“Widow of Zarephath,” by James Johnson
“Jehovah is God.” That’s the meaning of the name Elijah (אֵלִיָּה) in Hebrew. His very name is a testimony.
Elijah was a Tishbite, which might indicate where he is from, or it might be a variant of the Hebrew word toshab (תּוֹשָׁב), which means a stranger or a sojourner. Regardless of the meaning of the term, Elijah arrived on the scene like Abinadi, as an unwelcome newcomer speaking truth to a king who would rather not hear it. (See Mosiah 11:27, 1 Kings 18:17-18.)
According to My Word
The Lord performed a number of miracles through Elijah, including extending the food supply of a widow and her son, raising that child from the dead, and calling down fire from heaven in a contest with the priests of Baal. But the most far-reaching miracle Elijah performed was to seal the heavens. “There shall be no rain nor dew these years,” he told King Ahab, “but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). Boyd K. Packer pointed out that Elijah didn’t say, “until you repent,” but rather, “until I say so,” indicating that he had special authority to dictate the beginning and the end of the ensuing famine. (See “Ordinances,” BYU Devotional Address, 3 February 1980.) The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, who also initiated and terminated a famine, held the same power. God said to him, “Whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Helaman 10:7). This is why we refer to Elijah’s power as the sealing power.
Here is a blog post on that topic: What Is the Sealing Power?
The Barrel of Meal Wasted Not
Like the prophet Alma, Elijah found himself in a situation where he had to beg for food. But unlike Alma, who approached a prosperous unbeliever named Amulek, Elijah asked help from a faithful but poor widow in the town of Zarephath. (See Alma 8:18-22, 1 Kings 17:10-16.) Both Amulek and the widow were instructed by God to care for the prophet, they both heeded the call, and they were both blessed for it. (See Alma 10:7-11, 1 Kings 17:9.)
Why was this widow chosen to preserve the life of Elijah? Jesus explained it by praising her strong faith and contrasting it with the lack of faith among the Israelites at the time: “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias [Elijah], 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” (Luke 4:25-26).
We can emulate the faith of this widow by following guidance from the Lord, even in difficult circumstances, and trusting that blessings will follow.
Not in the Wind, Earthquake, or Fire
In spite of the dramatic nature of some of Elijah’s miracles, he also taught us how quiet the voice of the Lord can be. I love this quote from this week’s Come, Follow Me Study Guide:
Sometimes the Lord responds to…faith with impressive, public miracles, like fire falling from heaven. But He also works quiet, private miracles, like meeting the personal needs of a faithful widow and her son. And most often His miracles are so individual that they are known only to you—for example, when the Lord reveals Himself and His will through “a still small voice.”
From a cave on Mount Horeb, Elijah witnessed a series of natural disasters: a strong wind, an earthquake, and a large fire. But he didn’t detect the voice of the Lord in any of these. After all of those had ended, Elijah heard “a still small voice,” and when he heard it, “he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out” to speak with the Lord (1 Kings 19:11-13).
One lesson I’ve learned from Elijah is that, since God’s voice is quiet and calm, I need to be quiet and calm to hear it. See the following blog post on the topic: The Still Small Voice.