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In this article, we are going to look at a miraculous event in the history of Israel to reveal that those who hate mercy will hate the God who shows mercy.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). 1  

Elijah himself suffered during this time. He went to live by a brook, but after a while it dried up. This is when the Lord told him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (1 Kings 17:9).

Elijah goes to Zarephath, finds a widow gathering sticks and asks her to bring him some water and a “morsel of bread.” She responds by saying, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now 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” (1Kings 17:12).

Elijah tells her not to be afraid. I assume he’s referring to her fear of dying of hunger, losing her life and the death of her only son. Legitimate fears, to be sure. Pushing the boundary of incredulity, he tells her to first go and make him a little cake. Then, he says, “…afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth’” (1 Kings 17:13–14).

I would have thought, “What? Are you insane? After I have given you all of the tiny bit of food I have to eat in order to keep me and my son alive, you want me afterward to make—what—something for us, something out of nothing?” Obviously, she had more faith than I. And as it turns out, making something out of nothing is exactly what the Lord did—in abundance. So, in faith and obedience, “She went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:15–16).

Such a marvelous God.

The Lord was up to something here, and the end of it was to glorify Himself, show His care for the poor and inform the Jews that God is merciful to Jews and Gentiles alike. Hundreds of years later, Jesus referenced this miracle in His proclamation in the synagogue of His hometown, Nazareth, that He was the Messiah who was to come.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19).

At this they marveled and spoke well of Him. But He knew that acceptance would be short-lived. He challenged it.

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:24–26).

This caused all who were present in the synagogue at Nazareth that Sabbath to be so full of wrath that they wanted to kill Him.

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:28-30)

So, did the Lord God Almighty orchestrated this whole series of events with the prophet Elijah and a widow—want, suffering, fear of starvation, and a wondrous miracle—to make a point Jesus would use hundreds of years later to show the Jews that He, the Messiah, is merciful to Jew and Gentile alike? And that they would reject and hate Him for that mercy?


Lord, please help us to be merciful.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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