“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
On September 20, 1919 the fishing vessel Andrea Gail departed on its last fishing expedition. Later Sebastian Junger would write a book about this vessel and its last voyage. This fishing vessel departed of from the shores of Massachusetts in search of fish. The crew of six was made up of hard working men who ranged in age from 28-37 years old. There last known location was 162 miles east of Sable Island. Having not been successful in fishing one area they were headed to new fishing ground in search of more fish. As the perfect storm came upon them Junger reported that there were waves of over 100'; some doubt that they were that big. Nevertheless, the storm was sufficient to sink the Andrea Gail and leave six crew members in the watery grave of the North Atlantic somewhere east of Nova Scotia. It's true that this kind of fishing brings inherent risk.
Some ways of life are more dangerous than others, but life is fragile and so is wealth. sometimes literal storms take lives and wealth; sometimes the storms come in the form of economic downturns, losses of jobs, or unexpected medical bills. Sometimes an accident can take away a person's ability to work or the loss of a spouse limits the income of the spouse that remains. This is what happened with the widow in 1 Kings 17. She had lost her spouse and was living moment to moment in the midst of a drought with almost no food. God was not blind to the needs of this woman even though she was not an Israelite, she was not one of the chosen people. She lived in a land where Baal was worshipped and likely worshiped Baal herself.
God's ways are no our ways. When Elijah found her she was preparing for her last meal. She planned to simply fade away into the dust having lost her husband and no longer having enough resources to feed herself and her son. She was desperate and God provided. She needed food, but she willingly made bread for Yahweh's prophet before feeding herself. God rewarded her faithfulness through Elijah by giving her enough bread and water to last until God restored rain to the land. It's true, God had bigger fish to fry, but He was not oblivious to the needs of a widow, even one who did not worship Yahweh. The story seems to indicate that she changed her allegiance after the prophet raised her son from the dead.
Elijah spent three years with the woman. The text isn't very clear about what was going on with Elijah during that time. One might imagine that her needs were provided by Elijah during that time. He provided and received companionship of some kind and likely provided guidance to her son. There is no indication that he became her husband, but it seems likely that the time spent together provided needs that both the widow and the prophet had. A destitute widow gained meaning an purpose in life not by getting rich, but by providing a place for the exiled prophet to abide.
It was a place of waiting for Elijah, he was waiting for the voice of God. Waiting is never passive with God. While details are not given, it seems safe to conclude that Elijah was busy while he was waiting. Even if, for a time, his ministry was limited to a widow and a boy he was doing the work of God. Whatever we are doing, whether it is standing before kings or serving the widow next door, we all ought to actively wait for God to accomplish His purposes in the world and in our lives.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.