When evil surrounds you, place your complete trust in God’s Word1
Introduction: What happens when politicians at every level of government abandon God, evil becomes rampant in society, and the Church remains silent? 1 Kings 17 answers this question. When leaders and nations ignore the warnings in His Word, He reluctantly judges the leaders and the nation. Then, out of mercy and grace, He sends a messenger to call the sinful leaders and the nation to repentance. Elijah was God’s first prophet from within the apostate state of Northern Israel. He appeared four times in the Book of Kings to deliver God’s Word when either King Ahab or King Ahaziah embraced evil, and God’s priests stayed silent (1 Kgs. 16:29-19:18; 1 Kgs. 21; 2 Kgs. 1:2-2:17; 19:19-21; 2 Kgs. 2:1-18). The Jews later imagined Elijah to be a charismatic hero. In Jesus’ day, some Jews even asked if Jesus was Elijah (Matt. 16:14; Lk. 9:8). Yet, during his ministry, Elijah was rejected by almost everyone and persecuted for speaking God’s Word. Today, he would most likely be mistaken by many as a mentally ill homeless person. Today, the western world lives in a time that is no different or worse than the reigns of the kings of Northern Israel. Most leaders reject God’s Word, evil is rampant, and the Church has largely stayed silent. God has judged the nations for embracing evil. And He is now looking for people of faith to deliver His Word and bring the nations to repentance.
If you can see the absence of godly leadership, rampant evil, and the silence of the Church, God can use you to be His messenger. From Eijah’s example, God reveals seven lessons on being His servant in times of evil. These include: (1) calls to repentance, (2) faith, (3) obedience (4) encouragement, (5) perseverance in the face of trials, (6) intercessory prayer, and (7) praise.
First, to bring Northern Israel to repentance, Elijah proclaimed that the nation would suffer a severe drought. Although God does not empower most of His servants to cause a drought, He wants His messengers to call sinners to repentance during evil times. Second, God promised to provide for Elijah if he fled into the wilderness and trusted God to feed him with ravens. Ravens are selfish creatures who are not known for caring for others. Thus, this was a test for Elijah. He had to have the faith to fully trust God. From Elijah’s test, God reveals that His messengers must have complete faith in His promises to endure during evil times. Third, Elijah obeyed God, and God provided for him in the wilderness, just as He promised. From Elijah’s example, God reveals that His messengers must be obedient to Him to endure during evil times. Fourth, God sent Elijah to a woman who had almost nothing and directed her to share what little she had with him. Because she believed, God miraculously made sure that her limited provisions did not run out. From Elijah’s example, God reveals that His messengers should encourage others in their faith during evil times. Fifth, God tested both the woman and Elijah by allowing the woman’s son to die after she helped Elijah. Elijah then cried out for God’s intervention. God tested Elijah to build up his endurance to serve Him. God had to slowly build up his faith to prepare him for even worse trials that would come against him in the future. From God’s testing, He reveals that His servants must persevere during evil times. If you are willing to be God’s messenger, you will also be attacked. Sixth, Elijah prayed for God to bring the deceased child back to life. God responded by miraculously resurrecting the child. From Elijah’s example, God reveals that His messengers should pray as intercessors for others during evil times. Finally, from this miracle, the woman praised God for sending His servant. From this example, God reveals that His messengers should inspire others to praise Him for His provision during evil times.
