Zarapeth

1 Kings Chapter 17

I’m gathering sticks outside of the city,
A widow with son, devoid of all pity.
This famine has left us to starve and to die,
We have one last meal. I am too sad to cry.

All my life I’ve listened to God, and been obedient to His call. I’ve spoken to King Ahab, told him of the famine that will strike his kingdom sore. From its very start God sent his ravens to feed me morning and night with bread and flesh. Sufficient for the needs of each day, day by day. I was never in want. And now the stream that also kept me company has dried up, but not God’s care. He has sent me to Zarapeth, to watch out for a widow woman who will sustain me.
The hot air and desert dust has left me parched and dry, and the sight of the city is a welcome relief. I approach the gates, and I see through the shimmering haze a woman gathering sticks. I call out to her:

“Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”

I see through the heat-haze a travelling man
He has need of drink; I respond best I can.
I put down my few sticks and thought he would know
That I too am thirsty. I look where to go.

I’m glad God has led me to this dear woman. She looks as though she has reached the end of her sad expectations, and yet her first thought is to respond to me, a stranger. I know she has just food left for herself and her child. But I also know that God has promised to sustain me, and in that will be her blessing too.

“Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.”

His needful request has me caught what to do:
As the Lord lives I have not the food to feed you.
Sir, all that I have will give just one more meal
For myself and my son and then death will prove real.

I give glory to God that He sent me to her, for her faith is deep but sore tested, and in blessing me God will extend that blessing to her. I know that God has already provided, and look with love and compassion into her eyes:

“Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”

I weigh up the certainty of our last meal
Against this man’s promise the famine will heal.
To put the Lord God first is what he did say.
He must be a prophet: I tremble, obey:

My heart strangely light with the spiritual toil
I made him his cake with the meal and the oil.
Day followed day with sufficient, no waste.
Each portion I used was, as used, all replaced.

I learnt that in giving the gift did not cease,
But multiplied out to many more bless.
No matter how desperate the case to be plead,
By putting God first His Love met our need.

**

But then things went wrong! My son sickened and died
How could God do this! I was angry and cried!
So thank you, prophet, for this wintery blast!
What meaning now is there for all that has past?

You’ve given us life for these extra few years
But torn it away by this death and new tears.
What value is there if it all comes to naught,
Why didn’t you stop this with your prophet thought?!

Dear God, I thank Thee that each day our needs have been met, there’s been no want, and my prayers have reached out to you for guidance and sustenance. And now the widow’s only son has stopped breathing. And she is distraught, angry with me and with You.
I need to lift her son above and out of this condemnation.

“Give me thy son.”

My dear and lifeless son is wrapped ‘cross my chest
I hold him too tight, but he’s quiet and at rest.
Elijah the prophet says “Give me thy son”
I have nothing left. He takes him. He’s gone.

I carry him up to my bed in the loft of her house, away from her fears and accusations. I lay him down gently as if he were still alive. I challenge the common theology by asking a rhetorical question, as if God would ever slay her son! I knew God was all-powerful, that the so-called god of death, the gods of Ahab and Jezebel, had no power to kill. God would heal him. I stretch out upon him three times, – the symbol of life, for I know that God will bring him back to life in her eyes, for He is Life, and that life has therefore never left him. And came the recognition, came the recognition, came the recognition, the constant supply of meal and oil was the same as this boy’s breath, its source was unlimited, universal, day by day, that just as God is supplying the meal and oil from His ever-presence, so all life is ever-present, – and his soul shall come unto him again! The Truth of his being must necessarily be expressed in his revival. And so it is. He takes new breath, fully restored from all illness, and I take him by the hand, bring him down out of my chamber, and deliver him running with joy and delight to his mother.

“See, thy son liveth.”

Oh dearest Elijah, how could I thee so doubt?
Thou art a man of God, so strong and so devout.
Help me Elijah see the things that you see too,
For what you see is Truth and I see Truth in you.

And while the famine lasted all our needs were met;
Each day began with prayer until our thoughts were set.
Year three the prophet left us, his good God remained,
For Love is here and now; in Love we are sustained.