Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” [1 Kings 17:17–24. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]
Elijah has been obedient to God’s will. When God had a message of judgement, Elijah delivered it. He had relied on God for his provision and protection. However, even the man of God and the widow whom God had appointed to meet his needs could face misfortune. They faced difficulties like everybody else. Even the great man of God would find his faith tested. However, through those trials, he would be reminded that God is able to answer prayers.
The drought lasted three and a half years (James 5:17−18). It seems as if Elijah, the widow, and her son were getting by. They were surviving the drought, even though the woman thought she and her son were on the brink of starvation when they met the prophet.
All that would change. After a while, the widow’s son became sick so that “there was no breath left in him.” In that moment of trial, the widow did something many people do. She forgot how, although once on the brink of death, she and her son had survived thanks to the prophet’s presence. Instead, she blamed Elijah and God for this illness.
How easy it is to blame God when sickness or other trials come. Many Christians blame God for their financial problems when they have failed to wisely manage the money He has given them. They may blame problems on Him when they have acted irresponsibly. Some people say, “Everything happens for a reason,” implying that all of their experiences were God’s plan. A few months ago, a meme found its way around social media that responds to this claim: “Everything happens for a reason: Sometimes the reason is that you are stupid and make bad decisions.”
Sometimes, the reason for misfortune is not clear. The best explanation may simply be this: We live in a fallen, imperfect world. Even though God is just, life is not always fair. We may not understand why God allows things to happen, but He is with us even in the midst of our suffering, whether we brought it upon ourselves or it just happened to us. In spite of that, even the person of faith may be tempted to ask, “Why, God? Why?”
When accused and blamed, Elijah did not argue. He did not try to defend himself. He simply brought their need to God. At first, he seems to have wondered if God was punishing them. The widow may have blamed Elijah, and Elijah initially blamed God. Yet, he moved beyond blaming, and to prayer.
God answered by restoring the child’s life. The boy was healed. The widow’s faith grew. Keep in mind, Zarephath was pagan territory. This was not a Jewish widow who had learned the Torah her entire life. She may have worshipped idols her entire life, and hosting Elijah may have been her first exposure to Israel’s faith in the one true God. Yet, because she saw the healing power of God, who provides sustenance to His servants and restores life to the dead, she could say, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
Calamity gave way to a miracle. Death was destroyed by life. Despair was conquered by hope. Doubt and blaming God were eradicated and replaced by hope.
We may never have the privilege of bringing a dead child back to life, but Christians are always called to minister as intercessors. Especially when others blame us or question our faith, we should stand as mediators between God and others. It is not our job to prove that we are right; it is our job to bring people before God and trust that He will prove Himself worthy to be trusted.
This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.