This widow does not have a name. Her story is given in 1 Kings 17:8-24 and she is mentioned by Jesus the Christ in Luke 4:24-26. The widow of Zarephath had nothing spectacular going on. Her husband had died, she was raising a son alone, and she was very poor, but this widow has much to teach us.
1. God chose the widow of Zarephath. When the prophet Elijah was in need of food and water, God told him to go to the city of Zarephath because “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” It doesn’t sound like God told the widow Elijah was on his way to visit her because when Elijah showed up she was at the gate of the city gathering sticks. She wasn’t expecting a visit from a prophet in need, but God had chosen her to work a miracle.
Why didn’t God send Elijah to a rich lady’s house? I don’t know. A popular saying goes that God often works in mysterious ways, and it’s true. We do not always understand the means or methods God uses to bring about miracles, but in thousands of thousands of years, God has not made a single mistake. We can trust Him. As it turned out, Elijah wasn’t the only one in need of a miracle; the widow was in need of one too.
Perhaps God chose the widow of Zarephath because He knew she had a heart that was willing to serve even though she did not have much. We have also been chosen by God to live lives of service towards Him and others. We do not exist for ourselves alone. We were created to be a miracle for somebody. It does not matter how much we have or how much we know; if we have open hearts that are willing to serve, God will use us to help others.
2. The widow of Zarephath was about to give in to despair. After Elijah asks for bread and water, the widow truthfully tells him of her unfortunate plight. She says, “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.”
The widow truly thought she was about to fix and eat her last supper. She did not see how things could get better. She was preparing to die.
Elif Shafak said, “Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you.”
Since God is our Creator, will not He take care of His own? God is not some negligent father who fails to care for the children He created. Yes, things are often hard, difficult, confusing, and painful. People are often mean, unjust, frustrating, and inconsiderate. But there is always hope. Tough times are no reason to give up. We must never despair. Our futures are bright, because God is already there.
3. The widow of Zarephath was obedient and was blessed. After the widow had explained her despair, Elijah told her, “Do not fear.” He told her to make a small cake for himself and then to make one for herself and her son. If she did so, the bin of flour would not be used up, and the jar of oil would not run dry. The Bible says, “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.”
The widow was abundantly blessed because of her obedience and faith. God will always honor those who have faith in Him. He will always bless those who are obedient to Him. Because the widow let herself be used by God to be a miracle to Elijah, God worked miracles for her. Not only did He provide her with food, He also raised her son from the dead after he became very sick and died. Whenever we make ourselves available, are obedient, show faith and bless others, we will be blessed in turn.