For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’
(1 Kings 17:14 NKJV)
In recenti times we have all noticed the increases related to flour and its derivatives: bread, pasta and pizza, which is the heart of our diet. The media speak of growth linked to transport costs, leaner harvests, the choices of some countries to limit exports, but perhaps also to speculation. Whenever we have these increases, "ghosts" begin to appear on the horizon. In the Bible, the lack of flour was synonymous with famine, and therefore with difficulty and danger of life. In our text, the prophet Elijah is sent out of the country during a famine. In Sarepta he meets a widow, in worse condition than hers, who asks her first for a drink and then for food. Thus we witness the materialization of God's providence, where there was nothing and through those who had nothing or little. It doesn't take much for God. The widow has very little, to the point that she is ready to die, and she initially resists the prophet. It is the words of these that give her the courage to do as requested. The invisible hand of God makes use of who he does not have. He, who can do beyond what we think or ask, likes to shame the noble things of this world with the ignoble, and the wise with the little children. He pushes us to trust him by asking for apparently "absurd" action.
It is not the only time we witness the materialization of God's providence where there was nothing and through those who had nothing or little. The forty years in the desert towards Canaan are full of miraculous interventions. A little is enough for God, just as a few loaves and a few fish were enough for Jesus to satisfy a multitude of people. We are challenged to have faith and courage to take what is available to us and be part of it for others, not to be limited or to make a thousand reasoning in acting, just as little as a grain of mustard. Sharing is the basis of multiplication. The woman initially had no hope in the prophet's words, but then she was persuaded to do as required. In the moment in which he finds the strength to share, because love is to break with those who do not have, the hand of God intervenes and the oil and flour multiply and do not run out, heralding the "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into yourbosom. Forwith the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38 NKJV).
Probably also the widow, who attracted the attention of Jesus in the temple, was living in her resignation her last days. She had barely two pennies. She could have provided lunch for that day. From the account of Luke (21: 3-4) we see her arrive silently among the crowd of the temple, in her extreme poverty she approaches the offering boxes and there she drops "everything she had". She feels in her heart the need for her as a Jew to support the temple, to give what is in her power to her. And she does it not to invest in divine mercy, nor with the attitude of those who go to plant in the field of miracles. I am sure that in her heart there is nothing but faith, the certainty that God takes care of her, as happened for the widow of Sarepta. The widow class along with the orphans was on the fringes of Jewish society. Nobody took care of them. Yet the Pentateuch orders a certain concern towards them. God himself is presented as "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation" (Psalm 68:5). Even the prophet Isaiah exhorts about it in the name of the Lord: "Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17). Only afterwards does she encourage "come and let's discuss". Which means that there are progressive steps, which we cannot ignore. Before going before God, our gaze must turn to our height, towards those in need. Only then will the flour not run out and the oil will not drop.
Weekly Bible Reading
Plan # 48
November 22, Ezekiel 18-19; James 4
November 23, Ezekiel 20-21; James 5
November 24, Ezekiel 22-23; 1 Peter 1
November 25, Ezekiel 24-26; 1Peter 2
November 26, Ezekiel 27-29; 1 Peter 3
November 27, Ezekiel 30-32; 1 Peter 4
November 28, Ezekiel 33-34; 1 Peter 5