While Israel was experiencing a spiritual drought due to their Baal worship, God allowed a literal drought to fall upon the land as well. This drought affected everyone, including God’s prophet, Elijah.
The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 1 Kings 17:6-9 NKJV
God has an interesting way of providing for His prophet during this time. First, ravens are scavengers. They are not known for sharing food, but in this story they become quite generous.
Then God sends Elijah to a widow. Widows can be very generous when it comes to giving to missions. Jesus noticed a widow in Luke 21:1-4 giving all she had. Still, most people in charge of fundraising look to the rich for provisions, and not to poor widows.
I believe that in the last days, while many are trusting (even schmoozing up to?) rich people, God is going to provide for His people by using very unlikely and humble sources. I believe that the widow was not Plan B. God did not send Elijah to the widow because the brook dried up. The brook dried up so Elijah would go to the widow. Sometimes God has to close one door so he can get us to open a new door.
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. 1 Kings 17:10-16.
Here we have another unlikely scenario. Who goes to a poor widow who is about to starve to death and says, “Feed me first?” But that is exactly what Elijah did. I have heard many people, even church members in good standing, tell people, “If you don’t have the money to tithe, God understands,” or “If you are going through a hard time right now, God does not expect you to give anything.” But the story of Elijah and the widow contradicts such notions. The widow was going through a very hard time, even about to starve to death, and God still expected her to give to His prophet first. Anything less would be a lack of faith, and the just shall live by faith. (see Romans 1:17). Without faith we cannot please God. (See Hebrews 11:6). So the widow had to give first in order to have the faith to live, as well as to please God. While tough times made it appear as though she could not give first and survive, the truth was she had to give first in order to survive. The poor widow was able to feed her household for many days, and the jar never ran dry during the tough times because she gave first.
So today, even in tough times when it looks like you can’t afford to return your tithes and offerings, the fact is you can not afford to not return your tithes and offerings first. During the tough times in Elijah’s day, God used miracles and some very unlikely means to provide for His people. So today, even in tough times God is working miracles to provide for those who give first to Him.