1 Kings 17:5-16
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
1 Kings 17:5-16 — The Message
Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook. Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.” So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?” She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”
Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’” And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!
God sends Elijah to someone
who is not one of the Tribe.
And while The text
says God has instructed the woman,
she knows nothing of it,
and Elijah is left to bribe her
with a promise
of a lasting supply of food
if she will help him.
A good deal for a woman who claims
she is down to her last shuck.
This actually suggests to me
the two stories may be more from
multiple layers of editing and
less about God’s duplicity.
I have heard more preaching
focused on the widow’s
willingness to obey God
with the bottomless abundance
of the jar of meal and the bottle of oil
as the prize
than I want to think about,
and I think those sermons miss the point entirely.
This is an inny-outy story.
Elijah and the hearers of the story,
by the writer’s standards,
would be the innys
while the widow would be the outy.
But what if it is the other way around?
Think about it.
Elijah goes to a whole other area where his God
is not their God,
and he has to beg from a “sinner”—
“sinner” being one who does not keep the Jewish Law,
which is to say, not kosher.
He must bend to her custom
and bless her
in spite of her non-jewishness,
AND EAT HER UNCLEAN FOOD!
Sure, she gets to eat and not die,
but so does Elijah as well.
Elijah’s salvation comes from a non-Jew.
Jesus preached it in Luke 18:17,
with the outsider-children bringing us in,
and Peter’s vision of the “unclean food”
in Acts 10
indicated that real change
even now we seem to intensely focus
on our own set of holiness codes.
The ones we construct to
make us comfortable
and keep our lives as convenient as possible.
The challenge in this story is
not how to get abundance
some great prophet,
or by allowing ourselves to be bribed,
but for us to allow the
to lead us
into whatever salvation
God may have for us.
But it’s always about LOVE —