The Word Made Fresh
1Elijah from Tishbe in Gilead came to king Ahab and told him, “As sure as the LORD the God of Israel whom I serve exists, there will be no rain or even dew over the years to come unless I give the word.”
2Then the LORD spoke to Elijah, saying, 3“Leave here and head eastward. Hide by the Cherith streambed east of the Jordan. 4Drink from the streambed, and the ravens will feed you at my command.” 5He did as the LORD said, 6and the ravens brought bread and meat for him in the morning and again in the evening, and he drank water from the stream. 7But the stream was soon completely dry because there had been no rain.
8Then the LORD said to him, 9“Go live in Zarephath in Sidon. I have told a widow there to provide for you.” 10So he went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the town gate, he saw a widow gathering kindling. He called out to her and said, “Please bring me a little cup of water to drink.” 11She went to fetch it, and he called out after her and said, “Bring me a bit of bread to eat also.”
12“As the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I have no bread. I only have a little meal in a jar. I’m gathering kindling so that I might prepare it for my son and me to eat, and then we will die.”
13Elijah said, “Don’t worry. Go and do as you have said, but first bake for me a little of it and bring it to me. Then make some for yourself and your son. 14The LORD God of Israel promises that the bowl of meal and the jar of oil will not give out until the day the LORD sends rain over the land.”
15She did as he said, and both of them and her son were able to eat for many days. 16The bowl of meal and the jar of water did not run out because of the word of the LORD Elijah had received.
17Then the woman’s son became ill. He was so sick that he stopped breathing. 18His mother said to Elijah, “What do you have against me? You’re a man of God, and you have come to remind me of my sinfulness and take my son’s life!”
19Elijah said, “Give him to me,” and he took the boy from her arms. He carried him to the place upstairs where he was staying and laid the boy on his bed. 20He cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought disaster even upon the widow with whom I am staying? Will you let her son die?” 21He stretched himself over the child three times, then cried out, “O LORD my God, let the boy’s breath return to him!”
22The LORD heard his prayer and the boy began to breathe, and his life was spared. 23Elijah carried him back downstairs and gave him to his mother and said, “See, your son is alive!”24She said, “Now I know you are a man of God, and the word of the LORD in your mouth is true.”
1-7: We meet Elijah, one of the Old Testament’s most memorable characters. Up to now prophets in Israel and Judah have channeled the “word of God” to others. In Elijah we meet a man who can do things. He is from Gilead, the mountain country east of the Jordan just south of the Sea of Galilee. He appears in Samaria as an advisor to King Ahab, and tells Ahab there will be a drought and no rain will fall until he, Elijah, says so. This is a bold claim for anyone, and we have seen nothing like it in the Bible thus far. After making this bold pronouncement, God tells Elijah to go and camp by the Cherith streambed, a wadi in his homeland of Gilead. He does, and ravens bring him meat and bread twice a day (reminiscent of Jesus – see Matthew 4:11). Before long, though, the streambed dries up due to the drought which Elijah himself announced.
8-16: God then tells Elijah to go to Sidon, a region on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon, and there he will be provided for by a widow. As he approaches the town of Zarephath he sees a widow gathering sticks outside the gate. He has the nerve to ask her to bring him water, and then adds that he’d like a slice of bread as well. She tells him she only has a little meal and oil and is gathering sticks to make a fire to cook it and then they will die, her and her son. Elijah promises her that if she will bring him something to eat first, mind you, the oil and meal will not run out before the drought ends. And, by golly, that is exactly what happens. We have not seen the likes of Elijah before.
17-24: Elijah takes up lodging with the widow. After a long time has passed, her son becomes ill and stops breathing. Elijah carries him up to his room, lays him out on his bed, cries out to God, then stretches himself out on the boy three times; a form of CPR, do you think? He prays again, and the boy starts breathing. He takes the boy back downstairs to the widow, and she says she now knows that he is a man of God who speaks the word of God truly, as if the never-ending meal and oil hasn’t already convinced her.
The introduction of Elijah introduces a new era in Israel. When they first settled the land (in the books of Joshua and Judges), before there was a king in Israel, God provided judges to guide the people. Now there are kings, but that hasn’t worked very well. Then there were a few prophets who briefly appeared, but none were major characters. Now God is providing extraordinary prophets beginning with Elijah. God always provides for God’s people, even when they haven’t been the best people. Always. When our faith in God is sound there is never a need to despair.