Saturday, November 18, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anonymous Women - The Widow of Zarephath

Bread. Who doesn’t like bread? In just about every culture it is a common table food. The categories of bread are endless, from a loaf, flatbread, tortilla, pita, naan, challah, and so on. If it has at least flour and water involved—it’s bread!


This begins our journey into the life of our anonymous woman, the widow of Zarephath. Her testimony is found in 1 Kings 17. It is a testimony because the two people in the story are tested in their faith and obedience. The outcome of their test is one that produces a miracle that teaches them about God’s faithfulness and life. More importantly, that God can be revealed to anyone, including one who is not Hebrew, but a gentile.


This is the same chapter that we are introduced to the prophet Elijah. Elijah is a man from Tishbe, in Gilead. Geographically, today it would on the side of the Jordan river that is in the country of Jordan.  Somewhere between the sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) and the Dead sea. Elijah encounters Israel’s king at the time, Ahab. This was during the time that Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel. The kingdom of Israel was the northern region. Elijah tells King Ahab that a drought is coming and it will last for a few years (1 Kings 17:1). God then instructs Elijah to go to the Kerith Brook near the Jordan river and drink from the brook and where He will command the ravens to feed him. Side note, that right there is a test. Who would eat food brought by a scavenger bird? This was Elijah’s first test of obedience. We don’t know what kind of food the ravens brought, but it was probably not steak and potatoes.


Eventually the brook dried up and it was then God instructed Elijah to make his way to Zarephath. Zarephath was located on the coast in Phoenicia (currently Lebanon), 8 miles south of Sidon and 14 miles north of Tyre. The city today is called Sarafand.[1] If one was to drive it now, it’s about a 6-hour drive, but in Elijah’s time this would have been about a 3-day journey. Why in the world would God have Elijah travel that far, especially in a time when water was scarce. But the fact remains, He did and this was another test of obedience. God was teaching Elijah to trust.


Elijah arrives at the village gates of Zarephath and sees a woman collecting sticks. She was probably a young woman as her son is a child. We don’t know how her husband died, but she was preparing for her and her son to join him in death.  God had already engaged this woman. We don’t know how, especially since she was a Phoenician woman, a Canaanite, and worshiped other gods. God had gone before Elijah and instructed her (some translations say commanded, just like He commanded the ravens) to feed him.  The first question he asks of her is for a cup of water and then asks for a bite of bread. She responds to him As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, 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.” (1 Kings 17:12) We see here, she doesn’t know God personally as she refers to Him as “your God” at least she is willing. The problem is, she doesn’t have enough for the three of them, not to mention, most bread recipes call for more than two ingredients and she doesn’t mention that.


Elijah tells her not to be afraid, but if she feeds him first, then she will have enough for her and her son. (This is the principle in tithing as well. If we give God a tenth off the top, then we will have enough.) He goes on to say, For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:14).


It was her obedience to this stranger’s God that her needs are met, continuously. She was able to feed her entire household for many days as well as Elijah. She even invited Elijah to stay in her home. This bread that she had made was life-giving bread.  Only two ingredients flour and oil produced a miracle. But those weren’t the only ingredients used that allowed them all to continue living in the blessing. The most important ingredients used were “faith and obedience.” That’s right these two ingredients will produce more in one’s life than anything else.


Jesus calls himself bread. John 6:36 he says, “‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” When we put our faith to the test, and are obedient to Jesus, he will lead us through the droughts and famines that life can bring. Sometimes, like Elijah, we will have to go to places that don’t seem logical. Why would God send Elijah to a widow, especially because most widows had nothing and it’s really the man’s responsibility to provide for the widow or woman for that matter. Could it be that because she was living in a pagan village that a man staying at a woman’s house would not be unusual? This is similar to when Joshua sent the two spies to scout out Jericho and they end up hiding in Rahab’s house, the home of a prostitute (Joshua 2:1).


Sometime later, this widow’s son becomes ill (1 Kings 17:17).  Elijah is still living in her home. This is the second time she needs a life-giving miracle. She has probably been learning about who God is because of having Elijah in her home. She cries out to Elijah and asks if it’s because of him, her son is dying. She recognizes her own sin and wonders if that’s why she is facing the death of her son. Elijah takes the child from her arms and carries him upstairs to his room. He lays the boy on his bed then stretches himself over the boy 3 times and cries out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”  (1 Kings 17:21).  This was another exercise of faith building for Elijah. Could it be that God sent Elijah to this woman to prepare him for the great acts of faith that were going to be required of him in the future? Did you know that Zarephath in Hebrew means “to smelt or to melt.?”  It was a place of refining.[2] God heard Elijah’s prayer and revived the child. When he brought the boy to his mother, she responded by saying, “‘Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.’” (1 Kings 17:24) She now believed in the living God!