Elijah prophesied a drought to bring King Ahab and the Jews to repentance. When Northern Israel hit a spiritual low point under King Ahab, God sent a lowly prophet name Elijah to bring the Jews to repentance by prophesying a severe, three-year drought: “1Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”’ (1 Kgs. 17:1). King Ahab reigned over Northern Israel for 22 years, from 874-853 B.C. (1 Kgs. 16:29). His father Omri worshiped as gods the gold calves that King Jeroboam created. Once pagan worship became acceptable, King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel openly adopted the worship of the Canaanite fertility gods Baal and Asherah (1 Kgs. 16:29-34). King Jeroboam had driven out the Levite priests, and God had previously been forced to send prophets from Judah to warn the kings of Northern Israel. Now, God introduced the first prophet from Gilead in the dark territories of Northern Israel. Elijah’s name meant “Yahweh Is My God.” The Jews had been seduced into believing that the pagan god Baal controlled their rain. To show them that He was in control, God had Elijah tell Ahab that the rain would stop. Elijah rejected the notion that the Jews could worship both Yahweh and other gods. They had to repent of their evil ways and live by God’s Word. They could not rebel against God and His Word and accept His blessings.
God used Elijah to cause a drought in order for King Ahab to repent2
God frequently used famines in Israel to bring the nation to repentance. This was not the first time that God had disciplined the Jews with a famine for their sins. The book of Ruth began with God’s judgment upon Israel for its idolatry and rebellion during the time of the judges: “1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land.” (Ruth 1:1(a)). The generation of Jews who first entered the Promised Land failed to follow God’s instructions to drive out the Canaanites. They also failed to teach their children God’s law (Jdgs. 2:6-10). As a result, Satan was able to deceive the first generation of Jews born in the Promised Land with temple prostitution, idolatry, and other abhorrent religious practices (Jdgs. 2:11-12). The Jews’ rebellion against God caused Him to lift His hedge of protection over Israel. Living without God, the nation suffered (Jdgs. 2:13-15; 3:7; 10:6). Out of mercy and grace, He then sent them 12 deliverers to free them from their suffering. Yet, because the Jews’ hearts were wicked, they returned to idolatry each time a deliverer freed them from a foreign or domestic adversary (Jdgs. 2:16-19; Neh. 9:27; Acts 13:30). To create a genuine desire for change, God then allowed the Jews to suffer in their self-imposed bondage (Jdgs. 2:20-22). In addition to foreign wars and civil wars or civil conflicts, drought is one of the tools that He uses to bring a nation to repentance (Dt. 28:15-68). Hundreds of years later during David’s reign, God again punished the nation of Israel because Saul violated a vow that Joshua had made with the Gibeonites: “1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”’ (2 Sam. 21:1). Not counting the time of the patriarchs, this was the third time that God used a drought or famine to bring the Jews to repentance.
God can also use droughts to discipline a wayward nation. Joshua once reminded the Jews that God had previously punished all of Israel because one man named Achan kept prohibited idols from the destroyed city of Jericho: ‘“Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel?’” (Josh. 22:20(a)). If a lay person’s sins can impact the entire nation, this is even more true with a nation’s leaders. The Church cannot ignore the sins of society or its leaders and expect to escape God’s judgment on the rest of society. God punished all of Israel in response to Saul’s sins and David’s sins. Israel would further continue to suffer as a result of the sins of the kings who followed David. The vast majority of the curses in the Bible are directed at nations and not at individuals. This includes the Christian nations: “and if [judgment] begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17(b)). If a nation as a whole is righteous, He can cause rain to fall on both the righteous and unrighteous within it. “[F]or He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45(b)). Conversely, if a nation as a whole is unrighteous, He can cause drought to fall upon both the unrighteous and righteous members within in: “23 The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” (Dt. 28:23-24; Lev. 26:18-20). “Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no spring rain . . .” (Jer. 3:3(a)). “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Hag. 1:10-11; 2 Kin. 8:1). Thus, to keep the land free from drought, the Church must become salt in the wound of sin and a light for sinners (Matt. 5:13-14). If the Church can lead the nation and its leaders to repentance, it can heal that land from the curse of a drought: “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14).
