Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elijah and the widow of Zarephath

God’s commands aren’t always instantly carried out, nor perpetual.
In this 17th Chapter of 1 Kings there is a God-ordained famine and drought.
God instructs Elijah to live by the brook at Cherith, where he is able to drink, and God commands the ravens to feed him, and each morning and evening he is given bread and meat.
But after sometime the creek runs dry.

Does this mean God’s word has failed?
Has God departed?
Has God found a better prophet for the job and forgotten about Elijah?

I’m not sure how long between the drying up of the brook and God’s speaking to Elijah, but whatever the period of time was, in someone like me, doubts would have arisen, doubts and fears.

But then God’s Word comes to Elijah to go to Zarepath in Sidon.

“Behold I have commanded a widow to feed you”.

Firstly ravens, then a widow.

God uses unexpected means to fulfill his purposes.

But whereas the ravens seemed to have clearly heard God’s command and were performing their task without need for Elijah’s prompting, the widow seemed to know nothing of God’s command when Elijah met her.

In fact, if you read the passage from verse 10, ignoring verses 8 and 9, it seems that it is Elijah who commands the widow, not God.

This is very interesting to me, and I could gather some implications.

Firstly, in the case of the widow, God uses Elijah to be both the spokesperson of God’s will and also the co-benefactor of the outcome of this command.

Furthermore, the widow requires a little coercion to do what God has commanded, if not coercion, at least some explanation, so God's command sometimes requires further action by us. We don't simply sit back and watch.

Finally, though it seems that Elijah’s word is prophetically powerful, Elijah is simply following God's orders, the instigator, initiator, and provider are all God.

When amazing things happen, which involve people using their abilities, God is still the source, the reason and the person to thank.

This widow and her son are on the brink of death, but because God commands it, they are able to feed both themselves and Elijah from a miraculous jar of flour and another of oil.

It would seem that this event was a big enough miracle to convince anyone that Elijah was a man of God, yet the story becomes even more dramatic.

The son of the widow becomes sick and then dies.

The widow approaches Elijah in her distress saying

“What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

These are very interesting words.

Up until this point, no one has mentioned anything about the widow regarding sinfulness.

From the passage, we see a woman, though somewhat doubting, willing to offer a perfect stranger part of her last meal. This is extreme generosity.

We see a woman chosen by God to sustain his prophet.

Nothing about sin.

Yet when disaster strikes, she does not plead innocence.

She attributes the death of her beloved son as an act of God and an act of justice or punishment for sin.

We have no idea what sin she is speaking of, but does it matter?

The truth is we are all sinners, and all deserve God’s just judgement on our sin.

Elijah is clearly distressed.

He takes the son upstairs to the upper chamber, and then he cries out to God:

“O Lord, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

Again, this prayer is extremely interesting.

Firstly Elijah is caught by surprise, even confused. Being a man of God and a prophet of God did not help him predict this event. Even Godly people don’t have all the edge on God and his actions.

Secondly, Elijah also gives God the blame for this death. He is acknowledging that God is sovereign and nothing happens outside his will.
Logic would say that if God has ordained this death, then that’s the end of the matter, yet Elijah thinks otherwise. Faith does not need logic.
So Elijah begs for this life to return, for death to be sucked up and for breath, life and health to return.
He doesn’t simply pray, he physically lies on top of the corpse, three times.

Why he does this is inexplicable.

Added also to this strange action is his pleading to God “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again."

Maybe, by this action, Elijah is directing the life force of God, the Holy Spirit, to go through him into the child, like an antenna drawing in and focusing the power of God through his person into the child. Or maybe Elijah is offering his own life in exchange for the child. Nothing is explained.

But then the wonderful power of God is revealed, as God listens to Elijah, and the child revives.

Elijah then delivers the child to his mother. In a real sense the child is reborn.
Only then the widow exclaims that now she truly knows that Elijah is a man of God

It took calamity upon calamity, then miracle upon miracle to convince this widow of Gods favour upon Elijah, and therefore also upon her.

Are we any different?

Do we also need calamity upon calamity, and miracle upon miracle, to understand that God’s grace is greater than our sin?

Romans 5:20-21
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.