Tales of Character
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
The bible almost exclusively treats widows with reverence but there is a reason for this. From Tamar in Genesis 38 to the unnamed widows who mourned the death of Tabitha and provoked her resurrection in Acts 9, 12 women/group of women were described as widows in the bible (there may have been others who were not expressly stated). Every one of these women whose stories were narrated acted with dignity in combination other characteristics such as generosity, drive and Resilience.
Everyone can take lessons from these widows - usually we cannot decide what life throws at us but our response to circumstances is what defines us as people. If we react to our circumstances, no matter how terrible they may be, in undignified ways – we lose our dignity. We do not lose our dignity because of what happens to us, we lose dignity as a result of our actions/inaction.
Conversely, our responses dignify us. Consider Ruth, the Moabite, who had lost her husband and chose loyalty to her mother-in-law and God over returning to her old family and worship. She chose also to work hard and be generous to her mother-in-law, Naomi. In the end, her loyalty, diligence and generosity were rewarded – she became remarried to Obed, David’s grandfather and is mentioned in the lineage of Christ. Certainly, losing her husband was catastrophic but her response was not just dignified (as Orpah’s also was), it was a sign of Faith – and she got her reward.
In the remainder of this section, we focus on 3 of these widows: The widow of Zarephath from 1 Kings, the prophet’s widow from 2 Kings and the widows mourning Tabitha’s death in the book of Acts. In each of the cases we describe their circumstances and take lessons from their character.
Faith Proven in Kindness - The widow of Zarephath 1 Kings 17:8-24
Elijah was a victim of his own declaration. Having declared drought, he himself became a victim of Hunger, then God instructed him to go to Zarephath where He had instructed a widow to provide for Elijah. When Elijah met the widow, we learn that she had so little left that it was her hope that she ate her last meal with her son and die. Yet, this widow who had so little left trusted God and obeyed the prophet – her reward was a continued sustenance.
We learn that she did not just provide food for Elijah once, she also provided a home for the prophet. When her son fell ill and died, the prophet was right at her doorstep to raise him up.
The widow of Zarephath’s emphasizes absolute Faith in God and obedience to the prophet, as well as a heart of Kindness. Widows are truly vulnerable in our community and in many parts of the world today, yet we must remain kind, and our trust in God to do as he wishes must never fail.
Faith. To my mind, the obedience of the widow of Zarephath was almost equivalent to that of Abraham – except that Abraham did not know that he was being tested nor did he know the reward his faith would attract. Yet, both Abraham and the widow were willing to bet their Sons’ lives on the faithfulness of God…this is powerful. Interestingly, from the second half of her story, we learn that rather than lose a son, she saved his life twice over. If she had not obeyed, she and her son would have eaten their last and likely died. And again, when the son died of an illness, Elijah was there to raise him up. Her rewards were double portion her son lived, and God provided for her.
Sacrifice. she gave her last; she gave her all. Despite the widow’s dire circumstance, facing the almost certain death of herself and her son, she chose to share the little she had.
As a widow, it may sometimes feel like we have very little and therefore are excused from acts of kindness. Worse still, our seeming lack can push us into outright disobedience to God’s words – sometimes into sin. The lesson from the widow of Zarephath’s story is that it pays to trust in God because “…He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him…”. We also learn that we have enough in us and with us to be kind. God is truly faithful.
“Now to Him who can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Driven. The Prophet’s widow 2 Kings 4:1-7
It is not an enviable position, to have lost your husband and then to have those he was indebted to in life seek your children as repayment for his debt. This is equivalent to selling one’s own child into slavery and the widow in 2 Kings 4 was not going to sit by and let this happen, so she acted. The chapter opens by saying that the widow “Cried” out to Elisha. A cry of desperation.
God asks us not to be silent when in trouble to but to act. “Call on me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me” Psalm 50:15. Although life can be difficult, crying alone, mourning and complaining hardly help. Call to God in Faith, act and talk to people.
The lessons continue, Elisha asks for what she has, and she responds “…a jar of oil”. She challenges us to know the difference between nothing and little. No one has nothing, because nothing we have is useless. Whatever little we have can be multiplied by God as He did for the widow.
We learn 2 things from this widow. First, that our cries to God for help matters and so does our call for help to those around who can help us. Let’s not let our pride prevent us from seeking help. Secondly, we learn from her to value what little we have. Sometimes it is not a tangible item. Anything you have that can be traded is very valuable – if you have the energy to work or even the time to trade for value, then you have something that matters.
Gratitude that forces a resurrection The Widows who mourned Tabitha Acts 9:36 – 41
Acts 9 tells us of a woman named Tabitha or Dorcas who was kind and charitable, unfortunately she fell ill and died. Peter was called since he was close by, and when he arrived at the scene, the bible describes the widows as expressing such gratitude and sympathy that Peter was moved to raise Tabitha from the dead.
We learn that kindness may not stop you from dying but the prayers and gratitude of those whom you have shown kindness can move the hands of God. We must never stop showing kindness (as we have already learned) and when we are on the receiving end of kindness, our prayerful and genuine gratitude matters a lot to God. A combination of these 2 can change things.
The attitude of many of us (even widows) is often what is described in biology as parasitic. We find a suitable host, drain them dry and then move on to the next when that host is dead. What happens when the parasite runs out of hosts? It dies. Biology also describes another type of relationship as Synergistic, where an organism initially incapable of surviving alone identifies another strong one and feeds off the strong one - the difference here however is that the original organism find a way to help the stronger organism live longer and therefore it lives longer in turn. God made each one of us powerfully and fearfully, we have something important to offer in this world and widowhood cannot change that.
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well” Psalm 139:14