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Sabbath School Lessons on Background Characters in the Old Testament
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 11: The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith *
Introduction: This week my righteous wife told me that she did not
want me to buy her anything for Christmas. Instead, she wanted me to
give the money for her gift to a charity. My immediate thought was
"I need to do that, too." Then I began to struggle with the
decision. How about you? Do you struggle with selfishness? I'll
bet right now you are asking, is it selfishness to accept gifts at
Christmas? Good question! Perhaps the answer has to do with whether
your needs are already met. What about helping others when your
needs are not met? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see
what we can learn about real selflessness!
- The Drought
- Read 1 Kings 17:1-4. If God can stop the rain from
falling, can He provide for those who follow Him?
- The answer is obviously, "yes." So, why should we
have to provide for God's followers?
- Read 1 Kings 17:7-9. Should Elijah have thought that God
failed him when the brook dried up?
- Why did God let it dry up?
- From where will Elijah's next meal come? (He is to
move outside the country. There he will be fed by a
- Read 1 Kings 17:10-12. Put yourself in the place of this
widow. Would you put the needs of an alien and stranger
before those of your son or yourself?
- Does the widow have a moral obligation to give her
son food before she gives it to an adult who is a
- I called Elijah a "stranger." What does the fact
that the widow recognizes Elijah as a follower of
"your God" suggest?
- Do you recall that God told Elijah (v. 9)that
He had already worked out the feeding
arrangement with a widow? Do you think that the
widow had advance knowledge of Elijah?
- If God had worked out a "feeding
arrangement" with the widow, how do you
account for her statement that she thought
her family would die?
- What do you think of God's plan - to have a starving
widow and her son be the means by which God's
prophet is fed?
- Let's assume that you are the last person in
the church qualified to do a certain task. When
the church asks you to do this task, should you
turn it down?
- The Test
- Read 1 Kings 17:13-14. What is being asked of this widow?
(To give up a certain meal for the promise of sufficient
food in the future.)
- How would you have reacted? Would you say that a
widow and her child should eat before the prophet?
- Would you say that seeking food from a starving
widow and child is illogical - Elijah should go to
someone who is in a better position to help?
- Would you say that a servant leader should logically
- Would you have noted (from last week's lesson) that
prophets sometimes lie, and this one has a powerful
reason to lie to you?
- Does God ask us to give up what is certain in
exchange for a promise of something greater?
- Read 1 Kings 17:15-16. What is the result of this widow's
faith? (She and her son have life!)
- I once got myself into a terrible mess when a two members
of the church were involved in divorce and child custody
proceedings. One member-spouse showed me some legal
documents (interrogatories) from the other member-spouse
which asked whether the one believed in paying tithe
before paying the electric bill. How would you answer
this interrogatory? (Answering that you would pay tithe
first would (presumably) show that you were an unfit
parent. I agreed to be a witness for the parent who
would pay tithe first.)
- Read Luke 4:23-26. If your local pastor came to you with
the proposal made by Elijah, would you accept it?
- Or, would you tell your pastor to pray for more meal
and oil first? (Jesus suggests that sometimes His
followers are more reluctant to walk by faith when
it comes to people they know.)
- Do we sometimes discount the ways and practices
of our own church simply because we are used to
- The Reward of Faith
- Read 1 Kings 17:17. God saved this boy from starvation
because of the faith of his mother. Why, after all that,
would God now let the boy die?
- Read 1 Kings 17:18. Who does the widow blame for the
death of her son? (First, herself. Then Elijah and then
- "Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my
son?" Is that how we react when something bad
happens to us?
- Is God is in the business of reminding us of our
sins and punishing our children? (Compare Exodus
20:5-6 with Revelation 12:10 with John 16:7-11 and
with Ezekiel 18:20. While these texts show that God
does convict us of our sins, it is the work of Satan
to remind and accuse us of forgiven sin. Apparently
God in some way punishes the children of those who
hate Him, but He promises that we only die for our
own sins. Thus, the widow was accusing God of things
He does not do.)
- Read 1 Kings 17:19-20. What accusation does God's prophet
bring against God?
- Step back for a moment and put yourself in God's
place. How would you like all of these terrible
accusations flying your way?
- Are they true?
- Read 1 Kings 17:21. Does Elijah think that he is more
just and loving than God? (Yes. That is exactly what his
statement and his words suggest. We need to remember in
times of distress that God gave His life for us. He died
in a very painful way to take the punishment that we
deserve. If we sometimes think that we are more loving or
more fair than God - we are wrong and we are defaming
- Read 1 Kings 17:22-23. Put yourself in God's place again.
The mother has accused you of killing her son. Your
prophet has said essentially the same thing. How would
you react to the request to heal the boy given the
charges made against you?
- Shouldn't God get tired of proving Himself to His
- I titled this section "The Reward of Faith." Is that
anywhere close to the truth? (I think that God is
less troubled than we would be about name-calling.
Reason being that name-calling reflects the faith
that God is in charge. What God hates is when we
ignore Him or believe that He has no authority or
power on earth.)
- Read 1 Kings 17:24. What do you think about this
- Recall that this is a woman who, with her son, was
saved from starvation by her act of faith and a
miracle of God!
- Friend, our study reminds us of our human condition.
Sometimes we are capable of great acts of faith. Then
after God has shown His power to us so clearly, at the
next crisis we doubt Him and accuse Him of the worst
things. Will you take a moment right now, and think about
the times when God clearly led and blessed you? Will you
pledge, right now, to never forget what God has done and
never doubt Him in the future?
- Next week: Gehazi: Missing the Mark.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.