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16 September 2019

1 Kings 17

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’

Elijah fed by ravens
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have instructed the ravens to supply you with food there.’
So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah and the widow at Zarephath
Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food.’ 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’
12 ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.’
13 Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”’
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
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, ‘Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on 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 out to the Lord, ‘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.’

Do you battle with trusting God and His Word, particularly when difficulties arise in your life and circumstances? If so, this chapter should encourage you….

Elijah’s appearance in the narrative is abrupt to say the least, perhaps an early indication that the account that follows is really about God rather than man, albeit a prophet who speaks God’s Word. Despite appearances to the contrary, the writer intends to make the point that God is still present in Israel and at work in the midst of all the evil and rampart idolatry, and Elijah is His instrument to deal with it.

Elijah makes a bold prediction to Ahab, King of Israel. The prophecy puts the reputation of Israel’s God (and his servant) on the line: ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’ (1 Kings 17:1).

What modern readers might not be aware of is that one of the local gods in that context was Baal, a fertility and storm God who controlled the rain. So, according to one commentator, ‘the rain delay … strike(s) a blow at the alleged prowess of Baal….. Elijah’s ‘no dew or rain’… constitutes a challenge to Baal’.

Well, as they say, the rest is history. The subsequent narrative reinforces the point that the Word of the LORD through His prophet does not fail, and Baal, it turns out, is no match for the God of Israel (cf. 1 Kings18:16ff.). Elijah is fed by the ravens, according to the word of the LORD (1 Kings 17:2-6). The widow at Zarephath supplies Elijah with food and the ingredients do not run out, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah (1 Kings 17:15-16). The subsequent miracle of the raising of the widow’s dead son reinforces the point that Elijah is God’s man and the word of the LORD from his mouth is the truth (1 Kings 17:24). This observation anticipates the fulfillment of Elijah’s ‘no dew, no rain’ prediction (cf. 1 Kings 17:7; 18:1). A hundred percent prophetic fulfillment in challenging circumstances; an impressive track record!

This episode in Israel’s history functions as a salutary reminder that God is always present and powerfully at work in the midst of your circumstances, no matter how difficult, and His Word is trustworthy and true, always…! Continue to put your trust in God and His Word; He will not fail you.

Prayer: Dear LORD, thank You for this account that reminds us that neither You nor Your Word will ever fail us, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Forgive us when we doubt You or Your Word, or when we become impatient with the way in which You are working out Your good purposes in our circumstances. 

By Your Spirit fill us with a renewed confidence in You and Your promises of provision and protection as You work out Your good purposes in our lives.

In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.