17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 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?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
Again Elijah’s faith is going to be tested, and again it will not be just for Elijah's benefit: this time it will be used to minister to the widow's son, and also, although at a different level, to the widow too.
Look at 1 Kings17v17-
17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.18 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?”
What’s going on in the heart and mind of the woman?
Deep distress. Terrible strain. It appears to have been several days during which she has had to watch helplessly as her son slipped away. But added to that, guilt.
“What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
‘What do you have against me’ that suggests that whatever her guilty secret was, she thought that somehow Elijah must have discovered it, and as God’s messenger had come to punish her by killing her son.
Somewhere in the background of the woman's life there was something, which dwarfed all other memories of wrong-
For different people, different things will stir up dormant memories. In the case of some, the handwriting on an old letter, a picture, or perhaps a scent or taste will be enough. For Joseph's brothers it was only when they were made to suffer that they were reminded of their behaviour to Joseph thirty years before (Genesis 42:21).
In the case of the widow it was not only her own terrible distress which brought back her memory. It was that combined with Elijah's holy life. "Did you come to remind me of my sin?".
Can the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in us affect those who are not believers? Can it stir their consciences and even produce feelings of resentment towards us because we have caused them to be disturbed?
We mustn’t be surprised at that reaction. If someone shows unexplained hostility towards us, it may well be that their spirit has been troubled -
What should our reaction be when attacked in this way? We must demonstrate love.
It may even be that we have the opportunity to show them how they can have life where currently there is death.
Do those who are filled with the Holy Spirit automatically carry with them everywhere the spirit of resurrection life?
That means then that the Spirit in us may not only convince people of sin, but we may become the channels through which he will bring new life to them. This was to be the privilege of the prophet. But notice the conditions necessary before he could be used in this way. (Write headings on board)
Prayer. Verse 19: He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD.
Note verse 22: The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. What would have happened if Elijah hadn’t prayed?
Are we specific enough in prayer? Do we spend enough time in intercession, dwelling on each name, and on each circumstance, in the certain knowledge that our prayers will be answered? If we pray little we will achieve little!
Stretched. Verse 21: He stretched himself out on the boy. Do we allow ourselves to be stretched by the Lord? What do I mean? Well think about how we would have responded in that situation: Look at 1 Kings 17:17-
Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 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?”
How would we have reacted?
a) Would we have backed away on the defence – saying ‘Don’t blame me’? (Wait for an answer!)
b) Or would we instinctively have scooped up the boy, taken him to our room and prayed for him?
Notice also that he did not just lie on the boy as he prayed, he stretched himself out on the boy, this was a prayer of total commitment.
Perseverance. He stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD. He did not give up easily. Sometimes God needs to test the genuineness of our desire. When answers are deferred they are sometimes designed to lead us to greater lengths of holy boldness and persistence. (Luke 18:1) We should always pray and not give up.
The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.
As the prophet gave him to the grateful and rejoicing mother, she responded with a simple testimony to the reality and power of the God whom he served: Verse 24: "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."
We don’t know any more about the widow. Some suggest that her son may have become Elijah’s servant but there’s no evidence for that. But the work the Lord wanted to do in her life through Elijah is now complete.
So now we come to chapter 18. 1 Kings 18:1
1 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”
Before we look at this verse, look at what God didn’t tell Elijah. He could have said “Go and present yourself to Ahab, tell him to summon everyone and go with them to the top of Mount Carmel, meet you there, allow me to use you to demonstrate exactly who is God, kill the false prophets of Baal, and then I will send rain on the land.”
Elijah will have to do all this, but as we have seen before, God will be as gentle as he can, and only reveal his intention one step at a time. Even the first step was going to be quite enough of a challenge.
Picture the scene: a long time had passed in the shelter of Zarephath; and Elijah would naturally have become comfortable living with the widow and her son. The little home itself, with its upper room, jar of flour, and jug of oil, was itself a constant reminder of the unfailing provision of God.
