I’ve been stuck reflecting on the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17, bringing the widow’s son back to life. Elijah is one of the most prominent Prophets we encounter in Scripture, finding him referenced even in the New Testament. At one point, we learn in the New Testament that some thought Jesus was Elijah. His ministry and influence in the nation of Israel were noteworthy, to say the least. 1 Kings 17 begins with Elijah prophesying a drought in Israel as a judgment against the wickedness of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. He then fled to the Brook Cherith, where ravens fed him. Later, he stayed with a widow in Zarephath, where God miraculously provided food and oil for them during the drought he prophesied. And this is where it gets really interesting!
After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”
1 Kings 17:17-18
The widow who has been faithfully feeding and caring for Elijah now blames him for her son’s death! After witnessing and partaking in the miraculous provision of food over and over again, she now thinks her son’s death is the pronouncement of judgment for her sin by God through Elijah.
One of the things I find interesting about this exchange is that Elijah does not take time to argue with the widow over her accusation. He simply tells her to give him her son, and off he goes.
Now, there is something significant here that I think we have to pause and understand. In ancient Jewish culture, a dead body was considered unclean. To touch it, let alone pick it up and carry it around, would defile you. One would have to go through an entire process to become cleansed. What sticks out to me as significant here is that this issue seems to not even concern Elijah. We don’t see him pause and consider the implications of becoming unclean in a culture that placed significant importance on being ceremonially clean.
And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed.
1 Kings 17:19
Elijah has no issue with touching a dead body. It doesn’t bother him in the slightest. He just takes the boy and lays him down on his bed. But Elijah’s interaction with the boy’s dead body doesn’t stop there.
And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”
1 Kings 17:20-21
Elijah takes the boy to his room, where he prays fervently to God three times, stretching himself over the child’s body each time. He literally spread his own body over the child, covering him. The use of physical contact between Elijah and the child underscores the prophet’s empathy and concern for the boy’s well-being. We also see the urgency and intensity of Elijah’s prayer and the importance of persistence in seeking God’s intervention with the repetition of his prayers to God. And the outcome is miraculous!
And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
1 Kings 17:22-24
Elijah’s prayers are answered and the son is restored to his mother who now, seeing the miraculous once again happen, acknowledges him as a Prophet. Despite the widow’s initial thinking and accusation, we see God still used Elijah to bring restoration to her son’s life and their relationship.
Perhaps what strikes me about this passage is how much I see a parallel between what God did through Elijah for the widow and her son, and what God did through Jesus for me.
Here is a man who willingly took on defilement to bring life and restoration, Elijah.
And then there is Jesus, God in flesh who stepped down from his Heavenly Throne to take on the sin, brokenness, defilement, and pain of the entire world…all so we could have true life and a restored relationship with our Father.
I see in the story of Elijah a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who willingly defiles Himself for my benefit.
I was once dead, but He brought life back to my soul.
I was once hopeless, but He restored my hope.
I was once lost in sin and darkness, but He brought light into my life.
I was once broken and separated from God, but He restored me to Him.
God clearly desires to intervene in my affairs. He desires to give me the best. He is a God of life who cares for His creation and is not indifferent to human suffering. So much so, that Jesus willingly went to the cross I should have hung on. You can’t demonstrate love better than that.
Like the widow, we have a choice to make. It doesn’t stop with accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. It’s a daily choice to acknowledge Him as Lord and submit to Him. Her miracle was having her son restored to life and relationship with her, which fueled her conviction and subsequent action. My miracle is Jesus restoring my life and relationship with my Father. Does that fuel my conviction?
I am reminded in this passage of Elijah’s story, of God’s compassion and willingness to intervene in my life. It also highlights the importance of my faith in experiencing God’s power. As believers, we can be encouraged and inspired by this story to trust in God’s ability to bring healing and restoration to our life. Just as Elijah did for the widow’s dead son, Jesus did for us on the cross. And just as the widow had to make a choice to accept Elijah as the Prophet of God, we have a choice to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
What does your life say?
The widow proclaimed with her mouth that Elijah was a Prophet. It’s time we do the same about Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Pastor Luke, as I was reading this, I was thinking of how Jesus touched lepers, shocking the religious establishment. But you’re right, is it any less shocking that the perfect Son of God would identify Himself with us defiled humanity?
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