1 Kings 17:17-24
These verses follow on from the passage immediately before where Elijah was sent by God to visit a widow who lives at Zarephath in Sidon. After asking her to feed him from the last of her flour and oil, Elijah told her of God’s supernatural provision and her supplies miraculously lasted for as long as the land was without rain.
In these verses the woman’s son became ill, and it became so severe that the boy died. The instinctive reaction of the woman was to blame Elijah (and probably by implication to blame God). She seems to be carrying guilt as she thinks Elijah’s purpose was to bring to mind some sin she has committed and take her son from her as punishment.
The widow’s response is one that is quite common in times of hardship and loss. It can be easy to blame God for what has happened, and particularly to think that it is linked to something we may have done wrong and that God is bringing death as punishment.
Elijah’s response shows that the woman’s understanding is not quite right. He does not deny God’s sovereign hand in what had happened, but he knows that God is the life-giver and so he prayed for God to restore the boy’s life. In addition to his prayer, Elijah stretched himself upon the boy three times, a symbolic act bringing him into contact with the ‘dead’ body and so personally bearing the ceremonial uncleanness (see Num. 19:11) in order to bring healing. In doing this, he is a picture of Jesus bearing the uncleanness of sin that we may be brought from death to life.
God heard Elijah’s prayer and brought life to the boy. This is the first time in the Bible that somebody who has died is restored to life, and it shows the power of the life-giving God.
Some Key Points:
- When the woman’s son died she blamed God and thought it was because of her sin.
- Elijah prayed for the healing of the boy – and symbolically bore uncleanness for his healing.
- God is a life-giving God and raised the boy to life again.
- Understand God’s Heart – It can be easy to adopt a similar attitude to the widow, blaming God for suffering. It is important to understand that God’s heart is to give life.
- Pray for Resurrection Life – God is a God of resurrection. There are stories in both Old and New Testaments, as well as contemporary testimonies, of people who have died and returned. This is something we can pray for. Furthermore, there is the promise of the resurrection to come that we can put our hope in, when all who have died in Christ will be raised to eternal life.
- Ask God to Bring Life to Our Situations of Loss – This story serves as an illustration of God bringing life into an area of the widow’s life where hope was lost. We can pray that God would breathe life into whatever hopeless situations we are facing in life.