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Oil and Flour

         “And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the world of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:15-16).

After David’s son Solomon died, the kingdom split in two. The southern kingdom of Judah remained loyal to David’s line and produced several God-fearing kings, but the northern kingdom of Israel went through several dynasties, each one unfaithful to God. The most infamous of these kings was Ahab, who married the wicked Jezebel and instituted the dreadful worship of Baal in Israel. God would not let his evil deeds go unpunished. During his reign, a terrible famine spread across the kingdom of Israel. There was no rain for three years.

At this time, there lived a widow in the little town of Zarephath. The famine hit her hard, so that the day came when she had only enough flour and oil to make one more little loaf of bread for herself and her son. After they ate that, they would have nothing left but to die. The widow went out to gather sticks to bake this last piece of food, preparing herself for the inevitable. There was nothing she could buy, nothing she could do to keep her family from starvation.

Then, as she was searching for sticks to burn, a man came up to her. Though he had clearly been living in the wilderness for quite some time, he looked surprisingly well-fed. But it was the words that came from his mouth that startled the widow more than anything. He first asked for some water, but as the widow hurried to fetch it, he called after her, “‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand’” (1 Kings 17:11).

The widow knew quite well she had nothing to feed this man, and she told him so. But the man persisted. If she would make him a loaf of bread first, he promised in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, that her oil and her flour would not run out until rain returned to the land. She and her house would live off of her meager provisions for as long as necessary.

The woman did exactly as the man said. There was nothing to lose, certainly; she and her son would die even if she hoarded this last little bit of food for themselves. She made the man his loaf of bread—and then she realized she still had enough to make some for herself and her son. And she had enough for the next day, and for the next day, and for the next day. No matter how many times she used her oil and her flour, the jars refused to empty. Every morning, the same small amounts rested in the jars, and every evening, it was as if the woman had never used them.

            What a beautiful example of God’s provision! This woman had practically nothing, barely enough to live on, but God sent His prophet Elijah to her for food. The woman used what she had, and though by all accounts it shouldn’t have amounted to anything, her minuscule amounts of oil and flour kept making bread for the duration of the famine. God didn’t increase what the woman had; her house wasn’t overflowing with bread. But she offered what she had, and God multiplied it beyond her wildest imagination. He can still do the same with the little things we have. In His hands, nothing is too small!

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