As a servant of God, do you appreciate, or despise God's provision through poor widows? Maybe you feel so sorry for them and dare not ask them to help you out?
Here's another way God provided for Elijah. (Note that God delights in surprising us with ways of providing for us that we would never have thought of).
This story is also in 1 Kings chapter 17, following right after the time Elijah spent by the brook Kerith, where God fed him through Ravens and the clear water in the brook. Because of the drought in the land, the brook dried up eventually too. So God told Elijah to get up and go to the village of Zarephath in Sidon.
God told him that He had already commanded a widow there to feed him. We don't read any details about how God did that, but we can be sure He had already commanded the widow. Elijah didn't even have to hunt for her.
As soon as he reached the gate of Zarephath, he met a woman gathering sticks for a fire. He asked for a drink of water in a jar.
As she went to get it, Elijah called out, "And please bring me a piece of bread."
The widow must have recognized him as a prophet of God; she stopped and said, "As surely as the LORD your God lives, I don't have any bread - only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die."
This widow knew something of the God of the prophet, and must have had some respect for this God, but had not trusted Him for herself yet.
Well, Elijah had just completed a course in trusting God, so he caught on to God's plan for provision through poor widows. Elijah told her to make a little cake (or bun) for him first, and then there would be enough for more for herself and her son in her resources. Her flour and oil would not run out until the day the Lord sent rain again.
The widow obeyed and found it to be so. All three of them were able to eat until the end of the famine!
Do you see a giving principle, and an asking principle, staring right at us in this true story?
The widow decided to trust God to provide for her and her son, but putting the request to provide food for the prophet or servant of God first. By getting her priorities right, God met all her family's needs. That would be the giving principle.
From Elijah's side, he merely had to obey God and ask (as instructed), the first widow he encountered at Zarephath. They both had to show fresh faith every day, yet, I'm sure their faith in God increased as they saw that He met their need for food on a daily basis.
I have found this to be true too. During the years I cared for my parents, I maintained my pledge to God to pay my tithes andofferings. Back in 1977 I had begged God to help me get out of debt and promised that I would give a tithe to missions (as I already was doing) but then give another tithe especially to missions. It took a few years, but I have kept that pledge through thick and thin. During those caregiver years I often had no income except what a pen pal might tuck into a card or letter.
Do you notice that I still have body and soul together? :) God did not fail me, and I learned that I didn't need everything I wanted. Not only that, but I learned that God delights in making provision through poor widows and single women.
What if you are in Elijah's sandals, as a servant of God, relying on the gifts of others so you can focus on ministry?
Then, like Elijah, a worthy example, you must trust God to lead you to those He has appointed to meet your needs. They may not be rich patrons, or large foundations. They may be poor widows who have to trust God for their own daily bread. They may grow in faith and obedience at the same time you are learning to do the same. The point is to trust God, not the widow.
After a while the Lord may put you into a different situation again, to learn new lessons and to cause someone else to learn to give. It's all a question of trusting the God we serve with an utter abandon. Then we will know that He will never fail us!
Do not despise God's provision through poor widows or even old maids.