8Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah, saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So 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.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But 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.” 13Elijah 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. 14For 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.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The 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.
1 Kings 17:8-16
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: 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.”
I remember my first weekend at college. I was lonely, anxious, and worried that I would never find a friend. As I walked one path up to the gym for a freshman orientation event, someone else was walking to the same event on the opposite pathway. Our paths converged as we made it to the main path at the same time. I truly believe that God was caring for me in my loneliness and anxiety that night, as that person and I struck up a conversation and we became very good friends throughout our four years of college.
Something special happens when God leads people to “chance” encounters around water (is it coincidence that the school gym was next to the water tower?). I imagine that Elijah and the widow are at a well near the gate of the city. At least they are somewhere where water is readily available. It makes me think of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Moses and the daughters of Jethro, Paul and Lydia, or Rebekah and the servant of Abraham and Isaac. Interestingly, these are all examples of an encounter between a Jewish man and a person outside of the Jewish/Christian covenant. Even though Rebekah is related to Abraham and Isaac, she is outside of the Promised Land and its culture of covenant at the beginning of the story. Lydia, though she was “a worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14), had not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Something special happens when God brings these people together around water.
God is ready to do something special in the lives of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. This special thing is being done to reveal God’s power and to bring someone outside of the faith into the experience of God’s grace. This makes me wonder what “chance” encounters we experience on a daily basis. What person is God leading us toward? And why is God leading us to them? In this instance, at least, it seems that God wants to teach Elijah the depths of God’s providence and faithfulness as much as God wants to provide for the woman and her son. Both of the people in this “chance” encounter receive something important from God.
Of course, these encounters are not by “chance” at all. They have major effects on the plans of God. Without Rebekah, there is no future generation for Abraham’s descendants. Without Jethro and his daughters, who knows if Moses dies out in the wilderness? Without Lydia, the church in Philippi does not gain momentum. Without the Samaritan woman, a whole village misses out on the living water of Jesus Christ. And without Elijah and the widow crossing paths, she and her son would not have cheated death – twice (read the rest of 1 Kings 17)! All of us have had our lives changed by people whose paths God has directed to cross ours.
Be on the lookout. God might be bringing you a partner with whom you can further the Kingdom of God. Or God might have someone in great need whom you can help. God might even be placing a person in your path who can assist you in a time of personal need. There are no “chance” encounters in life, only opportunities to share in grace. Who will God lead you to this week?
Journaling Focus: 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.”
Almost all of us have experienced a time of great scarcity and need. On the way to a hospital visit in Atlanta this week, I forgot my wallet back home. Just the anxiety of being two hours away from home without money was overwhelming, and this was a very temporary experience. There are other times, though, when real scarcity is a reality to face: when we are just starting out in adulthood or when we face joblessness or a large, unexpected bill. Write about a time in which you experienced scarcity – either financially, spiritually, or socially. Maybe it was a time in which you felt that God presence was scarce, or a time in which you felt alone. How did you manage? Where was God in that situation, even if you could not “see” God at the time? How did God provide for you?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Read and sing the hymn God Will Take Care of You. By following the link, you can access the text and audio files for the hymn at Hymnary.org. Pay special attention to what this hymn says about God’s care and provision. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah, 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.
I am often amazed at the faith of the prophets, who were told to take action by God and then boldly set out to do exactly what God tells them to do. Now, this didn’t always happen (just ask Jonah!), but most of the time it did. And most of the time, it involved risk. Pray for the faith and trust of the prophets. Ask God to guide and lead you. Even if God doesn’t take you to a foreign land, God might lead you into a situation that is “foreign” – that is, a situation that you would not have chosen on your own. As you pray for such faith and trust, know that God will never lead you to a place only to abandon you!
Meditation Focus: Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
This week, take some time with this simple four word statement: Do not be afraid. Find a quiet, peaceful spot in which you will not be interrupted. Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this statement over and over in your mind: Do not be afraid. perhaps someone you trust, or even God, is the one speaking it to you as it echoes in your heart, mind, and spirit. Do not be afraid. What specific situation in your life is this phrase addressing? What feelings do you feel when you hear these words? Do you feel calmed or more afraid or anxious. If God is the one speaking these words to you, how does God say them? What does God do as God speaks these words over you? Picture a great tree of calm and comfort growing within you, rooted in these words from God: Do not be afraid.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How has God provided for you?
- What have you wanted that you do not need?
- How has God sent you help?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Contribute to a food ministry, either in your local church, your community, or through a national organization. Give financially to support such a ministry or volunteer your time. If you are reading this as a member of First UMC in Warner Robins, find a way to support the Kitchen, the Food Pantry, or the Snax Sax ministry at our church. If you are outside of our community, find such an organization in your own community to support. Also, you can check out the work of Feeding America and the Society of St. Andrew to find ways to help.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, provide for us.