Monday, March 26, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: A Widow, A Prophet and Provision from God

The Widow of Zarephath
A devotional by Dana McNeely

This is the third post in a series on the prophet Elijah. If you’d like to start from the beginning, click the titles to read Love in the Time of Drought and In the Waiting Room.

"But after a while, the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land. Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” ~1 Kings 17:7-9 (NLT)

Trusting God in Good Times and Bad

For about a year, Elijah lived by the brook Kerith while drought gripped the land. God had promised to care for him there. The ravens brought food daily and the brook continued to flow. Under these pleasant conditions, how easy it was to praise God.

But one day, the brook’s flow diminished. When the last trickle of water sank into the dry, cracked earth, what questions might have entered Elijah’s mind? God had said, “Drink from the brook.” Wasn’t that a promise that water would be there to drink?

Trusting God When Confused

If Elijah had questions when the brook disappeared, more were to come. Zarephath was beyond Israel’s border near Queen Jezebel’s birthplace. Her father King Ithobaal and Ahab were allies. Elijah faced a difficult trek across the drought-ridden land, right into enemy territory. Once there, how would he find this special widow, among so many widowed in the land? Should he throw himself on the mercy of a woman who had lost her own provider, who probably worshiped the very idols Elijah opposed?

Doesn’t it often happen this way for us? We face difficulty and we pray for the Lord’s help. We envision his response—but sometimes when the answer comes, we’re shocked at how far off it was from the answer we expected. Do we trust in good times, but doubt when we face trials?

But Elijah’s fervent prayers and time waiting beside the brook had strengthened his faith. He obeyed the Lord’s leading.

So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” ~ 1 Kings 17:10-12 NLT

The widow’s response is so poignant. She goes willingly to get him the cup of water, a precious commodity in this drought. But then his second request—Bring me a bite of bread, too. How unkind it seems for Elijah to request the first bite of her last meal.

But consider subtle hints in the text. The widow says, “I swear by the Lord your God…” indicating she knows who Elijah is—may even know his God herself. And the next verses reveal that Elijah knows this is the woman he seeks. God said, “I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” Elijah’s sojourn by the brook has shown him that if God promised the widow will feed him, her food will last as long as it’s needed.

Unexpected Blessings

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. ~I Kings 17:13-16 (NLT)

God cares for us during difficult times as well as during “showers of blessings” but He asks for trust and obedience. When the brook dried up, Elijah might have thought that God forgot His promise. When told to go to Zarephath, the prophet might have questioned God’s direction. Instead, he obeyed, resulting in provision not only for him but also for the widow and her son.

Thoughts to Ponder: 

· Have you experienced God’s love and care during difficult times?

· What sustains you during such times?

· Think of a time when unexpected blessings were the outcome.

· For further reading: Elijah the Tishbite by F.W. Krummacher, and Elijah by A.W. Pink

Author Bio: 

Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back? 

Dana began research for her novel, “Rain,” which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective. 

No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017)

Connect with Dana on Facebook, Twitter, or


  1. Great message! I love this: "God cares for us during difficult times as well as during “showers of blessings” but He asks for trust and obedience." I also love that God had already instructed the widow to provide for Elijah - she knew before he was coming to her.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Becky. Nice to hear from you again.


  2. Love your "thoughts to ponder". Great message.

  3. Thanks, Melissa. So nice to hear from you.


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