Monday, Dec 11th

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1 Kings 17

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Many Christians will accept the ‘stories’ of Jesus doing miracles. But, when it comes to passages such as this, they inwardly think of the ‘stories’ as fairytales. Am I wrong? I do not think so… how many Christians - yes, ‘Christians’ - even bother to read the Old Testament (apart from its famous texts)? These are not ‘stories’ – they are reports of actual, historical incidents. They are factual accounts, not ‘stories’, and I urge all Christians to stop referring to ANY part of scripture as ‘stories’. Call them ‘accounts’, and do not let unbelievers demote what the texts tell us. As real historical narratives, then, treat them with interest with something to teach us for today. That even goes for the poetic parts.

In this text we come across the famed prophet, Elijah. What he did in this chapter is real; it actually happened; it is not a fairytale ‘story’ but a factual account. It is as strong an account as that of the crossing of the Red Sea. Believe it.

Verses 1-6

  1. And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

  2. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

  3. Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

  4. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

  5. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

  6. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

Elijah was a Tishbite who lived in Tishbeh, Gilead. The site is now unknown, but might be the town known as Tishbe. (Elijah is again spoken of in Two Kings). Gilead was east of the river Jordan (now in Jordan) and contained the tribal lands of Gad, Reuben and part of Manasseh’s land. Generally, the name ‘Gilead’ refers to all the land east of the Jordan. The name ‘Gilead’ in Hebrew means ‘joy forever’ and might have been located south-east of lake Galilee, not far from the Wadi Chorath.

God gave Elijah a prophecy to give Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, who lived in Samaria. The message was that the land of Israel would know great drought which, of course, would mean no crops, or water for people, animals, or plants. The outcome is always a large number of deaths. This prophecy came about almost immediately, which proves the prophecy came from God (see my book dealing with miracles, which explains the marks of a true miracle).

Immediately after delivering this message to Ahab, God came to Elijah with a warning, to go east to the brook/stream named Cherith, near Jordan. We know it was a word of warning because God said he was to “hide” himself near the brook secretly. It was located further east from his home town, but still in the mountainous region. Why hide? It seems the reason is linked to the cult queen, Jezebel (see a later text).

Now we come to the part that causes many Christians to trip up mentally and spiritually. They fail to see that if God is real (which He is), then nothing is impossible for Him to do. He can make things happen in a remarkable, and often odd, way. And this is what happens here with Elijah. God told him that ravens (crows) would bring him meat and bread every day to live on. The water would come from the brook, until it, too, diminished to a trickle because of the drought.

Do you truly believe this happened? You should, or your whole mind and faith have been damaged by unbelief. ‘Raven’ can apply to many within that species, and was likely the ‘House Crow’, or corvus splendens. Though now worldwide, its origin was in the Middle East. It is about 16 inches in length. From head to upper breast it is glossy black, with a light brown neck. The rest is glossy black.

Like so many types and its cousins, crows, it eats refuse from human habitations or good food from markets, but also small reptiles and other small animals, such as baby squirrels, plus eggs, grain and fruit. Thus, these birds could easily catch meat/other foods and take it to Elijah, because it was already in their nature to collect food from many sources. This they did for a long time, until the small river dried up, just as God told Elijah.

The miraculous form of this help is that it happened exactly as God said, and the birds did what they did morning and evening, every day, without eating the food themselves. The foods were small in size, something akin to Spanish tapas! More than enough to live on. In keeping with so many miracles, then, God used ordinary means (meat-eating birds) to bring about His provision. One or two random deliveries would not make it a miracle – but regular provision, morning and evening for a long period, proves without doubt that this was a miracle, worked through wild birds.

Verses 7-10

  1. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

  2. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

  3. Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

  4. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.

Even the mountain stream allocated to Elijah eventually dried up. God spoke again to Elijah. It seems that in between words from God, Elijah did what he thought to be right… he was a prophet, but this did not mean God gave him daily living instructions or a constant list of prophecies. This is important to understand, for modern Christians who think God will give them constant messages to help them live. We have God’s word. This in itself provides most of our spiritual needs, with many other clues as to how to live and what to do when things seem tough. We must live by these words, which are, mainly sufficient. Prophecy comes in-between these biblical texts as special messages.

Elijah, one of the best known prophets, had a message for the king, followed by what was many months of silence. We leave Portsmouth in a ship and see the name of the port disappear. Weeks later, we see the port sign for New York. But, in between, there are no signs (messages). This is because the ship’s captain knows his route and we trust that he will guide the ship from one port to the other, even though we have no idea what is going on! God gives us what we need, not when WE need it, but when He deems it right for us to receive it.

No doubt Elijah wondered what was to happen to him. He did what God told him to do, and then, again, did what God wanted him to do – live by the stream. What was to happen next? Elijah did not know, but God did. God does not drop us off in the desert and just leave us there… He will put us where we should be as far as HE is concerned, even though it does not correspond to anything WE had in mind! This underlines the fact that our lives belong to Him and He is not obliged to tell us anything, or do anything with us. But, as a God of love, He does both.