God frequently sent prophets to confront sinful leaders when the Church was silent. There were many times in Israel’s history when God was forced to send prophets when the Church stayed silent in the face of a leader’s sin. For example, God’s prophet Samuel confronted Saul for his rebellion and disobedience (1 Sam. 15:17-29; 13:14). God’s prophet Nathan confronted David when he committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12:1-9). God’s prophet Ahijah confronted King Jeroboam for his idolatry (1 Kgs. 14:7-16). God’s prophet Jehu also confronted King Baasha for his idolatry (1 Kgs. 16:1-5). Other prophets during Israel’s division included Elisha, Micaiah, and Huldah. God later sent the prophet Ezekiel to warn all leaders who misuse their power to prey upon God’s people: “1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! 4 You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them.’ . . . 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will no longer let them be shepherds; the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore. I will rescue my sheep from their mouth, so that they will no longer be food for them.”’ (Ezek. 34:1-10). Today, God again needs people of faith to speak His Word to sinful leaders.
When your church stays silent in the face of sin, call for sinners to repent. The Church is called upon to be God’s salt and light (Matt. 5:3-16). Salt is an irritant in the wound of sin. When the Church stays out of politics, Satan has a free hand to corrupt leaders. When, as now, the Church is silent in the face of a sinful society, God calls upon His people to deliver a message of repentance like Elijah. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17). “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”’ (Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). If you have repented of your sins, you are calling upon sinners around you to repentant? Likewise, if your Church is not praying and fasting for your nation and its leaders to repent, are you encouraging them to be God’s salt and light to the lost?
God promised to provide for Elijah. In response to Elijah’s faith in confronting King Ahab, God promised to provide for Elijah if he followed God’s directions: “2 The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 ‘Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.”’ (1 Kgs. 17:24). God did not reveal his grand plan for Elijah. Instead, He only revealed what would happen in the next moment. By faith, Elijah would need to learn to trust God’s daily provision. He would also need to learn to trust in things that could not be explained by science and logic. It would be illogical for someone to expect ravens to feed them. Ravens are by nature greedy birds. Ravens were also unclean animals.
When you follow God’s will like Elijah, God will also provide for you3
Faith that is limited to things you can prove may crumble in a crisis. Elijah had to trust in the impossible for God’s promise to be true. Faith is defined as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). If Elijah could only believe in things that he had seen or previously experienced, he never would have trusted God. If your faith is limited to what you can prove, it may crumble in times of crisis.
God calls upon you to be patient and serve others as He molds you for His greater plans. God did not tell Elijah why he had to wait in the wilderness. He also did not reveal if He had any further plans for Elijah. Elijah had to trust God and learn to wait on God for guidance. God forced Sarah and Abraham to wait 25 years in the Promised Land before He transformed her 90-year-old womb to allow her to conceive Isaac (Gen. 17:17). David would also have to wait to become king as God molded Him as a lowly servant within Saul’s court. David would later suffer under Saul’s rule. Yet, God used his suffering to mold David for His greater glory: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10; Ps. 66:10; Zech. 13:9(a); Dt. 8:2-3). God also wants you to be patient because He prepared great plans for you: “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7). “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1(b)). “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Ps. 130:5). Even when you don’t know His plan, do you patiently wait for the Lord and His timing?
Jesus sometimes takes you into the wilderness so that you will listen. In Hosea 2:14, God says “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” Sometimes life becomes so busy that you can’t hear the Holy Spirit’s direction. Sometimes, He must pull you into the wilderness before you will listen. If every minute of your day is filled with activity, how much time does He have to speak with you?
To find your life, you must lose it. Like Elijah, you must lose your worldly life to find Jesus: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39; 16:25). “‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Lk. 9:23; Mk. 8:34). Paul later realized that his prior accomplishments were nothing compared to the value of his life in Christ: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7; Heb. 13:13). Do you value Jesus over the world?
Allow God to humble you so that He can also exalt you without pride. God had to humble Elijah as a servant before He could exalt him. He did this so that Elijah would serve without pride. He also wants you to allow Him to humble you through your suffering so that He can exalt you in heaven without any pride. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5 KJV). Your suffering is one way for God to humble you. Are you staying humble so that He can later exalt you without pride?
