Lesson 7: October 13, 2019

1 Kings 17:8–16 When people are denied the necessities of life, they may give up hope. What is the reward for faithful obedience in times of hardship? The widow of Zarephath faithfully ministered to God’s prophet, and God miraculously provided for her throughout the time of famine.

Blessed for Faithfulness

Bible Background • 1 KINGS 17:1–24
Printed Text • 1 KINGS 17:8–16 | Devotional Reading • PROVERBS 3:1–10

Aim for Change

By the end of the lesson, we will: TELL how the widow of Zarephath was blessed for her faithfulness to do as the prophet instructed her, FEEL confident that God can reward sacrificial faithfulness, and PLAN ways to support people and causes as acts of faithfulness to God.

In Focus

Bertha had agreed to drive Mother Mason, one of the elderly women at the church, to a town a couple hours away. Mother Mason wanted to go to her sister’s house to help prepare for an upcoming family reunion.

On the way over to pick up Mother Mason, Bertha tuned in to the local weather and traffic radio station. “There’s been a major accident on Highway 30,” the radio announcer reported. “Traffic is backed up, and it may take hours to clear the road. Avoid this area, if at all possible.” Bertha sighed to herself. Highway 30 was the only way to travel to Mother Mason’s sister’s home.

“Sorry, Mother Mason,” Bertha said when she arrived at the house. “I’ll have to take you later this afternoon or tomorrow. But no way are we going to get into all that traffic.” Mother Mason agreed. “I’ll just go ahead and make some dishes and desserts here at home and wrap them up and take them tomorrow.”

God uses circumstances, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and wise counsel from godly people to guide His children. When we follow what God has said, we find that everything works together for good. Identify how you can learn to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction, even if it means giving up something you cherish.

Keep in Mind

“There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16, NLT).

“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” (1 Kings 17:16, KJV).

The People, Places, and Times

Famine. A famine is an extreme shortage of food. God often used famines in response to Israel’s continued disobedience. One of the common forms of famine was a drought, which is the excessive dryness of the land. Famines and droughts are recorded throughout the Bible during the time of Abraham (Genesis 12:10), Isaac (Genesis 26:1), Joseph (Genesis 41:27), the Judges (Ruth 1:1), and the Israelites in the days of David (2 Samuel 21:1), Elijah (1 Kings 18:2), Elisha (2 Kings 4:38), Haggai (Haggai 1:11), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:3). In an agrarian society like Israel, the failure of a single season’s crop could mean the starvation and death of many during the resulting famine.

Background

In their first iteration, the books of 1 and 2 Kings were a single literary work meant to provide a continuous account of Israel’s history after the death of David, the second king of Israel. God blessed David and his descendants, and Jesus was part of his lineage. In Hebrew texts, 1 and 2 Kings were divided into separate books during the Middle Ages under the influence of earlier Greek and Latin translations, which saw them as the continuation of the history of Israelite kingship beginning in 1 Samuel. In Jewish tradition, they are part of the division of the Bible called the Former Prophets which includes Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. Together the books of the Former Prophets recount the history of Israel from the conquest of Canaan to the end of the monarchy and the beginning of exile.

The theological concern of these books is worship that was meant to happen at the temple in Jerusalem. In 1 and 2 Kings, the rulers are assessed based on their adherence to regular worship in Jerusalem and their commitment to worshiping only the God of Israel. For example, Ahab became king of Israel and did more evil things than all the kings before him (1 Kings 16:29–30). Ahab and his wife Jezebel angered God by worshiping Baal. In an abrupt introduction to the prophet, Elijah tells Ahab that there would be a drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). The three-year drought proved the efficacy of God over Baal. (Baal was a storm god who was believed to bring rain and fertility to the land.) God then commands Elijah to go live in Zarephath, which was in the heartland of the Baal cult (1 Kings 17:8–16). God told Elijah that a widow there would feed him. The story focuses on Elijah’s ability to perform miracles, but it also demonstrates the way God cares for those who love and serve Him.