Elijah and the Resurrected Life
1 Kings 17:17-24
November 13-14, 2021
The backstory of 1 Kings 17, the kingdom of Israel is now divided, 10 tribes in the north, 2 in the south, and these are very dark spiritual times in the north. Their hearts are turned away from God and you could predict the result, hard hearts bring hard times. That's actually a spiritual principle, hard hearts bring hard times. They had turned away from God.
Now, when you step back on it, it's really important to see it from this view. They had turned their back on God, who had done so much for them. Think about all that God had done, how he saved them out of the oppression and slavery of Egypt, how he did so with this mighty hand and outstretched arm. He said, "Sustained them through the desert those 40 years, brought them into that land that he had promised to Abraham, how he had protected and poured favor on them, brought victory," on and on and on. God had done all of this for them and yet, they turned away and went after the gods of the world. Was there something wrong with God, something wrong with what he did in blessing Israel?
No. What happened was this. There was something in them that was drawn to these gods of the world. What was it? What was this thing in them was so drawn to the things of the world? What was this? I suggest to you that it was the very nature of their humanity. It was their flesh because these gods of the world were worldly in every sense. Gods of fertility, you can imagine what that meant. The flesh was drawn to it and I suggest this is one of the ways we can see its application in our modern times because there is something in many, many people that is just drawn to the things of the world. What is this thing that is in so many people? Well, it's their nature. It's the nature of flesh. That's what, and we have to come to a place of deciding. We're going to live our lives in the spirit, or we going to live our lives in the flesh. Each one must decide the course.
I suggest to you that a life lived in the spirit is far greater and far better than a life lived in the flesh. Anyone want to agree with me on this? Let's give the Lord praise and glory for what he's doing.
They turned away, went after these gods. This spiritual darkness, these hard hearts brought hard times. What happened was this, Ahab was king in the north there and it says that he did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings who came before him. He built an altar to Baal, this is the God of fertility and rain, and then it says, "As though it had been a trivial thing to walk in these sins, he married Jezebel." Now, most people have heard the name Jezebel. She is a wicked woman. Then he went and not only did he make these altars, he served them and worshiped them.
If Israel is going to turn away from God and trust in Baal to be the God of rain and the God of produce and the God of fertility, then God would remove his hand and there would be no rain. Then look to Baal to bring the rain. God declared a drought through the prophet Elijah, perhaps one of the greatest, most powerful prophets in the Old Testament. Elijah makes this declaration to Ahab, "There will be no rain until I give the word," and then he went across the Jordan to the brook Cherith, and there, God reveals the amazing hand of provision as miraculously, ravens would bring bread and meat in the morning, bread and meat in the evening, and then, of course, at some point, the brook dried up. God, then instructed him to go to Zarephath in Sidon. There, a widow would provide for him. Now, this is all the way over to the coast, all the way to the north outside of Israel.
There's where this story unfolds. This widow, she was kind to Elijah, allowed him to stay in an upper room on the roof, she provided meals from the bowl of flour and jar of oil that God had miraculously replenished throughout this famine, but here's where tragedy strikes. The woman's son, she's a widow. She has one son and he becomes sick and he dies. This tragedy is where we gain many life lessons. Here's what I've come to understand, and that is that God has purpose in pain. Nowhere in scripture does God ever promise that we will never encounter evil or difficulties or that we won't experience pain. What He does promise is to be with us in the midst of those troubles and distresses and trials of life.
Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. Why? Because thou art with me, the scripture says. Great life lessons. Let's read it together. We're in 1 King 17, we begin reading in verse 17. "Now, it came about after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, the son became sick and his sickness was so severe there was no breath left in him. He breathed his last and he died. Then she said to Elijah, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death." You can see the tragedy, the brokenness of this. She accuses Elijah, "You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to put my son to death." He said to her, "Give me the boy." Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living and laid him on his own pad and he called to the Lord and he said, "Oh, Lord my God. Have you brought calamity onto this widow with whom I am now staying by causing her son to die?" Elijah himself does not understand. Have you caused, have you brought this calamity on this widow by causing her son to die?
Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and called out to the Lord. He said, "Oh, Lord my God. I pray, let this child's life return to him." Now, nothing like this has ever happened in the history of Israel. Nothing like this, no prayer like this has ever happened. Nowhere has anyone come back from the dead. This is a magnanimous prayer. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. He, the boy, came back from the dead. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper room into the house, gave him to his mother, and Elijah's said, "See, your son lives." The woman said to Elijah, "Now, I know you are a man of God and that the Word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."
These are the verses I want us to look at. We'll look at the other verses around it, of course, at our Wednesday verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter study, but such important life lessons come to us out of this story. For when tragedy strikes, when things go terribly wrong, how do you interpret it? See, how you see it, how you interpret it, will determine how you respond to it. Now, we all have to process our way through tragedy. When tragedy strikes, difficulties come, you must process through it, but how you see it, how you interpret it, is very, very important. For if you interpret it wrongly, you will respond wrongly to it.
I. Don’t Jump to Wrong Conclusions
Therefore, the life lesson for us to take hold of is to don't jump to wrong conclusions. For many, many do jump to wrong conclusions. For how you interpret the things that happen, has everything to do with your faith. See, the perspective that comes from faith in God will change how you see it, how you process, how you interpret the things. Now, we can understand this widow's broken heart. She's a widow, which means she's lost her husband. She's already got a broken heart and now her only son is dead? We can understand the depth of her grief, but when she confronts Elijah, it's very clear that she has interpreted it a certain particular way. She has reached conclusions in her mind. She is convinced that she knows why, why this is happening, but she's reached the wrong conclusion. It's very easy for people to reach the wrong conclusion and so, we should look at them to understand them.
A. Wrong conclusion: God is punishing you
Wrong conclusion, number one, God is punishing you. Now, clearly, this was the woman's conclusion. This was the woman's interpretation because she said it outright. "You have come to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death." This is a very common way of seeing. In fact, I suggest that this interpretation is as old as the book of Job. You might know Job is perhaps the oldest of the books of the Bible and here Job had gone through all of these tragedies, all of these troubles, all of these difficulties, and his friends or we might say so-called, friends interpreted these, all these tragedies, all these difficulties, by saying to Job, "You have some sin in your life that you are not contesting. That's why all of these troubles have come because you've got sin in your life and you're not confessing it." This interpretation, God is punishing you is as old as the book of Job.
Interestingly, in the New Testament, when Jesus and the disciples, at one point, they came upon a man who was born blind. The disciples seeing this man who was born blind, had reached certain conclusions. They said to the Lord Jesus, they said, "Who sinned that this man should be born blind? Was it him or was it his parents?" In other words, we know that in order for this man to be born blind, someone have sinned, we just don't know who it was. Was it the man or was it his parents? Jesus responds to this, this is John 9:3. Jesus answered and said, "Neither. You've made a wrong conclusion. Neither. It was neither that this man sin, no his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." In other words, there's something greater at work. He's trying to help them to see there's something greater at work.
Are you going through something difficult yourself, some difficulty, some tragedy, something painful? Could it be that there's something greater at work, that God would display the works of God there in you, in your situation? For this, I know for sure, this I know for certain, God brings beauty out of ashes. This I know. God brings beauty out of ashes. I have seen it over and over in my life, I have seen it in others. In other words, don't assume that you know what God is doing. God may not be punishing or disciplining you at all. God may be preparing you that the works of God might be displayed in you. I suggest however, that there are several reasons why people come to this particularly wrong conclusion.
Number one, because everyone has enough sin in their lives to prove this is right. See, if something goes wrong, everybody's got some sin that they can look at their life and say, "See, it's catching up to me, see it's coming back to me, see all my sins are hunting me." Everyone has enough sin in their life that they can easily make that conclusion. Secondly, I think people confuse consequences of their actions with punishment from God. There are consequences of action. If someone gambles all their money away, then they should not be surprised when they have no money.
It's like Proverbs 6:26, "Can a man take in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" In other words, if you take fire in your bosom, you ought not be surprised if your clothes get burned. Jesus taught an interesting thing about don't make wrong conclusions. Notice in Luke 13:45, this is a very interesting thing that had happened. Jesus brings it up to them, the disciples, and he says, "Do you suppose that those 18 on whom the Tower of Siloam fell and killed, do you suppose that they were worse culprits, than all the men who live in Jerusalem?"
