PART 5 The Uncertainty of Death
There Was No Breath Left in Him
And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah
Suggested Reading: 1 Kings 17:1, 8-24
This story centers around a prophet named Elijah and a poor widow woman and her son.
Why did Elijah visit her in the first place?
At this time, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The king of the North named Ahab and his wife Jezebel unfortunately both got involved in the idol worship of Baal. Baal is a god of lightning and storm, and responsible for the fertility of the land17. Elijah was sent by God to go before this king and announce to him that because of the apostasy of himself and the people of Israel a judgment from God of no rain would be imposed on them for three and half years.
6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Following this pronouncement to the king, the Lord instructed Elijah to hide by a brook called Cherish and remain out of sight from him, whom it was perceived that once the effects of the drought kicked in he would seek to take Elijah’s life. As for his physical nourishment, God provided a unique source. Ravens would come to him in the morning and evening with bread (grain) and flesh (meat). I can’t imagine in what form these food products were distributed to him, let alone what they tasted like but in this instance it was important to be thankful to the Lord no matter what the discomfort.
9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
Eventually, because of the drought the brook dried up and the Lord gave him direction to go to a particular place where he would meet up with a widowed woman, whom He had commanded ahead of time to provide for him physical sustenance. Whether this woman believed in Jehovah is not clear. However, when Elijah finds her and engages in conversation what he finds out from her about her physical welfare, he had already been aware of through conveyance of such to him by the Lord. Keep this in mind, because later in this story something is going to happen of which Elijah was not forewarned ahead of time.
Sometimes, I think God has a sense of humor, which we don’t necessarily recognize due to the reality of the circumstances that we have encountered. Elijah has made a pronouncement before an idolatrous king; has fled to reside at a brook being fed by ravens; and is now on his way to a town called Zarepheth where when he arrived at the gate of the city he saw a woman gathering sticks (probably to provide fuel for a fire). He asked her to bring him water and a small portion of bread to which she replied that she had nothing baked as a cake but only a little flour and olive oil, the use for which she had already planned for as being the last meal for herself and her son.
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
When Elijah heard her response he didn’t feel bad for her or express empathy, because he knew of God’s provision for her situation. He simply said fear not, go and do as I have said, bring me what I asked for and after which you and your son will also be taken care of in this respect. Elijah received a word from the Lord but this would do this woman no good if she acted contrary to the instructions given to her. She is in a tough spot. Do I listen to this man whom I know nothing about who wants to take from me and my son our remaining food provisions or do I believe what he is telling me even though reason says if I give him of my limited supply nothing will be left. How do I know whether this person is trying to take advantage of me?
14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
And then Elijah made this astounding statement. My God will, if you comply and follow through, not allow the barrel (the small vessel) of meal (of flour) nor the cruse (pitcher) of olive oil fail (run out) until the drought is over (during the remaining three and a half years). She could have said to him, what you have just said, is this a joke? You are telling me that by obeying your instructions me and my son won’t have to be concerned about food provisions until the drought is over. She didn’t appear to reason this out. She didn’t seem to question the prophetic word. She just did what he said. And lo and behold, what happened? The prophesied miracle became a reality. Elijah, this woman, and her son were provided for by the Lord with physical nourishment replenishing the flour and olive oil miraculously on a day to day basis.
17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
But wait, something else was going to happen which would reveal to us her belief system concerning sickness, death, and her perception of this man of God. Unfortunately, her young son became severely sick and died. We don’t know how long of a period of time this sickness lingered on. However, there is no mention of Elijah, who must have known about this sickness, because he lived in the woman’s house telling her that he would pray to his God for her son’s wellness.
18 And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
The mother freaks out and is now focused on the blame game. She decided to put the blame for her son’s death on the prophet, which is evidenced by her own words when she said to him, did you come to my house to be acquainted with my sin and bring it before your God, who has decided to punish me for it by killing my son? In those days, it was assumed that if something bad happened to someone it was perceived as punishment from God for a sin they had committed in the past.
