Children of the Bible, Part 8 by Allan McGuirl
1 Kings 17
We are well into the study of children in the Bible. We have been discovering situations that children face, and, like us, we see how people in Bible days responded to what had happened.
Today we are taking a look at 1 Kings 17:17-24, the raising of the widow’s son by the prophet Elijah. You may remember that there was a three-and-a-half-year famine in all the land. God had sent Elijah to the brook of Kerith for water and sent ravens twice a day to feed him. When the brook dried up, the Lord sent him to a widow in Zarephath in Sidon. Now Zarephath means, “a place of refining.” When Elijah saw the widow, he requested a drink of water and some bread. The widow sadly replied that she had only enough for a last meal for her son and herself and then she was resigned to starving to death. We are not told how old her son is, but we know he was still living under her roof and was totally dependent on her. Nevertheless, Elijah asked her to make a small cake of bread for himself first, because “the God of Israel says that your jar of flour and your jug of oil will not be used up until the Lord sends rain upon the land.” The widow did as Elijah asked and as the Bible says in 1 Kings 17:16, “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” So the widow, her son, and Elijah were cared for day after day and everything was provided for them. The widow’s faith had been graciously rewarded, so she was distraught with what followed. I am sure those of you who are reading this have had your faith refined through many different situations.
As we look at those words in 1 Kings 17:17, it says some time later that the widow’s precious son became gravely ill. How many of you have experienced that kind of a “moment” – when the unbelievable, the unthinkable, lands on your doorstep. What do you do? What happens to your faith then? Notice it goes on to say, “He grew worse and worse and finally stopped breathing.” Wow. Notice the widow’s response. For many days she had been trusting God for all her needs and now in her grief turns on Elijah in verse 18. The widow was wise in going to Elijah. She was demonstrating faith even through her tears, but in her despair charges Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” Folks, when tragedy strikes, we are often known to blame God. We or those around us can say horrible things in times of trial, for the moment acting like unbelievers. “Does God care?” we ask, or, “is there something I have done wrong?” In Psalm 139:23 and 24 where it says “Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Situations like this are a time of testing of our faith and trusting in God. The widow, racked with pain, accused Elijah of killing her son. How would you respond if accused of murder?
Notice Elijah’s response. I am sure he did not know what God was doing and that it was a time of testing for both of them. The mother had lost her husband and now her son. We saw her reaction. Elijah could have lashed out at her and said things he would be sorry for later. We see in James 2:17-18 how people can respond: it says, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘you have faith. I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” And that’s exactly what Elijah did. In verse 19 he said, “Give me your son.” Was she going to trust him in her state of anxiety? I see her handing over the cold, limp body of her dead son with tears in her eyes, knowing that this man of God was the only hope she had. Then the Bible says that Elijah, taking the child, that lifeless body, went to his room where he was staying, and laid the boy on the bed. Can you picture the next scene where it says “then he cried out to the Lord?” Oh, how many of you reading this have done the same thing? But notice what Elijah said to God: “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
That’s quite a question to ask of God. Yes, Elijah was being tested. The widow was being tested. Where is God? It is not wrong to ask God questions? How many times I have heard people say we should not question God; only accept what He sends. But God is not afraid of our questions. He is not unable to answer them if we are asking sincerely, seeking to understand His ways. It is interesting that in Lamentations it says, “Let us examine our ways and test them and let us return to the Lord, let us lift up our hearts to God in heaven.” And folks, that’s exactly what Elijah did in verse 21. The Bible says that he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God.” He goes on to say, “let this boy’s life return to him.” One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also on him, and he will bring it to pass.” And the Bible says in 1 Kings 17:22, “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry.” With great rejoicing, he returned the son to his mother. The tears of anguish were replaced with tears of joy. When her own faith faltered, she leaned on the faith of the prophet Elijah. As believers we are a community of faith. When one person’s faith falters, let’s be available to shore up that one with our faith. The widow declared, “Now I know you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” Her faith was restored.
There is so much to learn from this. First, God is a great Provider, as we see he provided for the widow, her son, and Elijah. Secondly, God allows us to be tested through critical situations. How will we respond? Thirdly, God is the giver and taker of life. All life is in His capable and powerful hands. We can trust Him no matter what the outcome. Fourthly, God has His “Elijahs” available to bring comfort, to strengthen and restore us. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. God has not forsaken you. He knows all about your situation and wants to draw you closer to Himself. Trust Him in whatever situation you find yourself.
Until next time, may the Lord richly bless you and may you grow in your knowledge of Him and love for Him.