MIRACLE AT ZAREPHATH
“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:9 ESV)
The town of ZAREPHAT, a Gentile region, was known in Greek as ”SAREPTA”, which was located in the southern province of Sidon, named after Sidon son of Canaan (cf. Genesis 10:15). There were many widows in Israel but the LORD chose to send His prophet Elijah to this widow in Zarephath, which was in Gentile region to save her and her son when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months as a consequence of Prayer from Elijah. The prophet prayed to the LORD to shut heaven from raining because of the idolatry King Ahab and his wife Jezebel forced into the lives of the children of Israel.
The LORD chose to save the gentile woman and her son because His own people rejected Him. Not only in the New Testament the LORD gave first priority to the children of Israel but in the Old Testament period also God’s dealing was similar.
The blessings and covenants belonged to Israel and God chose them as a nation and His own people. However, He also had consideration toward the Gentiles; otherwise, the people of Nineveh would have perished, except for their repentance. Jonah was angry with the LORD when Nineveh was saved and the LORD taught Jonah a lesson for getting angry with Him.
”And the LORD said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’ ” (Jonah 4:10-11 ESV)
The children of Israel, the LORD’s own people went after idols to serve other gods contrary to the first two commandments of the Ten Commandments. The LORD always chose to give first chance to the children of Israel to be saved but then when they rejected salvation was sent to the Gentiles.
The famine that followed the shutting of heaven from raining was very severe and the brook from which Elijah drank water dried and the LORD said to Elijah to move to another place, which was Zarephath. From this incident it is evident that when a purpose of God is fulfilled at a place, He will remove His servant from that place or He will end the ministry or life of His servant.
In obedience to the word of the LORD Elijah went to ”Zarephath”, where he saw a widow gathering sticks at the gate of the city. He said to her to fetch little water to drink and as she was about to fetch water for him he said to her to bring a morsel of bread.
The widow swore by the LORD and said, except for handful of meal in a jar and little oil in a jug, she does not have bread, and the reason why she was gathering sticks was that she was going to cook little food for her son and her that they may eat and later die of starvation.
Elijah comforted her that she should cast away her fear and make little cake of it first for him and bring it to him, and afterward make something for her and her son. He assured her that God of Israel will neither allow the flour in the jar to exhaust nor will he allow the jug to be empty of oil.
The widow obeyed as Elijah in faith and her faith brought great results for her and her son. She and her son, and her household ate from that flour from the jar and the oil from that jug for many days. The jar of flour did not exhaust nor did the jug of oil become empty according the word of the LORD that Elijah spoke to her. (cf. 1 Kings 17:8-16)
Lord Jesus quoted the incident of the woman at Zarephath and said to His people ”Physician, heal yourself”. This proverb was generally used to admonish physician who suffered the same disease as of his patient. He also quoted about a Gentile leper Naaman the Syrian who was cleansed among many lepers in Israel during the time of Elias the Prophet. This speech of Jesus enraged the listeners who thrust him out the city and led him to the peak of the hill to throw him down but He being divine walked out of their midst his way safe.
Lord Jesus died on behalf of us in due time that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (cf. Luke 4:24-30; Romans 5:6; Romans 10:9; John 3:16). Confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in heart that God raised Him from the dead to be saved from damnation (Cf. Romans 10:9)