Monday, November 19, 2007

Put to Shame

All too often we suffer from tunnel vision.
All we see is life’s circumstances from our own narrow point of view and we judge and complain and worry and panic.
God is so patient with us and so gracious in wanting us to broaden our view to leave room for His marvellous intervention and purposes.

He has taken care to record for us real life characters and their life situations. Characters that are just like us, who felt the same emotions and worried the same worries and fears.
We tend to read these stories from God’s point of view backwards and say, “Well, yes, I could trust God under those circumstances too,”
But if we step back and take an unbiased view while standing in the characters' shoes we may realize that they had no more reason to ‘believe’ the miraculous was going to change their lives than we do.

Take for example the woman from Zerephath.

Zerephath was located in Sidon, in the land of the Gentiles. There lived a widow woman whose name we do not know.
She lived alone with her son and at the time she is introduced to us in I Kings 17, she was living in very difficult times.
Not only did she live alone having lost her husband but she had a beloved son for whom she was struggling to provide . I’m sure she tried to keep her fears hidden from him, assuring him all would be well, careful to keep her anxious heart hidden behind a cheerful countenance.
As a true mother, she more and more often did without herself to make sure her son would not go hungry. How easy it was to say, “Oh, I’m not hungry, why don’t you finish up the last piece?”

She lay awake at night, worrying… knowing that the bin of flour was dangerously close to being totally empty and the jar of oil was almost used up.
What should she do?
There was no one to borrow from…her neighbours had barely enough for themselves. She had no family that would take her and her son in. No one needed or wanted two more mouths to feed in time of famine.
Her stomach twisted into anxious knots as she realized she had no options, her hope was gone.

She thought about the neighbouring people she had heard about, the Israelites. It was said that they had a God who was able to do wondrous things on behalf of His people. How wonderful it would be to have a God like that! But He was not her God, she was a Gentile and He was the God of the Jews.

Finally, the day came that she had dreaded for so long. There was nothing more she could do. There was only enough flour and oil to make one last small cake.
Today was the day that she and her son would have their last meal and then there was nothing to do but wait until starvation took their lives. She only hoped her son would die first so that he would not be left alone. Her heart was heavy and her eyes blurred with tears as she went outside the city limits to gather a few sticks to make a fire to cook their last meagre meal.

She was just outside the city gates looking for her firewood when someone called out to her. She looked up and saw a strange man who had stopped to address her.
She was curious. She recognized him as being a Jew, one who served the mighty God.
She looked at him expectantly and when Elijah saw that he had her attention, he asked her for a drink of water.
Without a word she turned to go to fetch it. But the stranger wanted more. He called to her again, “And could you please also bring me some bread?”

Her heart lurched!
Sadly she replied, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a tiny bit of oil. These sticks you see in my hand are to make a fire to cook my one last cake, so my son and I can eat it and die.”

Elijah felt the stirring of the Spirit within him and he was moved with compassion for the woman…. He said, “Do not fear…go and make your son and yourself a cake but please make one for me first.”

The woman looked at Elijah. What part of no flour and oil left did he not understand? Something in his face, his eyes gazing so intently into hers calmed her fearful heart and a peace came upon her. Why not do as this man of God was asking her to do?

Perhaps she thought, what difference does one cake make ? My son and I are going to die anyway; I may as well give my last cake to this man of God with the eyes that look right through me.

But what was this man saying? To her incredulity, Elijah told her that her flour would not be used up nor would her jar of oil run out until the day that his Lord God would send rain upon the earth and the famine would be over.

The widow woman can put many of us to shame. She did not know this God of the Jews. She did not know this strange prophet who was hungry and asking for her last bit of food. How did she know he was telling her the truth?
But she believed and went and made the cake and brought it to him.
I wonder if she doubted when she went back into her kitchen, wondering if truly there would be enough flour and oil left for a cake for herself and her son?

Wonder of wonders !! there was ! I’m sure the cakes she made for her son and herself that day
tasted better than any she had ever made. And if her son asked for more he could have more !! And she no longer needed to sacrifice her meal for him.
No matter how many cakes she made the flour bin , just as Elijah had said, did not diminish and the oil jar always had enough oil for one more cake !!!
And so it was until the famine was over !!!

Can you imagine the joy in the widow’s heart and the awe she felt to think that this God of the Israelites, knew where she , a nameless Gentile widow woman lived, and He cared enough to send His great prophet to her to save her and her son from starvation??

We have her mentioned by Jesus, in Luke 4:26. Jesus angers the leaders in the synagogue by pointing out that there were many widows in Israel during the time of the famine…but no prophet was sent to them because of their unbelief but a prophet was sent to a Gentile widow who had more faith than God’s own people.

Let us learn from this story that God preserved for us, a story that is meant to encourage us that no matter how black things look or how hopeless, there is always God--- who is never at a loss to provide for the needs of His people. And surely He is aware of our circumstances and our needs.

If the Gentile woman who only knew of God through hearsay could trust His prophet.. how much more reason do we have to trust God in and through our most difficult circumstances.
Let us not be put to shame along with the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.

2 comments:

Lovella said...

Wow, she does put me to shame. I often struggle with fear of this, that and the other thing. I'll remember this devotional and give God all the glory for his answered prayer.

Sara said...

I've been enjoying your recent posts and love the way you get right into the scripture passages, imagining what it must have been like, as though you were there. Thank you, as always, for sharing your insights; and I am encouraged by your example.