Welcome to the fourth story in our series on mothers of the Bible! This time we are writing about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. She is a strong woman living in a time of terrible drought, struggling to take care of her son alone.
The challenges and heartache she faces may not look the same as those you struggle with or perhaps her story mirrors your situation, in either case, you will find yourself accepting your trials as we learn the importance of a faith tested by God.
What is the Story of Elijah and the Widow?
When we think of Elijah, we often think of the great prophet that called fire down from heaven as well as one of two men in the Bible who did not die but were taken to heaven alive.
Yes, a great man of God, no denying that!
While our focus is on the widow, let’s take a moment to fully embrace the setting of the story.
King Ahab, ruler over is Israel, and his wife, Jezebel insist on Baal worship in Israel. Both are extremely wicked rulers to the point that the Bible says that “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) How would you like to be remembered like that? Makes me shudder to think about it.
Because of his wickedness, Elijah tells Ahab that no rain will fall until Elijah gives the word, beginning a two year drought. Two years of no rain meaning no crops could grow and water sources dry up.
God leads Elijah to a safe place and there he spends the drought by the Brook Cherith where ravens bring him food. Talk about God taking care of his own! Once the brook dries up, God commands Elijah to go to Zarepath where he has a widow to take care of him.
Enter our mother. We see her gathering sticks to make a fire. She has been rationing and scrimping and saving for two years now. Her efforts to gather food to provide for herself and her son have proven futile. She knows there is nothing left to do but prepare their last meal and then wait for them to starve to death.
Can you imagine? Watching your son starve to death?
Elijah comes to her and asks for food and water. She protests telling him her plan to eat their last meal.
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ” (1 Kings 17:13)
Our widow has a choice now. Does she believe this supposed man of God?
So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:14)
Can you imagine her delight?
One would think the story ends here but it doesn’t. After this mother steps out on faith and obeys God’s word, her son becomes sick and dies.
She goes to Elijah accusingly (wouldn’t you?) “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18)
Elijah is just as surprised as the woman. He takes the boy up to his room and lies him on the bed. Then he cries out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” (1 King 17:20-21)
God hears Elijah’s prayer and the boy comes back to life. The woman expresses her faith “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” (1 Kings 17:24)
Lessons We can Learn from Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath
Isn’t that an amazing story? So how can we relate to Elijah and the widow of Zarepath? What lessons does she have to teach us?
First, have you ever been in a drought? Physically they are frustrating enough, but spiritually they are dangerous. Walking through a dry and barren land in which you do not feel God’s presence can lead you into fear, anxiety, depression, sin, addictions, and negatively affect your relationships and choices.
Have you experienced periods like this? Where God feels far away?
It’s been my experience that God allows these droughts to go on for a period of time only to have you come face to face with what has caused them. Not sure what is causing your drought? Check out this post at Kingdom Bloggers “Reconnect with God: Purging the Things that Separate Us”
As God often does, He gives the woman a choice. Elijah does not just go over and take her food. He promises her that if she gives him the last of her meal and oil that God will provide her more. Quite a choice, isn’t it? Some man proclaiming to be a prophet comes and requests the last meal she has for her son.
We MUST step out in faith before our miracle in fulfilled! For more posts on this check out “Your Faith has Made You Whole: Touching the Hem of His Garment” and “How to Let God Fight Your Battles: The Story of Jehoshaphat”
The woman does obey God’s voice and all is well until suddenly her son dies. She is obviously distraught and completely beside herself. Why would God do this? After all she was hosting His prophet right here in her house. She had given him the last of her food and God had faithfully taken care of her and her son.
Why would God do this?
Raise your hand if you’ve prayed this. “God, why did you do this?”.
I remember accusing God when my beautiful Rebekah died. I had served God my whole life, why would He take my daughter?
There is not a simple, single answer to satisfy that question, but I did learn that faith isn’t faith until it is tried.
This mother learned the same thing. She confesses her faith, not after her meal and oil is replenished, but after her son is raised from the dead.
This leads us to the question, does God test our faith?
Does God Test our Faith?
Yes, yes He does.
Now, it is important to understand that God does not bring bad things upon us, but He does allow the evils of this world to nudge us to Him. Just like our widow of Zarephath and the prophet Elijah.
God did not take my daughter to be cruel to me, she died because that’s what happens in this fallen world. He knew that her death would plunge me into a darkness where I questioned everything I had ever believed in.
Faith isn’t faith until it’s tried.
Bible Verses about God Testing our Faith
So, what does the Bible say bout God testing our faith. This isn’t exactly a comfortable topic, is it?
Here are a few Bible verses about God testing our faith. If you are feeling as if you are struggling through a trial, be of good courage, you will emerge with faith stronger than ever before.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Faith tested by fire. Why? To bring praise, honor, and glory to Jesus.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
The testing of your faith produces patience!
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
The testing of your faith produces perseverence, character and hope!
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Just like Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, Abraham was tested multiple times. First, he had to wait for years for the promised son and then when that son has finally come and Abraham can see God’s promise fulfilled, God commands him to sacrifice Isaac to Him. What??
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22)
Why must we go through tribulations? The perfecting of our faith brings us to the kingdom of God.
Refining Silver and Gold
Remember Elijah and the widow of Zarepath, how God tested her not once but twice. Her heart was being refined.
These verses can either bring you comfort or fear LOL If you are in a season in which you feel you are being refined, take courage!
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined. (Psalm 66:10)
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:2-3)
Applying the Story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath to Your Situation
So, there ya have it, friends! Another mother of the Bible to learn from and reach across the centuries to unite with! Have you been able to apply the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath to your own situation?
Do you feel as if your spiritual life is in a drought? Or perhaps you are facing a trial that feels too much for you to bear. Is your faith being tested to the point that the heat is breaking your heart? Be comforted, my friends, God is with you, walking beside you and preparing your heart for greater things.
How are you relating to the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath? I would love for you to share your story with me in the comments. Let’s encourage one another!
Learn from the other mothers in the series!