The Widow of Zarephath
1 Kings 17:9
Arise, get you to Zarephath, which belongs to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain you.

1. This woman was a Phoenician, of Jezebel's own race and country, and by birth and training a believer in those very idolatries which the bloody Queen was then establishing in Palestine, and against which it was the chief part of the prophet's burden to witness. From earliest days she had adored her gods. Doubtless the gorgeous ritual of Baal-worship had impressed and awed her senses, and under the terror of Astarte, the lover of blood, she had lived and cowered. Yet it is in her home that the persecuted Preacher of Jehovah finds refuge and welcome! And it is to her home that, in turn, he brings blessing. The Prophet of the Separation is also the Apostle of the Reconciliation. The essential germ of ultimate universality, that was in the Church from the beginning, bursts forth even in him who is the vindicator of her Dispensational exclusiveness. What a world of suggestion lies in the picture of Hebrew Prophet and Phoenician widow, Jehovah's champion and Jezebel's countrywoman, under the same roof, sharing the same meal, in friendship and fellowship! The sternest anti-idolater of history by the side of an idolater, blessed and blessing! It is a forecast and prophecy, amid the world's enmities and hates, of the reconciliation of the future to be wrought out by a greater than Elijah.

2. We have here, too, an illustration of the part which, in the economy of God, suffering plays in the education and perfection of men. The presence of common woe or want, of common peril or pain, has been to multitudes as the very angel of God, conciliating feuds, softening asperities, enlightening prejudices, cementing sundered souls, and forming those sympathetic attachments which give warmth to character and sweetness to life. These two in that marrow house at Zarephath, dwelling in harmony under the pressure of a common straitening, represent in themselves the emollient and healthful influence of suffering in softening and sweetening souls. They illustrate the part which the "Divine economy of pain" plays in purifying from prejudice, in bridging over the chasms of alienations and the gulches of hate. Dearth, drought, and the wrath of evil men drove these two to their meeting, a meeting for the gain of both, and of us too, and of all who have come between.

3. In this widow we have also a beautiful example of that faith that pleases God and is blessing to the soul in which it abides. I dare say there are some who may so unworthily judge about the matter as to think that she somewhat superstitiously concluded that this stranger was a miracle-worker, or that he was a God-possessed man, and that her "faith" was simply the credulity that led her to that conclusion. But I hope such persons are few. Lot us not draw that sharp line between faith and faithfulness which such a way of thinking implies. The two are not, indeed, as some would seem to say, the same thing. There is a difference; but it is such a difference as that which exists between bud and flower, flower and fruit, or fountain and flow. Faithfulness is that which impels a man to walk in the way of duty or charity, no matter how hard it may be, and to bear the consequences, be they what they may. Faith makes him do all that, but it adds its own element too. Her faithfulness would have made her do her duty: her faith made the doing of it to be religious. In this spirit and confidence she received her guest, followed her purest instincts — the dictates of her womanly affections — into the ways of self-forgetful charity, and looking up to the giving God overhead, left issues to Him. I do not say she thought or reasoned about it any more than a child would be likely to think or reason about the laws of respiration before breathing, or a flower to speculate scientifically before giving out its aroma. She herself was good, and kind, and self-denying, and she lovingly did her duty so as, according to her light, to please the power of the skies. A very commonplace village woman, in a lowly rut of life, tenderly doing the duty that lay next to her hand; and, within, a trustful heart, and an eye to look up.

4. But the point to which, just now, I must give the chief and closing emphasis is that she was a heathen. "But of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Zidon, unto a woman that was a widow." The point to which he here calls attention, and which was so distasteful to the Jews, is that the prophet was not sent to any of those within the circle of the visible Church, but to one living outside, in the darkness of a heathen land. And in her, the child of disprivilege, he found that faith which he found not among the children of privilege.

(G. M. Grant, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

WEB: "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain you."

Ordered to Zarephath
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