August 1, 2023
“Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there.'”
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“Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there.’” 1 Kings 17:8-9 (HCSB)
The judge who presided over landlord-tenant cases in Fairfax County, Virginia, had a rather boring, business-as-usual job. But one Friday, something made him pause. A middle-aged deaf couple before him faced eviction for falling $250 behind in their rent. The landlord was insisting on a judgment against the couple. At that demand for justice, the judge abruptly left the courtroom, returning momentarily with two crisp $100 bills and a $50 bill in his hands. “Consider it paid,” he said as he leaned over the bench and handed his own money to the landlord’s shocked attorney. Who could have guessed that help would have come from, of all people, the judge?
Careful Bible readers should not be so surprised. We have seen that what is exceptional for a human judge can be typical for the Lord. He is not above using widows, ravens, and other unlikely agents to sustain His people, according to His Word.
In today’s passage, we see Elijah being sent by God to a widow. What is fascinating is her mailing address: “Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon…” (v.9). Zarephath sat about 8 miles south of Sidon and thirteen miles north of Tyre. It was in the home of Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal.
Do you see the big picture? Elijah is headed for “Baalsville,” capital of “Gentileland”! Here, one of Baal’s subjects will learn to trust in the Lord’s Word, and she will find that the Lord will sustain her, even though Baal has left her hopeless and on the verge of death. The Lord will press her into service for the benefit of His prophet, yet in the process, He will give her far more than He demands of her.
Here is a Gentile woman basking in God’s mercy; here is grace that moves beyond the boundaries of the Jewish people and embraces one of Baal’s most hopeless pawns. This came at a time when Israel was rejecting God’s Word (along with the benefits of following it).
Jesus provoked the crowd of His hometown synagogue to want to kill Him by bringing today’s passage of Scripture up one Shabbat morning in Nazareth:
“But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land.” Luke 4:25-26 (HCSB)
The people wanted to stone Jesus, but we rejoice in His message. Why? He told the world that salvation is for ALL who, by faith, leave their pagan ways and follow Him. The exclusivity of the Messiah’s salvation is offered liberally to all who will take hold of it.