For what had happened was this, there was a crowded people in this tower, this Tower of Siloam had fell, crumbled and fell onto this crowded people and it crushed 18 people who died and therefore, the talk of the city, the talk around was why them? Why them? Why those 18? Jesus, knowing this was what was everyone was discussing and talking, brought it to them. "Do you suppose that these 18 on whom the Tower of Siloam fell and killed, do you suppose they were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you no. Don't make a wrongful conclusion. I tell you no, but unless you repent, you all will likewise perish." Don't make that wrongful conclusion.
B. Wrong conclusion: bad things shouldn’t happen
The next wrong conclusion that people often make is bad things shouldn't happen or to say it more completely, bad things shouldn't happen to good people. Here, this widow doing good things. She was taking care of Elijah by providing for him on the roof of the house, giving bread and meals to him, sustaining him, doing good things. Bad things shouldn't happen to good people. It's coming from people to come to this conclusion when bad things happen. This should not be. It's the same logic used in the first conclusion, but it's in reverse.
See, if every tragedy is the result of sin, then every good thing is the result of doing something good to deserve it. In other words, good people deserve good things and bad people deserve bad things. In other words, bad things shouldn't happen to good people. Good things should happen to good people. I was thinking of an illustration. Imagine that you're golfing. Now, if you don't golf, just imagine with me, okay? Imagine you're golfing and you hit a ball and it goes careening into the trees. Now, I know all about hitting balls into the trees. I have seen many people do it and I've done a few myself.
Imagine back to my point, you hit this ball and it goes careening into the trees, hits a branch ricochets and flies back in and lands squarely in the middle of the fairway. No doubt, somebody will say, "Man, you must be living right." This is a very common thing. If you've golfed, no doubt you've experienced something like this. Hits off the tree, flies back land squarely in the middle. "Man," someone will say, "you must be living right." Why? Because good things, if have something good, that's amazing, you must have deserved that.
The Sound of Music, the famous movie, The Sound of Music. When Maria discovers that Captain Von Trapp was in love with her, she sings this song, which I am now going to sing for you, now.
Yes, I'm not going to sing for you. In this song, the lyrics capture a way of thinking that was very common. That is still very common. How to interpret, it captures an interpretation of life. Notice, the lyrics go like this,
"Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my miserable, wicked past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me."
Yes, there you go.
"Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good."
This is the way of thinking. Many believe, if they've done something good, something worthy and honorable, then good things should happen to them and that they should be protected from bad things happening to them and they don't understand then, when bad things happened to them, if they have been doing something good.
Shortly after our daughter was killed, a reporter asked, in fact, this was the day of her memorial, they knew we had to leave the house. They were outside the house waiting, so I went out to speak to them. And one of the reporters asked this question, "You're a pastor, how do you reconcile this with your faith?" Now, the assumption behind the question is that because I'm a pastor, because I'm a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then only good things should happen to me, that I should be protected from bad things happening to me. No need for an umbrella for me, for when I walk in the rain, I never get wet. Bugs never splatter my windshield. I never get burned in the sun. Really?
Then why was I raised in extreme poverty? Why did I have an alcoholic father who abused my mother? Why was my daughter killed by someone who simply wanted to know what it felt like? Oh, I know many, many troubles, and I know many tragedies, but I also know how to interpret them. We must see it rightly. This widow she had been showing kindness to Elijah. Giving him this apartment, making meals for him from the supply of flour and oil. If she had been doing good, then where is God's love? Where is God's power? Many people cannot understand this.
Another way to ask it would be why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people? In fact, Jesus said something very insightful in Matthew 5, this is one of the famous sermons of Jesus and I want to show you these verses and I suggest to you that he is showing us something very deep here. Matthew 5:44-46, "Jesus says it this way. I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father, who is in heaven." Let's just take a look at this, that phrase, so that you will be like your father. See the sons are like the father. So to be like your father, love your enemies. This is what God does. Pray for those who persecute you. Treat those who are against you, better than they deserve for he, the father, causes his son to rise on the evil and the good. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have for that? Even tax collectors do that. Be like your father who's in heaven. Treat people better than they deserve.
