ELIJAH PROPHESIES A DROUGHT
Ahab was suddenly confronted by a prophet who had never been mentioned before, Elijah the Tishbite, the first prophet of God spoken of as arising from among the ten tribes. He came from Gilead and in God's name announced that for some years there would be neither dew nor rain in Israel until Elijah gave the word. James 5:17 tells us that Elijah had prayed earnestly that it might not rain. Why? Because of the gross evil of Ahab that infected all Israel. Elijah evidently realized it would require drastic measures to turn Israel back to the Lord.
But the prophet himself must suffer on account of the drought, as well as the people. The Lord told him to leave and hide himself by the Brook Cherith. He was not to remain to boast in the fact that his prophecy came true. God knows how to teach the messenger that the messenger is not important, but his message is. He provided for Elijah, however, with water from the brook and food brought by ravens. Israel was in no condition to care for a prophet of God, and God used the unclean birds for this. Ravens, as their name suggests, are ravenous, so that it was a miracle of God that they would bring food to the prophet, both in the morning and the evening. Thus Elijah learned literally not to worry about his life as to what to eat and drink (Matthew 6:25).
Yet Elijah's time there was limited, for the brook dried up because of the drought. God sees fit to change our circumstances that we might learn in various ways our dependence on Him.
CARED FOR BY A WIDOW
The Lord then sent Elijah a long distance from the area of the Jordan River to Zarephath in Sidon, outside the borders of Israel (vs.8-9). Elijah would be puzzled to think that God had commanded a widow in that place to care for him. But this was because of the low spiritual state of Israel. Though there were many widows in Israel at the time (Luke 4:25), yet God sent Elijah outside of Israel to be cared for by a Gentile widow.
When Elijah came to the gate of Zarephath he saw a widow gathering sticks and asked her to get him a drink of water (v.10). She willingly went to get it and he called after her to also bring him a little bread to eat (v.11). But this was too much for the poor woman. She told him she had no bread, but only a little flour and a little oil from which she planned to make a small meal for herself and her son, before expecting to die from famine.
But God was not only caring for Elijah. He also intended to care for the widow and her son. It may sound selfish on Elijah's part that he should tell her to first make him a small cake, and afterward make this for herself and her son. But this was a test of her faith. Elijah is a type of Christ, and if we put Him first, we will have all our needs supplied. Elijah promised the widow that her store of flour would not diminish nor the jar of oil run dry until the day that the Lord would send rain.
Though the widow was a Gentile, she believed the word of an Israelite who spoke in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and her faith was fully rewarded. She and her son and Elijah were all supplied with food for many days. Thus Elijah was kept in seclusion until the Lord later sent him to announce the restoration of rain to Israel.
THE WIDOW'S SON RAISED FROM DEATH
The widow had experienced the grace of God in saving her and her son from a dreadful end. But God had another vitally important lesson to teach her, which could only come through pain and sorrow. Her child became seriously ill and was taken by death (v.17). For some reason she connected his death with Elijah and felt that God was punishing her for her sins. But God was seeking the pure blessing of her soul.
Elijah took the boy and laid him on his own bed. Then he prayed earnestly to the Lord and stretched himself on the child three times. Direct contact with the one who had life resulted in life coming back to the child. The three times speaks of resurrection. Thus it is only by direct contact with the Lord Jesus raised from the dead that we find the blessing of resurrection life. The Lord answered the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned. Thus the widow learned that God was able, not only to save from dying, but to restore life after death. Mary and Martha learned this lesson in John 11:1-57. They had only thought of hoping the Lord would come to them in time to preserve Lazarus from dying. Both of them told the Lord, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21; John 11:32). But the Lord had a more important lesson to teach them, that He can bring life out of death.
Elijah restored the boy to his mother, saying, "See, your son lives" (v.23). How appropriate was the widow's response, "Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth" (v.24). Similarly, when we have learned that the Lord Jesus has the power of resurrection life, we know He is not only a man of God, but the eternal Son of God, whose resurrection takes from us the fear of death.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Kings 17". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany