Elijah and Elisha 3
- Elijah and Elisha 3*
Can we turn to 1 Kings 17:8 another story! [P] It’s just like Sunday School! I was talking to Carol after I spoke last time, and we agreed, that it is a shame that these narrative portions are relegated to mere Sunday School stories. Jesus didn’t: He was in his home town of Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue there but the people did not believe in Him, they regarded him as just one of the locals, nobody special. [Luke 4:24-26 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.] The people didn’t like that; they were livid and tried to kill Jesus by throwing Him off a cliff! There was a message in this story, of such power and impact, that it made people want to kill Jesus! It wasn’t just a story, yes it was a real incident in history but God is in control of history (He is sovereign) and uses it to speak to people. He still does, if only we have ears to listen. God speaks through history. Jesus used the incident of Elijah and the widow to teach that יהוה was God of the Gentiles too, was concerned for them, cared and provided for them too. We know what the lesson of this incident is because Jesus used it – it is the lesson that the Good News of life by faith is for all people. The heathen, that’s us, could come to know יהוה, the God of Israel. In fact this story holds the message that certain Gentiles were given preference over the children of Israel – there were many widows in Israel, Elijah was sent to none of them; rather to a Gentile woman who was a widow. She, though not one of God’s people, found the life that comes by faith. [P] This woman recognized Elijah as a man of God, but, as we see, her knowledge of יהוה develops through the things that took place in her life. You recall that Elijah the man of God was sent by יהוה to a brook; but it dried up: [1 Kings 17:8-24 Then the word of יהוה came to him, saying, [P] “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; [P] and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As יהוה your God lives, (funny Israel had en mass forsaken יהוה, but she knew יהוה was his God) I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; [P] and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” (she had nothing, well not quite, but this was the absolute end of her resources. After this, death was inevitable. She was staring death in the face!) Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, it sounds a bit selfish – but it’s an important principle: you give to God first and then take consider your own provision) and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. “For thus says יהוה God of Israel, [P] ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that יהוה sends rain on the face of the earth.’ ” (that is what יהוה said, Elijah declared the word of יהוה – the issue was: was she going to believe it or not, live by it? It wasn’t theory, it was a matter of life and death!) So she went and did according to the word of Elijah,[P] (she obeyed, she lived by what the word of יהוה said) and she and he and her household ate for many days.[P] The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of יהוה which He spoke through Elijah. (she acted on יהוה’s word and He kept His word) Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him (again she was facing death!). So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” (funny, she made the link between sin and death. All was going along smoothly – but suddenly she knew the real issue that had been swept under the carpet: the issue is SIN! [Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death!]) He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to יהוה and said, “O יהוה my God, have You also brought calamity (who brought the calamity? יהוה did!) to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” (who caused the son to die? Elijah had no qualms about laying the responsibility solely on יהוה) Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to יהוה and said, “O יהוה my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” יהוה heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. (he came alive! Sin causes death; but life came!) Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” [P] Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of יהוה in your mouth is truth.”] We are so accustomed to the Gospel being for everyone – missionaries are sent to all the world, anyone can become a Christian – we tend to forget that we: [Ephesians 2:1 were dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:12 separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.] God was the God of Israel only, all others were heathen, abhorrent, godless – it was inconceivable that they could know God or that God could be interested in them. It is a wonderful and amazing thing that we heathen Gentiles could become God’s people! From Jesus’ exposition of this incident in Luke 4, we see that this widow stands for the Gospel coming to the Gentile – to those that believe. The great cry of the reformation, taken from Habakkuk was: [Habakkuk 2:4 the righteous will live by his faith.] [P] [1 Kings 17:9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”] [P] Chosen for faith: Although this woman was not an Israelite, יהוה was aware of her circumstances and had decided on a way both to provide for her and His servant. He had commanded her even although she was unaware of it – long before Elijah asked for food or she responded. God had appointed this woman unto salvation. The woman obeyed, but her faith and obedience were because God had so ordained it (יהוה commanded her) – from her perspective she had faith, from God’s perspective He commanded her – so her faith was not of herself. Even faith is a gift of God. We have no faith unless God provides it – it is ALL of grace [Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.] God is in control, He is sovereign. Why did Elijah come to this widow? Because God ordained it, chose her. He directed her to be at the gate of the city just as Elijah arrived. [P] A responsive heart [1 Kings 17:10-11 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”] Elijah asks for water – to see how she responds to serving a stranger, he was testing her heart to see whether there was a generous, giving, serving heart. She had a responsive heart, she went to get it. So seeing her respond willingly, Elijah thought perhaps this is the widow יהוה told him about. So, encouraged by her response, he dared to also request for some bread (because יהוה had said that He had commanded a widow to provide for him). She would serve, get water that cost nothing, but there was a famine! Was she willing to give of her own substance in a time when food was precious and she was evidently not a woman of wealth? She knew he was a man of God and she responded. Her god was Baal, god of the storm, who was supposed to ensure fertility of crop; he had let her down, she knew Elijah served יהוה, she responded to יהוה the true God. [P] The poor are rich in faith [1 Kings 17:12 But she said, “As יהוה your God lives, (she knew יהוה was Elijah’s God, but He wasn’t hers) I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”] A few verses before the passage we read earlier in Luke 4, Jesus said: [Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor….] God is particularly concerned and close to those who are poor and with no one – the widow and orphan are dear to His heart and He cares for them. The Gospel is for the poor. [James 2:5 did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith?] People may be rich in money, or in skill, talent, power, resourcefulness – and they rely on the resources they have; the poor have no resources, they are forced to depend – they have faith. It was not that this woman was unwilling to feed Elijah; it was just that she was unable – she didn’t have any bread to give him. This woman had reached desperation point, absolute rock bottom, she was preparing to die. She had the resources for one last cake of bread for herself and her son. There was no more hope – this was the end! We have to come to that point. We have nothing we can give God. And that is what prevents people coming to God, they rely on the resources they have. She had to choose between one meal, then certain death; or the possibility of endless supply – seeing that death was inevitable, this woman had little to lose by trying the latter option. This is why it is easier for the poor to have faith, they have less to lose, and less to give up relying upon. They are closer to reality in that they know the futility of relying upon themselves to supply their need – they know that they need to depend upon another. If she had a stash of flour and was asked to give this up for the promise of daily provision, perhaps faith would have been more difficult to exercise. God is compassionate and all knowing; He knew how much flour the widow had and knew when it would run out and that things really were desperate. He knew how long it would take Elijah to get from Cherith to Zarephath and the brook dried up at just the right time and His word telling Elijah what to do came at just the right time so that Elijah arrived precisely when she was about to prepare her last meal! It is the timing of God! He is in total control. She may have thought things were getting bad before; but יהוה steps in at just the right time, often at the very last moment. He knows the plight of the poor and sends deliverance at just the right time [Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.] Bless His wonderful Name! יהוה intervenes at that moment before the spark of hope fails. God hasn’t forgotten – He is there, right on time. Elijah’s need resulted in the provision of the need of the one who supplied his. [P] Faith requires our ALL [1 Kings 17:13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son.] She only had enough for one last cake! There would be no flour and oil to make one for herself afterward. If she acted by reason, it made no sense! A foreigner from Israel asks a poor widow, about to eat the last morsel of food she has, for some bread. With absolutely nothing, she is asked to give her very last substance! It was too much – this woman pours out her desperate circumstances to this total stranger. Elijah tells the woman to do as she intended, only to make a small cake for him first, then to make one for her son. She was not to make for herself and her son first and give Elijah the leftovers, give of her surplus. When we give to God is must be the first part – not what we can spare. First priority is to give to Him. Give to יהוה and only then concern yourself with providing for your own needs. Do not fear about having enough, make the LORD number one priority then all your needs will be taken care of [Matthew 6:31-33 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.] Our reasoning says make sure I have enough first; God’s way is back to front: give to Him first – even when you cannot spare it; then He will ensure that you have sufficient even when there wasn’t enough to start with and when everyone else around is suffering lack. God provides but He must be placed first, not added on as an afterthought. He requires all we have. Though poor she gave her all. Faith requires our ALL. Total reliance on God alone. You can’t believe in Jesus plus something else, have your ace in the hole, the contingency plan. Faith is absolute. Jesus alone! [P] Faith is based on God’s word [1 Kings 17:14 “For thus says יהוה, God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that יהוה sends rain on the face of the earth.’ ”] Elijah gave her a promise, a word from יהוה, she could depend on her human reason, on her own meagre resources and take care of herself; or depend on what God said. Depending on her own resources meant one more meal, depending on what God said promised a continual supply. But the flour and oil was substantial, tangible, whereas what Elijah said was just words. But when those words are from יהוה they are more substantial than that which can be seen. But was Elijah just saying this or was it truly from יהוה? Faith acts on the basis of what God says – faith is based on God’s word; accepting the word as genuinely being from יהוה and basing your life and subsequent action upon it and not on what can be seen. Are we going to live by what God says or by what our senses perceive? [2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight—] There is no lack but continuing supply for those who walk by faith, basing their life and action upon what God has promised. יהוה promised that the flour and oil would not run out until it rained again. How could this woman know that this was true? Only by doing as this man said. It makes it clear that it is יהוה alone who will cause the rain to return, not Baal. There is the promise of continued sustenance and the promise of יהוה sending rain. There was a choice for this woman was she going to continue to trust Baal (who was letting her down severely at this point in time) or rely on יהוה to supply her need – rely on her meagre but tangible resources or on a promise that seemed ridiculous to her own understanding. The thing was: was what Elijah said true? That is the issue of faith – it takes God’s word as being true and acts accordingly. [P] Faith acts [1 Kings 17:15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah.] Hallelujah! Elijah found a woman of faith! There were none in Israel but there was one among the heathen Gentiles! The woman did according to the word of יהוה from Elijah. Look at the emphasis on doing (עשׂה 1x in 1 Kings 17:12, 1x in 1 Kings 17:15, 3x in 1 Kings 17:13, 5x in 4 verses). To exercise faith we must act on the basis of what יהוה has said – faith is seen by what we do. As James says faith that doesn’t act is dead – it is not faith. Faith acts! The woman took Elijah’s word as being true, as being from God, and acted accordingly. Faith is not mental agreement with a concept; it is living real life based on God’s Word. [P] Faith is a continuous walk [and she and he and her household ate for many days 1 Kings 17:16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of יהוה which He spoke through Elijah] So Elijah lived with the widow and her son for many days – faith is life long, continuous, faithful, not a moment’s decision. Every day she had to rely on that word from יהוה through Elijah. And it never lets us down. God was true to His word. That is why you can rely on it – it provides continuing sustenance to those who live by it. [P] Faith is tested [1 Kings 17:17 Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.] Everything was going wonderfully – the drought affected others but the widow was immune as long as Elijah remained with her – perhaps she began to regard him as a lucky talisman, put her faith in him rather than in יהוה who is the Supplier. Perhaps she regarded herself as immune from trouble. Something happened to upset this misplaced confidence (presumption/cockiness/pride): her son became sick and died. This crisis dealt with issues that had up to now been brushed over: her sin (v.18) and faith in Elijah and not in יהוה – she ran to Elijah not to God. Like Israel receiving daily manna, when a miracle occurs regularly (like the sun rising), we come to regard it as normal and no longer appreciate יהוה’s love and power – which is all the more wonderful for its constancy; yet we take it for granted. Her son died – a test of faith. If God kept him alive by miraculously supplying food, would He now kill him? She didn’t know God – that He is good. Everything does not go smoothly when you walk by faith. Can I hear an amen?! Faith is kept alive, fresh, real by being faced with continual challenges. Things collapse, sickness comes, troubles comes – does your faith collapse? Or is it another glorious opportunity to prove the goodness and faithfulness of your God? [P] The issue is sin! [1 Kings 17:18 So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”] Isn’t it strange how we change? Some time before the woman was prepared for her son to die and herself, she had faced the inevitable (v.12). But now that יהוה had graciously preserved their lives, she regarded life as a right and was offended when her son’s life was taken. She was not thankful for the added life which he and she had received. We are the same: when someone dies, particularly if they are young, we are outraged: "What right has that life to be taken – it’s not fair!" etc. not realizing that every day of life is solely due to God’s grace. We often hear it said, "Why did God let them die?"; we seldom hear "Why has God allowed me to live another day?"! The widow blamed Elijah, she blamed the "man of God" (it had now become a derogatory term) she, like us, blamed God! Funny how we are prepared to accept good from God’s hand but judge Him(!) when misfortune comes our way. Funny too how the woman immediately associated her son’s death with her sin – this was punishment from God. Although God had been merciful to her, she had not responded as she knew she should – the issue of her sin had not been dealt with. She had received God’s mercy and grace but that is intended to lead us to repentance [Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?] She had not repented but continued on in her sin despite God’s goodness to her – and she knew it. We are the same. Yet she knew instinctively, deep within, that her sin was the problem and was what separated her from God and distinguished Elijah from her. Our sin is the issue! We ignore it, cover over it, bury it, try to suppress it; but at the time of crisis, truth is revealed. She knew her problem: her sin which she had tried to hide had been exposed. She knew deep down that death is the consequence and punishment of sin [Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, Ezekiel 18:4 The soul who sins will die.] In fact sin had not been mentioned, it was her own guilty conscience that had been revealed. She knew that she was a sinner and had the concept that יהוה would bring that sin to account and punishment for her sin would be meted out. In this He was different from her god Baal, who existed for her convenience and supply her need rather than being righteous and requiring this from man. In her eyes the death of her son was punishment from a vindictive God. This is how יהוה appears to those who