At our church on Sunday, our worship focused on a passage from First Kings, chapter 17, in which the prophet Elijah travels to Zarephath. I asked the congregation a question: “Where is Zarephath?”
As expected, the response was silence, and truth be told, I could not have answered the question before I studied in preparation for worship.
The short answer is this: Zarephath was a town near Sidon, a Phoenician city known for exporting many goods, on the Mediterranean coast in present-day Lebanon. Perhaps that information may help if you’re a contestant on game shows like “Jeopardy” or “The American Bible Challenge.”
A longer answer is this: Zarephath was a town to which the prophet Elijah traveled after receiving a word from God. It was located in the home region of Queen Jezebel where worship of Baal was prevalent, outside of Elijah’s home area in Israel. Zarephath was an area under control of powerful people to which the prophet was directed to travel.
Elijah’s reply – “Do not be afraid” – may have spoken as much to him as to the widow because he was far away from his home, venturing into an area where people worshipped a different god, trusting his well-being to a poor person with meager resources. And, thankfully, the resources were sufficient to provide for the widow, her son, and Elijah. After sharing what little she had with Elijah, the widow’s meal and oil never ran out. There was enough!
So, where is Zarephath? It is a place that seems unfamiliar, foreign, and fear-inducing.
Where might that be for you? Like Elijah and the widow, would you be willing to move into that unfamiliar place and trust that God’s provision will be sufficient for you?