God rewarded Elijah for his faith-led obedience. Elijah showed that he was a true prophet of God because his faith also produced the fruit of obedience: “5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. 7 It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.” (1 Kgs. 17:5-7). Elijah obeyed God when God sent him into the wilderness. Moses went to mount Sinai and stayed there for 40 days and nights in prayer and fasting (Ex. 24:18). Jesus also went into the wilderness for 40 days to pray and fast (Lk. 4:1-2). Elijah later again went into the wilderness without any food for 40 days to the mountain of God (1 Kgs. 19:8). Because his faith led to obedience, God brought ravens to feed Elijah, just as God promised. This was reminiscent of His provision of manna and quail for the Jews in the wilderness (Ex. 16:13-36). God dried up the water to show that Elijah’s prophecy was true. He also dried up the water to force Elijah to place his trust in God and not in God’s provision.
God sends ravens to provide for Elijah4
Il Guercino (1591-1666) “Elijah fed by Ravens” (oil painting 1620)5
Where God guides, He provides. When the Jews wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, God showed His faithfulness by providing for them: “5 I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot. 6 You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” (Dt. 29:5-6). “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” (Dt. 8:3-4; Ex. 16:31; Lk. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:3). “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Is. 40:31). Jesus also promises to provide for those who seek His kingdom and His righteousness: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you are lacking in anything, are you seeking after Jesus’ kingdom and His righteousness?
God is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. In the wilderness, God protected Elijah from the retaliation of King Ahab. David also praised God as his “shield” from his enemies when he took refuge in Him: “He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31). “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Ps. 5:12). From David’s example, his son Solomon also called God his shield: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5). When God is your refuge, He is also your shield.
You also can trust in His promises to you. The accuracy of God’s promises to Elijah show how you can also trust His promises for you as well. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness in your life?
Show that your faith is alive through your obedience. Obedience is not a word that is frequently spoken in the modern Church. Many ignore it like a relic of the Old Testament. (Dt. 13:4; 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3; Josh. 1:7). It is true that Christians are no longer “under the Law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). By “fulfilling” the Law, Christ freed you from the impossible task of trying to obtain salvation through the Law (Matt. 5:17). Yet, if there is no obedience in your life, you are most likely not going to perform any works for God out of gratitude. James warns: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Jam. 2:17). Jesus also says that: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus was the “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). Thus, the “Commandments” that Jesus referenced were the Ten Commandments. His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His Commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the Law out of love instead of obligation is a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Do you follow Jesus’ Commandments and the direction of the Spirit out of love and not obligation?
God promised to provide for a woman if she shared her small provision with Elijah. God sent Elijah to a woman who had almost nothing for his provision. Elijah then fulfilled his role as a prophet by encouraging the woman to have faith by sharing what little she had: “8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’ 10 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.’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, ‘Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’ 12 But she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, 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.’ 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. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’’ 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.” (1 Kgs. 17:8-16). After testing Elijah by sending him into the wilderness, God tested him by sending him to Zarephath (1 Kgs. 17:9). This was a center of Baal worship and the home of Queen Jezebel (1 Kgs. 16:31). Moreover, God sent Elijah to this place at a time when King Ahab was trying to hunt him down. (1 Kgs. 18:10). Further, the woman was no one of great importance. The widow and her child were one meal away from starvation. If Elijah were surrounded by military advisors, they would have likely urged him not to go there. But God sent Elijah there as part of His greater plan for His light to reach both Jews and gentiles.
Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657) “Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath” (1630)6
The Widow of Zarephath shares from her limited resources to help Elijah7
Be a source of light and encouragement throughout the world. Elijah’s outreach to a pagan gentile in Lebanon foreshadowed Jesus’ outreach to the gentiles: “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; 26 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.” (Lk. 4:25-26). Like Elijah and Jesus, God also wants you to share His light and His encouragement to both believers and non-believers everywhere.