do not know Him. She had not learned of His character through the daily provision of food. She knew His deeds but not His ways. She was about to receive a lesson on both the character and power of יהוה. Sin puts us on the defensive and makes us antagonistic to those who are truly godly. [1 Kings 17:19 He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed.] Elijah didn’t give a moralizing call to repentance now that this woman was convicted of sin. He took the child which she was clinging to – he took her problem upon himself, took her death and made it his own property. "Upper room" reminds of another upper room where grace was revealed and another took upon Himself the sin and death of others. Jesus didn’t come to bring our sin to remembrance but to take it upon Himself and thus remove it and bring life! Hallelujah! The man of God identified with compassion to the distress of the heathen – identification unto death: He took the boy up to his own room and laid him on his own bed. He embraced her death, her tragedy, made it his own and interceded to God, pleaded to God on their behalf that He would spare them from death. This is what intercession for the lost is. Elijah takes the boy to his room, to that sanctuary where he communed with יהוה – he spoke to Him and heard His voice. [1 Kings 17:20 He called to יהוה and said, “O יהוה my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?”] He cried out to his God. He could do so, and be heard, because he knew Him. He knew Him by name – he could call Him by name, address His as יהוה because he was in relationship with Him. He could address יהוה as “my God" He is bold in his prayer – he accuses יהוה of bring calamity on this widow who had shown him kindness: she had given him a place to dwell and now יהוה had caused her son, the most precious thing in her life, to die. יהוה was seen as the only cause – the death wasn’t attributed to a satanic attack, an illness etc. – nothing occurs without יהוה allowing it, therefore He is the cause of all that happens. He is sovereign! Elijah called to יהוה by name and יהוה heard! Hallelujah! [1 Kings 17:21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to יהוה and said, “O יהוה my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.”] He stretched himself on the boy three times – complete identification with his death just as Jesus did with man’s death in His three days in the tomb took upon Himself the death of mankind. [1 Kings 17:22 יהוה heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.] Resurrection! That is what our faith is in! This has to be God! He alone is the Author of life; He alone can bring life from the dead! Praise and glory be to His Name. [P] The righteous shall live by faith [1 Kings 17:23 Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive!”] Life from the dead! Only when sin is dealt with can there life come. From the upper room of communion with יהוה Elijah brought the child down into the house – from the place of fellowship with יהוה to the house of this heathen woman where sin abode (cf. v.18). She was a kind woman, good hearted and generous, but for all her admirably human qualities, she was a sinner and knew it. She had seen יהוה’s miraculous power daily in her home but had remained unchanged. We too have seen God’s constant provision and goodness – has it affected us? Now Elijah presented her, her son ALIVE! – brought back from death – nothing less than resurrection will change a heathen heart. It is Jesus’ resurrection that brought repentance, life, the good news and a change of heart to us heathen Gentiles – nothing else could do it. It is only He who brings life from death. Glory and honour to His Name! Resurrection brought forth life and knowledge of God to the Gentiles. Our faith is in the resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.] Faith is credited to us as righteousness and life is given to the righteous [Habakkuk 2:4 the righteous will live by his faith. Or: he who is righteous by faith will live) [Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38] Once the issue of sin had been dealt with there could come life. We are declared righteous not because of what we have done but because of our faith, our utter reliance, on the atoning death of Jesus in our place and His resurrection – depending on His righteousness, not our own. This results in life. The outcome of faith in this Gentile woman was life! Life from the dead! Sin was dealt with. Righteousness came by faith, and the righteous by faith will live. Faith results in life and life is only through faith. [P] Faith results in knowing God [1 Kings 17:24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of יהוה in your mouth is truth.”] Now the woman was convinced. She knew Elijah was a man of God (cf. v.18). She saw the consistent evidence of God’s miracle power yet she remained unconvinced until now. Now she KNEW – Jesus’ disciples saw all His miracles but did not know and receive life, know God until the resurrection) "this I know that you are indeed a man of God and that the word of יהוה in your mouth and is TRUE!" Faith not in Elijah but in His God, that His word was faithful/true – could be totally depended upon. She knew he was a man of God before but now she really KNEW. People may know we are Christians and see His power enabling us every day – but it takes the crisis of death and seeing יהוה produce life from death before they will be convinced that what we are is TRUE, REAL; that God is really in us. They know in theory but they need to know the REALITY; to see life coming forth from death. Is the word of יהוה in my mouth? Is there life being brought forth from death? This evidence of the resurrection life of Jesus is what produces faith; that faith results in true knowledge of God; not just the right answer. It’s easy to learn “God is faithful/true” but lifetime to really KNOW God, His character; that He is faithful and His word is true. You can rely and depend upon Him! We know Him by FAITH! It is by faith alone that we have LIFE! Do you know God, are you living by total dependence upon Him, upon what Jesus has done, His life?