Summary: shows how God is willing to put to death and bring to life just to strengthen faith
June 24, 2001 1 Kings 17:17-24
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.”
When we were young, about twice a year we would make a two hour journey up to New London to visit our grandparents. For a five year old kid, two hours can be an eternity. Therefore, it was inevitable that we would ask the question - “are we there yet? How much further is it?” No matter how far we were, it never seemed like we would get there.
Paul once prayed for the Ephesians: I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. When you measure a box - you usually use three measurements - the height, the width, and the depth. But here - Paul prayed that the saints would know how wide, long, high AND DEEP is the love of Christ. What’s his point? There are some things that are beyond measurement - God’s love is one of those things that goes beyond the regular abilities of measurement. When you think you’ve determined the length of his love, you realize that it’s longer than you thought.
There are Great Lengths to God’s Love
First of all, let’s review the story from God’s Word for this morning. Ahab was the king of Israel at this time. 1 Kings 16 declares Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. Ahab didn’t only test the boundaries of God’s love - he found out where they were - and he went the extra mile to make sure to provoke the Lord.
As a result, God decided to send a famine on the land of Israel. Of course, when Elijah announced this judgment - this made him one of Ahab’s Most Wanted fugitives. That’s how Elijah ended up at this widow’s house. God had directed him way up north to the city of Zarephath - a heathen city full of Gentiles - to live with a widow who believed in the LORD (1 Kings 17:12). We don’t know the condition of the rest of the people, but chances are that this widow had no one to provide for her - and she had to fend for herself. (cf. Naomi with Ruth) She likely couldn’t have been over 45 - since her child was still young enough to be carried up a flight of stairs and cradled in her arms. With this young child at home - and no more harvests to glean from - there was nothing left for her to do. She was about to starve. However, God provided not only for Elijah, but also for the widow and her son - who were on the brink of death - by miraculously having her flour and oil jars stay full throughout months of use.
At this point of the story we can already marvel at the lengths that God went to provide for this foreigner of the faith. He knew that she was up there in this heathen city. Even though the rest of her countrymen didn’t think she was worth their time - God did. And so he specifically sent Elijah many miles northward to the widow. What great lengths God’s love went to provide for this widow and her son! But he wasn’t done.