Based on 1 Kings 17:8-16 (CSB)
The woman bent, reaching for another small twig to add to her measly bundle. The famine had lasted far longer than anyone expected, and the city had nearly exhausted all of it’s supplies. What was left was being strictly rationed. With her jars nearly empty, the woman had ventured into town earlier that morning, hoping a caravan or some newly arrived merchants who had come to sell their goods; but like the last several times, there was no one.
So many of her friends and neighbors had left, taking what what little remained and fleeing for land that hopefully had food, but she had remained. If she had thought more seriously about her situation when her neighbors had decided to move on from the sleepy town of Zarephath, she might have joined them. But now it was too late now. Today she would use up the last of her store to feed her son one last meal.
“Excuse me! Could you get me a drink of water?”
Adding another small handful of sticks to her pile, the woman looked up and found a man walking toward her. His clothes looked worn, like they’d been exposed too long to the elements, and his beard was scraggly. “Please,” he repeated, now that he had her attention, “bring me a little water in a cup and let me drink.”
The woman nodded, grateful that their well had not yet run out of water, and was just about to step inside to do as the man requested when the he spoke again. “And please bring me a piece of bread.”
Her steps halted and tears rushed to her eyes. There was a time when her home had been one of great joy and feasting, and she had happily offered her guests whatever they desired. But today she wasn’t even able to offer this stranger a crumb of food. Turning on the soles of her worn sandal she faced her guest with watery eyes.
“Sir, as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have anything baked–only a handful of flour in the jar and a bit of oil in the jug. Just now, I am gathering a couple of sticks in order to go prepare it for myself and my son so we can eat it and die.” How many times she had prayed to the Lord that he would end this cursed famine and provide once again for His people. But day after day no rain came and their rations had dwindled until now there was almost nothing.
“Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said. But first make me a small loaf from it and bring it out to me. Afterward, you may make some for yourself and your son, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the surface of the land.'”
Looking long at the man, the woman wondered at his words, and she suddenly realized that this was no stranger who stood before her. This was the prophet she had heard about–Elijah. The idea was totally ridiculous–bake the last loaf for him and trust God to provide more for her and her son–but if the man spoke that her provisions would not run out, perhaps God had heard her prayers after all.
Sucking in a deep breath and mustering up what little faith she had left, the woman nodded and moved into the house, first fetching a cup of water and taking it back out to the prophet, then beginning the cook fire. Moving toward the jars of flour and oil, she looked inside to see just enough in each for one loaf of bread. If the man was lying and she gave him the last of their food, that would be the end of it. But she really didn’t have anything to loose. One more meal would only prolong death. Unless the Lord came through.
A short time later, she brought the cooked loaf out to the man and watched him take a bite, her mouth watering. His words echoed in her mind: “The flour jar will not become empty and the oil jug will not run dry…” She had brought to man his food, now it was time to see if what he said truly was from the Lord.
Her stomach clenched, both from hunger and from fear as she moved back into the house, and returned to the jars of oil and flour that had been all but empty a few moments before. Now, as she looked inside they were nearly full to the brim! Tears spilled over onto her cheeks as she choked out a single prayer of gratitude. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”
Some seasons can look a pretty bleak. Whether it’s the loss of a job, an unexpected illness, a tragedy, or something completely outside of our control, there are times when we fell a little like the widow of Zarapheth: hopeless, fearful, resigned to the fact that things just aren’t going to end well.
But even in these difficult seasons, hope exists.
What I love so much about this story is the simplicity of it. God didn’t promise a feast or drop a fattened calf on the widow’s table. Instead He provided for her daily needs. Flour and Oil, just what she needed to keep her family fed until the famine ended.
Sometimes God’s blessings are over and above anything we can imagine, but more often He provides in small, everyday ways.
He knows exactly what you need, dear heart, and you can trust Him to provide just enough for this season. It may not be exactly what you ask for or what you think you need, but God will come through. However long this season stretches on–whether your needs are financial, physical, or emotional–He will provide.
Trust Him, dear heart.
Live in His love!