I’m near the end of my series of takeaways from Bible passages. I’ll finish off the rest of April, and then in May, I’ll go back to timely social topics. This week is another twist. I will be comparing the stories involving the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16) and Ananias (Acts 9:10-19).
Check out the passages if unfamiliar with their stories, but both of these characters have fascinated me – one in the Old Testament, and the other in the New Testament. Here are my six takeaways when looking at both Bible characters.
- Both are unknown and seem insignificant.
We don’t even know the widow’s name, and being a widow with a young son, she probably was not someone who had influence. She couldn’t even find proper wood to make a fire; she had to gather sticks at the village gate (1 Kings 17:10).
Ananias appears to only be known as a disciple (Acts 9:10). We don’t know his livelihood. He may have been a church leader, but that is uncertain. What we do know is God called him.
After the brief passages that respectively feature the widow and Ananias conclude, they return to anonymity.
- Both are asked to do sacrificial tasks.
When Elijah the prophet meets the widow, he asks her for a drink of water, which turns into a request for some bread. This is in the middle of a drought, and the widow doesn’t even have a single piece of bread in the house (1 Kings 17:12). She’s actually in the process of preparing what she has concluded to be the last meal she and her son will ever eat.
Elijah tells her not to be afraid. Instead, he tells her to proceed with fixing the meal, but first make him a small loaf of bread.
Ananias is asked to minister to a man who is known for persecuting Christians. Saul had orders to capture any Christians, but God gave Ananias the imperative to “Go and do what I say…” (Acts 9:15). Of course, we the readers have the luxury of knowing how Ananias’ visit with Saul/Paul turns out, but Ananias believes he’s facing a life-threatening visit.
- Both express doubt initially
The widow responds hesitantly to Elijah’s request for some bread. She said she doesn’t have any bread, and the little resources she has she was planning to use up for a final meal. I conclude she expresses some emotional drama while stating, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house” (1 Kings 17:12).
I picture Ananias responding emotionally to God’s request. He is well informed about Saul’s reputation and the “terrible things he has done” (Acts 9:13).
I relate well to both the widow and Ananias because I am certain I would have expressed similar emotional doubt if I were in their situations.
- Both did act on faith and obedience
After expressing their skepticism, the widow and Ananias followed their respective orders. Given the grave conditions they both faced – the widow with starvation and Ananias with meeting a man known for persecuting Christians – they acted on their faith and obedience to God, believing He would provide and protect while using them to do important work.
- Both had a major impact on prominent men of God
Elijah is considered the most famous and dramatic of Israel’s prophets. Paul is known to be the most influential man, aside from Jesus Christ, in the history of Christianity. But at the time when the widow cared for Elijah and when Ananias met with formerly Saul, they hadn’t done much in the work God had for them.
No great Christian leader has succeeded without the support of lesser-known people who are also used of God.
- God blesses both the widow and Ananias
The widow was provided with plenty after she made that first small meal for Elijah (1 Kings 17:15-16). We don’t know exactly how Ananias was blessed, but if he was a faithful disciple, he experienced eternal blessings because of the great work Paul did, carrying the Gospel message throughout the world.
Christian blogger Tim Challies said, “Ananias’ small act of obedience led to a great harvest for the kingdom.”