Thursday, February 7, 2008

1 Kings 17

What is this passage all about?

Elijah the Tishbite began his role of prophet with an announcement to Ahab of several years of drought. During this time Elijah stayed at first in the Kerith Ravine and later with a widow of Zarephath and her son.

What can I learn from it?

This passage establishes Elijah's prophetic authority as having come from God. Unmentioned before in the account of Kings, Elijah seems to have come from nowhere, but his first actions show that he was God's spokesperson to the evil-doer Ahab, and under God's specific care. Elijah claimed to Ahab that he served the LORD, the God of Israel and announced that there would be no dew or rain in Israel for the next few years (v1). "Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah" (v2) and told him where he should go, in order that God could provide for him (v3-4). "So he did what the LORD had told him" (v5) and God provided as He had promised (v6). Elijah was obedient to the command of the LORD whom he served as an earthly messenger to the king.

As happens in droughts, the stream that had supplied Elijah with water dried up so he had to move. "Then the word of the LORD came to him" (v8) again and Elijah was told to find a certain widow in Zarephath of Sidon who would supply him with food (v9). "So he went" (v10), again demonstrating obedience, and found the woman who had just enough flour and oil for one meal with her son before all their supplies ran out (v12). God provided miraculously and the flour was not used up and the oil didn't run dry (v16), providing for Elijah and the widow and her son while he was with them. In this instance it was Elijah who spoke (v13-14) and the widow who obeyed (v15) and was blessed.

In the last event of this passage, the widow's son became ill and died (v17). The widow criticised Elijah, and asked if he had come to remind her of her sin and kill her son (v18). I am not quite sure what to make of this accusation. How did this death remind her of her sin? Not knowing what she knew of her sin, I cannot answer this. However, Elijah knew that he could turn to God and he did so: "he cried out to the LORD" (v20) asking if it was God who had brought the tragedy. Again, "he cried to the LORD" (v21) asking for the boy's life to be returned. "The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived." It was this miracle (v22) that enabled the widow to recognise Elijah's prophetic authority (v24): "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."

In summary, in this passage the word of God came to Elijah several times and each time he obeyed and was blessed. Elijah delivered the word of God to the widow, she obeyed and was blessed. Finally, Elijah called out to God and God heard him and gave him what he asked for. This resulted in Elijah being acknowledged as a truthful prophet of God.

How does this help me to worship God?

God provides and blesses when we obey, even when He calls us to obedience that is difficult. I should give praise to God for His provision in all circumstances, and thank Him especially when He intervenes to make things possible so that it is gentler on me when I choose to obey His will.

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