Normally I do not write or appear on Mondays, but this week holds a celebration day, and in order to look at the the scripture passages, I am writing an extra day. This day however, Monday May 30, is not the “special” day but added in order to write/talk about all the scripture that the Revised Common Lectionary.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. (I Kings 17:8-16)
While Elijah presents a typical attitude of males in Old Testament times (feed me first, then yourself) we must excuse this of him because he knew that there would be enough food for himself, and the woman and her household! It was not, I think, hubris that made Elijah command to be feed first but a demonstration that the God of Elijah would provide all of her needs. Rather than being a burden on her household, Elijah saved it! And while the RCL does not specifically use these verses that follow, the assurance of food was not the only thing that Elijah provided for the woman.
“After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (Verses 17-24)
I have this vision of calm and cool Elijah asking for the boy’s body, and just as assuredly returning the living boy to the woman. In between, however, is a raging and wailing Elijah besieging the gates of heaven on behalf of the mistress of the household.
But let us not focus solely on Elijah, for that is not my intention for this week. The widow woman of Zarephath is a vital part of this story as well. Elijah’s God was not her God (Jesus makes note of this fact during his ministry, and that causes quite an uproar!). And yet she did not suffer through the drought that had the land in its grips. Others who espoused faith in the One God suffered much more. But it was her faith that saved her and her household. And she is not the only woman in the Bible who was beneficiary of God’s grace and whose faith was her salvation. And most assuredly not the only woman in the bible who God used for a specific purpose.
She was tested by God, just as other women of the bible had been tested, and men in the bible as well. Just when the assurance of having food was confirmed, another catastrophe hit her household – the death of her son. Sons looked after their mothers in their old age and provide assurance to them that they would not be abandoned. She was already widowed and so had not husband. But with the death of her son not only was her heart shattered by grief but her own life was imperiled. The combined grief of the two must have driven to the same despair when she thought she and her son would die of starvation. But God looked upon her for the sake of Elijah and through the returning of her son to life and health, her own faith grew.
There are more women of faith in the bible, and upon their faith much of Christianity rests. In the days that follow, we will revisit this theme. So I guess this week, beloved reader, is for the female readers! Shalom and selah!