Summary: This section of God's Word shows us how two people responded to a tragedy. One example comes from a widow whose son died. The other comes from one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elijah.
At some point it will likely happen to most of us. For each of us it will be different and yet the same. It will leave us with tears in our eyes and pain in our hearts. We call them tragedies—something that seems to turn our lives upside down. Because we live in a world stained by sin these things will come our way. Perhaps it will be a tragedy similar to the one that the women in our Old Testament Lesson and our Gospel Lesson experienced. Someone close to us, whom we dearly love, may die unexpectedly. Or our tragedy might come in the form of a broken relationship, a body broken by disease, or broken hopes and dreams. It might be that our personal tragedy takes the form of a severe financial loss. It also is not out of the question that some national or global tragedy might impact some of us here today. Too numerous to list and too different to summarize all we can say is that tragedies are often a part of life.
Since the Holy Spirit has worked faith in our hearts we are confident that God is with us always and that he will always work everything out for our eternal good. And yet when a tragedy strikes our lives that faith will be tested. We will be tempted to blame ourselves, or others, or even God for what happens to us, or those we love. In our pain we may also be tempted to cry out, “Why, Lord? Why did you allow this to happen?”
In this Old Testament Lesson we are given two examples of how two people responded to a tragedy. One example comes from a widow whose son died. The other comes from one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elijah. Although we could focus on any number of truths found in this Scripture let’s narrow our thoughts to one question. May God the Holy Spirit lead us to honestly answer this question:
“WHAT DO WE DO WHEN TRAGEDY STRIKES?”
I. Do we try to find someone to blame?
II. Or do we respond with prayer and faith?
You may know some of the background for these verses of Scripture. Under the leadership of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel God’s people were worshiping idols—false gods. In addition to the sin of idolatry the majority of the people were also living their lives contrary to God’s Commandments. Because of this situation God used Elijah to pronounce a curse on the land saying that there would be no rain or dew for several years. Of course, this made Elijah a hated and hunted enemy of King Ahab. So Elijah went into hiding. You probably remember that for a time God provided food and water for him in the Kerith Ravine east of the Jordan River. Ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day. Then after the brook dried up the LORD sent Elijah to a widow’s house in foreign country. The town was called Zarephath. You may also remember how God used a miracle to continue to feed his prophet, and the widow, and her son. He made it so that the widow’s jar of oil and jug of flour never became empty.
But then God allowed a tragedy to strike the home where Elijah was staying. The widow’s son became sick. In time the child died. It is at that time that we see how each reacted to the tragedy. Our Old Testament Lesson tells us, “Some time 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?” In response to the tragic loss of her son the widow placed the blame on Elijah. She knew he was a prophet of God. And she seems to have assumed that he had the power to take her son’s life. But her words reveal something more. Wasn’t she also blaming God for the tragedy? And in a sense she was blaming herself. She brought up her past sins—whatever they may have been—and speculated that God was somehow punishing her for the things she had done.
Before we look at Elijah’s reaction to the tragedy let’s reflect on the widow’s reaction. She had been experiencing God’s loving care in her life. Remember that when she first met Elijah she was gathering some sticks so she could build a small fire and make a little bread with the last of her oil and flour. After that she assumed she and her son would simply starve to death. But because of God’s promise every time she went to make bread there was always flour and oil to use. But even with that daily reminder of God’s concern for her she assumed that the death of her son was punishment for something she had done.