1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.
Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, were making Baal worship the official religion of Israel. Rather than turn away from his people, God sent the prophet Elijah to turn them back to him. Elijah’s name means the Lord is my God, and that was the heart of his message.
To show his people the foolishness of serving Baal (the god of crops and fertility) God sent a drought that would last three and a half years (James 5:17). Most people can live a few weeks without food, but only a few days without water. God can get our attention anytime by turning off the rain. Whenever we take a drink of water, we should thank God for sending it.
1 Kings 17:2-4 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.
Elijah would have to hide for the next few years, due to the king’s wrath. God sent him to a brook that would flow for some time, and he commanded the ravens to feed him. Twice a day they brought Elijah bread and meat; and he drank water from the brook (1 Kings 17:6). God is able provide for his people, even in difficult times. Regardless of economic conditions, we should always look to God.
1 Kings 17:8-9 Then the word of the Lord came to him: Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.
After the brook dried up, God sent Elijah to a town outside the boarders of Israel. There he saw a widow gathering sticks, and asked her for bread and water. But she was so poor that she was preparing her final meal, so she and her son could eat it and die.
Elijah said to her, Do not be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son (1 Kings 17:13).
The prophet’s request seems entirely selfish. Would he really deny a poor widow and her son a part of their final meal in order to feed himself? Not actually. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land (1 Kings 17:14), he said.
All the widow had was a little flour and oil, but Elijah assured her that God would replenish it until the drought was over. She obeyed the prophet’s word, and God kept his promise. Her food supply never ran out (1 Kings 17:15).
We too should give to God, while hoping to receive from him. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10), says Proverbs.
God is generous with us, and he wants us to be generous with him. Giving to God acknowledges that he is the source of all we have, and that we trust him for the future. Regardless how little we have, we can always give some away.
1 Kings 17:17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill.
This would be a concern to any parent, but since she was a widow, and the boy was her only child, the situation was desperate. But her son’s condition grew worse, and he died. She said to Elijah, What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son? (1 Kings 17:18).
The woman’s reply is interesting for two reasons. First, she blamed Elijah for the death of her son. Since God rules over all, and Elijah represented God, the death of her son was Elijah’s fault. Her logic was not fair to Elijah, but when people are angry at God, they may lash out at his servants.
The woman’s reply is also interesting because she mentioned her sin. We do not know what her sin was, but it must have been serious if she thought it was related to the death of her son. David’s sin with Bathsheba caused the death of their son (2 Samuel 12:14), so she may have been right. But probably not.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), wrote John. God punished Jesus for our sins so he could look on us with favor. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34), said God.
Since we never know infallibly what God is doing, it is seldom wise to connect any particular suffering with any particular sin. It is better to confess all our sins (1 John 1:9), and focus on God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.
1 Kings 17:19 Give me your son, Elijah replied.
Elijah took the boy into a room where he could earnestly pray for him, and the boy’s life returned. What a joy it must have been to give him back to his mother!
This miracle anticipates the raising of the widow’s son by Jesus (Luke 7:11-17), and the general resurrection at the end of the age. [F]or a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29), said Jesus.
It is not enough to think that our souls will go to heaven or hell when we die. That is certainly true, but the day is coming when all the dead will be reunited with their bodies forever. The lost will suffer in their bodies forever, and the righteous will flourish in their bodies forever.
The pleasure and pain we experience now reminds us of the pleasure or pain we’ll experience then. This is terrible news for the wicked, but wonderful news for the righteous. [Y]ou will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11), wrote David.
Reflection and Review
What can we learn from the widow about giving to God?
Why did the loss of her son remind the widow of her sins?
Why is the general resurrection important to everyone?