April 28, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | By: Roberto Herrera, Inter-American Division
Hidden in a cave in Cherith by God’s command, and fleeing from King Ahab’s wrath, prophet Elijah was instructed by the Lord to go to Zarephath, a village belonging to the Sidonians, where he had to look for a widow whom God had instructed about the prophet.
When Elijah arrived in Zarephath, he found the woman and asked for water to drink and then added, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” In the woman’s house things were not going well, as they were suffering hunger and deprivation. She answered, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” (1 Kings 17:12)
The least this woman needed was someone to make her problems worse. Based on her economic and social situation, she could have denied to serve the prophet. She could have also thought that the prophet was taking advantage of her when he asked her to first prepare a “small cake” for him and after for her and her son (1 King 17:13).
Certainly, the woman was afraid of dying, she and her son. She was afraid of running out of flour and oil. So the prophet’s words “Do not fear!” touched her heart, because it was fear with which she was struggling during that trial of her faith. But it was God who was talking to His faithful daughter through the prophet. God knows the human heart. He understands the paralyzing fear that prevents us from resting assured in His promises and that makes us see a closed door in every path. He knows the fear that wants us to eat just once more and then die.
Fear is one of the most effective weapons of our enemy. That is why God tells us in His word, “Do not fear,” “Be not dismayed.” The most common command Jesus gave was, “Do not fear,” and wherever it appears, it is accompanied by the assurance of the presence of God with us. This does not mean that everything will be okay at all times, that our finances will fix themselves, or that we will always be healthy, but the following verses give us that assurance: “I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa.41:10). “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1). “The Lord will fight for you” (Ex. 14:14). “The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isa.59:19).
Heroes in the Bible moved forward despite their fear. Moses was afraid of going back to Egypt to accomplish his mission but he trusted the Great I AM and led the people to the Promised Land. Abraham was afraid to sacrifice his son Isaac, but he trusted that God would provide and he became the father of faith. Solomon was afraid of carrying out his duties, but he trusted God and was given outstanding wisdom and intelligence.
Isaiah was afraid of seeing God, but he trusted in the Lord’s forgiveness and became God’s prophet. Jesus was afraid before the reality of the cross, but He trusted His Father’s will and paid the price of our salvation.
Some people never give of themselves because fear has paralyzed them. They don’t smile because they fear others wouldn’t like their smiles; they withhold love because they fear being cheated on or deceived; they don’t give of their time because they think it is not worth it; they do not give of their talents because they fear that no one will value them; they don’t share their money because they fear they may run out of it; they don’t tithe because they fear they wouldn’t have enough for what they need or want; they don’t surrender their hearts to God because they fear He will not accept them.
In the name of Jesus, I implore you not to let fear lead you to unbelief and thus prevent you from enjoying God’s abundant blessings. Do not allow fear to prevent you from being generous toward God and sharing with your neighbor, leading you to believe that you will run out of flour and oil, or to forget that God is with you and will always uphold you.
What did the distressed widow do with the promise that her flour and her oil would never run dry? “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days” (1 Kings 17:15). And what did God do? He fulfilled His promise. “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16).
What a wonderful ending! The triumph of faith is always an encouraging sight to witness. Liberality in the midst of adversity is doubly worthy of admiration.
The story of the widow of Zarephath and her liberality toward God’s servant in her time of dire need, has been preserved, so that in times of crises like the one we are currently experiencing, we do not fail to be faithful and liberal toward God’s work and to our neighbors. Liberality is the door that gives access to great divine rewards.
“The widow of Zarephath shared her morsel with Elijah; and in return, her life and that of her son were preserved. And to all who, in time of trial and want, give sympathy and assistance to others more needy, God has promised great blessing. He has not changed. His power is no less now than in the days of Elijah” (Counsels of Stewardship, p. 174).
Roberto Herrera is stewardship director in the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.