Prophesy can include speaking God’s Word to encourage and build up others. Elijah’s “prophesying” was not limited to foretelling a future drought that had not yet come to pass. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “prophecy” has three definitions. It can mean “to speak as if divinely inspired.” It can also mean “to give instruction in religious matters.” Or, it can be “the act of making a prediction.” In this part of Elijah’s journey he spoke with divine inspiration to the women without making predictions. The words of a true prophet are meant to encourage, restore, or uplift another. (1 Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:29; Jude 1:20). The Bible warns “do not despise prophetic utterances. . . ;” (1 Thess. 5:20-21). When the Holy Spirit came upon Moses’ 70 elders, they also prophesied. “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.” (Nu. 11:25). If the Bereans had rejected all prophetic utterances, they would have never learned that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 17:11). If you apply the Word to encourage, restore, or uplift others you too can serve in this capacity. “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:1). Do you use the Word to encourage and build up others? Or, do you tear others down?
God provides for those who give to support His kingdom. Elijah promised that God would support the widow if she gave from what little she had to feed him. Because she trusted in God’s promises, God stretched the single provision to last one or two years (1 Kgs. 17:7). Jesus later made a similar miracle after He used five loaves and two fishes to feed the masses (Matt. 14:19). God also promised the Jews that He would provide for them if they stayed obedient to Him: “9 So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (Dt. 29:9). “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). If you give only to become rich or out of greed, God most likely will not respond. Yet, if you tithe with the right motive of love, He will provide: “[T]est Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”’ (Mal. 3:10 (b)). If you are lacking and not seeking to become rich, are you tithing in faith?
Teach the wisdom of Jesus’ Word to edify the Church. Speaking the wisdom Word of God over another to bless, correct, restore, or uplift them is one of the highest callings. Any member of the Church can be called to do it: “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Cor. 14:4). “I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, . . .” (1 Cor. 14:5). A prophet speaks God’s Word. If you use the wisdom of Jesus’ Word to edify, bless, correct, or encourage, you are a prophet.
God’s wisdom appears foolish to mankind. Elijah’s direction to the woman would have appeared as foolishness to many. Yet, God’s Word will frequently appear to be foolish to non-believers: “29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” (Dt. 29:29). “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Prov. 25:2). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Ro. 11:33). “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.’” (Matt. 13:35; quoting Ps. 78:2). Today, many parts of society deny the wisdom of the Old Testament Many seminaries teach that the Torah was not written by Moses, despite the claims of both Moses and Jesus to the contrary. Likewise, many parts of the Church don’t spend much time teaching the First Covenant under the belief that the only relevant wisdom today is in the New Covenant. Yet, the Bible makes clear that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim 3:16). Do you delight in the wisdom of the Law like David did: “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day”? (Ps. 119:97). “I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love.” (Ps. 119:47). If you cannot say the same thing, you have not found the secret wisdom in His First Covenant of the Ten Commandments.
God tested the faith of the woman and Elijah by allowing the woman’s son to die. As an additional part of Elijah’s testing, God allowed that widow’s son to die while Elijah was ministering to both of them: “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. 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!’ 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. 20 He called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?’” (1 Kgs. 17:17-20). The widow made the same mistake as many in automatically assuming that suffering is the direct result of sin (Job 4:7-8; Jo 9:3). Yet, suffering can sometimes be part of God’s greater plan to build up a person’s faith through trials. Here, God tested both the widow and Elijah. In Elijah’s case, God tested him to prepare him for the trials that would come.
Elijah cries out to God to bring the widow’s son back to life8
God puts you through trials so that you may rely upon Him. After the Jews had escaped from Egypt, Moses explained that God frequently tests His people: “for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20(b); Dt. 8:2). David also warned that even the righteous are not beyond God’s testing: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked . . .” (Ps. 11:5). “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, . . .” (Jer. 17:10). God’s testing and discipline are done out of love (Heb. 12:6). When you are tested, you may find that your heart has hidden anger, lust, or covetousness. When God exposes wickedness, He expects you to repent of it: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). David invited God’s testing to show him where he needed to change (Ps. 139:23). Your trials produce perseverance and endurance: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3). Paul faced a similar trial when he faced death in Asia. He advised that God put him through trials so that he would rely upon Him and not his own strength: “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; . . . He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,” (2 Cor. 1:8-10). God had to use trials to prepare Elijah for the greater conflicts to come. Are you turning to Jesus to build up your faith and deliver you during your trials?
