1 Kings 17:8-10a - Then the Word of the Lord came to him (Elijah), "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he arose and went to Zarephath.
If there ever was a group of people in the world who had the right to consider themselves special to God, it was ancient Israel. God had created their nation, called them into being, given them a land to live in, and granted them many great promises that would be fulfilled if only they would stay faithful. But of course, they didn't. They left the Lord their God and went after idols, and as a result, famine came on their land.
That was when God did something unexpected. God sent His prophet Elijah out of the country, to a neighboring country full of idol worshipers, where God promised to provide for his needs. There, Elijah found a woman gathering firewood to cook the last meal she had in the house for her family. He asked her to feed him first -- something that must have seemed pretty cheeky to the woman. But she did as he asked, and Elijah's promise came true: "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth" (1 Kings 17:14). The woman and her child and Elijah all ate until the famine ended.
Look at the Lord's care for outsiders! This woman was no Israelite; she was a widow of Zarephath, which is to say a Gentile and probably an idol worshiper herself. With her husband dead and a dependent son, she was doubtless poor. Her life would have meant nothing to most people then. But to God -- ah, the difference she meant to God. He sent His prophet to her. He provided for her needs and that of her son. Don't you think the woman became a believer in the God of Israel before it was all over?
In today's world, there is backlash against the "others" -- people who are different from us, either in language, color, culture, or economic level. The amount of fear and hatred out there is scary. But God is not participating in that madness. God cares -- not just about the powerful, righteous, orthodox prophet Elijah, but also about the poor, foreign, unwanted woman of Zarephath. And He cares even about us, too, no matter what side of the street we come from.
Jesus got into trouble once for preaching on this story. The people loved His sermon -- until He pointed out that the woman God helped was a foreigner. Then they started yelling. They drove Him out of the synagogue and tried to throw Him off a cliff. But God did not allow that, and Jesus got away (see Luke 4:24-30).
Can we welcome those who are outsiders, just as God did: those who are poor, foreign, speak a different language, or follow other customs? Can we welcome them as God has welcomed us? For certainly, the great majority of us are not descendants of Israel. Yet, in His mercy, God saw to it that the life-saving news of His Son Jesus reached all the way to us -- Jesus, who died for us and for all people.
Indeed, let us show that same welcome to others.
THE PRAYER: Father, help me welcome the ones You love. In Your Son's Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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