There is a special thread of truth woven into the fabric of Scripture that can be traced throughout its pages. It is this, that God has a special care for widows. A warning is given in Exodus 22:22 not to afflict the widow. Those who would presume to do so would find themselves face to face with a formidable Adversary who would deal with them severely. A number of references are made in Deuteronomy regarding the widow when Israel came into the land.
In Deuteronomy 10:18, the Exodus passage is re-emphasized. The last reference in chap 27: 19 pronounces a curse on him that perverteth the judgment of the widow. The remaining references in the book give instruction for the care and consideration of the widow. Yet in the departure of Israel as it is outlined by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi, widows were forgotten or even abused (Isa 1: 17; 1:23; Jer 22:3; Mal 3:5).
Moving into the New Testament, the Lord Jesus severely denounced the Pharisees and scribes who devour widows’ houses, yet lived and dressed like royalty. Seeking place and prominence at feasts, and making long prayers, greater judgment would be theirs.
In Acts 6, one of the first difficulties to arise in the church at Jerusalem was the neglect of the Grecian widows in the daily ministration. The manner in which this was handled by the apostles is worthy of our consideration. It was neither a doctrinal nor a moral problem, but if ignored it could develop into something more serious. They called all the disciples together and gave their advice what should be done, and letting them choose the men for the need at that time. Harmony was restored, it is wisdom to keep the saints informed on many things. Failure to do so may cause distress and confusion.
Paul has a lengthy section on widows in 1 Timothy 4:3-16. The responsibility of family members to widows is first priority and then the church would come in after. The last mention is in James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”
The Widow’s Plight
There is no more graphic description to be found of the widow’s distress than that of Lamentations 1:1,2. Jerusalem’s desolation and downfall is pictured as a widow. “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are upon her cheeks; she hath none to comfort her.” Three things stand out vividly, she is solitary or lonely, she has sorrow, she has no comforter. Thus bereft, she becomes the special care of God for help and support, and is dependent on others. Two examples of this care are to be found in 2 Kings 4:1-7 in the days of Elisha. A widow in distress cried to him because of her debt. The creditor was about to take her two sons as slaves, it was a grim picture. The miracle of the oil being multiplied met her need, and strengthened her faith in God.
In Luke 7:11-14, the Lord Jesus and a multitude were approaching the City of Nain. Another multitude was coming out of the city in a funeral procession. A widow was about to bury her only son. The Saviour had compassion on her and said, “Weep not.” He stopped the procession and spoke the life giving word, “Young man I say unto thee, arise.” He sat up and began to speak, and was delivered to his mother. The voice silenced by death was heard again, that day her mourning was turned into joy.
Other Widows of Scripture
The first mention of a widow is Tamar in Genesis 38:11. Her wrong relationship with Judah, her fatherin-law, is a sad story, yet God in grace in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus records, “And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar” (Matt 1:3). In this same chapter, two other outstanding widows are mentioned, Ruth and Bathsheba, who are the evidence of rich grace.
The little Book of Ruth gives us the most notable widows of the Old Testament. It glitters like a diamond amid the dark days of the Judges. Three widows are mentioned, Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah. Naomi as the backslider is restored, conscious that the Lord’s disciplining hand has been upon her. Orpah makes her choice to return to Moab and disappears from the scene. Ruth with courage and determination goes on with Naomi to Bethlehem and blessing. She is linked with the central figure of the book, Boaz, a beautiful picture of Christ as the near Kinsman. He has the ability and willingness to redeem and restore on behalf of the dead, and raise up a son through Ruth.
Luke is the gospel of the widow. Anna is the first to be mentioned (2:36-38), one of the little remnant waiting for the coming Messiah. She was a prophetess, of a great age and a widow for many years. She was continually in the temple given to prayer and fasting. When the Christ child was brought into the temple, divinely guided, like Simeon, she gave thanks that the long awaited One had come. She who had know sorrow early in life rejoiced at the coming of Christ, who turns sorrow into joy.
