01 August 2007

"Something in Her"? I Think Not.

od was sovereign in His choice of the widow of Zarephath to host Elijah. Jesus made that point emphatically at the beginning of His public ministry, in His own home synagogue in Nazareth. Luke 4:24-26:
Verily, I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
Think about this: God could have sent Elijah to any number of widows in Jerusalem, but he bypassed them all and chose this foreign widow instead.

God's sovereignty over the human heart is a theme that runs through 1 Kings 17. He chose this woman to show grace to. He moved her to respond. The Lord Himself makes this idea explicit. In verse 9, He tells Elijah: "Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." It was God who moved her heart to extend hospitality to Elijah, despite her own extremity. It was God who opened her heart to have enough faith to make him a small cake before she prepared her final handful of meal for herself and her son.

In other words, her kindness to Elijah was not the reason she was shown grace. Rather, it is proof that God's sovereign grace was at work in her heart.

One famous commentator says this:
There must have been something in her which could not be found in the many widows of Israel (Luke 4:25, 26). It was for no arbitrary reason that God passed them over, and went so far afield. She must have possessed qualities of character, germs of better things, sparks of heroism and faith, which distinguished her from all her sorrowing sisterhood, and made her the befitting hostess of the prophet, and the glad sharer with him in his Father's bounty. [F.B. Meyer, p. 31].
But that entirely misses the point. In fact, it misses the most basic truth Scripture teaches us about the grace of God. There was nothing in this woman's character that made her more deserving of God's grace than anyone else. Grace, by definition, is something that is entirely undeserved.

The reason this widow was shown a special mercy simply cannot be explained by "something in her." It was entirely owing to the sovereign will of God, who has mercy on whomever He chooses. She was sovereignly singled out by God to be a living object lesson of the truth that God would pour out His mercy on the Gentiles. Israel would fall because of unbelief, and God would therefore show grace to the Gentiles. Jesus used this incident to illustrate that point when the people in his own home town turned against Him.

So the point is not that this woman had hidden virtues that somehow merited God's favor more than any of the widows in Israel. The point is that God's grace cannot be taken for granted. He bestows His grace on whomever He chooses, and when it pleases Him, he may bypass all the widows in Israel in order to show mercy on a pagan widow.

So don't squander the grace He shows you. Don't harden your heart when you hear His voice. Don't take His grace for granted.

Phil's signature


DJP said...

Is the cat meant as an illustration of something that squanders grace?

FX Turk said...

That's more than 50 words. But I like it anyway.

Anonymous said...


I loved this. Exactly what I needed to hear this morning, and exactly what a lot of Christians need to hear. It is not all about me, but it is all about God.

By His Grace and For His Glory,


Stephen Garrett said...

Amen! The alien sinner does not accept the idea of grace and of the sovereignty of God. The choice of the widow was of sovereign grace alone. Amen! God did not choose her because she had certain qualities, but those qualities were proof of her election of God. The same is true with the case of the 300 God chose to go with Gideon. They had courage and skill, but did God choose them because they had those qualities or did they have those qualities because God had previously chosen the number?

Enjoyable read!

God bless and God speed

Stephen Garrett

Ben N said...

Amen, Phil.

I hear sometimes people being proud to be Calvinists :) Do you see the irony? A true Calvinist should be actually very humbled by this truth: his salvation belongs completely to God.

Daryl said...

We people-types will find anything to be proud of, won't we?

On the flip side, how often do we think we've fallen out of favour somehow when tyhings aren't going the way we had hoped. I'm sure, up the moment she realized that her oil and flour were still full, that woman was sure that she had failed God and was being punished. (In fact, didn't she conclude that the day her son died?)

Good or bad, we sure like that credit.

Thanks for a great reminder of God's sovereignty in everything.

Chick said...

Speaking of Condescending Grace...

SLW said...

"So don't squander the grace He shows you. Don't harden your heart when you hear His voice. Don't take His grace for granted."

Aha, so it is something in us afterall!

Daryl said...

Sure it's something in us...sin!!

What is the purpose of the law including that last statement)?

We pray, as did Augustine, that God will give us the grace to do what he commands...otherwise we're so much rock hard dirt...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Excellent post, Phil. Thanks.

FX Turk said...

Yeah, I really didn't want to say more about that cat than was obvious, but that thing is lewd, dude.

DJP said...

If it doesn't bother Kent....

Stefan Ewing said...

He is sovereign in his loving and in his kindness, and He is sovereign in his justice and in his severity.

He has saved us from eternal perdition, and though we may be assured in our salvation, even Moses came to a bitter and sorrowful end in his earthly life.

All praise be to God and God alone, for he is our rock and our redeemer, our judge and our sanctifier. We are sinners at his righteous mercy, utterly without hope but for His unmerited grace.

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