The Old Testament fascinates me. There is so much that applies to our modern times. Of course, it is difficult for me to imagine what it was like centuries ago. There when the world was new, and history was not scribbled on the pages of time.
Life was simple then, with nothing but nature and man against the elements and God up in the heavens looking down on His children wondering how they could be so blind to His goodness and mercy. Didn’t he give them the commandments and teach them the way to happiness, yet they wandered as sheep in a strange land without a shepherd?
Sheep are funny creatures; they follow blindly one after the other. They will even follow each other off a cliff. None of them stop to look and say, “Maybe this is not a good direction.” They simply follow. Humans are like that. If you doubt me, walk by a high school and see how many students dress alike. See the hairstyles and listen to the language. You have to know there is a common source. Even though circumstances and situations have changed, human beings are still the same. They still require a bit of a shakeup to realize that life should not be a matter of sheep following sheep.
Such is the story of the Elijah the Tishbite. The Lord sent a famine in the land to humble the people. Elijah was the prophet. Of course when there is a drought in the land, not only the wicked suffer, the righteous are called upon to prove their valor. The Lord sent Elijah into the wilderness to a brook. The Lord told Elijah to drink from the brook and he would send ravens to feed him. I would have had some questions. “Will the ravens bring me enough to eat? Will I like what they bring me? How long will I be there? What am I supposed to do all day?” Elijah without question simply went to the brook and waited upon the Lord. The water flowed and the promised ravens came daily to nourish the prophet.
Elijah must have been there for awhile, because the brook dried up. I do not suppose that Elijah ever quit praying to the Lord or quit expecting miracles. The Lord could have made the brook flow with water forever, and the ravens would have done the Lord’s bidding indefinitely, but the Lord had work for Elijah to do. He had a plan to bless a faithful widow and her son.
And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. (1 Kings 17:9)
Now I do not know what visions of sustenance went through Elijah’s mind. I know I would have thought, “Finally a home-cooked meal and a warm bed. No more sleeping on the ground!” The text does not say Elijah was surprised to find the widow in such dire circumstances, but I would have been. I would have expected my troubles to be over and probably would have felt a little cheated. That is why I am not a prophet, I guess.
Elijah arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. (1 Kings 17:10)
This section of the story gives us some insight into the character of the widow. We have to remember water was scarce. Every drop was a precious commodity, yet she didn’t hesitate to answer his request. She did not say, “I really only have water enough for my own family. You are a stranger, and you will need to fend for yourself.” She did not make excuses; she was willing to share her last drops. Her test of character became even stronger when Elijah asked her to bring him some bread.
And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. (1 Kings 17:12)
Elijah could have said, “Don’t worry about it, I can get the Lord to send the ravens for us,” but he was in tune with the Lord’s desire to bless the widow.
And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. (1 Kings 17:13)
I don’t know about you, but I would have had some selfish thoughts. I would have said in my heart, “He has a lot of nerve. I just told him, it was our last meal, and he wants me to feed him first!”
The Lord knew the heart of this woman. He knew that her heart was filled with charity. I can hear her heart’s decision. “I am going to die anyway. I want my last day to be filled with kindness toward my fellow beings. I want to meet my God with a conscience clear of any selfishness and misdeed. This man is hungry and I will feed him.”
Elijah’s promise came, and she believed.
For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:14-16)
The Lord blessed this woman for her heart of charity. Elijah, her son, and she ate bread for many days.
This story has application in our day. We are not in a drought or a famine for food, but there is a veritable famine of time and money in our society today. It seems that we rise up and the sun is setting before we have accomplished anything of value. We get our paycheck and it is devoured before the first two weeks in the month. The Lord has a plan for this. It is called: seeking the Kingdom of God.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
The widow understood what it meant to put others’ needs before her own. I am sure she had been living a life of charity long before she ever set eyes on Elijah. The Lord knew her heart. He knew her name and knew that she would do His will, no matter what. I suspect that Elijah was not the only person who had been fed at her table. She was a chosen woman of faith.
The Lord was able, because of her faith, to extend the life of the meal and the oil. She put God’s servant’s welfare above her own, and the Lord blessed her in abundance.
In the modern world, it is not easy to believe that the Lord works miracles, but He does. He fits the miracle to the situation. If we give the Lord our time in service before we do anything else, He will help us accomplish the things we need to do in our own lives. If we give the Lord one-tenth of our income as a tithing to care for the needs of His kingdom, He can extend our finances to cover our needs. It has been said, “We don’t pay tithing with money; we pay it with faith.” If we take 10 percent of our paycheck and pay it to the Lord, first, as the widow gave of her food to the prophet first, the Lord will work miracles with the rest of our money.
In Malachi, the Lord teaches about the law of tithing, and He promises to open the “windows of heaven” that we will not be able to hold the blessings He will pour down upon us. I don’t know about you, but I need all the blessings I can get. Times are troubled and we need the Lord’s blessing more than ever. Seek Him first and everything we need will be added to our lives. PD