The Saviour on that notable day in the synagogue of Nazareth spoke of the widow of Sarepta, to whom Elijah was sent, to be hidden and cared for during the drought. This raised the wrath of his hearers, it was unthinkable that God could go outside Israel, passing by widows in the nation. They would not accept the fact that God is sovereign.
In Luke 18:1-8, the Saviour relates the parable of the unjust judge who feared not God or regarded any man. The widow who came to him was helpless, but she persisted, and the judge recognized this as harassment and delivered her. The lesson is this; that the one to whom we come in prayer is not unjust, nor indifferent to our pleas. His delight is in his people and answers their petitions. Pray on.
Perhaps there is no widow in Scripture who so stands out in bold relief like the poor widow of Luke 21:1-4. The scene is in the temple near to the treasury. The Saviour is there with the disciples, and many people are casting money into the treasury. But the clink of the two mites reached the ear of the Savior. We have heaven’s estimate of this deed. She has “cast in more than they all, all her living.” The Pharisee could boast of giving tithes of all he possessed, Zachaeus said, “Half of my goods I give to the poor,” but the widow gave more than them all. God has a different set of scales in which our deeds are weighed. It goes beyond the external, to the heart, to the motives.
When Solomon built the magnificent temple, much of its glory was seen in the great and costly stones used in its construction. In a future day when that building, the church, is complete, composed of living stones, many great stones will be seen who perhaps may be nameless saints on earth, whose work has been unnoticed here. They will stand out in that day with luster and beauty, like this poor widow.
One other widow of note is Mary, the mother of our Lord. No mention of Joseph is made after the temple incident of Luke 2. The mentions of Mary in the Gospels are worthy of our study. But no scene is more touching than when she stood at the cross beside her son in John 19. She must have heard the derision and mockery heaped upon that suffering One, yet resolutely she stood there until He committed her tenderly into the care of John. The last mention of Mary in Scripture is found in Acts 1, where she is gathered in prayer with the disciples. Their prayer was to God, and not to Mary as Rome teaches about her.
The Widow Dispensationally
Earlier we mentioned Israel portrayed under the figure of a widow in Lam 1, the result of her sin and departure from God. The climax has been reached. Now she is bereft of help and comfort, the result of God’s rod upon her in the form of the Chaldaens. Verse 12 is often quoted in relation to the Lord’s sufferings on the cross, but contextually it is part of Israel’s lament, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold , and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Wherewith the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” This is Israel’s condition today She is bereft of her husband, God himself. But it will not always be so. In Isaiah 54:4-7, we read, “Fear not, thou shall not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded … for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker thine husband; the LORD of hosts [is] his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; For a small moment (the day of grace) have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.” These verses and others in this chapter, along with passages like Romans 11 are sweet and rich with promise. Israel will come into the good of this in the not too distant future.
A Widow in Prophecy
There is one final widow we would take note of in Revelation 17 and 18 along with Isaiah 47. Mystery Babylon the great, Mother of Harlots is described in Revelation. The lady of kingdoms in Isaiah. “For she saith in her heart, I sit a queen and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” Israel’s widowhood will come to a happy conclusion. But here is a widow and the system she represents, that will have no future. Her destruction will be full and complete, described as a great millstone taken and hurled into the depths of the sea of God’s judgment upon her. This hateful religious conglomerate of hybrid Christendom, so hateful to God, will come to judgment in one hour. Revelation 18:2 describes it as a habitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every and hateful and unclean bird.
In the early part of the last century exercised brethren heard the call of verse 4, “Come out of her my people.” This was at great cost and with much reproach. We would pose this question, “In the intervening years, has religious Babylon changed?” The answer is no, with this comment, the lines are more clearly delineated and the images of this hideous system are brought into sharper focus. Having come out, may it be ours to take our place with our rejected Lord outside of it all, and not be swayed by the overtures to fall in with it. The darkness deepens around us, but we lift our eyes to the horizon for the appearing of the Morning Star. “Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.”