Faith Tested
The Thinker
1 Kings 17:13
And Elijah said to her, Fear not; go and do as you have said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it to me…

First, take the narrative in its literal sense; then, examine the truths which are suggested by it; and finally, note its mystical import.


1. Here is a test of faith: "Make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son." It was a sharp test. Famine brings out selfishness in hideous shapes (2 Kings 6:28, 29). To be asked to give to a stranger a little cake from the "handful of meal" that was left, before she met the cravings of hunger in herself and her son, must have been a searching demand.

2. A woman, too, of Zidon, like the woman in the Gospel, when Jesus came into those coasts; a woman without the privileges of the covenant of Israel and the opportunities of God's people; a flower in the common hedge, not in the hothouse, but yet a flower — able to respond to the claim of God through His prophet — "Make me a little cake first"; for "he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:37).

3. It was more than a test of faith; it was a test of trust. This is something more. The prophet's demand appealed to the will, and not merely to the assent of the understanding. She had to make a sacrifice; it was a trifle in itself — "a little cake"; but when people are starving it was not a trifle; and she had to trust to a promise, from the standpoint of human calculation, least likely to be fulfilled.

4. "She went and did according to the saying of the prophet" (ver. 15).


1. God to be served first. God must be loved — to use the language of divinity — "with a love of preference." As a king, St. says, should be served as a king, so God should be loved as God, that is to say, "preferably to all creatures." In the same way, the claims of God and His service must stand first. The demand, "Make me thereof a little cake first," is like that which our Lord gave on the mount, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." It is the law of the first-fruits.

2. God's commands are to be taken upon trust. His positive commands test not only our obedience, but our confidence in Him. Moral commands are echoed from within, so that not to obey them "is not folly alone, but also impiety" (St. ); but commands of which we do not see the reason, yet which must be obeyed as simply coming from God, are touchstones of trust in Him.

3. How little, after all, God requires of us! "Make Me a little cake." He gave our first parents licence to eat of every tree in the garden save one — just an acknowledgment of His Sovereignty. He turns the water into wine; we have only to fill the water-pots. His commandments are "not grievous" (1 John 5:3), but we may have made obedience difficult through having abused our powers. God asks little, but makes a large return (Matthew 25:23). "The barrel of meal did not waste," etc.

III. ITS MYSTICAL IMPORT. When Aristotle in logic, and Plato in philosophy, ruled the day (twelfth century), "Hugo and Richard de St. Victor were the great mystics of the period (Milman), and it is from the former of these I transcribe the mystical interpretation of the subject in hand. The widow of Zarephath represents the holy Church — a widow — waiting for the advent of the Saviour. Elijah came to the woman, when Christ, through the mystery of the Incarnation, came to the Church. The woman was gathering "two sticks"; for the holy Church received the faith of the Cross. The "handful of meal" is said to signify the imperfection of Divine knowledge at the time when Christ came; and the "little oil in a cruse," the scarcity of grace. But Elijah multiplied both, because Christ, "full of grace and truth," imparted both to mankind. The woman sustained Elijah; for the faith and holy works of the Church refresh the Lord: "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).


1. The leading lesson throughout is one of trust. "Fear not." The woman of Zarephath affords a striking instance of obedience and submission, not only of the will, but of the judgment.

2. To remember that God should have the first claim upon us and upon our substance, which increases through parting with it, as did the five loaves as they were distributed to others by the disciples' hands.

3. It is a great mistake to suppose that only the rich should give into the treasury of God. The poor widow's "two mites" were more to Christ than the large gifts of the rich, because it was her all.

(The Thinker.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

WEB: Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go and do as you have said; but make me of it a little cake first, and bring it out to me, and afterward make some for you and for your son.

The Barrel of Meal
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