Cry out to God when you are in distress. To some, it might have looked like a sign of weakness for Elijah to cry out to God (1 Kgs. 17:20). Yet, this showed that he was completely dependent upon God. As an example for believers, David’s psalms encourage believers to give their deepest burdens to God: “A Psalm of David. Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life . . . Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink; may I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters. May the flood of water not overflow me nor the deep swallow me up, nor the pit shut its mouth on me. Answer me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good; according to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me,” (Ps. 69:1, 14-16). “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”’ (Ps. 116:3-4). “Stretch forth Your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, out of the hand of aliens.” (Ps. 144:7). “A Song of Ascents. In my trouble I cried to the LORD, and He answered me.” (Ps. 120:1). When you are feeling sadness or when your world is caving in, it is not a sign of a lack of faith to cry out to God. Instead, it is a sign of faith to do so. He wants you to cry out to Him so that the Holy Spirit can comfort you.
God heard Elijah’s prayers and brought the woman’s dead son back to life. Because Elijah cried out to God in faith, God performed a miracle by raising the widow’s son from the dead: “21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.’ 22 The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.” (1 Kgs. 17:21-22.) By raising a person from the dead in Baal country, God demonstrated that His power exceeds all others. He not only has the power over the weather. He also has the power over life and death. Elijah cried three times. This foreshadowed the Triune God. Like Elijah, Jesus raised a widow’s son from death. He showed that He is part of the Triune God because He has the power over life and death (Lk. 7:11-17).
God heard Elijah’s prayers and raised the child from the dead9
The effective fervent prayer of the righteous can accomplish great things. James later explained that Elijah is a role model for our prayers: ““Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Ja. 5:16). It was Elijah’s prayers that both stopped and later restarted the rain in Israel: “17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (Ja. 5:17-18). Here, his prayers allowed God to resurrect the widow’s son. God also wants you to pray in faith to restore others.
Plea as an intercessor for God to help others. God honored Elijah’s prayers as an intercessor. Abraham also pleaded with God as an intercessor to spare the innocent in Sodom and Gomorra (Gen. 18:23). God spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). He again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). As an intercessor, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins (1 Sam. 12:23). David also prayed as an intercessor for God to spare the Jews after 70,000 men across all of Israel died in a plague that came about because of David’s sins (2 Sam. 24:17). Jonah also made a plea as an intercessor when his disobedience caused the men in his boat to suffer (Jo. 1:12). The apostles also continually prayed for others. “. . . I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Col. 1:9). “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. Yet, it doesn’t work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). Are you praying as an intercessor?
Elijah encouraged the woman to praise God for His miracle. Elijah showed that the woman’s faith was perfected when she praised God for the miracle of her resurrected son: “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.’ 24 Then 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 Kgs. 17:23-24). Elijah did not take the credit for this miracle. Instead, he encouraged the woman to respond in praise to God for the miracle.
Sing praises to God’s power to boost your faith in times when it is weak. Like the widow, God wants you to trust in His absolute power to solve your problems. He also wants you to boost your faith by including similar praises for His mighty power in your prayers and praises (Ro. 10:17). ‘“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,’ . . . ‘Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”’ (Jer. 32:17, 27). “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26; Gen. 18:14). If God does not respond to your prayer request, it may be because you are asking amiss or it is not His will. Yet, if He does not respond, it will never be because He lacks the power to do so. Even if God has not brought someone from the dead in front of you, He has blessed you in other ways. Are you praising God for the many miracles in your life?