Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food. (1 Kings 17:9 NIVUK)
There was a famine in Israel and God tells Elijah that he is going to save his life through a widow at Zarephath. To understand how shocking this would have been to Elijah, when Jesus referred to this incident in his first sermon
(Luke 4:24–29) the religious people tried to kill him. What was so shocking about this incident? Simply that God was going to save his prophet through a pagan gentile. They were heretics, racial outsiders, and to add salt to the wound it was a woman, who had no status or rights, who would save him. Elijah must have wished that he could have been saved by manna from heaven, but God was shattering every barrier religion and society puts between people. Here is God is using a poor, racially excluded, unbelieving, idol-worshipping woman and says to Elijah, “I’m going to save you through her, and I’m going to save her through you. Go and build a relationship with her. I refuse to save you any other way.” And when Jesus draws attention to this incident the religious people want to kill him.
Why were the religious people so upset? They thought that God was just the God of the upright, the moral, the Israelites, the insiders, and Jesus offended their sensibilities. He was using this example to show that God is a God of outsiders, a God of those on the margins of society, a God of grace, a God who offers his salvation regardless of merit, regardless of pedigree, regardless of gender, regardless of status. The gospel message of salvation in Jesus is good news for all people – all are included.
This has an important application for us. Elijah went to this widow and embraced the outsider. He got involved with a poor, needy widow, someone from another culture, and while he was saved physically the widow came to see God’s work of grace
(1 Kings 17:24). Jesus was concerned for the hurting, the downtrodden, those who society marginalized and brought them grace and salvation. Can we do any less as followers of Jesus? Can we open ourselves to people who are different, who the world considers outsiders, and share God’s love for them so they can see the gospel of grace? The strange thing is, like Elijah, we too will find the gospel of grace if we do.
Father help us to stand with the poor, the excluded, the hurting, the despised, and the rejected in our society. Forgive us when we do not reach out to them as Jesus would. May we value each life as a priceless gift from you and share your grace with everyone.
Have a sharing week.