Biblestudy, Women in the Bible

The Widow of Zarephath – Lessons in Obedience and Divine Provision

What do you do when there is nothing left to do?

Let’s enter the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath which highlights to us lessons in Obedience and Divine Provision.

Background on the Widow of Zarephath

The story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath can be found in the following verses in the bible – 1 Kings 17:8-24

“Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”1 Kings 17:8

Elijah the prophet declared to the wicked King Ahab that there will be neither rain or dew in the land for the next few years according to God’s word. Ahab blamed Elijah for the drought in the land and sought him out to kill him. Elijah had to run for his life. God tells him where to go and provides food for him daily through a raven.

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.1 Kings 17:6

At a point, the brook dries up and God speaks to Elijah to go to Zarephath as he has made provision for him there. It is at this point that the lives of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath are interwoven.

I like to think about how that in one man’s season of discouragement, God still speaks and makes provision for the next moment and chapter of his life. Elijah, God’s servant was running for his life, it was a discouraging season of life for him. But then, God speaks and sends him to an unlikely person saying that his nourishment, supply and provision will come from her. Can you picture Elijah’s surprise at this point? However, Elijah understood the power in obedience and the wisdom in following God’s word.

Who was the Widow of Zarephath?

1. She was a widow and mother to one son. Her husband was dead and she was saddled with the responsibility of raising and providing for their child alone.

2. She was a gentile. Zarephath was a gentile country located between Sidon and Tyre. The Israelites usually had nothing to do with surrounding nations

3. She was at her wit’s end and about to give it all up. She would cook and eat her last meal with her son and die as there was nothing else to keep them alive.

So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.1 Kings 17:10

One thing strikes me about this widow in the bible. And it is how she was still willing to give something no matter how little to someone in need. At Elijah’s first request to bring him water in a jar, she left and was going to get it. It was when Elijah asked for a piece of bread as well that she spoke up saying that she had no bread at home, just only a little flour. She could still afford to give him water to drink.

How often do we look beyond ourselves in seasons of lack and drought and still go out willingly to share with others out of our little?

What Lessons Can we Learn from the Widow of Zarephath

1. God always meets you at the point of your Need

So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread. Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.1 Kings 17:10-12

This was a moment of desperate need for this widow. There was nothing left to do but to eat the little she had left with her son and then starve to death. Her barns were empty, her strength was failing and her hope was running out fast. She must have reasoned out all possible options to bail her out of her troubles. There was none and her next move was to gather sticks to cook her very last meal. It is at this point that God shows up in her story.

Remember also, that this widow was a gentile who usually had no dealings with Israelites. Yet, God chooses to accomplish his purpose in her life through his prophet Elijah. We have a God who sees you beyond your history, earthly origin and country. He is a compassionate father.

God did not come down from heaven to meet the widow of Zarephath. He also did not speak from heaven with a thundering voice. He showed up by giving her a specific instruction through his servant, Elijah.

Here was a widow at the brink of death’s door and God shows up in her story to provide for her and meet her at the point of her deepest need. The interesting thing is how God sends a prophet who was in need to her saying that he had commanded a widow to feed him in Zarephath. The key to unlocking the doors of divine provision in her life was in her obedience to the instructions given by the man of God.

Are you gathering your own sticks at the moment? You do not even know what tomorrow will look like in your own life. Dear friend,  I want you to know that God is here and will meet you at the point of your need.

2. Obedience is not always easy

How many times have you failed to follow through on specific instructions that God has given you in our own life? Obedience is never always easy but learning to trust in God completely will help us follow through on his leading and instruction for our lives.

It was never easy for Jesus to trust God’s plan of sacrificing his own life to redeem mankind back to God. But, he still went to the cross to die. The bible says – Jesus was obedient even onto death.

When God told Peter – Cast your net into the deep. It sounded like the most foolish instruction because they had just returned from toiling all night and had caught nothing. But Jesus gives a specific word and Peter obeys and has a catch of a lifetime so much that he was humbled at the power of God.

It took a lot of courage for Hannah to fulfill her vow to God of sending her son back to the temple after he opened her womb to conceive. How easy is it to let go of a child you have prayed for your whole life. Hannah obeyed by following through on her part of the vow trusting that God owned her child and will use him for his glory.

How about Moses. Was it easy to return to a place that he fled from as a fugitive 40 years ago as God’s mouthpiece? It could never have been easy but he obeyed God and walked into his true destiny.

This is where the widow of Zarephath found herself. To either walk away in fear or obey the man of God’s instruction. She chose the latter. Will you chose obedience today?

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. – 1 Kings 17:15

3. Faith over Fear

What are you afraid of? Nothing cripples one from moving forward like fear. It is true that fear has kept many from walking in their calling and achieving great feats for God’s kingdom. Some have remained captives of their own fears and inadequacies their whole life and this has kept them from moving into their miracles and partaking of the fullness of God’s blessings for their lives.

When this widow voices out her concern about her inability to prepare a meal for the man of God. Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. “ 1 Kings 17:13

Her faith was put to the test and had to be stretched to get her desired miracle. It was either she embraced her fears or choose to walk in faith. The bible says this about faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen.Hebrews 11:1 TPT

Our faith and trust in God is the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. Your faith in God will carry you through the fiercest storms and the darkest valleys in different seasons of your life. When the widow of Zarephath chose faith over fear, she stepped into God’s divine provision and had her daily needs met. Let faith triumph over fear in your life today.

4. Trusting in God and his Word

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ – 1 Kings 17:14

What has God spoken to you today? God’s word is yes and amen. But, first you need to ask yourself this – do you believe in the integrity and efficacy of God’s word? God’s word is alive and active. It is sharp and cut deep penetrating the soul and spirit. The word of God is full of power.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12

The widow of Zarephath believed the word of God spoken through the prophet and her jar of flour and jug of oil did not run dry. What is that word that God has been speaking to your heart today?

So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. – 1 Kings 17:15-16

Final thoughts about the Widow of Zarephath

The story of the widow of Zarephath reminds us that God is ever present to meet us at the point of our needs. In fact, the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath teaches us how that God’s divine provision can come from the most unlikely sources.

A raven and a poor widow did not look like what God would use to meet a need. But God uses them to accomplish his purpose and through them, there was divine provision. A widow’s faith came alive teaching us some powerful truths about obedience and trusting God and his word.

The widow of Zarephath

Read also:

Remember Lot’s Wife

Lessons from the Wise Woman of Abel Maakah

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  1. I enjoyed reading your post! Fit with something else I read today when Jesus feeds the 5000. The boy with the loaves and fish had to part with his only food for that to happen. I admired his willingness to give all he had. The widow did something very similar. Thank you for the encouragement to be obedient to God, to give sacrificially, and to trust God’s Word and its effectiveness. Need that last reminder especially! God bless!

  2. Great job digging into this Old Testament story for us, friend! I’m soaking in your wisdom today!

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