Wednesday, June 16, 2010
1 Kings 17: 17-24 RAISING THE WIDOW'S SON
God had provided for Elijah and the widow woman from Zarephath
13And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’ ” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
She and he and her household ate for many days: God fulfilled the promise to the widow, her son, and Elijah. God used her as a channel of supply and her needs were met as a result.
"Why did not God give her a granary full of meal at once, and a vat full of oil instantly? I will tell you. It was not merely because of God's intent to try her, but there was wisdom here. Suppose he had given her a granary full of meal, how much of it would have been left by the next day? I question whether any would have remained, for in days of famine men are sharp of scent, and it would soon have been noised about the city, 'The old widow woman who lives in such-and-such a street, has a great store of food.' Why, they would have caused a riot, and robbed the house, and perhaps, have killed the woman and her son. She would have been despoiled of her treasure, and in four and twenty hours the barrel of meal would have been as empty as it was at first, and the cruse of oil would have been spilled upon the ground." (Spurgeon)
Elijah was in her home and God was daily providing for all their needs, it would have been easy for the widow of Zarephath to think that at last all her troubles were over. But were they? Both Elijah and the widow, were believers; they were living by faith, faith in God, and faith is always tested. We too as believers we must expect to be tested. Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
Hebrews 12:6-11 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Think how much testing the psalmist, the apostles, the early believers and the Puritans experienced, and how much testing God’s people on every hand are experiencing today. This whole matter of faith’s testing is brought before us in the story of the death of the widow’s son and of Elijah’s great prayer. This is the record of God’s loving dealings with two of His people who lived at Zarephath, which, significantly, means “a place of refining”. If we are believers, men and women of faith, we are all living at Zarephath; we must expect our faith to be tested.
1. THE TRIAL OF FAITH verse 17
It was UNEXPECTED. Quite unexpectedly the child fell sick and then died. Trials and testings come just as suddenly in the lives of God’s people everywhere.
It was SEVERE. The child not only became ill, but he died, and all this happened to a woman already bereaved of her husband. God’s chastenings are sometimes very severe!
1Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It was FOR A PURPOSE. That is, it did not just happen by chance. “Fate” was not in operation here! The Lord allowed this to happen. 17 – “Some time later…” In other words, God was in it all. This thing was from Him (1 Kings 12:24). He was putting Romans 8:28 into action. It all seemed very strange –1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. . All that happened was with God’s loving permission and in order to fulfil His purpose. It is just the same in our lives.
2. THE COLLAPSE OF FAITH
What happens when faith is tested? See what happened here 18. When her child died the widow turned on Elijah and reproached him and even blamed him for her son’s death. Her faith temporarily collapsed, and for a short while she became an unbeliever. God’s people often react like this in times of trial and testing, and they ask, “Does God care? What have I done to deserve this? Why has it happened to me?" But notice another thing: when her faith was tested she remembered her sin. Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son? It is a good thing when God's chastenings cause us to search our hearts and cleanse our ways (Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
; Lamentations 3:40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!). God allowed the trial to fall upon the widow in order that she might be purified as gold is purified by the process of refining 1 Peter 1:7. How different was Elijah’s reaction! He could not understand the reason for this sudden tragedy any more than the woman could; but see how his faith came into operation in this time of testing:-
3. THE OPERATION OF FAITH
Whereas the woman’s faith collapsed, Elijah’s faith went into action! How did it work? How does faith operate in a time of crisis?
Faith keeps calm when the blow falls. Look at Elijah: although he is deeply moved because of what has happened he is trusting God in spite of it. See how gentle and calm he was under provocation. He did not reproach God; he was calm when the test came.
Faith trusts God when His purpose cannot be traced. Elijah could not see what God was doing, but he knew it was for some wise and loving purpose, so he was willing to trust Him until He revealed it.
When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.
Faith relates the trial to God. Elijah took the child, went to his room, got down before the Lord and related the whole situation to Him – verses 19 and 20 c. Then he cried out to the Lord: Elijah prayed with great heart and intimacy with God. He brought this seemingly unexplainable and irredeemable tragedy to God in prayer. Since he knew God led him to this widow, Elijah laid this tragedy on God and asked Him to remedy it.. What a great act of faith that was! Elijah’s faith led him to the throne of grace and to the God of grace.
Faith asks God to do the humanly impossible. Look at verse 21, and compare James 5:13-15 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Elijah knew the mind of the Lord when he prayed. God does not always lead us to pray for resurrection. James Murrays tell me that many times at Pentecostal funerals folks pray for a resurrection. One time they were very cranky about a recent funeral. If they had only prayed before he died and got him to a doctor, they wouldn’t have had to pray after he died, and see the family in despair. O Lord my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him: "A prayer full of powerful arguments. Thou art the Lord, that canst revive the child; and my God, and therefore wilt not, do not, deny me. She is a widow; add not affliction to the afflicted; deprive her not of the great support and staff of her age. She hath given me kind entertainment; let her not fare the worse for her kindness to a prophet, whereby wicked men will take occasion to reproach both her and religion." (Poole)
Faith is always honoured by God, and is thus victorious. Look at verses 22-23, Matthew 9:29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Faith (not presumption) will never be disappointed.
