A Generous Woman
By Susan E. Todd
(1 Kings 17:8-24)

(1 Kings 17:8-9) 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.

Elijah was a prophet and a man of God. He was told by the Lord to go to Zarephath and he went. Elijah obeyed God. When the preacher tells us that we need to obey God he is not doing it just for our benefit. The man of God must also obey God if he wants God to reveal things to him and have God's blessings in his own life. We need to learn from his example.

Many people look at the life of a preacher and see the blessings that God bestows on him and think, "Well, that's because he is a pastor. He is supposed to spend all his time in prayer and reading his Bible. After all, that's his job. I don't have the time myself to do those things so I will get my instructions from God through him." Oh, no, my friend. That thinking comes from the devil. The preacher is to be our example, yes, that is true. But he cannot live our spiritual lives for us. That we must do for ourselves. We shouldn't expect God to bless us if we don't do anything to deserve His blessings.

(1 Kings 17:10-11) So he 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. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

The first thing that we notice about the woman when Elijah arrives at Zarephath is that she was busy. She was busy gathering sticks. But when Elijah asked her for water she immediately went to get some. She was obedient to the man of God. How refreshing. I'm sure a lot of preachers would like more of this kind of woman in their churches. (Amen!)

Now we have already read that the Lord had commanded her to sustain Elijah. That means that she was going to have to feed him. I'm sure she must have thought that was a very odd request for by the time Elijah showed up she and her son were starving. But when he arrived and asked her for food and drink she did not question his request. She was being submissive to the man of God. (Oh, glory! Send them in by the busload, Lord!)

(1 Kings 17:12) 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.

She tells Elijah that she doesn't have any bread but instead has some meal and oil and that it is enough for only her and her son. Do you know what meal is? According to the dictionary meal is "the substance of edible grain ground to fine particles and not sifted. Meal primarily includes the bran as well as the flour." For all you "instant coffee", "Chinese takeout" and "micro-waving mommas" out there, in case you didn't realize it, you can't make much of a dinner out of just meal and oil. This woman did not have the resources she needed to prepare a proper meal for her and her son so they was just going to eat what she could make.

(1 Kings 17:13) 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.

Elijah says, "OK, but first feed me and then you and your son can eat." Can you imagine that? Didn't he hear what she just said? She has only enough for herself and her son. When she tells him this is the case he wants her to feed him instead. Enough is enough! Who does he think that he is? This is going to be their last meal! Why can't he understand that? What does she have to do to convince him? Pass out on the street in front of him?

What would you do? Probably what most women in this situation would do. Tell this guy to get lost. Hit the road. Don't let the gate hit you on the way out of town. Good-bye. Au revoir. Adios.

But that is not what she does. She does exactly what he tells her to do without questioning, murmuring or complaining. (Every head bowed and every eye closed.)

(1 Kings 17:14-15) 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.

It bears repeating. She did not question, murmur or complain, become bitter or angry. She just did what the man of God told her to do. And through Elijah she is given a promise from God. Because she did as he asked she was rewarded for her efforts. The three of them ate that day and many days thereafter. She was faithful to the man of God. (The altar is now open.)

Not only was she faithful to Elijah but she also walked by faith. The Lord always provides for those who walk by faith and not by sight. We shall see this in the New Testament when we study the lives of some of the women who knew Jesus. The Christian is called to walk by faith. Why? The answer is found in Hebrews 11:6. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

We can do anything if we can see the end result, if we know the ending at the beginning. But that is not faith. For if we know the future then we can make plans and possibly even change it. That is not how God wants us to live our lives. He wants us to do whatever He says, go wherever He leads and be whatever He wants us to be without knowing the what, where and why. We are to do it because we love Him and not for the reward or the prize at the end. If we are faithful God will reward us. But that should not be our motive. Faithfulness has its own rewards.

(1 Kings 17:16) 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.

God was a God of miracles then and God is still a God of miracles today. Oil in the Bible represents the Holy Spirit. It said the oil did not fail. Fail in this sense means "to become deficient, to cease to be abundant for supply, to be entirely wanting, to be extinct, to cease."

The Holy Spirit does not fail us. (John 14:15-17) If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

He can't fail us. He cannot become extinct. He cannot cease to exist. He cannot exhaust His supply of power. He is eternal. He is God.

(1 Kings 17:17-18) And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?

Now the woman's son became very sick and close to death. She went straight to the man of God. Don't misunderstand what she is saying here. She is not accusing Elijah of judging her. She is admitting that she is a sinner and not worthy of the blessings that God provided in the past through Elijah or the miracle that He could do with her son.

In order to understand what is happening here we need to go to the New Testament and look at someone else who had a very similar experience.

(Luke 5:1-8) And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Look at Peter's response to Jesus when he witnessed a miracle and finally began to understand that Jesus was not an ordinary man. At that point in his life Peter realized that he was in the presence of God. This woman, like Peter, came to the same realization. She understood that she was in the presence of a man of God.

(1 Kings 17:19-20) And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?

Elijah pleads with the Lord for the life of the child and God restores him. There are numerous occasions where the man of God has pleaded on behalf of people or nations and God has listened to them and spared those who have been in peril. (Abraham interceded with God for the life of his nephew Lot when Lot was living in Sodom; Moses interceded for the nation of Israel when he was on Mount Sinai with the Lord while the people were worshipping the golden calf).

Are you finally beginning to understand the importance of the man of God in your life? God deals with us through the man of God who oftentimes pleads on our behalf. When we can't get through to God sometimes the man of God can intercede for us.

(1 Kings 17:21-24) And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.

Was there ever any doubt in her mind about Elijah being a prophet of the Lord? No, I don't think so. I don't think that she would have gone to him on behalf of her son when he took ill if she didn't believe Elijah was a true man of God. How could she forget what he did with only some meal and a cruse of oil? I think this was her way of showing him respect.

What can we learn from the widow woman?

  • She was obedient to the man of God.
  • She was submissive to the man of God.
  • She was faithful to the man of God.
  • She sought the man of God in times of trouble.
  • She had great faith in the man of God
  • She was unworthy of the blessings of the man of God.
  • She was respectful to the man of God.

Oh, that we might possess these same qualities when it comes to the man of God in our life. Being married to a pastor I know how it grieves his heart when his sheep will not heed the godly wisdom that he tries to impart to them. I've seen him on his knees interceding with God on their behalf only to have them ignore his counsel and do things their own way. I've watched him shed bitter tears as he sees their spiritual walk disintegrate and their fellowship with God broken.

But oh what joy he expresses when someone exhibits the characteristics of the widow woman in our story. For a person who is obedient and submissive and faithful to the man of God will first be obedient and submissive and faithful to God. And that is more important.