Study 4 RAISING THE WIDOW’S SON
(Scripture Portion: 1 Kings 17: 17-24)
Now that Elijah was safely installed 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? Read 1 Kings 17:16, and then compare verse 17. Notice that both these people, Elijah and the widow, were believers; they were living by faith, faith in God, and faith is always tested. In other words, if we are believers we must expect to be tested - look up Philippians 1:29 and Hebrews 12:6-11. 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; in other words, we must expect our faith to be tested. Notice from the incident:-
1. THE TRIAL OF FAITH
This is indicated in verse 17, and notice about this trial that:
- 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!
- 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. Notice the words in verse 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 - but look up 1 Peter 4:12 and then 1 Peter 1:7. 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 in verse 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. It is a good thing when God’s chastenings cause us to search our hearts and cleanse our ways (Psalm 139:23-24; Lamentations 3:40). 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 - see Job 23:10; 1 Peter 1:7. How different was Elijah’s reaction! - look up Psalm 119:75. 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! It began to work – look up James 2:17-20. How did it work? How does faith operate in a time of crisis?
- It 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 - look up 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. He did not reproach God; he was calm when the test came.
- It 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.
- It at once 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. What a great act of faith that was! Elijah’s faith led him to the throne of grace and to the God of grace - look up 1 John 5:5.
- It asks God to do the humanly impossible. Look at verse 21, and compare James 5:13-15. Elijah knew the mind of the Lord when he prayed thus. God does not always lead us to pray for resurrection. When our loved one is seriously ill it may be easier to pray for healing than to trust God for bereavement.
- It is always honoured by God, and is thus victorious. Look at verses 22-23, and compare Matthew 9:29. Faith (not presumption) will never be disappointed. If the Lord leads you to trust Him along a certain line or about a certain matter you will never be disappointed - see Romans 10:11!
4.THE FRUIT OF FAITH
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. 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?
Closing Thought: Psalm 119:75.