What surprises me is she didn’t ask Elijah if there was anything that his God could do in this instance. There was undoubtedly a miracle ongoing continuously of food supply that she was aware of unless somehow she might have reasoned that trickery was involved. It is also possible that once someone had died there would be no reason to think they could be brought back to life.
What was Elijah’s response to her accusation?
20 And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
It seems he wasn’t too thrilled with God as to what had taken place. He could have thought something like, why Lord did you send me here to provide physical nourishment for this widow and her son during the drought and then allow for her son to die? This untimely death seems to even have tested Elijah and reveal his misperception as to the purpose of this occurrence.
What he did next was immediately pick up the woman’s dead son in his arms, brought him upstairs to the upper room, laid him upon the bed, cried unto the Lord with displeasure, stretched himself out upon him three separate times, and cried unto the Lord again with the proper approach, confident prayer, requesting that He would bring the child’s soul back within him. When I read that he prostrated himself three times over the dead body I wondered if God revealed to him when he cried unto him with displeasure as to what his approach was to be in this regard or did Elijah choose on his own to operate in this manner.
Did God answer his prayer?
22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
Yes, God not only brought this boy back to life again but revealed the purpose of the illness. What was it that you ask? Elijah picked up the resuscitated boy and brought him downstairs to his mother and said to her see, your son lives.
24 And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.
The woman responded to him by saying now I know that thou art a man of God, and that the words you have spoken are true. This seems to suggest that the miracle of the daily food provision didn’t convince her that he was a man of God. Thus was revealed one of the purposes of this miracle, which was that she became convinced that Elijah was a man of God. I believe by intimation that there was a second purpose for this miracle and that is that she was also convinced that Elijah’s God is the one true God and subsequently believed in Him.
What can we learn from this story as relating to our study? What we have learned is that death can occur at anytime, anywhere, and even when a man of God is in our midst who has been given by Him a miraculous gift. God not only did not convey to Elijah instructions as to healing the boy when he was alive but didn’t convey to him instructions after he died.
Before we go on to the next story here is my question for you. Do you believe that the miraculous can still take place today? If you are an unbeliever reading this, then wouldn’t you want to know this same God that Elijah believed in?
In the age we currently live in, this God has given us a more unveiled understanding as to who he is and how he has chosen to reveal himself. There is still one God but he reveals himself through three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is otherwise known as the trinity. One of the persons, Jesus Christ left heaven and came to earth being born of a virgin. He lived a sinless life, heard instructions from God the Father, obeyed them, and fulfilled the purpose for which he was sent, which was to be substitute for every member of the human race paying the price or ransom for the debt owed as the result of sin that came into the world as the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden. Jesus died on a cross, paying the debt owed, rose from the dead after three days never to die again and ascended into heaven.
Scripture tells us that if any person repents (acknowledges that they are a sinner and desires to turn from their sinful life) and believes in this Jesus, then they will receive into their life another member of the trinity called the Holy Spirit who provide for them a new nature, a new power source, and a guarantee of eternal life in a place called heaven upon physical death.
As this woman’s little boy received his life on earth back again, would you like to receive this new life for yourself right now? If you do, then repeat the following words in your mind or out loud.
I acknowledge that I have sinned in many areas such as slandering others; having sexual relations outside of marriage; being jealous; having participated in alcohol or drug abuse; having sex with others of the same gender; committing adultery; taking money from others in a deceitful manner; having committed rape; having engaged in pedophilia; etc. I don’t want to continue in these mental, verbal, and overt sins. I need a new nature.
I believe in you Jesus Christ as one of the members of the trinity, who as God pre-existed time; came to the earth and took on the form of a man, being born of a virgin (no sin nature); lived a sinless life; listened to and obeyed the directives of his Father; went to the cross and paid for the penalty of and forgave the sins of the whole world; rose from the dead after 3 days, never to die again, walked the earth in his resurrection body for 40 days witnessing to over 500 people; and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to indwell me giving me a new nature and guiding me along the way in this new life.
As we continue on in discussing the topic of death, this begs the question. Was there ever anyone who followed the Lord and asked him for help in dire straits that He denied?
17IVP Bible Background Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, Access Date
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