You know you should help somebody else out. However, as you look at your own condition, you need help yourself. Helping the other person means doing without for you and/or your family. And we’re not just talking about something frivolous. We aren’t meaning you have to postpone buying that new HD TV for your bedroom. We’re talking about real hardship… doing without a car or not replacing a coat that really should have been traded in two years ago or even not having enough food for everyone to eat properly. Wait, that last one is especially harsh, so would God ask it? What if it was the last bit of food you had in the refrigerator and you had no ability to get any more? Could God ask you to give that up, too? Well, we say our God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And if that’s the case, then, yes, based on previous history, He could ask you to do just that.
Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. – 1 Kings 17:8-16, ESV
The setup is simple: God wants Elijah to go hang out with a widow and her son, because it will be the widow’s responsibility to ensure Elijah is fed. When Elijah gets there, he immediately obeys what God said and asks for something to eat. She then tells Elijah the stark truth: she only has enough supplies for one more meal for her and her son. She was collecting the sticks for the fire to bake that last meal. Then they were signing off. They had no other hope. After all, Israel was wracked in famine because there had been no rain. Then Elijah reveals some news that many of us would have been dubious about hearing. Elijah basically said, “Even though the food should run out, it’s not going to. At least, not until there’s rain and additional food is readily available again.”
The widow had to take what her eyes, mind, and stomach were telling her and put those observations to the side. She had to trust the message from God’s prophet that God would provide a miraculous supply. She had no physical evidence, nothing the world would consider as proof, to justify her listening to Elijah. If she just kept the food for herself and her son, they would make it another day. Though the situation looked impossible, one more day gave another day to find a way. A lot of us would have politely declined, thought Elijah crazy, and taken that one more day. And if we had, we wouldn’t have lasted. The only way the widow and her son were going to survive was to trust God.
She did that. The food didn’t run out. And the Lord had another reason for Elijah to be there. We learn in later verses there was still uncertainty. She wasn’t sure Elijah was a prophet of God. God performs yet another miracle through Elijah, thus solidifying her faith. But until that bigger miracle, she didn’t have perfect assurance. Sure, he looked and sounded the part, but how could she be certain? Still, something must have spurred her to obey. As a result, both her and her son lived. If anyone gave generously in the Bible, this widow did. She gave up her last meal for another, one who was a total stranger to her. Then God fulfilled His promise from Deuteronomy 15. This is God delivering enough to cover the giver and the receiver. And this is God doing it in a way that shows that it was Him and only Him.
When we are willing to give generously as we are led by the Holy Spirit, we embrace the same promise. We may not see a great miracle like Elijah, the widow, and her son witnessed. God may have another way of meeting our needs. But the bottom line is He will meet them. He won’t let us down. We must be prepared for Him to ask whatever He may of us. He might ask us to give up our last morsel of food for a total stranger. Or He might ask for something even more personal and important to us. But He won’t ask it without cause, and He won’t ask it without a support system to go with it. Therefore, we need to trust Him as we listen to Him and give generously to those around us who are in need.