II. God’s Purpose is Resurrected Life
I suggest you a principle by which we are saved. Does not God treat us better than we deserve? If we deserve grace, it wouldn't be grace. If we deserve mercy, it wouldn't be mercy, but God treats us better than we deserve. God draws sinners who don't deserve that forgiveness, but he draws them and he freely loves them. God demonstrated His love for us in that Christ died for us, when we were yet his enemies. God is gracious, God is kind, even to those who do not deserve it. There's something greater, there's greater purpose. I suggest to you that in the story, God is revealing that God's purpose is resurrected life.
Even Elijah did not understand what was happening. Elijah then says, "Oh, Lord, my God, are you causing? Are you bringing this calamity on this woman by causing her son to die?" He does not understand himself, so he prays. Then the Lord heard Elijah's prayer. Nothing like this has ever been done in Israel. The boy's life returns to the to the child, and God is showing a greater purpose. There is something greater at work here, for what God was doing had nothing to do with this widow at all. It had nothing to do with her sin, and it had nothing to do with your kindness. It had everything to do with the purpose of God. There is something greater at work.
A. God transforms you through pain
God has many purposes. For example, God transforms through pain, that's one of the purposes of God. There's something greater at work. God transforms through pain, is one of those purposes. That God's purpose was to transform and strengthen Elijah as a man of faith for the challenges that would soon come in his life, to make him a great prophet, a great man of God. I suggest to you, that there was still something yet greater than that at work. That God was giving a foreshadowing of the power of God over death to bring those who were dead back to life. God was preparing Israel, so that when the Messiah, the Son of the living God arrived on the scene, and he by also, the power of God raised three people. You might know that three people were raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. God was using all of that to prepare Israel, so that when he himself, the Son of the living God, died on that cross on that fateful day on Golgotha, the hill of Calvary, and then was raised from the dead on the third day, then Israel can say, "This is the power of God, for God is able." My God is able to bring those who were dead back to life. That they would believe. Amen.
In fact, the very first one that Jesus brought back to life from the dead, I suggest to you, was almost identical to what happened with Elijah. Let's read the count of it. This is Luke 7:11-17, "Soon afterward, he went to a city called Maine and his disciples were going along with him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now, as he approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out who was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow." This is almost identical to what happened with Elijah. There is a widow, and she has an only son and the son has died. We should notice, and a sizable crowd from the city was with her. A large crowd coming from the city, a large crowd with Jesus.
Then Jesus, feeling compassion for her said to the woman, "Do not weep." Then he came up and he touched the coffin. The bearers came to a halt. Then he said, "Young man, I say to you arise." The dead man sat up, and began to speak. Jesus gave him back to his mother, and fear gripped them all and they all began glorifying God saying, "A great prophet has arisen." Does this not look exactly what happened in Israel before with the time of Elijah? A great prophet has arisen, and God has visited his people. God was preparing Israel all the way back. God has a greater purpose. God has purpose in transforming us through that pain. That's one of the purposes, transforming. He used it to transform Elijah. He'll use it to transform me. He'll use my pain to help transform others.
I was thinking of an illustration. Some time after our daughter was killed, I was having coffee with a friend and we were talking about the upcoming trial. This was a number of years ago. By the way, this trial is going to have to be re-done all over again, because some time this next year, because the original trial was appealed automatically and it was overturned. The conviction was overturned on appeal, due to an error and so, it will be done all over again. Anyway, we were having this conversation about this trial. In our conversation, my friend used his name. I interjected and I said to my friend, "I would appreciate it if you wouldn't use his name." He looked at me and he said, "I know this hurts, I know you're hurting, but I believe that God will work through this and that someday, not only will you be able to say his name, I know you will forgive him," and he was right. He was right.
For that day, when we stood in court, I was able to stand in front of him and say to him, "Jaime, look at me. I forgive you. Let me talk about you, your soul because not only am I the father of this woman who you killed, I'm also a pastor. I'm concerned for your soul, for one day, you will stand before a judge that is far higher than this judge and you will have to give an account of your life. God is giving you an opportunity to redeem your life." Later the judge said to him, "Do you have anything to say?" She said, "Stand up. Do you have anything to say?" He said, "Yes, I'm sorry."