This is not only a testimony of God raising up a man of God, but reaching out to the gentile. Just like the two ingredients used to make bread, flour and oil, God used two people from different cultures in this story to reveal His glory. There are only two kinds of people on the earth, believers and unbelievers. It is God’s desire for all of mankind to be a part of His family. One day when Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Teaching the people while his own people in Nazareth rejected him (unbelievers), he talks about a prophet not having honor in his hometown.  He reminds the people of this widow. Her testimony of a living God who gives life to the Jew and the gentile. He tells them there were many widows in Israel at that time, but only the widow in Zarephath was willing to care for Elijah during the three year and 6 month famine (Luke 4:25-26). God sent Jesus as the main ingredient to eternal life. The bread that we have been given that was brought through the the Jewish people that even the gentile would be saved. Just like the widow fed her whole household, which likely included extended family, God’s desire is that His son, the Bread of Life, would feed the whole world.


As mentioned earlier in this story, it takes more than two ingredients to make any kind of bread. Even bread without yeast, salt and water are necessary. Jesus is the “living water” (John 4:13) and we are the salt (John 5:13). We see there’s a partnership here. There is so much to be said about this woman’s testimony. Her importance to God’s big story continues to build faith for those who find themselves in challenging times. Any one of us could insert our name in her story. God uses the most common of ingredients, people to work out His plan along with the main ingredient, Jesus. Even if there’s just a little faith, it can lead to the greatest miracle that one can experience, eternal life. You too can share a bite of the Bread of Life with those around you. It’s the greatest life changing miracle that one will experience.


Ingredients for a long life!


Joshua 1:9, NLT: This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”


Deuteronomy 7:9, NLT: Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.


Psalm 33:4, NKJV: For the word of the LORD is right, And all His work is done in truth.


Psalm 37:25, NLT: Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.


Jeremiah 29:11-13, NKJV: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.


Jeremiah 30:17, NKJV: “For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the LORD, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: “This is Zion; No one seeks her.”’


Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.

 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.


Luke 6:38, NKJV: Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”


Luke 21:1-4, NLT: While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”


Philippians 4:19, NKJV: And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


Hebrews 13:2, NLT: Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!


2 Timothy 2:13, NKJV: If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.



*This information was complied by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA. 







Saturday, November 4, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anonymous Women - The Two Mothers

The court room was quiet. Only a judge was present, along with two women, who were defending themselves. Each hurt by the other and eyeing each other in a way only that only angry women can do. No one else was present—no lawyers, no jury. Two women, who were prostitutes by trade, one the plaintiff and the other the defendant, standing before the judge. They are fighting over an infant and who the boy belonged to. The plaintiff claiming the defendant took her child because she had accidentally killed her baby by rolling over on him while he was sleeping and exchanges the two children by giving the dead baby to the plaintiff. The defendant claiming that this is a lie. Each women pleads their case. The judge takes a recess to evaluate what he has just heard and to find who is telling the truth. Mind you, this is his first case and the first time he’s ever had to sit on the bench and judge between to people. He thinks long and hard about which of the two women was telling the truth. A thought comes to him as to how he will solve the case. He returns to the bench to give his verdict, cut the baby in half. What?


The scenario sounds like a “Law and Order” television drama. This is no script. This story is actually in the Bible. It is found in 1 Kings 3, when Solomon becomes king of Israel and finds himself a bit overwhelmed at the job. He ends up marrying Pharaoh’s daughter (who worshipped the gods of Egypt) as an alliance with Egypt. This might have seemed wise in his own eyes at the time, and especially as the tensions with Egypt were always there, and he wasn’t a warrior like his father. We see later in his life this was the beginning of his demise as he ends up with 700 wives and 300 concubines who worship foreign gods. It’s possible that Solomon became king as a young man and with little life experience thought this was a good idea. But what he did have going for him, his heart was turned toward God, just as his father David’s was. So much so, that one night, God appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted. Solomon didn’t ask for fame or wealth, he asked for wisdom and God granted him that request. We know that he became the wisest man of all time. Along with the wisdom, the benefit of fame and wealth followed.


