On verses 17-24: A widow in the town of Zarephath has been taking care of the prophet Elijah. With Elijah’s help she has learned to put God first in her life. But when this widow’s son, only a young boy, becomes sick and eventually dies, this widow gets angry at God and directs that anger at Elijah, God’s servant: “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (v18)
Elijah too is distraught by the boy’s tragic death. He takes the dead boy in his arms, brings him to his room, and begins to pray: “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” (v20). But then Elijah stretches himself on the boy and cries out to God three times for this boy to come back to life, and “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry” (v22). Seeing her son back alive, the woman says “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (v24).
What can we learn from this?
1. Right before the moment when this boy comes back to life, Elijah and this widow felt quite “unlucky”. Why would God allow this boy to die? Here’s what we learn from this passage: God allows pain in our lives not because God is not there or doesn’t care, but because God wants to reveal His power in and through our lives. So if you’re going through a tragic or painful time, remember this: even out of death God wants to bring the most powerful life. He’ll do it in a way that none of us can imagine or accomplish on our own. If you let Him, God can use your pain as a doorway to experiencing God’s power.
2. Raising the dead to life is God’s specialty. Centuries after this incident in 1 Kings 16, God would once again raise another dead son back to life — His own Son Jesus Christ. Christ’s resurrection would bring life not just to Him but to all of us who believe in Him.
3. The widow and her son by the world’s standards, were what most people today would consider to be good people. Have you ever heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Here’s the Bible’s answer to that question: Bad things don’t happen to good people. That’s because, in God’s eyes, there are no “good people”. As Paul says in Romans 3:9 while quoting the Old Testament, “There is no one righteous, not even one”. In other words, there is nothing we can do to meet God’s standards or to deserve God’s blessings. Every good thing we have in life is ultimately because God, in His undeserved grace, decided to give it to us. So when God takes a good thing away, may we have humility to recognize that we never deserved that good thing in the first place and we only had it because of God’s undeserved grace.
Let’s not get caught up in an attitude of self-serving entitlement, as if God owes us because we are so good. We aren’t. God doesn’t owe us anything. But because we are greatly loved by Him, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so that, no matter what else happens during our lifetimes on earth, we can know the most awesome “good thing” of all: the goodness of being with God forever in heaven together with the rest of God’s family.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You always have a purpose for every pain we go through: to refine us, to remind us that heaven is our home, and to reveal Your power through us. So may I not live with an attitude of self-serving entitlement, as if You owe me. Rather, may I humbly recognize that every good thing I have in life is Your undeserved grace and that You have a far greater purpose for it all than I could fathom. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!