Then the word of the Lord came to [Elijah], saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “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.” 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.’” 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.
Just as creeping buttercup grows in acidic earth, so secularism flourishes in times of peace and plenty, as the warning in Deuteronomy 8:12–14 suggests: “… when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”
So with the growth of mass production and a gradual dislocation from the processes of nature has come into our hearts a sense of self-reliance.
The widow of Zarephath lived with no such luxuries. Like the poor everywhere, she eked out a hand-to-mouth existence, never sure if there would be anything for tomorrow. Even so, despite the anxieties of hard times as a single mother with nothing to spare, a lifelong habit of hospitality compelled her to share what she had with the stranger who begged for her help.
Poverty and adversity are not conditions we embrace with enthusiasm, but they do have this to commend them: it is when we are between a rock and a hard place that we are best situated to experience for ourselves the God of miracles. Almost every testimony of answered prayer and the wonders of God’s mighty power is also a testimony of hard times.
God of love and compassion, you care about every single person, from the poorest beggars in the streets to directors of giant corporations who can pull the strings of nation states. Help us to live wisely, choosing the freedom of simplicity and the kindness of hospitality. Help us to remember, whatever circumstances life holds out to us, that you are our God and our hope is in you. Whatever happens to us as we go along the unknown way of life’s journey, may we always keep faith with you, never lose our trust in you, and never let go of your hand. In Jesus’ name; Amen.