Elijah restores the widow's son

1 Kings 17:17—24

So far in our in study of Elijah’s life, we have witnessed God’s gracious provision.  The Lord kept the prophet safe when the King of Israel was out to get him.  The Lord kept the prophet well fed during a terrible drought that ravaged the whole nation of Israel.  The Lord’s care for Elijah was so great that it actually overflowed and impacted the life of a lonely, poor widow; she and her family were blessed on account of Elijah.

You may never know how God’s care for you affects the lives of those around you.  His blessings are so abundant that your life cannot contain them all!  This is just one way a child of God may be a blessing at his place of work or to the rest of his family.

There were, according to Jesus Himself, many widows in the days of Elijah, but the man of God was sent to just one of them—

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  (Luke 4:25)

What was Jesus’ point?  He was illustrating that salvation is through the grace of God; God is delighted to lift up the lowly and despised and to exalt them to a seat in the heavenlies with His Son.  What God did for this widow was a singularly marvelous work, not only in supplying her whole household with food for the duration of the drought, but also in the raising of her son from dead.

It is wonderful to live in the grace and blessing of God.  But it is by no means easy.  You may be the recipient of great blessings from God, but that doesn’t mean you are exempt from pain and tragedy, as this story illustrates.

1.  Another trial, verse, 17, 18

Sometime 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?”

If these verses teaches us one thing it is simply this:  God’s presence is no guarantee hard times will never come.  Elijah was a man who lived and walked in God’s presence.  Scholars believe that Elijah had been staying with this widow for almost a year before the boy became sick.  Apparently the sickness was lingering until it finally took his life.  We may well imagine how Elijah prayed for the boy to recover, yet recovery was not part of God’s plan.

The comment of the young lad’s mother is often misunderstood, leading many to conclude that she was crying out in angry bitterness to the prophet; that she was blaming him for the death of her son.  But her response in faith later seems to indicate this may not have been the case.  She clearly saw the hand of the Lord in this terrible situation and she clearly recognized her position in God.  She was a sinner, and it seems as though the death of her son revived some memories of her past; bad memories, full of regret and embarrassment.

Very often tragedy does this to us.  For example, when we get into financial difficulties all of a sudden nothing in our life is right; we never made a right decision, and we have a warped view of our situation.  This is how this woman was reacting.  But she did recognize that God had something to do with this.

2.  A special request, verse 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.

Elijah was calm in the face of the widow’s anguish.  It was not that he was uncaring it was that he was a man of faith, and all believers need to remember this—

We live by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:7)

We can’t risk basing our faith on what we see because what we see is a mere fraction of reality.  There is a spiritual realm completely hidden from us; we are incapable of seeing what is going on round about us.  This is why we need to live by faith; faith in God’s Word; faith in what He has promised to us.  Regardless of what we see, God’s promises are settled.

For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.  (Psalm 119:89, KJV)

Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  (Psalm 119:89, tNIV)

Nothing can shake God’s Word!  A true child of God will always act and react differently than someone without faith.  What is it that looms on your horizon?  Do you see a tragedy?  Or do you see God?  Do you see the precipice or the possibility?  It all has to do with your perspective.

Elijah’s perspective was spiritual, and so he faced a very difficult situation with a calm spirit, taking the corpse of the boy his upper room.  This would have been a kind of small, humble, attic room, converted into a guest room for the prophet.  There was nothing special about this room, other than it was out of the way and it was private.  What Elijah did illustrates what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:6—

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

God wants us to pray in secret!  Most of us are quite adept at doing other things in secret, but if we want God’s undivided attention, then He deserves ours.

The question arises; did Elijah know what God was going to do?  For that matter, what was in the widow’s mind when she handed her dead son over to him?  Did they suspect the boy would be raised to life?  When we consider when this story took place in history, we must realize that there was no precedent for such an occurrence.   In the entire Bible, only nine individuals were ever raised to life, and this boy was the very first.

