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"A little water in a vessel"
Elijah introduced himself to the widow of Zarephath with the humble request, "Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." The story of hard times is as ancient as the history of mankind. Compensation, however, there is for humanity in the fact that materially easy times are not growing times. How surprised the widow of Zarephath would doubtless have been if she could have known the far-reaching consequences of her humble working out of the problem of lack during the hard times which once persisted in her country because of a drought!
God had commanded her during the drought to sustain a prophet who would come to her house. Even those who desire whole-heartedly to be spiritually receptive do not always find it easy to dismiss the seemingly plausible arguments of material sense. It may be that she could not readily believe that it was actually the voice of God requiring such a strange thing of her. At any rate, when Elijah arrived he did not find her joyously awaiting his coming. She was dolefully gathering two last little sticks to make a last little fire, to bake a last little couple of cakes, which she and her son would eat, and then lie down and die. What an epitome of mortal sense—always just about to "run out"!
Elijah did not waste any time trying to dispel the widow's despair. He gave her an immediate opportunity to be of service, to realize that in spite of her apparent poverty she still had something which could be of great importance to a fellow man. Elijah's plight was worse than that of herself and her son. Neither of them had yet suffered from hunger or thirst, but Elijah was actually thirsty. So he asked her for a drink of water. Her willingness to leave her own gloomy task long enough to comply with his request initiated her healing of poverty.
After this, day by day, through "many days," while she ministered to the material needs of the household, Elijah ministered to the spiritual needs. We have no record that the barrel and the cruse were ever full; we know only that the meal and the oil did not fail. During this time it would seem as if the widow were never quite sure whether or not Elijah was actually the prophet of God. But when he at last raised her son from death, caused not by the starvation which she had feared, but by a sudden attack of sickness, she acknowledged his divine authority in the respectful words, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."
On page 28 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy writes, "The determination to hold Spirit in the grasp of matter is the persecutor of Truth and Love." Material sense seems indeed a hard taskmaster, claiming to give us a material body which must be cared for and clothed and fed and housed. It seems to thrust this material body into all manner of unhappy situations, and sets up a mighty pretense of its being man's true selfhood. But when we insist that Spirit is not in the grasp of so-called matter, and turn to God for help in our difficulties, discord begins to vanish.
Elijah and the widow of Zarephath were both required to work out their problem in what may have seemed to human logic an illogical way. It may have seemed unreasonable to the widow to be constantly giving to a prophet of God when she had apparently scarcely enough for her son and herself. And, humanly speaking, it may not have been cheerful for Elijah to have to go to the home of a poor widow in his time of lack. But those days of simple trust in God, on the part of both, played their part in making possible to Elijah the experience of ascension. We have no further record of the widow of Zarephath, but Jesus himself cited her story as a notable example of spiritual receptivity.
The demonstration of Christian Science begins with listening for the voice of God and obeying it. It progresses through continued relinquishment of mortal will. On pages 361 and 362 of "Miscellaneous Writings" Mrs. Eddy says: "His ways are not as our ways. The divine modes and manifestations are not those of the material senses; for instance, intelligent matter, or mortal mind, material birth, growth, and decay: they are the forever-existing realities of divine Science; wherein God and man are perfect, and man's reason is at rest in God's wisdom,—who comprehends and reflects all real mode, form, individuality, identity."
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