reflections on 1 Kings 17: 14-24
1 Kings 17
I can't imagine what it must have actually been like. It's a two-story house, but maybe only a room or two on each level; stone walls, dirt floor likely. A small jar and a little jug sitting in the corner of the kitchen. Every morning, dumping out the flour, mixing it with water, cooking it up, eating the bread. Getting up the next morning - and doing it again. In spite of the fact that it was empty yesterday.
Or maybe it was different. Maybe the jug and the jar were always full, tho I don't think so. I think it was just as He said in v. 14: "The jar of flour will not be used up. and the jug of oil will not run dry..." So maybe she scooped out the flour, and it was still in there - but in her mixing bowl too. And she poured out the oil, but there was the same amount left in the jar.
I don't know how it worked exactly. But either way, it worked. There was always enough for three people. "in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah." (v. 16)
What would that have been like, for a woman who did not know God, to see a miracle like that every morning? What would it tell her about Him? What does it tell us? The words that spring to mind for me are: faithfulness. provision. love. compassion. enough. This is a God who cares about His people. And He cares enough to provide for those who are not-His-people as well. I wonder if she ever experienced wonder about that. Or if, as time went on, the wonder began to wear off, and "oh, of course there's enough" became the expectation instead.
But one day, her son gets sick. He gets sicker and sicker - and then he stops breathing. And she blames Elijah. And she blames herself. She thinks it's because of her sin that her son has died (oh, so she knows she has sinned... i wonder if they've been talking, all these days, this widow and this prophet she's been feeding). And she thinks Elijah killed him. Or she says she does.
But she's seen the miracle. She knows it's God she's dealing with. And somewhere, she might have hoped... but only way down deep where she didn't even admit it to herself... but maybe? So when Elijah asks for the body, she lets him take her son.
I wonder if she followed him upstairs. If she saw what Elijah did. Or if he simply told her about it later. I would have followed, I think. But maybe not. Maybe I would've collapsed in a heap and just sobbed. I might've been tempted to throw things. Maybe a jug of oil or a jar of flour. But she didn't throw them. And however it is that we know, the Bible tells us that Elijah took the boy to his own room, and he "cried out to the Lord."
This was no nice, polite, lame "please make him better if it's Your will, God" prayer. This was so much more "in your face." Elijah cried out (loud?) - "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?"
Lord - You are still the King. You're still in charge. You're the one I appeal to.
My God - You are God. But You are my God. So I come to You.
Have You brought tragedy also upon this woman... - oooh. This is telling. Elijah considers what has happened to him - being in a foreign land, living with a widow and her son, having all he needs provided, and not being killed by King Ahab - to be tragic. It is possible he is need of a bit of perspective here.
It is also possible that it is tragic. If all were the way it were meant to be, life would be normal. There'd be rain. Elijah would be at home. The king of Israel would be serving the God of Israel. But all is not normal. And it's tragic, because it could all have been prevented if one stubborn, stupid, selfish king would swallow his pride and burn a few Asherah poles, say he's sorry, and repent of his sin. And it's tragic and unfair that a woman who risked trusting a God she did not yet know and cared for one of His prophets should lose her son to an illness that he probably wouldn't have caught if there'd been rain and ... um, vegetables? I don't know. Regardless, it's unfair, and Elijah lets God know he thinks so.
Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" (v. 21)
And God heard. And said, "Okay. Yes."
And Elijah, incredibly relieved, I suspect, took him down to his mother.
And she, in complete incredulity, says, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth." (v. 24)
Now she knows? Really? And not one second before? What did she think about the flour and the oil? Was it some kind of fluke? Did she need further proof? Really?
Apparently so. But before we get too judgmental... where have we not recognized God at work? Where were we once able to attribute something to His hand, and how have we forgotten, taken for granted, or denied His work in and through that? Good, bad, or indifferent... Elijah spends a good chunk of time with this woman, and while God has spoken to her every day, by fulfilling His promises to her - she still needed a final "this is true" moment to push her over the edge into absolute faith and belief in Him.
And God made sure she got it.