Sometime after this dream, two women appear before Solomon to settle an argument. Both of these women are prostitutes who live in the same house. The first woman has a baby, and three days later the second woman has a baby, but she rolls over on him and he dies. She swaps the dead baby for the living baby. When the first woman realizes the dead baby looks nothing like her baby, she confronts the other woman, who denies it. Somehow, they get permission to appear before Solomon and ask him to determine who the baby should go to. He then asks for a sword so that he may cut the baby in half. The first woman who says the baby belongs to her pleads with him not to do this, and tells him the other woman can have the baby. But the other woman agrees that that’s exactly what should be done. She may not have wanted any babies in the house. Solomon then sees the truth and gives the baby to his mother.


Obviously, we can see that probably having a baby in their particular line of work could be a hazard. They were prostitutes and having a baby was not conducive in their line of work. It’s also possible they were widowed women and ended up in this line of work to survive[1].Think about it, if they have a baby, they are out of work for a time due to the care.  Also, the pagan people of the surrounding areas were worshiping Molech, who was the god that children were sacrificed to. It’s possible that this isn’t the first time two prostitutes find themselves with babies and it’s possible this was how these women rid themselves of these children to keep working.  How in the world, would the first woman know that the second woman rolled over onto her baby and killed him? Could the baby have died of S.I.D.S.? After all it was the middle of the night and the woman claiming this injustice was asleep. What we do see is the character of these two women in this story. The first was wanted the truth and justice. The second domineering and a deceptive. But how in the world did these two women find themselves standing before Solomon, the king of Israel, asking him to determine who should get the child? This is mind boggling to think about. Imagine trying get a one-on-one with a president, king, or queen of a country. Especially if they are being asked to solve a “home” problem.  Could the king have known of these women? In either of these wonderings, Solomon’s gift of wisdom is introduced and the heart of who he is to the world.


As crazy as this story may seem, there is a lot to be learned here. If we take a deeper look into this story, we can see a picture of God’s love for mankind.  Just like the mother of the living baby, God was willing to let His son leave Him and live with us. Before we invite Jesus into our lives, we are much like the second woman, looking out for ourselves and selfish desires. The living baby could be a representation of Jesus, eternal life. The dead baby could be a representation of Adam, who is responsible for the fall that caused the curse of death. Either way, the outcome of this story is love at work. A love that could not separate that baby from his mother.


We can look at this story through another angle. It’s an analogy of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Galatians 5:17 says, (NThe sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” (NLT) Have you ever had an argument with yourself? The kind that you hear that inner voice telling you to do something good and you try to ignore it? Or the opposite, that inner voice telling you to do something wrong and you follow through with it? Our flesh so wants to be in control of our lives, and it is until we make Jesus our Lord and Savior. Once that happens, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and our spirit comes alive and opens our hearts to truth, The Truth, the voice of God.


That’s what Solomon was going for in this passage, the truth. One of the ways we can filter the lies from the truth on a daily basis is through God’s word. Like the sword that he asked for, we have the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between join and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT) When we read in the Bible, that truth roots itself deep within us. The more time we spend in the Bible, the more it becomes a part of us, leads us, and directs us as well as wisdom. It is also God’s words speaking life to us as well as expressing His love for us.


Whichever way you choose to interpret this particular story, it is teaching us something about the character of one who seeks life and justice and one who is willing to steal, kill, and destroy. Our Heavenly Father honors those who stand for truth and wisdom. One day, we will stand before the King of kings and be judged. We will give an account for our lives on whether we chose to walk in His love through salvation or death by giving into our flesh.  One thing is for certain, like the first woman who loved her baby, was willing to sacrifice raising him so he could live. God’s love for us is so much greater. He was willing to sacrifice His son, so that we could live. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)


Daily reminders of God’s love for us!


Psalm 19:14, NKJV: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”


Isaiah 49:15-16, NKJV: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.”


Isaiah 66:13, ESV: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”


Jeremiah 29:11-14, NLT:  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”


Zephaniah 3:17, NLT: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”


John 13:34-35, NLT: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


John 14:2, NKJV: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”


Romans 5:3-5, NLT: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”


Romans 5:8, NKJV: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


Romans 8:38-39, NLT: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Philippians 3:20, NKJV: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”


1 John 3:16, NLT: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”


1 John 4:9-10, NLT: “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”



*This information was complied by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA.