Week 3, Part 2: Widows Indeed
Day 4: Setting An Example Luke 2:36-38; 4:25,26
Yesterday we saw the stark difference between Jesus’ way of relating to a widow woman and that of the Pharisees. Today we are going to start looking at several illustrations from the New Testament of the honor that God gives to widows and His desires concerning their care. If you’re not sure what this has to do with the fatherless, don’t worry, the connection is actually very clear. Throughout Scripture the fatherless and the widow are linked together. And truly, where there is a widow, there very often are fatherless children. If we do not understand God’s esteem for the widow and how He wants us to care for them, we will fail in caring for their children.
Anna. This woman amazes me. Here I sit, well into my thirties, never married, never dated, and to be honest some days it is difficult to look at singleness as a gift. What an amazing example Anna sets. She, who had a husband, could have been bitter. Instead, she chooses to use her singleness for God. Eighty-four years of singleness! What an illustration of one who had the gift that Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 7:7-9, “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” God honors her for her faithfulness. In Luke 2:37 the Bible says, “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” If that isn’t an example of faithfulness, I don’t know what it is.
This passage in Luke, of course, is speaking of Jesus’ dedication in the temple. The next verse tells us what happened when Anna saw her God in the form of babe. “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” She didn’t keep the news to herself! She gave thanks to God and shared the news with as many people in Jerusalem as she possibly could. What an example: Faithfulness in God’s house, in prayer, in fasting, a thankful heart and a desire to speak to others of the redemption found in Christ!
A Widow And A Stranger. In Luke 4, Jesus references a widow of the Old Testament. In this passages He is discussing why He would not be accepted in Nazareth. To illustrate, He used the example of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, “Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” Luke 4:24-26
Sarepta (or Zarephath) was a Phoenician city. The culture in that land would not have been the same as that to which Elijah was accustomed, nor their religion. Elijah was a stranger in that land, but God sent him there to a widow. The drought was severe. People were starving. The widow had gone to find two sticks so she could build a fire. Then she planned to mix a little oil with a little flour, make two little cakes and feed them to herself and her son. Then she planned to die. Imagine how she must have felt when Elijah had the audacity to tell her to make a little cake for him first!
The key element here, however, in relation to the passage in Luke is that she accepted him as a prophet. In 1 Kings 17:12 she makes the first reference of the conversation to God, “And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse…” She understood at the very least where Elijah was from and Who his God was. Elijah tells her not to be afraid but to go on and make his cake first and then he says, “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the curse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” He declared the word of God and she accepted it. The next verse tells us that she went and did it. What an amazing example of faith. I would find it hard if I had only enough food to feed my child one more time to instead begin making food for someone else, but she did it.
She, a Sidonian and not a Jew, did exactly what God had been commanding his people to do – she cared for a stranger. In turn, God used that stranger, His prophet, to raise up the widow’s son when he became sick and died. This was the clincher for her, by that action she knew without a doubt that Elijah was who he said he was, “And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:24
Jesus used this story to emphasize the point that He was making, and by doing so honored her for her faith and obedience.
Faith. Obedience. Faithfulness. Prayer. Fasting. Thanksgiving. Sharing Christ. What amazing examples these two women set.
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Also Check out Rachel Miller’s Book: The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption