“Then the word of the Lord came to him, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.'” (1 Kings 17:8-9, ESV)
The Lord sent Elijah to Zarephath, a town in Phoenicia to minister to a poor widow. The name Zarephath means “the crucible”, “the smelting furnace”, a place where metal is refined. Here Elijah was to be refined, humbled and strengthened for his calling as prophet. God did this by having Elijah minister to one family, a pagan woman and her son. As a nonJew, this poor widow had no access to God and no hope of salvation. And at this point, she was on the point of death from starvation because of the famine and drought in the region, but she had accepted her fate. Yet even at the end, she was willing to be unselfish and share her last meal. And for her kindness she was rewarded. Out of all the widows in Israel, out of all the poor people suffering at that time, she was the one God chose to bless.
The Lord sent Elijah, as He often sends His saints, to minister and bless non-believers, pagans. We are called to be a light to the world. The people in the world, like this poor woman, do not merit God’s blessing or our help. Yet they do not have to. They don’t have to change before we or the Lord helps them. The Lord uses His church to meet the needs of the undeserving poor and the unworthy dregs of society. And we are to use all things the Lord has given us for His work. We need to give freely, without seeking to get in return. We are to love and give when it hurts, when we may have to do without, when we are in the midst of our own trials, illnesses and afflictions. And the Lord will enable us to do so.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Taken out of context, this beatitude is often considered to be the mourning associated with death, the loss of a loved one. As far as it goes that is fine. We must comfort those who grieve such loss, but the meaning within the passage as Jesus intended it is much broader. The mourning here is over our lack of righteousness, our sorrow over sin and our inability to overcome it. This mourning is the sorrow of repentance. I was wrong and I am unhappy and wretched because of it. Yet it is one thing to admit to spiritual poverty but it is another to mourn and be sorry for it, not because we got caught and are afraid of punishment, but because it is evil, it is hurtful to us and God because it disrupts our relationship and fellowship with Him. Those who lament and grieve over their own sinfulness will be comforted by the only consolation which can relieve this distress: the free forgiveness of God.
In addition, this mourning involves weeping over the evil in the world, the sins of others, and the reality of judgment and death. Ezekiel the prophet heard the faithful remnant of God described as those who grieved over all the sinful, vile and detestable things that were done in Jerusalem even in God’s Temple (Ezekiel 9:4). So godly mourning involves weeping for those who sin and those who refuse to accept the grace of God found in Jesus alone. We must not get angry with them or despise them but weep and cry for them for their end is going to be far worse than the sorrows of this present life.
Such mourning will receive comfort as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and accept His will. Ultimately the final comfort awaits the glory of Christ’s return when sin will be no more and as it says in Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (KJV) Again, only those in the Kingdom of God will enjoy this comfort.