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The Widow of Zarephath

The 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.” (1 Kgs 17:8-9)

But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. (Lk 4:25-26)

There is no reason to doubt that, before Elijah showed up on her doorstep, the widow of Zarephath was a worshiper of Baal. She lived in a country were Baal-worship was literally the national religion. In fact, at her first meeting with the prophet she refers to “the LORD your God” (1 Kgs 17:12). She felt no particular attachment to the God of Israel. No doubt she prayed to Baal and offered him sacrifices-and all the more as her life began to come unraveled with the loss of her husband, the drought in her land, and finally the death of her son.

She worshiped a false god, but she was not evil. In fact, she demonstrated a degree of hospitality to the foreign preacher that can and should be praised as an example for us today. For his part, Elijah was not unwilling to receive help from a foreign, pagan woman-a fact that likely made a deep impression on her. Like Jesus with the Samaritan woman 900 years later, he asked her for sustenance and gladly received it. When her son died, Elijah prayed for his recovery, and when Yahweh raised him up, the woman was ready to reevaluate her spiritual loyalties.

You never know where God is going to meet you, or through whom.


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