It would therefore have been very disturbing for Elijah to have to turn his back on that; and what a contrast was waiting for him! He had no doubt heard about Ahab's search for him through all the neighbouring countries.
1 Kings 18:10
10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you.
Elijah might guess that It was hardly likely that he would find himself very welcome at the palace. Probably he would have been arrested instantly, and perhaps tortured to make him remove the curse that he must have used to cause the terrible drought.
Zarephath, the ‘smelting furnace’, had actually turned out to have been a peaceful harbour to shelter in for the last three years. Naturally he might have preferred to remain there, rather than setting out into the teeth of the storm that now awaited him.
(Song ‘Though I feel afraid' is appropriate)
Who leaves harbour deliberately in the face of the worst storms?
Usually only Lifeboat men, who when the call comes, respond without hesitation because other lives are at stake.
As Elijah considered the angry roar of the waves crashing outside the harbour wall he might well have been doubtful. It had been easy enough to be obedient when he was commanded to hide himself, but now to go and show himself to Ahab was a different matter. Yet, as a servant of God, what could he do but obey? So, 1 Kings 18:2 Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria . . .
We have little real idea, in the affluent west, of the horrors of drought. To us it may mean no more than a hosepipe ban. Even scenes brought to us by television or newspapers fail to convey the personal and national agonies of a country where even the basic necessities of life are gone.
Although Elijah's spirit may have been uplifted to have again been called to action by God, it would have been very depressing for him as he now returned to his own land and saw the devastation that three years of drought had brought. (Show on map011) As he probably made his way down the main coast road, turning inland at the Kishon valley, and heading for Megiddo and Jezreel, the effects would be very apparent wherever he looked.
What was worse was that Elijah had effectively caused all this by his own prayer; and he might have found it unbearable but for the fact that he had a desperate longing that his people would learn the true horror and evilness of sin. "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realise how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me." (Jeremiah 2v19)
The famine was widespread, but it seems to have been worse in Samaria, and it was this famine that brought out the true character of Ahab. We might have hoped that he would have attempted to ease the sufferings of his people, and above all, that he would have turned back to God. But no, his one thought was about the horses and mules in his stables, neither of which were food animals. So he sets out, searching for grass for them; and he would have been happy to take it, instead of allowing his people to feed it to their sheep or cattle.
Are there any nations today suffering hardship and misery – because of the selfishness of their leaders?
Could we say that the gluttony of the few, causes the starvation of the many?
Are we as professing Christians, blameless in this? I want you to do some mental arithmetic.
When we go out for a meal, How much are we prepared to spend?
What would that average out to during a month? What’s that times twelve?
How much do we give to some form of famine relief during the year?
Ahab’s concern was to find grass for his animals while his people were left to fend for themselves.
What has Elijah learnt since he was stirred to pray back home in Tishbe?
(Give out copies of this list -
1. To pray earnestly
2. To pray in line with God’s word
3. To be obedient to God’s leading
4. To be prepared to obey one step at a time
5. To have courage in God’s service
6. To live as an ambassador of God
7. To go immediately where he sends
8. To wait patiently for God
9. To spend time alone with God
10. To trust that God will supply our needs
11. To have such faith it encourages faith in others
12. To continue to trust in the most difficult circumstances
13. To believe that God can and will work miracles
14. To persevere in prayer until we receive an answer
15. To give, when everyone else wants to take.
We also looked at:
Jesus is Brother – Friend – Master – Lord – King – God
Is Elijah’s training complete now? Perhaps
I warned you when we started this series that at some point we would be asked some awkward questions. Now is the time!
What affect have the lessons from Elijah’s life had on us?
Have we been changed at all since the start of this series?
There is no point in studying the Bible if we are not going to allow it to have an effect on our lives. Perhaps we need to take this list and consider whether we need to work at anything!
Which one of these would we find most difficult?
Let’s take that one as our homework this week!
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