For sometime prophet Elijah remained hidden in the mountains by the Brook Cherith. For several months God provided food by sending ravens everyday with bread and meat. However, at a certain point the brook dried up as a result of the drought.
God ordered His servant to go and seek refuge among pagans, “Arise” was the divine order—“go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (1 Kings 17:9, NKJV).
Here, there are two characters that show trust and respect towards God’s orders: Elijah and the widow.
Maybe it was easier for Elijah to exercise his faith, since for some time he had been depending exclusively upon God’s goodness and mercy: when he needed water he found the brook; when he needed food, the raven sustained him by morning and evening with bread. Could he have a reason to doubt what God ordered him to do?
When we go through hard times we are compelled to seek those who belong to our family, but Elijah was ordered to seek help among the pagans. Let us try to put ourselves in his place. How would we act if we had to ask for help in a cottage where there was only a poor widow without a retirement plan who needed to feed a son who was too young to work? Would we have the courage to ask for bread from someone who apparently did not have her own sustenance?
Here is what Ellen G. White mentions about the condition of that home. “In this poverty-stricken home the famine pressed sore, and the pitifully meager fare seemed about to fail” (Prophets and Kings, p. 130)
I. THE FAITH EXERCISED BY THE WIDOW
After serving Elijah with a bottle of water, he asks her, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”
She answered “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (v. 12).
Elijah’s answer is found in verses 13 and 14, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first.”
"Only by faithfulness in the little things can the soul be trained to act with fidelity under larger responsibilities." Ellen G. White Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 356
Which element is most needed in this mission? Faith or courage? If we analyze this event by humanist optics, we would say the prophet was taking advantage of her. But God uses His own optics. What God saw was an opportunity to show that He was the true God to the entire world; that it was possible to be kept alive during that crisis if they knew whom to trust, and she trusted. Maybe because it would not make much difference, it was just a matter of time and she and her son would be dead. But she trusted.
According to Ellen G. White, “No greater test of faith than this could have been required. The widow had hitherto treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, regardless of the suffering that might result to herself and child, and trusting in the God of Israel to supply her every need, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing “according to the saying of Elijah” (Prophets and Kings, p. 130, 131).
The wonderful way the prophet received that Phoenician woman’s hospitality resulted in great blessings. The Bible says, “And she and he and her household ate for many days.”
II. TRUST AND STEWARDSHIP
There is a great relationship between this episode and our lives as God’s stewards. Being a steward means, generally speaking, “the one who takes care of the house.” We are stewards of God and it is our responsibility to take care of “God’s house.”
In Malachi 3:10 we find the express order “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in the house. Test me in this,“ says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will be no room enough to store it.”
In Deuteronomy 16:17 we read, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you” (KJV).
Just like the widow of Zarephath needed a faith greater than usual to fulfill what the prophet had asked her, we need the Holy Spirit’s power in order to untie ourselves from the desire to gather earthly riches. She surrendered that which was the last sustenance to her and her son and then they would die. The prophet gave her the opportunity to witness a miracle in her own home.
The gift of tithes and offerings should be individual and voluntary. Individual because it has a personal character and voluntary because, when it comes to the offerings, I can choose in which proportion to give.
Gilson Barbosa is a church pastor in Brazil.