(Significantly, those who live without much thought for God will not know their lives are bereft of God’s guidance. They may even prosper materially… but the most vital thing, spiritual knowledge of the Lord, is missing).

So it was that as Elijah wondered what was to happen next, God again spoke to him. He was to go north-west to Zarephath in Zidon to live. A widow would give him room and food. We know she must have been youngish because she had a small child. Zarephath was on the Mediterranean coast, between cities of Sidon and Tyre. Its name suggests the town was known for processing metals. To get to this town, Elijah had to walk westward through desert and mountains.

As Elijah approached the city gates, the widow was outside gathering sticks. It is possible at this stage that she was unaware of her part in the prophecy. God makes things happen, whether or not we are aware of it. Elijah asked her to give him water.

Verses 11-16

  1. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

  2. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

  3. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

  4. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.

  5. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

  6. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

As she walked off to get the water, he called after her and asked if she would also bring a small amount of bread. She turned and said she only had a small portion of meal in a container, plus a jar containing a small amount of olive oil. In other words, she was starving and had next to nothing, especially not a ‘cake’ (cooked bread). She had been gathering two pieces of wood, to beat soft as food for herself and her son, before they died.

Elijah must have had another word from God, or, he was confident that what he was saying was God’s desire. This is often how God speaks through a person today, as I know from my own experience – speak and God will do it. (This should be the experience of every pastor or Bible teacher). In reality, God had already planted the thought, and so we speak it. He told her not to be afraid, and to make him some bread from the little she had left, to give him the first portion, and then she and her son could eat what was left.

He said that God told him that her barrel of meal (rough flour) would neither go off nor run out, and the oil would keep filling the cruse (jug). God would thus keep her and her son until the rains began again. So, once again, God worked miraculously in her life and the life of Elijah. Note that God helped her even though she did not know what was going on. Today – trust God!

Obviously, the woman was convinced inwardly, for she immediately did what she was told. From that time, she had sufficient food and oil to live on. Not much of a food store, but at least she lived. I knew this kind of bare living; it lasted almost two decades. Though at times we were close to nothing, God provided in His mercy. It got to the point where I did not have concern… I was hungry but alive, and I knew God would not leave us completely without anything, even if it was very basic… or even nothing at all for a day or two. Never give up if in this position! God is with you and watching your response and faith.

Verses 17-21

  1. And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.

  2. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?

  3. And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.

  4. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?

  5. And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.

After some time living like this, the small son of the widow became very sick and died (“… no breath left in him.”). The distraught woman asked Elijah if he had come to remind her of her past sins, which led to her son’s death? When reading this we should understand it in the light of the system of sacrifices in Israel. The Israelites (and those in surrounding nations) knew that God would and could punish unconfessed sins with death.

Elijah must again have had a prompt from God, for he said that he would take the small dead boy upstairs to the loft (the room under the roof, where he was staying). He took the lifeless body from the woman, who was cuddling him, and laid him on his own bed. He then asked God why He had killed the small boy. He stretched his own body upon the boy, three times, before calling upon God to bring the lad back to life. This action appears to be symbolic of God overshadowing a person with the Holy Spirit. We see that the boy was really dead by the words “let this child’s soul come into him again.” (By ‘soul’ we should understand also ‘spirit’).

The incident was for a purpose. God would not have slain a small boy when it was his mother who kept Elijah in a home for all that time. No, it had a purpose. We do not always know what God desires to do when we are in the middle of what we call a crisis or a period of woes, but we can be assured that He is not being idle! He is moving the future so that it suits His purposes and gives us some benefit. All we need to do is trust, obey and have faith in the face of the odds. If we do not, we will never see or know what God had in mind.

Verses 22-24

  1. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

  2. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.

  3. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.

God heard the plea by Elijah. Let this be put clearly – Elijah pleaded with God to do something. BUT, his plea was only successful because the plea was given to him to say in the first place. That is, God prompted him to plead as he did, and God then answered the plea because it was an act of obedience on Elijah’s part. In other words, God did not act because Elijah pleaded (though the pleading was part of the spiritual ‘deal’); He acted because it was His mercy to do so, and was already decided upon. Thus, the child was resurrected… a miracle not seen in the Old Testament before. Elijah picked up the child and took him back downstairs to his mother: ‘See, your son lives!’ The crying mother must have been overjoyed! She then said that this miracle proved beyond doubt that Elijah spoke from God and was a genuine man of God.

Note again the mark of a true miracle – Elijah called upon God after performing an action three times. I have no doubt whatever that those three actions were part of the pleading required by God, though Elijah may not have realised it. The miracle then occurred – what Elijah called for came about immediately. That is what made it a miracle. If the child resuscitated, say some hours later, then a ‘natural’ cause could have been assumed.

Also note the result, not just the resurrection. The result was that this Phoenician woman now believed Elijah was a prophet and spoke the truth from God. God will often use events to persuade men and women of His reality and existence. In my ministry and pastorate I never attempt to persuade people that God exists or that what He says is true. This is because I have no part in what God does, though I might be used as an instrument. No amount of talk or argument will persuade someone to believe God, or in Him. To think otherwise is to be an Arminian deceiver.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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