1 Kings 17:17-24
After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20He cried out to the Lord, “OLord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” 21Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.23Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
Be careful when you are faithful to the voice of God. It gets you in trouble.
Elijah has been listening to God and following God’s leading already several times just in this chapter. He heard “the word of the Lord” telling him where to hide from the wrath of a king, that there would be a drought and where he could find food, that there would be shelter in a town called Zarephath, and how he could provide ongoing food for himself and his host–a widow there.
Be careful, Elijah. You’re being pretty faithful. You’re about to get into trouble.
Sure enough, after Elijah had done all this, including feeding this woman and her son for eight days, her son dies. She blames Elijah for it. In the middle of a drought where there is no food, Elijah–by being faithful to God–has fed this little family for 8 days, now is being blamed for this trajedy.
Have you had that Elijah experience? Being nothing but faithful, he’s being blamed for this poor woman’s grief and loss: “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” Sometimes, when we’re frightened or lost or grieving, we just need to blame someone. For this woman, Elijah is the scapegoat for her pain and misery.
Elijah gets that too. After being unjustly blamed for the boy’s death, he turns around and does the same thing. He takes the boy upstairs and cries out to God, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he demands that God do something about it, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” Have you ever blamed God for your misery and then asked God to do something about it?
So far, I’m tracking with Elijah pretty well. I’ve been blamed when I’ve tried only to be faithful. I’ve blamed others–often God–when things are difficult. And I’ve begged God to intervene somehow to change the situation.
But then comes the part that causes a little problem for me. Vs. 22, “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.”
I’m fine with the child being revived. I think God uses uses all kinds of things, including hospitals and skilled medical people of all kinds to do this sort of thing with some regularity. Some of you have had personal experience with that and have amazing stories to tell of God giving you a new chance, a new life; sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, sometimes relationally.
No, that’s not where I get stumped. I find myself a little annoyed at the phrase, “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah.” I don’t know about you, but it seems that God doesn’t always listen. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t listening at all. Perhaps we can understand that if we haven’t been listening to God, if we’ve been neglecting our relationship a bit. But how about when we’re in a stretch where we’re feeling tight with God, like we’re being pretty faithful, like we’re all about God’s will, and God and us are on the same page. And then, like Elijah, all that faithfulness gets us in trouble. Someone’s experiencing a loss and they’re blaming you for it; one of your kids does something stupid and your spouse assures you that it’s your fault; a friend misunderstands an innocent statement and the relationship is seriously damaged. Then there are those days when all this and more happens all at once. Have you had a day like that? It all just piles up, snowballs, and gets overwhelming?
What do you do? Many will cry out to God, “O Lord my God, do something!” Do something. Anything. Please. . . Hello? . . . Are you there?
And then we hear vs. 22 in 1Kings 17, “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah” and intervened. The Lord did exactly what Elijah asked and restored the boy’s life. Well, isn’t that special? What about us, God? What about our pain, our loss, our grief, our despair? Why aren’t you listening to our voice? When we cry out for help, for you to make things better, where are you then?
Here’s what happens. God hears your cries. And God answers and points to the cross and says, “That’s how committed to you I am. That’s how willing I am to go into your pain with you. I’m not leaving. Nothing can keep me away from you; not even death. I’m with you–right with you–in your struggle. I’m holding you in your fear. I’m comforting you in your pain. I’m at your side in your suffering. I know you feel overwhelmed, but I’m here to sustain you. Life is coming. There will be an easing of your pain and loss. Watch for it. I’m here. I’m here. Whether you are faithful or not, doing my will or not, listening to my voice or not, I am the God of life. For the son of the widow of Zarephath. For you. And nothing will keep me from coming to you. Today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.