Today I debated whom to write about: Omri and Ahab, the "new champions of evil," or the nameless
Then I took a closer look and realized they are connected: both women in the story, Ahab's wife Jezebel and the widow, were Sidonians.
The kings of both Judah and Israel made strategic alliances through marriage to the daughters of nearby kings. Solomon's Egyptian wife started the trend of building a temple where she could worship. None of those queens had a more far-reaching influence than Jezebel, Ahab's wife. She introduced Baal worship to Israel, and Ahab jumped right in. By the time of the confrontation with Elijah, she had named 450 prophets of Baal. They didn't even pretend to worship the God who brought them out of Egypt any more. Why weren't the Israelite kings as committed to their God as their wives were to Yahweh?!
Looking at Jezebel, one might think that all Sidonians were sold out to Baal. Yet when the prophet Elijah needed a place to hide and to survive the drought, God sent him to--Sidon, in Phoenicia. To a widow, who didn't even have enough food for herself and her son.
Hmm, at least when David lived among the Philistines, he made friends with the king.
Evidence of her faith, though, is shown in her words, "as surely as your God lives." She recognized Yahweh as the living God, but not one she could claim a right to. Further signs of faith? She used that last little bit of flour and oil to make a biscuit for Elijah. Either she surrendered to dying earlier (by losing that last meal) or perhaps hoped, beyond an impossible hope, that he spoke the truth. Her flour and oil didn't run out until the famine broke.
Some time later, tragedy struck. The widow's son died, suddenly. She sent for Elijah. She accused him of "barging in, exposing my sin, killing my son." Grief and guilt, a powerful combination, released a flood of emotion and accusations. Perhaps she blamed herself. Did she think her sin had led to her son's death?
God restored the boy's life after Elijah prayed three times. The final words we hear from the widow are, "When you speak, God speaks--a true word!"
And that's it. We don't hear another word about her. There are places in the Gospels where we read that Jesus traveled through Sidon, and that people from Sidon followed him.
Point number one: God's plan has always included the Gentiles.
And yet, God used the widow. He gave her what might have been the most important task of her time: providing asylum for the prophet Elijah.
The next time I read the widow's story, I think I'll insert my name.