  • Elijah raised the son of the Zarephath widow from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-22).
  • Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35).
  • A man was raised from the dead when his body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20, 21).
  • Many saints rose from the dead at the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27:50-53).
  • Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:5-8; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:5, 6).
  • Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead (Luke 7:11-15).
  • Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).
  • Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-41).
  • Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Acts 20:9, 10).

So, neither the prophet nor the widow had anything to “hang their faith on.”  They both seemed to believe something would happen, though.

3.  Powerful prayer and strange actions, verses 20, 21

Then he cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The first thing that must be noted is that Elijah was not angry with God nor blaming God for the death of the boy, he was simply stating something he believed in because he had witnessed it:  the sovereignty of God.  Even though it is phrased as a question, it was really a statement of belief.   Life and death are in the hands of God.  Elijah was acknowledging what we all know.  The boy was dead, and it seemed as though this was the Lord’s will.

But that didn’t stop Elijah from asking God to revive the boy.  Elijah’s prayer was brief but to the point.  Regardless of what he saw with his eyes, and the fact that nobody had ever been raised to life before, Elijah asked God for exactly what he wanted.

All too often our prayers are like rambling requisitions that go on and on, unfocused and dull because we don’t know what we are praying for.   This must surely be the main reason why Christians feel like God doesn’t hear their prayers; He hears them, He just doesn’t understand them!   Before we pray, we must settle in our hearts and minds what we need.  We must know God’s Word and pray according to it.  God’s character is revealed in His Word and when we know it, we know God, and will always ask according to His will.

Not only did Elijah pray, but he also did a very strange thing:  he stretched himself out over the boy three times.  Why did he do that?  What Elijah did was full of symbolism.  First, as it applies to the Church, there is a great principle at work here.  Today, the Church must be in full contact with its Head, Jesus Christ.  Right now, large segments of the Church are not in contact with Christ and are spiritually dead.  When the Church is out of contact with Jesus, it does bizarre things; it makes unscriptural decisions; it wanders in spiritual wasteland; the blind leading the blind.

Secondly, on a personal level, when Elijah prayed he prayed with his whole being, mind, soul, spirit, and body.   His whole being was concentrated on reviving the boy.  A lot of people pray for spiritual revival, but they don’t go beyond their words; they don’t stretch so much as their little finger to revive one soul in the ditch of sin, even if that soul is their own.  In stretching himself out over the boy, Elijah gave himself wholly to the work at hand.  Paul did exactly the same thing when he raised Eutychus to life—

Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”

Prayer must be more than words.

4.  Confession of faith, verse 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.”

When Elijah brought the boy down stairs to his mother she uttered a great confession of faith in God and in God’s man, Elijah.  But this is a curious thing.  The miracle of provision—the miraculously materializing flour and olive oil that never ran out—apparently didn’t do it for this woman!   She needed something more to tip the scales in Elijah’s favor, and God provided it:  the death and reviving of her son.  It was that tragedy and subsequent miracle that finally convinced this immature believer that Elijah was a man from God and that God could be taken at His Word.

Out of the deepest trials of life often come the greatest blessings from God.  Faith that is tested is faith that is vindicated, and of all the blessings a believer may receive, the vindication of his faith must surely one of the most encouraging.

Don’t fear the inevitable testing of your faith.  Recall the experience of Job.  At his lowest point, he looked and looked for God and it seemed as though God had all but deserted him.  In spite of how he felt, Job held fast to what faith he had and uttered one of the most moving confessions of faith ever–

When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (Job 23:9, 10)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

2 Responses to “ELIJAH: THE RE-ANIMATOR”

  1. 1 Timothy March 23, 2012 at 1:41 am

    This really blessed me today! Thank you very much. And I thank the Lord that He speaks from every which way!

  2. 2 Julie July 28, 2013 at 7:27 am

    That was beautifully written, and very insightful. And, as I am reading it alongside Luke 11:1-13, it is also such a great encouragement to more truly active, audacious, and faithful prayer. We should always pray in the belief that mountains can be moved if it is God’s will.

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