Monday, September 12, 2016

The Widow of Zarephath, Part II

We are visiting again in the town of Zarephath this week. Our hostess is the widow that provided meals and a room in her house to the prophet of God. We'll read further in I Kings today, and get the background for our studies.
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.” (I Kings 17:17-24)

You may recall from last week, that God used Elijah in a mighty way, Things were at an all-time low in Israel . . . Elijah was an ordinary man, but he knew how to ask his mighty God to answer prayers in his behalf. Look what James says about him:
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:17-18)
So, this is the character of the man that is visiting in the widow's home.
During this time, this drought that James mentioned is in full swing. It's a punishment sent by God, because of the unlawful marriage of Ahab and Jezebel. Like we mentioned last week, Jezebel was a huge mistake -- not just because she was a Gentile, and it wasn't "kosher" for a child of Israel to marry her, but also because she was horribly wicked, and an ardent worshipper of idols. So that is why Elijah prayed for the drought, and God answered his prayer; God also made sure His prophet survived, by sending food by Raven Express, and then guiding him to the widow. Last week we saw that Elijah told her to make bread, and that she would see a miracle.  And she did -- the vessel of oil and the small container of flour were never empty!

The widow who had been gathering sticks for a fire, so that she could make their "last meal" had seen this prophet's God supply her needs. Her hopes for the future must have been brighter now. Her fledgling faith had been rewarded each time that she opened the meal barrel and there was meal in the bottom. Every time she poured out a little oil, the vessel still had some in it. Perhaps in her daydreams she thought about the future and believed that the crisis of the drought would pass. Like most parents, she probably spent time thinking of her son, and how he would grow up, and what work he would do. She might have considered to whom she would apprentice him, so that he could learn a trade.

But then it happened.
Her son became sick.
He didn't get better; he became worse.
And then, he died. Can you imagine the pain that she felt? I've heard it said that the pain of a parent losing a child is a wrenching pain that is far worse than that felt by a child, when an aged parent passes on. Sickness, suffering, even death -- these things do come to those who are doing right for God. Unbelievers will pounce on this and demand to know why our God allows this. But our answers are foolishness to them . . .

The widow says to Elijah:
“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?” (verse 18)
Her son's death had touched that hidden spring that exists in all of us . . . the spring that opens the door of our conscience. She was suddenly reminded of some sin; we don't know what the sin was, nor do we need to spend time guessing. We'll just note that like us, she had a twinge of conscience when something desperate happened.

Isn't that the way it goes? Even believers can have this happen, just as unbelievers can. We can seem to have no conscience at all, until some great tragedy happens. Then we want to call upon God for answers.
We see this in Genesis, when Joseph's brothers are suddenly guilty. After they sell their brother into captivity and lie to their dad concerning his "death," they are faced with a dilemma. They know that their father would die if Benjamin were to be left in Egypt, and perhaps die there.
They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. (Genesis 42:21a)
Their consciences were finally awakened.
Sometimes it takes even more than that to make an impression on people. The rich man in Luke's gospel had to go all the way through death, to hell, before his conscience was awakened and he wanted to warn others. (Grin) You can check out Luke 16 for his story, and how he didn't want his brothers to go to that place . . .

We can see that her conscience is bothering her, and we can also see that she is questioning Elijah. Not just nice, calm, reasoned questions -- she's lashing out at Elijah. I kind of think she is reacting normally. Look at her situation . . . she had dreams for her son. She had probably daydreamed about his growing up into manhood, marrying a nice girl, and having sweet little grandkids for her to love and care for. Now none of that will happen, so she is questioning the God that she'd begun to allow herself to believe in. She can't reach Him, so she hurls her accusations at His prophet.

All of us who are believers and have tried to help someone, have experienced when she or he turns on us.  Our Lord had some turn on Him, and some heaped bitter words upon Him.

But Elijah doesn't blast right back at her. He doesn't even answer her charges at all. He makes a caring request. He wanted to have the privilege of helping the one in need. Probably the boy and the prophet had become quite attached to each other, and spent many hours together; maybe he helped the boy with his studies, and maybe they worked on projects together. He quietly, calmly asks her to let him hold her son. Perhaps she was holding him and sobbing and praying . . .

We'll see how this plays out next time.

1 comment:

Katie Isabella said...

I want you to know how grateful I am to you. You give us meat and drink and the Lord will bless you. He will.