The Leap of Faith
By Chantal J. Klingbeil
Whether it’s sailing around the world solo, crossing Antarctica pulling a sled, or swimming across shark-infested oceans, men and women constantly try to break records and make headlines. About 2,900 years ago a woman from a small town in a state that doesn’t even exist anymore joined a special group of people by taking the biggest leap a person can take—she took the leap of faith.
This was no easy leap. She was staring death in the eye. She had seen her husband die. And now she watched helplessly as everything around her died. Grass dried up, trees dropped their leaves, cows were gaunt skeletons, and goats bleated pitifully. Every day she scanned the cloudless sky, hoping against hope for a cloud—for rain. She had been rationing the flour and the oil in an attempt to make it stretch until the end of the drought.
The little round flat daily loaf was unevenly divided. Her son needed all the nourishment she could give him. It pained her to see the lad so thin and devoid of energy. But it was pointless—she knew the truth. They would both soon starve to death. There was enough for only one last meal. The widow left the dusty town of Zarephath to scrounge for firewood to cook their last meal. And here the unnamed woman steps into the biblical story. Here she comes face to face with one of the greatest figures of the Bible—the prophet Elijah.
Of all things—he wants to take my last meal.
Elijah probably looked less than impressive—he was dusty and travel worn. He had a long journey behind him. Unlike our widow, Elijah hadn’t spent any time scanning the sky. This drought was no surprise to him. He had actually announced it. Under God’s orders he had gone before king Ahab of Israel and had made a startling announcement: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1).1
Behind the Scenes
Let’s peek behind the scenes for a moment. What was motivating God to this showdown? Israel, God’s people, had chosen a new god—Baal. Baal was an import from the land of Sidon that came along with King Ahab’s new wife, the notorious Queen Jezebel. Baal was the supposed god of the weather. He is mostly depicted with a lightning bolt in hand. Generally you don’t mess with a god that throws lightning bolts, but the true God is not intimidated.
After Elijah’s surprise appearance and announcement to King Ahab God instructed
Elijah to go on a long solo camping trip to a remote mountainous area. There Elijah camped by a stream. His meals were miraculously flown in, mornings and evenings, by big black birds. Eventually the predicted drought reached even into this remote area, and the stream dried up. It was then that God sent Elijah on an even stranger journey. He was sent to the town of Zarephath—right into the heart of enemy territory. This was Queen Jezebel’s home country.
It’s All or Nothing
In Zarephath Elijah meets up with our widow who is collecting firewood to cook a last meal. Elijah asks for a drink of water. The well obviously hadn’t yet dried up. As she turns to get the drink Elijah calls after her—almost as an afterthought, “and bring me, please, a piece of bread” (1 Kings 17:11). Bread! He is asking for bread. He probably doesn’t understand my circumstances,the widow may have thought. I’ll explain—then he will surely understand that I really can’t help.“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” (verse 12).
What’s There to Lose?
Elijah’s eyes show no disappointment or even pity. They actually look hopeful. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. Isn’t that what angels normally say when they meet people? “Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son” (verse 13).
Of all things—he wants to take my last meal. Literally take the food from my son’s mouth.
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land’” (verse 14). The God of Israel—wait a moment, we aren’t in Israel we are in Baal’s land, Sidon. Can the God of Israel function here? His drought has extended to Baal’s land. God is asking for an exchange. He is asking me for everything I have, and He is offering me life. What have we got to lose? We are doomed anyway! Shall I trust him? He is asking me to leap into the dark.
The widow of Zarephath hesitates—and then she takes the leap. The giant leap is measured in a few drops of oil and a handful of flour. She takes her last loaf to Elijah. And? The Bible narrative is unambiguous—there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her son. “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah” (verse 16).
Taking the Plunge
Most kids love playgrounds. Playgrounds were OK for me as a small child—except for the slide. I really hated the slide. It was just too scary. While my playmates would happily launch into the great unknown, squealing with delight, I got stuck there at the top of the slide frozen with fear. All the shouting and pushing from behind couldn’t motivate me to take that leap into the unknown on that slide. Looking back, I think I just hated the feeling of being out of control and feared hitting the ground at the end of the slide. There was only one way to get me down a slide. My dad would have to be at the bottom of the slide to catch me.
The widow of Zarephath’s story takes me back to my playground experience. I have graduated to experiences that are more challenging than my playground slide, but I’m sometimes just as scared as I feel life slipping out of my control. The widow of Zarephath encourages me to take the leap into the scary unknown knowing that as surely as my father’s arms were there to catch me then, my heavenly Father is here to catch me now. Whatever the challenge, we can take that leap of faith knowing that we will land in God’s arms.
1 Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Chantal J. Klingbeil is author and host of Hope Channel’s StoryLine live Bible program, available at storyline.hopetv.org. She is married to Gerald Klingbeil and homeschools their three daughters, Hannah, Sarah, and Jemima.