DROUGHT, PROVISION, AND DOUBT
1 Kings 17
The nation of Israel has changed. It is divided, and apostasy has started in the northern tribes. The pattern of idolatry and disobedience will continue until Israel becomes ruins. During this process, God sent prophets to proclaim his truth, which generally put the prophets in conflict with the reigning monarch. Every king was faced with the challenges of seeking the welfare of his kingdom and his people. This antagonism is on full display when one reads about the conflict between King Ahab and the prophet Elijah. Ahab was an evil king who forsook God and did evil in his sight. His ongoing disobedience provoked the Lord to anger. Elijah appears without any explanation or introduction. This man received a word from the Lord, and he went to Ahab and confronted him with a gloomy prediction. Elijah begins with the reminder that the Lord lives in spite of the fact that Israel's king and his people live as if he were dead. Elijah has the incredible privilege of standing before the Lord, but his message is that there would be no rain or dew in Israel until Elijah brought the word for it to return. God's actions were in line with the warning Moses delivered to the people concerning idolatry. Not long after the announcement, God sent Elijah to hide by the brook Cherith. This would protect him from the royal retribution that would be sought concerning Elijah's prophecy. It would also separate him from his fellow countrymen that might come to him complaining about their circumstances. The Lord tells Elijah that he would drink from the brook and that the ravens would feed him. Elijah obeyed the Lord and ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and every evening. God is sovereign over all his creation including the birds of the air. However, with no rain or dew, the brook dried up.
The Lord directed his prophet to leave the land of Israel and travel to a Sidonian village called Zeraphath. God had commanded a widow who lived there to feed Elijah. Elijah obeyed and made his way to Zarephath. When he arrived at the gate, he came upon a widow who was gathering sticks. It is not clear whether or not Elijah knew that this was the woman God sent him to find, but he asks her for some water. Evidently, this area was not affected by the drought in Israel. This widow does not hesitate and goes to fetch some water for the thirsty traveler. As she is leaving, Elijah asks for some bread as well. The widow's response is heartfelt and honest. She either recognizes Elijah or understands something about him for when she speaks to him she makes an oath to the Lord your God. She declares that she has nothing baked and that the only things in her house are a bit of oil and flour. She was gathering sticks to prepare it for herself and her son as a final meal. She believed that the poverty experienced by herself and her son had brought them to their end. The faith of this widow was soon put to the test. Elijah told her not to be afraid, and he instructed her to make the cake as she intended. However, he challenged her to feed him first and then they could eat. Elijah was not being greedy, and he explained to her that the Lord would miraculously preserve her rations until rain returned to the land. The faith demonstrated by this widow is commendable. She did as Elijah said and the Lord sustained the household for many days. The woman was rewarded for her faith and for the kindness that she extended to God's prophet.
Elijah took up residence in the widow's home, and her son became ill and died. This would be devastating because of a widow's position and ability within the community. The woman is grief-stricken and seems to blame Elijah and herself for the death of her son. She appears to have forgotten that they would have starved long ago had not Elijah come into their lives. Elijah does not engage in speculation or enter into an argument with this grieving mother; he just asks the widow to give him the corpse. Elijah took the limp and lifeless body of the son in his arms and carried him to his upper chamber and laid him on the bed. Elijah cried out to the Lord and in brutal honesty asks if God has returned the kindness of this widow with the death of her son. Elijah stretched himself upon the child three times while he pleads with the Lord to return his life. The Lord, the author of life, heard Elijah's prayer and the life of the child returned. Elijah took the boy in his arms and brought him downstairs to his mother. Imagine the emotions flooding the heart of this mother. How does a lonely widow go from experiencing the death of her son to the heights of joy as his life returns? Elijah declares to the mother, "See, your son lives." The widow acknowledges that Elijah is a man of God and that his words are true.
Things To Consider:
- Why do you think God sent Elijah and did not just stop the rain?
- What are the implications of God being sovereign over creation when it comes to natural disasters?
- How do you think Elijah felt when the brook dried up?
- What can be learned from the honesty of the widow when she met Elijah?
- Why is the first step of faith so difficult?
- Why was the action particularly challenging for the widow?
- Do you think the people in the house went to look at the flour and the oil every day?
- How does suffering cause us to doubt?
- What can be learned from the way Elijah responded to the widow after the death of her son?
- How did Elijah process his fear and grief?
- What do you think the conversation was like after the boy was raised?
- Who does the widow glorify and why do you think it was that way?