© 2000 by Jerry L. Croasmun
Read -- -- 1 Kings 17:17-24
"Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing."
Zarephath, which was located in the region of Sidon, was the home to a widow and her son. This woman was the same widow who provided food and shelter to Elijah, the prophet. Her son became ill, stopped breathing, and died. In 1 Kings 17:18 we read the widow's reaction, "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?'"
The widow blamed Elijah and felt her son's death may have been a punishment for her sins. In verse 20 we read, "Then he [Elijah] cried out to the Lord, 'O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?'" He then continued to pray and cry to the Lord, the God of Israel, as he stretched himself out on the boy and three times cried, "O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!"
God ultimately heard the voice of Elijah and the widow's son was brought back to life. God allowed the woman's son to die so she, and we, could know God. Elijah was not only a prophet of the God of Israel, but he also had a personal relationship with his God. This relationship was revealed to the widow gradually.
"As surely as the Lord your God lives," were the widow's words as recorded in verse 12. Elijah, in verse 14, refers to God as, "The God of Israel," and in verse 18 the widow refers to Elijah as a, "Man of God." Elijah makes God personal in his prayer in verses 20 and 21 when he cries, "O Lord my God." Finally in verse 24, the Zarephath widow realizes and confesses, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth."
Jesus was in the synagogue in Nazareth one Sabbath when he mentioned this widow. We read in Luke 4:25-26, "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon."
As Elijah was sent by God, we too are called to be prophets of our risen Savior and are to speak the words of truth to those around us who are dieing. We may experience rejection; however, we are called to be obedient. Elijah was called to minister to a Gentile woman in a foreign land. The Zarephath widow, her son, and many others would have died if Elijah had not been obedient. The widow was able to recognize the true God of Israel. Likewise, Christ was trying to reveal a glimpse of who He was to those in Nazareth. Many rejected Him then and many are searching for Him today. Are we sharing and interceding on behalf of those who do not know Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the God of Israel?
There was nothing special about Elijah's prayers. He held no special powers; he was a man just like you and I. The apostle James states that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. In James 5:17-18 we read, "He [Elijah] prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
The same spirit that raised Christ and the Zarephath widow's son from the dead dwells in the life of those who believe in Christ, Jesus. (See Romans 8:11). God still uses men and women to reveal His love and plans for mankind. I pray that others may see the power of Christ living within us and may they say, "There goes a child of God whom the Lord God of Israel speaks through." Amen.