April 16, 2023 . . .“The Bible’s Children: a widow’s son” I Kings 17:17

April 16, 2023 . . .“The Bible’s Children: a widow’s son” I Kings 17:17

April 16, 2023

“The Bible’s Children: a widow’s son”

I Kings 17:17

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Fifteen years ago, back in 2008, actress and author Janine Turner wrote a book she called Holding Her Head High: Inspirations from 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History.

And in that book, she tells the stories of quite a number of single, divorced, or even abandoned women who not only changed lives, but changed history. And we’re glad she did because, just last year, out of the eleven million or so single-parent families with children under the age of eighteen, nearly eighty percent of them were cared for by single mothers.

So who were these twelve single mothers who changed history?

First, there was a woman named Elinore Pruitt Stewart. By the time she was twenty-two years old, her father died, her mother died, then her step-father, and then her husband, leaving her to care for eight younger siblings and a daughter with hardly any help at all. Only after she answered an ad for a homestead housekeeper did her life begin to change. You can read about her in her books--Letters of a Woman Homesteader and Letters on an Elk Hunt.

Or think of American lawyer, politician, teacher, and author Belva Ann Lockwood. Not only was she one of the very first women lawyers in the United States and the first female lawyer to ever argue a case before the Supreme Court, she was the very first woman to officially run for President of the United States. And she did it all while trying to raise her daughter Lura.

Or think of a woman named Rachel Faucette Levine. After her husband, James, abandoned her, she was left to raise her son, Alexander, all alone. And I’ll have to say, she must have done a pretty good job, because her son, Alexander Hamilton, did turn out to be not only a founding father, but the very first Secretary of the Treasury of our United States!

So why would Janine Turner write a book like that? Because she was a single mother herself! She wrote, “When I finished the book, what I realized was that women have always had to work hard to survive. I realized within reason that I can still be in the destiny God has for me that will also benefit my child.” And she said, “Whenever I feel like I’m in the way, and I really don’t know what God has planned for me, I know that He knows.”

The Bible tells a story about another single mother, trying her best to raise her son all alone. I’ll read the words of I King chapter 17: “After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she 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!’ And he said to her, ‘Give me your son.’ And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, have You brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived” (I Kings 17:17-22).

The words of I Kings chapter 17 take us to about nine hundred years before Christ. Back in the days of kings like Zimri and Omri, and queens like Jezebel, God sent his prophet Elijah to speak to the people of Israel.

But since they had strayed so far from the ways of the Lord, daring to worship gods like Baal and Asherah, the Lord refused to bless them. As Elijah said: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (I Kings 17:1).

That’s when the Lord came to him again and said, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow to feed you” (I Kings 17:9).

Let’s stop there for just a moment. Can you imagine what Elijah must have thought when he heard those words? “Zarephath? Sidon? Widow? With all due respect, Lord, maybe I didn’t hear You right. Why on earth would You send me there?”

You see, Zarephath was far to the northwest, about a hundred miles, outside the land of promise--the land of Israel. Heathen lived there. Baal-worshippers lived there. And no one there knew and loved the Lord, the God of Israel.

And Sidon? That’s the very home of Queen Jezebel herself. Her father, Eth-Baal, the king of Sidon and the high priest of Baal, probably still lived there. And Elijah would try to hide right under his nose?

And why find refuge with a widow? Why not send him to some wealthy landowner or prince, someone with money and means?

Even more, this wasn’t just any widow. The Bible says she was a poor widow, as in dirt poor, destitute. Not only did no one care for her, she had nothing left!

Listen to what she said: “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (I Kings 17:12).

Talk about the worst possible host, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances! Why would God ever send him there?

Because that’s what our God is like. As Psalm 68 says, He’s the God of the fatherless and the protector, the defender, of widows (Psalm 68:5).

Or think of the words of James chapter 1: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this--to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

So at God’s command and promise, Elijah walked those one hundred miles, outside the land of Israel, all the way to Zarephath.

And what did he find when he got there? Times were tough. After all, it hadn’t rained for three years. The earth was parched and cracked. Streams that had never been known to fail, dried up. Trees were nothing but gaunt skeletons. Fields that once blossomed with crops had become desert sands. And fire burned anything that was left.

And when Elijah, a foreigner, showed up with his hand out, looking for something, anything, to eat, you can just imagine what she could have said. She could have said, “Now I have no idea who you are or where you’ve come from buddy, but listen--I’ve got nothing left. My husband’s gone. My food is gone. And the one thing, the only thing I have left is barely enough to feed me and my son. And then we’ll die.”

But that’s not what she said at all. Instead, she trusted in Elijah’s God to provide. As he said: “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’” (I Kings 17:14).

And sure enough, just as the Lord promised, her jar of flour was never empty and her jug of oil never ran dry.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news.

Just when everything, even in the midst of a severe famine, seemed to be going okay, tragedy struck. As the Bible says in verse 17: “After this, the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him” (I Kings 17:17).

Now let’s put all this together for just a moment. Not only had the woman lost her husband, what would have been, in her time and place, her main breadwinner and protector, now she lost her son! The one who would be her closest companion and hope for years to come, was cold and dead in her arms.

So what did she do? She did what most anyone would do--she blamed Elijah and she blamed God. She said, “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!” (I Kings 17:18).

Or as another translation puts it: “Why did you ever show up here in the first place--a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?”

Even Elijah couldn’t understand it any better, for as he slowly and carefully took the boy’s lifeless body from his mother’s arms, he knelt down and prayed, “O Lord my God, why have You done such a terrible thing to this widow? She’s been kind enough to take care of me, and now You kill her son?!” (I Kings 17:20).

But sickness and death would not have the last word, for as Elijah stretched himself out over the boy three times, God heard his prayer. And wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles, he returned the boy to his mother with the words, “See, your son lives” (I Kings 17:23).

So what does all this mean to teach us?

The answer’s found in this--the death and the life of this only son is a prophecy of another only Son. And though He too would die, He would rise again, giving life to all who trust in Him.

As one commentator wrote: “When that widow of Zarephath went out to pick up sticks for her last meal, she had no idea of the incredible turn her life would take. And though she was sure it was her last day, lurking over her wasn’t the shadow of death, but the Giver of Life, who would not only give her life, but through her preach life to all who believe.

“And it all began with a stranger’s seemingly outrageous request, followed by an act of faithful obedience.”

A speaker once started his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. Then he asked the roomful of about two hundred people, “Who would like this $20 bill?”

Hands immediately shot up. He said, “I’ll give one of you this $20 bill, but first, let me do this.” Then he crumpled it in his hand, and asked, “Who still wants it?” Hands were still in the air.

“Now what if I do this?” he said. Then he dropped it on the floor and started to grind it into the carpet with his shoe. Then he picked it up, all crumpled and dirty.

“Now does anyone still want it?” Hands were still in the air.

Then he said this--”You have all just learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to this money, you still wanted it because it didn’t decrease in value. It’s still worth a full $20.

“Many times in life, we’re dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as if we’re worthless.

“But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or broken, you are still of utmost value to Him.”

So what are we worth to Him? Nothing less than the gift of His only-begotten Son.

We thank You, Father, for the wonders and the miracles You continue to do even today. Help us to rest, expectantly and hopefully, in Your kind, strong arms, for Jesus’ sake. Amen