I’m still struggling to figure out what this means for my preaching, but everywhere I look this week I’m finding a recurring realization. In Sunday’s Track 2 Old Testament lesson, the Lord comes to Elijah and invites him to move on from his beloved broom tree, by which ran the Wadi Cherith and where the ravens made sure he was fed. “Go now to Zerephath,” the Lord says, “for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”
Elijah’s been through this before, and so despite the fact that God is taking him smack into the middle of Baal territory, he packs up what little he has left and begins his journey. Just outside the gates of Zerephath, he encounters a widow. I’m not sure how Elijah knows this woman is a widow, but he does. Assuming the basic hospitality rights of a stranger, he asks the woman for a drink. It is then that he seems to remember the promise of God, that a widow would feed him, and so he calls out again, “BTW, grab some bread while you’re at it.”
Note the widow’s response.
I can’t help but wonder if this was the right widow. Maybe the widow God promised is still waiting for Elijah to arrive. If it was her, it seems as though she hadn’t checked her Holy Spirit email in a while. Clearly, the memo hadn’t crossed her desk, and this now very confused widow is less than amused by this strange Israelite’s request. “Bread!?! I ain’t got no stinking bread! It hasn’t rained for a long, long time. Did you see the fields as you travelled? There is on wheat, no olives, no water. I was just gathering enough sticks to build a small fire so I could make one last meal for my son and me before we die of starvation.”
Have you ever felt that way about something God was calling you to do? I have. It was March of 2007 when my friend SS sent me a Facebook message about a job in Foley, Alabama. I’m pretty sure I actually laughed out loud at his message. Why in Sam Hill would I look at a job in nowhere Alabama? (I didn’t know of the white sand beaches, amazing fresh seafood, and southern hospitality at this point.) SS had gotten the memo from God, but I was still very much in the dark. Two days later, he messaged me again, and this time I figured I better pay attention. Like the Widow at Zerephath, I didn’t know what God had in store, but I knew there was something to this thing. She made a small cake for Elijah and her reserves never failed. I picked up the phone, and haven’t regretted it for a second since.
Sometimes God shows up in the most mysterious ways: a road weary traveler from a foreign land or a Facebook message from deep south Alabama. You name it, God has used it, and might just use it to call you to your next adventure in trust, loving hospitality, and faith.