New Year! It begins and brings with it a plethora of emotions. An opportunity for fresh starts full of exciting possibilities; OR it’s another year to trudge through. After all, last year’s goals weren’t accomplished, nothing much exciting happened, and that fresh start feeling – it ended January 3! So, no point in getting worked up this first day of January.
I don’t know which camp you are in, but guaranteed you will experience an overabundance of emotions during this new year. The important question: how will you respond? As is my modus operandi, let’s look at a woman in the Bible to help us learn how to navigate the good and the not-so-good times headed our way.
WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH (1 Kings 17: 8-16-24)
This woman experienced a roller coaster of emotions. We meet her at a time when a punishing drought devastated Israel.
You see, Ahab, the king of Israel, led the people into disobedience and Baal worship – the god that brought rain and good harvests. God showed them otherwise. He sent Elijah to prophesy this lengthy dry spell. Needless to say King Ahab was not pleased.
Elijah followed God’s orders and promptly hid by the Kerith Brook, which provided drinking water. Oh, and did I mention God ordered ravens to feed him? When the brook dried up God sent him to a widow in Zarephath for sustenance. Surely, God’s provision was blessing this woman.
WELL, NOT SO MUCH!
When Elijah arrives the widow is preparing a last meal for herself and her son.
Think she felt defeated?
My reaction, if I was in Elijah’s position: Excuse me God, you told me there was food and water here. What is going on?
Of course, Elijah’s faith and obedience was a bit stronger than mine and he told this widow to go ahead and fix her last meal, but feed him first!
My reaction, if I was the widow: Pardon me, did I hear you correctly?
And Elijah replied, ‘Yes, but don’t worry God says there will be flour and olive oil in your containers until the Lord sends rain again.’
FAITH ABOUNDS, MAYBE
The Bible says she followed Elijah’s instructions. You see, every miracle starts with a step of obedience.
And, as promised, food was plentiful for these three during this desolate time in Israel. Imagine her awe and wonder when her jar had flour and the jug had oil each time she prepared food. It was a miracle every day!
Some time later her son dies, and despite the daily miracles, her faith wavers. It appeared she believed Elijah was pointing out her sin and that is why her son died. Even Elijah seemed to question God’s motives. “Why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me?” (verse 20)
Did God say, you are so ungrateful, I will cut off your food? No, God performed another miracle and the child was brought to life.
WHAT LESSONS DO WE LEARN?
THAT GOD ALWAYS REACHED OUT TO THE GENTILES. This widow was a Gentile. When Jesus taught in the synagogue, He spoke about how God helped this foreign woman instead of a Jewish widow. This made the people angry for they believed He was only God to the Jews. (Luke 4:25-26) They seemed to forget about Rahab, who saved the spies and became an ancestor of Jesus (Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5); God’s desire to save the city of Nineveh (Jonah 1: 1-3 & 3: 10-4: 2); and even clear back to Abram (Abraham) when God told his chosen father of the Jewish people that his ancestors would bless ALL nations. (Genesis 22:18)
GOD USES THE LEAST OF US TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PLANS. This widow was very poor and unimportant in society. Yet, God used this widow to feed His prophet. He also allowed her to see His miracles and took care of her during these dire times. God often used the unimportant: For instance, a slave girl was captured by Israel’s enemy and served the wife of an important military man. Despite the slave’s situation she helped her master find a way to have his leprosy cured. God used this situation to show this pagan that there was a prophet in Israel. (2 Kings 5: 1-8) Then, of course, we must not forget that lowly shepherds were the first to know about Jesus. (Luke 2: 8-20)
SACRIFICIAL GIVING IS HONORED: It was after the widow gave the last of her food to Elijah that the miracle happened. Another example is when Jesus praised the woman giving her only two mites. (Luke 2: 1-4)
MESSING UP ISN’T THE END. Despite this woman’s obedience and faith, she faltered when her son died. Who of us wouldn’t? But God did not chastise her ungratefulness, but showed her another miracle. Compassion is the name of the game. When caught in adultery Jesus saved the woman from stoning and forgave her sin. (John 8: 1-11) And the prodigal son parable teaches us that we are welcomed back even when we mess up badly. (Mark 1: 40-45)
SO, AS WE ENTER THIS NEW YEAR, ASK GOD THESE QUESTIONS:
God, how will you reach out to me this year? Please help me to recognize the Elijah you might send my way, knowing you want me to serve him so you can bless me.
How will you use me despite my unimportant status? Let me be like this widow and be hospitable to those you send to me. Like the slave girl, let me not be resentful, but offer any help I can to those in need.
What do you want me to give? Let me be obedient in giving my money, time, and service to you this year.
What will make me falter this year? God, you are so forgiving and I know I will mess up this year. Let me come to you in true repentance seeking your forgiveness and help me turn away from my sin.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
If the new year makes you nostalgic take a look at A Biblical Perspective of Nostalgia. Also, check out this devotion about the Widow of Zarephath. The post says you have to sign in to read the devotion, however, just scroll down a bit and you can read an entertaining perspective about this widow.
THEME FOR THIS YEAR
I have done themes in the past: Does God Care When…..? and A Christian Workout. This year I think I might start with a Christian quote and dig deep into the meaning and biblical truth. So, this new year will probably take us in many directions.
As always, I welcome comments. If there is any subject you would like me to blog about, please let me know in the comments below. I also welcome readers who want to share a biblical truth or inspirational story to contact me. If it is a good fit, I love to publish guest blog posts.