Stories Jesus told with women in them
The widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:25-26)
God gave Elijah three commands which outlined Elijah’s training and conditioning for some of the most magnificent works ever done to the glory of God:
1) Conditioning in courage: sending Elijah to King Ahab, putting his life at great risk to deliver God’s judgement of drought.
2) Conditioning in loneliness: God commanded Elijah to go to the Kerith Ravine, the desert, completely cut off from society, for some time
3) Conditioning in humility and compassion: God commanded Elijah to go to Sidon to be cared for by an impoverished widow.
The reigning king in Judah, at that time, was a man named Ahab, King Omri's son and crown prince. Omri had been such a famous and long-sitting king, that Judah had come to be nown as “Omri” among the surrounding nations. Poor Ahab was in no way his father’s son. King Omri must have seen his son’s deficits, so he arranged for the political and diplomatic alliance with the nearby wealthy and powerful king Ethbaal, King of Tyre and Sidon.
He invited that king’s intelligent, beautiful, and influential daughter, Jezebel, to his own weak and tepid son Ahab. Unfortunately, Jezebel ended up being a liability, as she was also the fanatical high priestess of Baal.
Ahab sold himself to evil on his wedding day, and did more evil than all the kings before him. He built a temple to Baal in the capital city of Samaria, instituted Baal and Asherah worship, along with Asherah, as the state funded religion, made public worship of Jehovah illegal, allowed God's priests and prophets to be slaughtered and God's word, the Scriptures, to be banned.
Conditioning in courage: The writer’s startling introduction of Elijah was on purpose. Elijah seemed to appear out of nowhere into Ahab's court, as though God’s Spirit swept him in, dressed in his black camel hair and belt. His name meant "The Lord is my God," and he came from a town called Tishbe located in Gilead.
God's judgement of drought was particularly significant to Baal worshipers. Baal was the god of fertility, and lord of the sky – including rain clouds – yet here he would be powerless to give rain. Asherah was goddess of the earth yet without rain Asherah could not bear fruit. The people needed to be reminded that the awesome creator of the universe controlled the elements, and therefore all fertility and life.
- What hard thing has God given you to say to someone? Maybe it is a face-to-face talk that’s already been waiting too long.
Conditioning in loneliness: Next God called Elijah away to the isolation of the desert, shut off from all meaningful work, pursuits, and relationships except for the one of God Himself. Elijah ate meat dropped by ravens and drank water from a brook.
Maybe you can imagine by how much Elijah had to trust in God’s faithfulness as he watched that brook get smaller and thinner, and the water get muddier as it dried up. God did not miraculously cause the brook to keep flowing, but allowed Elijah to also experience the drought; Elijah stayed in the desert until the last trickle was gone.
You know, there’s a takeaway from this part of Elijah’s story: God always provides enough, though it may not be what you were wanting or expecting. God will make a way for you to bear up in a trial, the problem is, sometimes we don't like God's provision....we want out of the trial not God's way through it.
- What provision has God made for you that you are finding hard to accept?
- How are you learning and growing from this deprivation?
- Or from suffering as other people are, even though you belong to the Lord?
- Does God have you hidden right now? Are you fighting it or asking God to use it to grow you?
- How is God using your loneliness right now? The stillness of loneliness and simplicity is a wonderful place to get to know God. Are you accepting God’s condition of you in loneliness, learning that His love is enough for you?
Those are significant questions, because they’re about faith, and that’s the one thing the widow Elijah was going to meet soon, had.
We'll tackle Elijah's conditioning in humility and compassion in the next blog.