God uses pain. God uses it to transform me and he'll use it to transform you. Because here's my point, our hope is not for this life only. We have a hope that's far beyond this life. God is doing a greater work. Our perspective is often so limited, we commonly see things only in the light of what's happening in the moment, but there is something greater at work. There's a greater picture. It takes a long time for a child to understand the idea of tomorrow. It takes a long time for a child to understand the concept of the future. It comes with maturity. Eyes are opened as you mature in life and as you mature in faith. The same is true, God brings purpose out of pain. There is something eternal at work, a perspective that is far greater and far beyond this life only.
B. Our hope is not for this life only
1 Corinthians 15:19, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." Many of you know the story of Fanny Crosby. Fanny Crosby could see, but only for the first six weeks of her life. What had happened was that her eyes became inflamed of some ailment, and the doctor wrongly applied mustard seed powder. This was actually a common thing, but it was to be applied to skin wounds, and then only for a certain time. He applied it to her eyes and they burned her eyes and she went blind. Later, Fanny Crosby wrote this, she wrote, "It seemed intended by the providence of God, that I should be blind all my life and I thank him for that dispensation. For if perfect sight were offered to me tomorrow, I would not take it. For blindness has allowed me to see what other cannot see."
For God used her. Many of you know God used her in the church and powerfully impact the entirety of the church around the world. She wrote more than 8,000 hymns and poems that edified and blessed and strengthened the church. Some of the most powerful hymns in church history were written by a woman who was blind, but who could see far beyond because she could see the spiritual purpose. She's the one who wrote the hymn Blessed Assurance. Many might remember in church history one of the great hymns.
"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love"
In the famous chorus.
"This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior, all the day long"
Oh, we love that chorus.
"This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior"
"This is my story," she says. What's your story? Do you have a story? A story that sees beyond, but we have hoped more than in this life only. There is something greater at work. There is a purpose far beyond, and it comes from knowing in whom you have believed. I suggest that's where it comes from. To know in whom you have belief, for if you know in whom you have belief, then you know His heart. You know His desire. You know His purpose and it will change your perspective. It will change how you perceive. It will change how you interpret the things of life, for God knows that when difficulties arise, that many accuse Him. "Why did my son die? This isn't right. This isn't fair. You say you love me, and yet my son is dead." Yet, if they could only see from God's perspective, they could also hear God's words of comfort. "Your son is not dead. I'm holding him in heaven and you will see him again."
My daughter is not dead. My daughter is in heaven in the arms of our glorious blessed savior, and I will see her again. It will be a glorious reunion. My daughter is not dead, she yet lives and she is in the presence of my Lord and savior. Amen. Can we give the Lord praise?
Amen. If you know in whom you have believed, it will change the way you see, it will change your perception. For this you must know, that God is faithful in His love. God is faithful in His love for you. Lamentations 3:21-23. He writes it this way, and this is written by Jeremiah, the prophet, in perhaps, the darkest most difficult time in the history of Israel, and he writes this, "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. That the Lord's loving kindnesses never cease, that His compassions they fail not, for they are new every morning, new every morning. Great is your faithfulness."
Some of the greatest hymns were written off as some of the greatest truths. This I recall to my mind. That's why I have hope. For I know in whom I have believed. I know Him. I know my Savior. I know my King. I know my Lord. I know Him. For this, you must know that God's purpose is for good, and for His glory. Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans for welfare." That means for good, not for calamity. To give you a future, to give you a hope. This is what the apostle Paul said in 2nd Timothy 1:12, "For this reason, I also suffer these things, for I am not ashamed, for I know in whom I have believed and I am persuaded, I am convinced that He is able to keep that, which I have entrusted to Him until that day."
Let's pray. Father we are so thankful for this great and wonderful truth. We know in whom we have believed and we are persuaded, we are convinced my God is able. Church, how many will say that to the Lord today? How many of you would say to the Lord today, "I know in whom I have believed and I trust you with all of my life. I trust you with all of my life, all the troubles, all the distresses, all the difficulties, and all the victories. I know in whom I have believed, and I trust you." Would you say that to the Lord by simply raising your hand, lifting your hand to the Lord? I know in whom I have believed.
Father, thank you for moving upon us by your power, by revealing yourself that we might know in whom we have believed and that it would change our view and it would change our perspective. We would see life, that there is something far greater at work. We trust you. We believe you. We honor you now. In Jesus' powerful name, and everyone said.