Advent: December 2

1 Kings 17:8-16

The LORD told Elijah, "Go to the town of Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I've told a widow in that town to give you food." When Elijah came near the town gate of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks for a fire. "Would you please bring me a cup of water?" he asked. As she left to get it, he asked, "Would you also please bring me a piece of bread?" The widow answered, "In the name of the living LORD your God, I swear that I don't have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. I'm on my way home now with these few sticks to cook what I have for my son and me. After that, we will starve to death."

Elijah said, "Everything will be fine. Do what you said. Go home and fix something for you and your son. But first, please make a small piece of bread and bring it to me. The LORD God of Israel has promised that your jar of flour won't run out and your bottle of oil won't dry up before he sends rain for the crops." The widow went home and did exactly what Elijah had told her. She and Elijah and her family had enough food for a long time. The LORD kept the promise that his prophet Elijah had made, and she did not run out of flour or oil.

God sends the prophet Elijah to a certain person who He has prepared beforehand to receive him as a guest. It may not seem that the woman is forthcoming with Elijah, who has to ask specifically for water and then bread. She is a poor widow on the brink of starving to death. Elijah’s request for bread is in line with what God had told Elijah to expect. Her situation was, however, not so. She is embarrassed that she cannot offer Elijah what he asks for. I think that is revealed in the way she responds to Elijah. She swears an oath before God that her situation is dire, and that she is unable to meet Elijah’s reasonable request. It is a terrible situation to be in, unable to offer hospitality.

It doesn’t seem that God has prepared this woman at all. It may seem that God has left her in the lurch. He had spoken to her, telling her to give Elijah food – but she had only enough for a last meal with her son. She had no food prepared, only flour and oil.

God told Elijah to go to Zarephath and live there. He had prepared for Elijah the hospitality of a woman who was unable to feed him. God might have simply prompted a wealthy person of the town to put Elijah up for the duration. But He didn’t.

Elijah, though the circumstance of the encounter with the woman looked unpromising, trusts God. If God says that the woman has been told to give him food, then the woman will give him food, despite all indications to the contrary. Elijah did not despair after she’d explained her poverty to him. He did not complain to God or accuse God of playing tricks on him. Elijah was faithful and obedient to God when he told the woman that everything would be fine. And it was.

The woman needed faith to believe that what Elijah told her to do was the right thing. She had to bring something of that meagre meal to Elijah. Elijah had promised that all would be well. She could have thought, “This is my last meal with my son. I am not going to spoil this by handing some of it over to a stranger.” But she did.

Note that the woman gave Elijah the first serving – it’s all she could have done. But it was enough. Her faith and obedience to the prophet released God’s blessing on her.

Does God still offer impossible promises today?

Has God ever made a promise He has failed to keep? Be honest with yourself and God when answering this question.

Father God, miracles spring from faithful trust in what you promise. Open my heart to sense and flow with the beat of your heart. Teach me how to trust, even in the face of what appears impossible, for nothing is impossible with you. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Paul