The story of the widow of Zarephath, (her name was never given to us) is recorded in I Kings 17:8-18. Let me summarize the story for you. The setting for the story is Zarephath, just up the coast from Israel. A great famine had been brought on the land of Israel and it affected its close neighbors. This widow lived there with her young son. Because of her poverty, coupled with the famine, her food supply had dried up. She was down to just a little flour and oil from which she planned to make some bread for her and her son and then the two of them would lie down to await their certain deaths, the awful deaths of starvation. Elijah’s food supply had also run out and the Lord told him to go to Zarephath and there he would meet a widow whom the Lord had told to feed him. So, Elijah went, saw the widow and asked her to make him some bread.
The widow wasn’t the only one in a seemingly hopeless situation, so was Elijah. It is easy to feel like you’re the only one asking, “What next, Lord?” You’re the only one who doesn’t know where to turn, doesn’t know to whom to turn, the only one who sees no way out of a situation. Do you sometimes feel like you’re the only one who’s lonely, can hardly make ends meet, is still paying off funeral bills, whose health is failing and whose kids are tired of hearing about it? Those are real 21st century “What next, Lord?” questions.
But, let me assure you that God had both Elijah and the widow in His care. He was planning provision for the duration of the famine for both of them. God cared as much for the poor, hapless widow as He did the great prophet. Have you ever wondered if God cares as much for you as your pastor or priest or some person you think as being particularly righteous, or younger folk with more energy and with many years ahead of them? Are you then tempted to have a pity party? The widow was much like that. When Elijah asked her for some water and a piece of bread, she responded that she was gathering wood for a fire to make a little bread then she and her son would die. “Pity me, Mr. Prophet,” she was saying, “don’t ask me to help you.” But Elijah just ignored her and implored her to not be afraid, that she could do all of that, but first just make a small cake for him. Then he spoke words that must have touched something deep within her spirit. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”
When we focus on our own needs, as real as they may be, we are unable to look around and see that others are just as hurting as we are, and this further blocks our ability to see where we might be mutually beneficial. It wasn’t only food and water that God provided for them. When you’re in a dark place, it helps to have another caring individual go through it with you. Surely Elijah and the widow had benefit of adult conversation during the day, and Elijah undoubtedly played with her son and shared stories about God. None of them had to muddle through the famine alone, or worse, succumb to starvation.
There will come a “What next, Lord?” time in each of your lives. What the widow teaches us is that God is the answer to that question, even before you ask it. Some of you remember your hard days and nights right after your husband died. You pain and loss was so deep and you hurt so much.
Don’t be fearful of throwing yourself on the mercies of God. Look Him in the eye and ask Him, “What next, Lord?” and then expect to get involved in the lives of others as He shows you His plans for the next step in your life. Live in joyful anticipation of how God might answer that question.
If you have not yet asked Christ into your life, I invite you to do so. Make Him the Lord of your life and enjoy the fellowship of the God who created you and whose love for you is boundless.
Message by Shari Hervold God on the Mountin by Lynda Randle