In this new year of old worries and new angst, we are in danger of losing sight of the eternal truths by which we profess to live.
I was reading in the Old Testament Book of Kings in chapter 17 and stumbled again upon the story of Elijah. It suddenly took on new life. This prophet of Israel was sent by God to seek refuge in a time of famine in the home of a widow of Zarephath. The name of the town means little to us today but it was a foreign place, part of the kingdom of Tyre and Sidon. It was not where one would expect to find a man of God.
In addition, that woman was the bottom of the social ladder, a starving widow with a small son to support in a large port city that could so readily overlook her. Yet it is to her that Elijah makes his request for hospitality and it is she who enjoys the miracle of never ending flour until the famine is over.
Jesus reminds his hometown, Nazareth, of her when they ask him to work miracles for them and to forget what he is doing in other places. They would have liked him to draw a boundary around them that would exclude anyone else. The answer of Jesus is to remind them that God doesn’t draw such lines. He knows no foreigners. (Luke 4:16-30)
I closed my Bible with a renewed sense of how easily we forget. Amid the political cries to close our borders and to isolate those we perceive as “foreigners”, I renewed my acquaintance with that widow. I wonder if today’s Elijahs could approach her. It took courage for him to ask this stranger for help.
This is just one more old story that is forever new.