Unnamed Women of the Bible: A Widow Hears the Word of the Lord

Charity Never Faileth, Copyright Elspeth Young, All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Al Young Studios.

Charity Never Faileth, Copyright Elspeth Young, All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Al Young Studios.

The key to understanding the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16) appears to be “the word of the Lord.” The phrase first occurs at the beginning of the story where God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath to a widow who will feed him. Then at the end of the story there is another reference to “the word of the Lord” that came to Elijah.

Bracketed by these two instances of the same phrase, the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath demonstrates “the word of the Lord” in action. God’s word is faithful.

So far, so good. But what is often overlooked in this story is that the word of the Lord does not come only to Elijah. A careful reading of the passage reveals another detail: the word of the Lord had also come to the widow of Zarephath. In verse 9, the narrator records God’s own words: “for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

No wonder the woman willingly brings water to Elijah and even bakes him a cake before she makes one for herself and for her son. God had spoken to her, prepared her, moved her to feed the prophet of Israel.

In this story, I see that

  • God’s word transcends geography, not confined to religious places like the temple, but comes even to the small Phoenician town of Zarephath;
  • God’s word reaches the poor who have little to eat;
  • God’s word comes to ordinary people of faith, not only to prophets, priests, and other religious leaders;
  • God’s word breaks through ethnic and cultural barriers, unbound by family background or culture or race.

Like the widow of Zarephath, we too may live quietly, away from the official centres of religious life and power, occupied with the daily work of making a living and caring for our households. We too may be unnamed and ordinary, poor or ethnic minority. Yet we too may receive the word of the Lord, for God is faithful.

[Adapted from Remember Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible. Enter the draw for a free copy by leaving a blog comment (August 5-September 2). For a bonus entry, comment a second time to let me know that you’ve become a new follower on Facebook, Twitter, or email, and/or that you’ve shared this offer.]



Categories: Spiritual Practice

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15 replies

  1. Excited to read your new book, April.
    I am always amazed at how God uses the most unexpected people and circumstances!
    Best of luck,
    Joy Reimer

    • Thanks, Joy – I should clarify that Sacred Pauses is my new book, and Remember Lot’s Wife is actually an older work that’s now out of print. Since I still have brand new copies of the out-of-print book, I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway, and hope that people might still find it useful. I hope that you’ll get to read both books 🙂

  2. Looking forward to the book, April. Thank you for highlighting the detail about the word coming also to this woman. In teaching this text (and Jesus’ mention of it in Luke 4) I’ve often only focused on God’s good news transcending one people group. You’ve helped me see greater depth here. Thanks!

    • I’m glad for that – in Jesus’ mention of this text he points out that there were many widows, but Elijah was sent to this one particular widow. Jesus doesn’t say why she was chosen, but 1 Kings 17:9 indicates that God had spoken to her no less than God had spoken to Elijah.

  3. I had a wonderful time taking students through Genesis this year and noticing many similar instances of God’s connection to women even amidst so much patriarchy. Hope I win the book!

  4. I must have this book, April!

  5. Love this for the women who are serving God through caregiving and often don’t have any idea how prophetic their actions are.

  6. I agree with Janet!

  7. Does God speak to me today? I believe He does. Confirmation comes when someone gives me a positive comment about something I have done, oftentimes even quite unaware that I had touched someone who needed that touch.

    Thank you for sharing, Mary. It’s wonderful to have that kind of confirmation when it comes, and by faith we know that God speaks to us. May we have ears to hear and the willingness to respond. – April

Trackbacks

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