1 Kings 17:8-12 “Then the word of the Lord came to him (Elijah): ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.””
My children watched the Disney movie Aladdin until the videotape wore out. It was a great movie for memorable lines, in part due to the comedy of Robin Williams. A line that weaves through the movie like a thematic golden thread has the hero, Aladdin, saying to his love interest, Princess Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” “Do you trust me?” he asks when they first meet in the marketplace, she in disguise and he running away from the law. “Do you trust me?” he asks at her balcony when he visits the palace disguised as a prince and offers her a ride on his magic carpet. “Trust me!” he demands near the end as his plan unfolds to defeat the evil Jafar.
“Do you trust me?” I have often pictured God asking that question and offering his hand to his people at times when his plan didn’t seem quite so clear or reasonable. “Do you trust me?” he could have asked Moses and the children of Israel as they were pinned against the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s chariots before a dry path opened right through the waters. “Do you trust me?” he could have asked the future King David before he went out to fight the Giant Goliath with a slingshot and five rocks. “Do you trust me?” Jesus could have asked Peter before he invited him to get out of the boat and walk to Jesus on the water.
The widow of Zarephath is another case in point. In a sense, God was asking this widow, “Do you trust me?” before she takes the last bit of food she has and feeds it to the prophet Elijah.
For this woman, it wasn’t just a matter of living in scary times. Disaster had arrived. She was a widow. Nearly three millennia ago that meant you had no good way to make a living. On top of that, she and her son had run out of all but their last bit of food. They were ready to eat their last meal, then resign themselves to a slow death by starvation.
Will we ever live in a world so secure there won’t be some threat to having enough? I have a friend who used to send me the kind of stories you don’t hear about in the mainstream news. These reports suggested that, in almost every facet of life, we are living on the brink of total collapse.
There is a temptation here, isn’t there. There is a temptation to wrap our arms around all that we have, and tighten our fists, and keep every last dime for ourselves, because who knows what the future holds? Instead of letting God’s gifts flow through us to the people and the causes where there is a need, fear makes us stingy. We become wary to give instead of daring to give, because we are afraid of our circumstances.
God doesn’t give us this example to teach us to be reckless or foolish with our resources. He doesn’t put us through similar times, when we don’t know where we will find work or how we will pay the bills, to get us so discouraged we stop trying.
He does want us to see that, whether we have much or little, we don’t get by our own hard work or cleverness. He invites us to trust him in spite of our circumstance. Saving his people is what he does. He has delivered them from danger over and over in the past. He has delivered us from our sins and rescued us from death. He will continue to provide as we trust him through the dangers of our present moment.