was very poor. She only had a handful of flour and a few drops of oil. Sadly, she decided to eat one meal and die with his son. To a widow who was so helpless and could do little, God entrusted Elijah to her. This part is also strange. It almost makes you wonder whether no one would treat Elijah, the man of God. Perhaps God is telling us to do things that widows cannot do. So, from the widow's perspective, it seems God is too much. It is not easy to understand such a God.
God allows tests that cannot be endured, asks unprepared people to do great things, and tells a widow to help others despite struggling to make a living. I don’t think it will be easy to understand God.
What if Elijah had been entrusted to God's people, the Israelites, rather than a foreign woman? What if Elijah had been entrusted to a rich man instead of a widow? What would it have been like if God had entrusted Elijah to someone who recognized God's man immediately and was willing to serve him?
Maybe she would have been willing to serve Elijah much more easily than the widow. Of course, this is all just my opinion and imagination.
There was a reason why God entrusted Elijah to a foreign woman and told Elijah to go and stay with a widow among the foreign women. Once you acknowledge that, you learn these things.
Incomprehensible things happen, You have to do things you don't understand. You have to do things that are beyond your ability, but through these things, you learn that there are things that only God can do. There are things that a widow cannot do, but if God is with her, things are possible. And what we ultimately discover is that God is the One who fills and saves. We see that the reason God told Elijah to stay in the widow's house was not only to save Elijah but also to save the foreign woman and her son. It shows that although God loves Elijah, he also loves the woman of Zarephath and her son. Likewise, God loves us, too. God loves you.
As I read and meditated on today’s text, the first thing that came to mind was: This is a small episode from earlier this year. It took place in May 2023. On the National Day of Prayer, I heard people from Gwangmyeong Church in Uijeongbu, Korea, were coming to Memphis. The American brothers were grateful for this news and sought people to help them. But on the other hand, I raised a question. Why do they come to Memphis to pray? I thought they could pray in Korea, and there was no reason to come to Memphis to pray. Above all, I had no idea what kind of people they were or what kind of church they were. Implicitly, our community was supposed to help them. Since Koreans are coming, shouldn’t Koreans help them? Because of this, I had a lot of thoughts and concerns. Complaints poured in as well. I didn't understand God. I thought I could not help them, nor was I prepared to help anyone. I was in a situation where I needed help.
Then, today's text came to mind: God sent the powerful Elijah to a poor widow. I couldn't understand it then, but I tried to empathize with the feelings of the widow of Zarephath. At least I felt that God viewed them as people like Elijah.
Since my situation was better than a handful of flour and a few drops of oil, I began to feel that I could treat them to a meal with that. However, I wanted to understand God, who allowed Elijah, a powerful man, to be eaten by such a poor widow.
My mind changed to ‘I wonder if something is going to happen to us too..’
After changing my mind like this, I felt at peace.
We feel that God will allow them to meet us for a reason. Although I did not have the ability and was not prepared to meet them, I have had a vague idea that there must be some meaning in God sending them to us. So, when the prayer warrior came from Korea, I remembered how I served Elijah as the widow in the text. I had a really busy week, but it wasn't until later that I realized God had done great things through it. It was a time when all church members came forward and did a lot of hard work. And it was also a time when good memories were made. In that dry land that had not rained for three years and six months, I meditated on why God had let Elijah live in the house of a foreign woman and a widow.
Returning to today's text, Elijah said this after he listened to the widow's sad story.
‘Do not be afraid; go and do as I said (make food). But please make some food and bring it to me first. Then prepare food for yourself and your son (1 Kings 17:13).
Isn’t what he said shocking and selfish?
Instead of asking the hungry widow and her son to eat first, he insists that he eat first. However, you can see why Elijah said this in verse 14. ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has said: ‘The wheat will not run out, and the jug of oil will not run dry until the Lord sends rain on the land again.’
This story is gospel to widows.
This is because it delivers the promise that you will not die in a reality where you feel like you will die. God has promised that He will protect your and your son's lives. God promised He would take responsibility for the widow's and her son's lives. What God was saying was that he had a special plan for them. He was telling them that God loves them and that He loves them until the end. Although the uncertain future continues, he is speaking with hope in it.
Although this is a huge promise, there is one thing that remains. No matter how precious the word of God is, the important thing is whether you believe it or not.
The gospel that God gives us is a gift of eternal life. Although whether or not to accept Jesus Christ is a matter of life and death, it must go beyond a matter of faith.
This is a reality that we have never experienced. It's a tomorrow you've never experienced before. In a world where uncertainty is more certain, what should we believe? The question is to ask. And the question is whether you can believe it. And we live according to that belief. What we live by shows what we believe.
In today’s text, the woman did this. This is verse 15. The woman went and did as Elijah said!!
She believed Elijah's words. When she heard the gospel, she was a woman who heard the word of God, and she responded with ‘Amen.’ This was a blessing to the widow. I hope this story will have new meaning for us, too.
There are times when God asks us to do something beyond our abilities. Sometimes, God asks us to do difficult things for us to handle. Why is this? What is clear is that this is not intended to test us. It does not contain an image of God mocking our weakness.
God knows our weaknesses better than anyone else. The people of the world do not pay attention, but God is the one who watches over us and sends Elijah. He is also the one who does amazing and amazing things through Elijah.
But the point is, we have work to do. That's what she did as a woman. “The woman went and did as Elijah had said.” With a handful of flour and a few drops of oil, she first served Elijah. She said originally, after giving that treat, I have to starve, and my children have to starve, too. Elijah may be a little happy because he has one meal, but she and her children may be sad because they are starving. But the Bible doesn't write it that way.
‘She did according to the word of the Lord, which he had spoken through Elijah,’ she testifies.
She said that the Lord had promised her. It happened just as the Lord said.
The abundance of life came to the widow's house.
The reason why this could happen is because I believed in what God would do. The widow had no doubts. When the widow heard the gospel of Elijah, she did not hesitate. He was determined: “If I die, I will die.” But she didn't die. Also, later on, her son suddenly dies but is brought back to life through Elijah's prayer. And only now, I know and realize. This is why God sent Elijah to the widow’s house. The reason is not only to hide Elijah from enemy attacks but also to save the widow and her son and to show that God is God. Our God is the one who gives life. Even if something incomprehensible happens, we should expect God to tell us something through it. God worked through Elijah's obedience and the widow's faith. Likewise, God works through our obedience and our little faith.
We praise God, who fills us. We praise God, who fills us with life. And I pray you will also experience the God who fills and gives life.
When the people of Uijeongbu Gwangmyeong Church came, our community applied a Bible verse along with today's text. The Bible verse that I did not understand but applied with an obedient heart is Hebrews 13:2. ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.’
I remember all the church members serving them with great enthusiasm. I was truly grateful for this personally. Because I felt that the word of God was full in our community. To the widow of Zarephath, Elijah is an angel. Although it was only later that she realized that he was a man of God, the widow treated him unknowingly, but she saved her own life and, above all, the life of her son, who was more precious than her own life. An incomprehensible event turned into an understandable event.
I want to conclude.
Sometimes, we don't understand the environment we find ourselves in. Sometimes, we feel miserable because the circumstances we find ourselves in are beyond our capabilities. There are times when we feel anxious because our future is full of uncertainty. There are times when the sad feeling of having the Last Supper and dying takes over us. However, there are times when even Elijah has to bear the added burden.
But we must remember that if God allowed all this, it was for God to do wonderful things to us. God will do great things. God does everything. But we also have work to do. It is acting according to the word of God.
In the end, today's story is a beautiful story created by Elijah and the widow's small obedience and faith. I pray in the name of the Lord that stories like this will also fill our lives. And together, we want to offer a prayer of gratitude to the Lord who fills our lives with life.