Don't we believe in miracles? Yes we do. Christianity is a religion of miracles. Take the miraculous out of our faith and you are left with nothing but a set of ethical instructions that has no power to change the heart. Subtract the miracles and suddenly Christianity becomes just another religion. Without the miracles, we have no good news to share with the world. And the Bible is book of miracles from first to last. Take the miracles away and suddenly the Bible is no longer the Word of God. It's just another book. You can no more take miracles out of Christianity than you can take light from the sun. Without the light, there is no sun. Without the miracles, there is no Christianity.
1) The Bible is filled with miracle stories.
2) But they do not happen routinely or predictably.
We read of amazing miracles in the time of Moses when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. We read of more miracles during the days of Elijah and Elisha. We read of amazing things that happened during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we read of other miracles in the book of Acts.
That's one side of the story. The other side is that you can read page after page after page in the Bible without running into any miracles at all. It's not as if miracles were an everyday occurrence even in Bible times. They did not happen routinely or predictably. That is, the blind man in John 9 had no way of knowing when he got up that morning that he was about to regain his sight. Ditto for the lame man in Acts 3. As a general rule, those who received miracles in the Bible had no advance notice.
Evelyn Waugh who said, "God does work miracles, but it is presumptuous to anticipate them."
Miracles are not about us. Miracles are about God.
4.THE FRUIT OF FAITH
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And 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.”
Verse 23 tells us that Elijah gave the resurrected child back to his mother, as if to say, “See what God has done!” Now read verse 24. When she saw what God had done through the channel of Elijah’s faith, her own faith was revived and restored.
Her words explain the miracle, and they also explain why not every mother receives this miracle when a child is sick to the point of death. The miracle happens to authenticate Elijah as God's anointed prophet. God had promised to sustain all three of them--mother, son and Elijah--until the rains came and the drought ended (v. 14). On the basis on that promise, Elijah believed that God would bring the boy back to life. Strange as it may sound, the miracle is less about the boy and more about God's power working through Elijah. It is a miracle of sovereign grace, given this one time in Elijah's life and never again given during his ministry. God answered this prayer by this man in this way at this particular moment in time. And he did it for his own purposes. There is no other way to understand the story. This is a lesson about the Sovereign of the universe moving in a miraculous way in answer to the prophet's fervent prayers.
This is the fruit of faith. When we trust God, many things happen! He is glorified, our own faith is strengthened, our character is purified and the genuineness of our faith is proved. Best of all, others are helped and strengthened through our trusting God in a time of crisis.
As other people look at us in times of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, profit and loss, and especially in times of fierce trial, of bereavement, accident or illness, can they say verse 24 of us?
But mark the conditions under which alone we shall be able to fulfill this glorious function:
(1) Lonely wrestlings. "He took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the Lord." We are not specific enough in prayer; and we do not spend enough time in intercession, dwelling with holy ardor on each beloved name, and on each heart-rending case. What wonder that we achieve so little!
(2) Humility. "He measured himself upon the child." How wonderful that so great a man should spend so much time and thought on that slender frame, and be content to bring himself into direct contact with that which might be thought to defile! It is a touching spectacle; but we must imitate it in some measure. We must seek the conversion of children, winning them ere Satan or the world attach them. But to do so, we must stoop to them; becoming as little children to win little children for Jesus.
(3) Perseverance. "He measured himself three times, arid cried unto the Lord." He was not soon daunted. It is thus that God tests the genuineness of our desire. These deferred answers lead us to lengths of holy boldness and pertinacity of which we should not otherwise have dreamed, but from which we shall never go back. "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
And his supplication met with the favor of God. "The Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived." And as the prophet presented him to the grateful and rejoicing mother, he must have been beyond all things gratified with her simple testimony to the reality and power of God. "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." It is a characteristic of those who are the Lord’s, that they carry with them everywhere the spirit of life, even resurrection-life. We shall not only convince men of sin, but we shall become channels through which the Divine Life may enter them. Thus was it with the prophet.
J Hudson Taylor The sweetest part, . . . is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. . . . So, if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trials, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.
Yes, in me, in me He dwelleth I in Him and He in me!
And my empty soul He filleth Now and through eternity. Horatio Bonar
When your heart is filled with God's presence there is not one word of complaint about the inconveniences of ministry. Watch and see if God doesn't place a widow, or a hurting parent, or a hurting child in your life. And when He does gently reach out to that person and lift the burden. Elijah risked getting involved, and getting hurt. When the heart is filled with compassion and care, prayer becomes an opportunity to minister to the hurting. Prayer takes time and commitment. When we see God at work in people's lives, it is time to step out by faith and trust God.