An Unreasonable Request

But after a while, it dried up because there was no rain.

The LORD told Elijah, “Go to the town of Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve told a widow in that town to give you food.”

When Elijah came near the town gate of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks for a fire. “Would you please bring me a cup of water?” he asked. As she left to get it, he asked, “Would you also please bring me a piece of bread?”

The widow answered, “In the name of the living LORD your God, I swear that I don’t have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. I’m on my way home now with these few sticks to cook what I have for my son and me. After that, we will starve to death.”

Elijah said, “Everything will be fine. Do what you said. Go home and fix something for you and your son. But first, please make a small piece of bread and bring it to me. The LORD God of Israel has promised that your jar of flour won’t run out and your bottle of oil won’t dry up before he sends rain for the crops.” (1 Kings 17:7-14)

Elijah took food out of the mouth of a hungry child. Because of the drought, people were starting to starve. When Elijah approached the widow—at God’s command because the stream he’d been living beside had run out of water—she was teetering on the edge of starvation. From this poor, desperate woman, Elijah demanded her last bit of food.

In the New Testament (Luke 4:24-30), Jesus points out that prophets were without honor in their own homes and that God had reached out to non-Israelites as a consequence. There were doubtless many widows in Israel. Many of God’s people were suffering the consequences of the drought God had sent to punish Ahab. But Elijah only went to one hungry person: a widow in Zarephath, in the region of Sidon. She was not an Israelite. She was, therefore, even more unlikely to be a worshiper of Yahweh. And yet it was to this desperate woman that the prophet went. His request was unreasonable. But she believed him and took him in. So she prospered in the dark times because of it. Faith is a gift of God that he grants to whom he will, even the least likely. It is not given on the basis of merit.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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