I can be a bit confusing, I suppose, talking about provision and prophets visiting widow's houses- but I didn't write this story, God did. (1 Kings 17:8-16) I am fascinated by the scene of the widow of Zarephath with her last bit of resources and her fear that she was at the end.
It's easy to panic when you think you are at a breaking point- whether it's financially, emotionally or circumstantially. But the scene at the widow's house is pretty much like today: it was the worst of times, and it was the best of times. It was a time when Israel's worst king reigned on the throne, and God's powerful prophet, Elijah, had just come on the scene. And of all places, Elijah's first miracle was done at the widow of Zarephath's house. What a commentary that is!
If God had "commanded" the widow "to provide" for the prophet Elijah, how did God get that message to the woman? Did she hear that call to do something drastic- by faith- in her spirit? Did she sense the integrity of the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet himself when he asked her for a "morsel of bread" to eat?
You have to understand, in biblical times, the Jewish principle of receiving a person's representative. You received a person "in the name of " that person- and received their sent message or provision. That's why in Matt 10:41 it says "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward...." There were plenty of false prophets, even in Elijah's day, and yet the woman identified correctly that he came in the name of the Lord, as an ambassador of God's word to the people- and she received his word to her-"Do not fear". She made some food for him to eat- the last of what she had.
The widow gave out of the last bit she had- in obedience, by faith, with a conviction of something big enough to launch her out into the scene of "God....please show up!" and HE DID. We see a picture of a widow in the New Testament, doing something like that. Jesus was watching the giving taking place, and saw a poor widow put in her last two coins ( Mark 12:41-44) and though it was less than what everyone else had given, it was actually MORE than all the others had given because "she -out of her poverty- put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
Her whole livelihood. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines this word's origin as "Middle English livelode course of life, .... means of support or subsistence"
Widows struggle with this issue of means of support and provision. So do many people. If you are self-employed, your means of subsistence seem to be centered squarely on your shoulders. If you're launching a business, you're on your own. Sometimes you can feel like you are carrying the weight of a problem or the weight of trying to give birth to a dream. You can think you are near the end of your total reserves. Often you give sacrificially, and it is the last of what you have...that you can see.
If you've walked away from a job with a pink slip in your hands, or you walked away from the doctor's office with a bad report, it would be easy to think your fate- your means of support or subsistence- are determined by these things. THEY ARE NOT.
It's what the Word of the Lord tells me, in the face of my fears, that determines how well I am doing and what to do next. I, personally, have set out to write and speak forth the word and counsel of God, but I could run out of resources to do so. That's the reality. My well could run dry. My physical, financial reserves are at their low, right now. But its not my job to replenish them. My job is to obey, to be faithful to the call, to walk by faith, to hear the word of the Lord spoken to me- through whomever and whatever circumstances He chooses to use. God is reminding me to visit the widow's house, the place HE chose for Elijah's first miracle, and look at faith in action.
If you're looking with me, we are surveying her shelves. The jar of oil is at its end. The flour bin looks empty. But I see her running to make a meal- her last- to give it first to the one who spoke the word of the Lord to her. I see her, face determined to not fear in the face of unsettling circumstances. I watch her arms vigorously make the bread and she serves it to that old prophet with a conviction of resolute faith in the provision of God. Her livelihood is tied up in all that God calls her to.
And I nod my head in agreement with her, thanking her for reminding me that I can do it, even do it afraid- everything HE Calls me to.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13, NIV