Refined by Family

This week, we’re looking at how God provided for Elijah after his solitude and before his showdown. God put Elijah in a home and with a family. To understand what makes this scene in Elijah’s story so important, let’s get back to the beginning with the very first family.

The Bible tells us that in the beginning God had a design for the planet and people He created. God formed Adam from the dust, but Adam was alone (which was not good) so God formed woman from Adam, creating a union (“flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, is what Adam said). She was his counterpart and partner. The word used to describe her role is “ezer.” That term is most often used to describe the kind of rescuer that God was for His people – strong, dependable, equal to the task. So, for a woman to be an ezer meant that she was much more than a capable assistant. She was an essential counter-partner.

One man and one woman were given the responsibility to rule and subdue the created earth and together they were to be fruitful and multiply. Not just to add to the population, but to spread the influence of Yahweh, to make others who would walk with Him in the garden. They had their hands full, didn’t they?

And that would have been more than enough for them, however, they were tempted to be like God in knowing all about good and evil. And when they gave into the temptation of the Evil one, the first family became the first dysfunctional family.

  • When sin entered their story, ruling and subduing the earth became back-breaking, futile work – and even now, it can’t be accomplished fully.
  • Also with sin, the purpose of man and woman to pro-create and fill the earth was going to be hard work because they would be at odds with each other. The man would rule over the women and not realize all the ways she was made to rescue him from loneliness. And the woman would experience great pain as a life-giver.

After Genesis 1&2 where the ideal for family is given, the Bible gives us one example after another of how the human family has operated since. Woven into the story of us, is a common thread – the story of the gospel and the redeeming work of Jesus.

In our story this week of Elijah and the widow of Zarepeth, we get a glimpse of the gospel (the good news of God’s saving plan) as God redeems the brokenness of human relationships through their example of faith.

Our man, Elijah, has been alone as the brook of Cherith dried up. If we listen closely, we just might hear the echo of God’s voice over Adam in Genesis 2, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Elijah, like Adam, needed a particular kind of helper. A woman who would rescue him – an ezer.  Could there be a more unassuming heroine than the woman God chose?!

She was a foreigner, part of a pagan nation, living in the center of idolatry, a widow, and a single mother. At this moment she was down to her last meal and preparing to die.

Even so, Elijah spoke for God in calling this woman into a life of hope and worship.

We see hope rising in this desperate widow who could have rejected him but didn’t. She did not follow the broken pattern of relating that would have her challenge him and call him a fool for hoping in an unseen God.

God placed Elijah in a family, yes, and God also created a new kind of family among this unlikely pair. For all we know, their relationship had nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with faith and spirituality.

That’s exactly the kind of “family” that Jesus talked about when He came because the gospel brings good news to the human family. One significant place we see this is in Jesus’ own words about family. Now, we know that Jesus honored his mother and valued the homelife he grew up in. So, notice what He says as He’s teaching among a crowd of people.

Mark 3:31-35

31 Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called for Him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” 33 And He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 Looking at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God [by believing in Me, and following Me], he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Drawing on the life and words of Jesus, Paul and John use the example of family to teach about living our faith in spiritual community.

Ephesians 2:17-19

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 

1 John 3:1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Because we have experienced brokenness in our families of origin, some of us know more personally than others what it means that we are part of God’s family. The story of Elijah and the widow of Zarepheth give us hope that the God who knows all about our broken stories also provides a home for us in His family.


  • What are some ways your family of origin was broken by sin?
  • What kinds of people did God bring to you and how did they show you a more redeemed way of life?
  • When did you realize that this way of living came from the heart of Jesus?
  • How have you continued to build “families” of Christ-followers among the people in your life?
  • What would you say to someone who is struggling to feel lonely and isolated because their family of origin is broken by sin?

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