A widow with a young son is near the city gate gathering sticks to build the fire over which she believes she will prepare the last of her bread. There has been famine in the land for many years and there is no hope of obtaining more oil and flour especially now that her husband has died. We are not told how long she has been a widow struggling to survive and care for her son. Perhaps her husband succumbed to malnutrition because he gave his bread to his wife and young son. Whatever the reason, the widow believes that she and her son do not have long to live.
Then a stranger from neighboring Israel comes to the gate and asks for water and as she turns to get it he adds a request for bread. She tells him “as surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug…” But the stranger is the Lord’s prophet, Elijah who tells her not to be afraid. He also tells her that she should make his small loaf of bread first and then use the rest of the flour to make some bread for herself and her son. “for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
She makes no reply but does as she is asked. Elijah’s loaf of bread is made and then she bakes more for herself and her son. The next day, there is still enough in the jar and the jug to make more bread. Did she wonder how this could be? Did she wonder each day if this would be the last batch? Then as the 4th, 5th, and all mornings were the same, did she grow to expect there would be flour and oil enough for each day’s needs? I can only imagine her amazement as each morning she lifts the jar of flour off the shelf to peer inside – and miraculously there is flour there yet again!
I imagine Elijah playing with the little boy in the evening, telling him stories from the Scriptures and teaching him new things. I imagine Elijah shares the stories with the widow as well and as she sees more evidence every day in her jug and jar that Elijah’s God is real her heart must yearn to have this God too. She needs God. We need God.
She will soon see the power of Elijah’s God in a much more intense way when her son becomes ill and dies. Elijah takes the boy quickly to his room where he puts him on his bed. He cries out to God and stretches himself out over the child three times. As he covers the child with his body, he prays fervently that God would make the child live again.
God heard Elijah and had mercy on the child and his mother. Elijah then gets the wonderful blessing of returning the child to his mother, whole, well and very much alive.
The widow had doubtless heard of the God of Israel since she lived so close to Israel. She might have heard rumors about the amazing things He had done. But now she has been the beneficiary of God’s grace and mercy. She has a jar, a jug and a heart full of stories to tell her friends and neighbors now that Elijah has been visiting. I know that her grateful mother’s heart would have been thankful to God every day for the gift of life given to her son. And as the famine ended and rain descended on the land once again, and as her healthy son ran and played with the other children, she would lift her face heavenward and lift her own prayer of thanksgiving.
We have much to be thankful for since Jesus our Lord paid the price for our sinfulness and made salvation available to everyone. The jug and jar of God’s grace never run dry.
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.” Romans 10:12-13