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discover meat in the time of dearness of provisions, then carry it, not to their own young, not to lay it up for themselves, but to man, of whom they stand in fear? Then, the next means was almost as unlikely as this first. It was a poor woman who had just come to the end of all her small stock.
But here we see the wisdom and love of God in His dealings with His people. It was not only to excite faith in His servant Elijah that he was sent to this woman, but also for her sake, and to do her good both in body and soul.
Let us see how these things were brought about, "when Elijah came to the gate of the city; behold the widow woman was there gathering sticks." So accustomed was Elijah to see the hand of God in everything, he accosts this woman at once as the person God had appointed him to find. He asks her for water. "Fetch me I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." Then, encouraged to believe this was the woman appointed of God to sustain him by seeing her readiness to get the water, he asks for bread, "and as she was going to fetch the water, he called to her, and said, bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand."
And now this brought to light her real
condition, as being herself in the last extremity of want, and Elijah could now see why God had sent him to her. If it was to sustain him, it was also to supply his wants. "She said, as the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it, for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."
Here then Elijah saw it was time for him to begin his work, as the servant of the Lord, sent to magnify His name. The poor widow was in the extreme of want, having no more food than for one meal: no prospect of anything after that; preparing to die. Elijah knew that if she were to sustain herself, her son and him, she must have fresh supplies. His own had been miraculously supplied by ravens sent by God. Now the same God will miraculously supply this woman. Elijah in the boldness of faith said, "Fear not, go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain on the earth.”
Now why, do we think, did Elijah bid her first use her present supply and make him a cake? Not selfishly, not merely because he was himself so pressed with hunger, though that may have been the case. Surely, there was a reason beyond this. The woman's faith was thus put to the test. For so God gives His blessings to faith, first trying it, then rewarding it. It would be with her according to her faith, as it was with Naaman when ordered to wash seven times in Jordan. And when she thus acted on faith, and consumed her last little measure of meal and brought it to the man of God, and returned, then she found fresh meal, and fresh oil, in the place of what she had used.
She went and did according to the saying of Elijah; and she and he and her house did eat many days: and the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah."
Thus did God put the faith of His servants to the test, supply their wants in the time of famine, and make them know Him better as an all-powerful all-merciful God and Saviour.
But the widow was to learn another lesson besides this. And Elijah's faith was again
called into exercise even more than before. Something now happened in the family which though first a great sorrow and trouble, proved in the end a great blessing.
The widow's only son fell sick and died. She received the blow as from God; and as richly deserving it. It reminded her of her deserts as a sinner. She said to Elijah, "what have I to do with thee, O thou man of God, art thou come to call my sins to remembrance, and to slay my sons!" Thus did her troubles weigh on her mind. They reminded her of her many sins and what they deserved, and made her think that as this holy man was sent to live with her and teach her, so also it was to bring some chastisement for her sins.
And so indeed should all affliction do for us. It should bring our sins to remembrance. It should make us look narrowly into our lives and hearts, and see what calls for correction, in what points we need humbling, and wherein we need more careful walking. It should bring our deserts also to remembrance. It should lead us to reflect, "wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins." It should remind us of what we should have if God only dealt with us according to our deserts.
It should lead us to acknowledge the justice of the blow, and to see God's faithfulness in it. It should thus make us "search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”
But God "doth not willingly afflict, nor grieve the children of men." It is always the pathway to blessings. So with the
widow. She had a friend close at hand whose strong faith in his God, made him a most powerful and efficient friend. Elijah now appears again before us as a mighty wrestler with God in fervent prayer. Again we see a proof that "the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." He prayed to God, "Let this child's soul come into him again." It was a great thing to ask. But his faith was sufficient for such a request. And God was at hand to answer the prayer of faith. "The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived."
Then came the double benefit to the widow. The restoration of her son, and the increase of faith in and love to the God of Elijah. How great her joy, when Elijah came down with the child alive, and presenting him to the astonished mother, said, "see thy son liveth." How strong her conviction in the God of Israel, though