1 Kings 17:8-24 (Part 3) – Moving from A Hee-Haw Song to An Elevation Worship Song

Posted: February 23, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 17:8-24 (Part 3 of 3)

The Widow at Zarephath

Back in the day, when Hee-Haw was a country themed variety show on the CBS television network, there was not a whole lot I remember about the show other than the skit that occurred weekly that featured the song, “Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me” sung by Buck Owens and Roy Clark. As they would sing the song, they would stop singing and exchange sad stories of bad things that had happened to them and then go back into the song. They would repeat that process for the usual 3-4 minutes of the skit. It was corny just like everything else on the show, but the chorus of the song always stuck with me over the years. The chorus of the song went like this:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

That idea of gloom and despair is what struck me this morning. The first thing that happens as the widow and Elijah have their first encounter is that she has enough faith to follow his instructions about the food. And, yes, they end up eating for many days because of the miracle provided by God. There was always enough flour and olive oil in the containers just as Elijah had promised (1 Kings 17:16). Then, in the very next verse, we see that the son of the widow woman became sick and died.

Wow! Talk about your excessive misery. In the 21st century with marital inheritance laws protecting particularly the female spouse, we may not gather in the plight of widows in the ancient Middle East. The loss of a husband in ancient Israel was normally a social and economic tragedy. In a generally patriarchal culture, the death of a husband usually meant a type of cultural death as well. Although the denotation of widow referred to a woman whose husband had died, because of the social context the word quickly acquired the connotation of a person living a marginal existence in extreme poverty. Her crisis was aggravated if she had no able-bodied children to help her work the land of her dead spouse. To provide for her children, to maintain the estate, and to continue payments on debts accrued by her husband imposed severe burdens. Since she was in an extremely vulnerable economic position, she became the prime target of exploitation. The fact that she was classed with the landless stranger and Levite indicates that she was often unable to keep her husband’s land.

So, as we see here, the widow when Elijah meets her is on the edge of economic disaster. Enough food for one last meal and that was it. She had resigned herself to the fact that she and her boy were going to die of starvation, plain and simple. She then obeys the Lord by obeying Elijah’s request. She and her son receive a miracle as a result of her obedience. Then what happens next, you would think that everything is gonna be cool for the rest of her life. Her obedience, one would think, would lead to a life on an easier street. However, that’s not the case. Shortly after her obedience to Elijah’s request, the have food for a while but then, BAM!, her son gets sick and quickly dies. Talk about your bad luck, your gloom, your despair and agony. Now, she’s got a real mess. She’s a destitute widow and now her only hope for the future, a son to take care of her in the patriarchal society of the ancient Middle East, dies suddenly.

That got me to thinking about how often we get derailed as Christians because bad things continue to happen to us even after we have been obedient to a call or request or command from God. The widow feels like we feel sometimes when we have been obedient but trouble comes to us again even after that. The widow confronted Elijah: “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18). She is basically saying, “why me? Haven’t I had enough misery – losing my husband, and now, my son!” All of us as Christ followers have had those moments in life. You are doing what God asked you to do and you were obedient, had faith, and proceeded with it and now…now…there is hardship, pain, and suffering that follow the obedience.

What should we say to others when they have had tragedy after tragedy, hard times after hard times, things looking bleak even after they have been obedient to the Lord? That’s the thing that I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 17:8-24 for a third time before we move on to the next passage. Let’s read it now with special attention to the last 7 verses of the passage:

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

17 Sometime later, the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”

21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”

In this passage, we see that, even when God has done a miracle in our lives, our troubles may not be over. The famine was a terrible experience for everyone, but especially for those on the margins of society such as a widow and her fatherless child. God’s provision is never given so that we can rest upon it and stay there. The Bible tells us that we are going to have troubles in life as we live in a fallen, sinful world. It tells us that it is a matter of timing rather than whether we are going to have trouble or not. The Bible says “when” you have trouble not “if” you have trouble.

So, that’s the thing that we must see here in this passage is we should have confidence that God will provide for us and get us through every troubled situation using the evidence that we have seen in the past. Sure, in this same situation, we would probably have a similar attitude. Why would God feed them in the first place? If God wanted to take her son, why did He not just do it before even meeting Elijah? They would have died long ago, without Elijah’s visit. I am not shocked by the widow’s response. We often, even as Christ followers, get angry with God. You called me to do this, and I was obedient, and now this? What point are you trying to prove God? Why? Why me? Where was Elijah in all this while the kid got sick? What’s up with that? It reminds you of the Lazarus incident with Jesus. Jesus was told 2 days before that Lazarus was dying. Why did he not intervene then? You know, you’ve been there so the widow’s response is a typical human response. Death as far as we know and have experienced in our lives is pretty doggone final and irreversible. However, in this situation, God was demonstrating his ultimate power over death as an example to the widow that no matter what we can trust God to get us through whatever we are going through. Jesus did the same with Lazarus.

We each have evidential stories of how God has provided for us in the past, even when we reflect on our pre-salvation days. There we can see God’s hand in pointing us to the cross, through his protection from our own stupidity an stupid acts. And, in our days since salvation, we should be even more attuned to the fact that God has seen us through some hard times before…AND HE WILL DO IT AGAIN! Because of Elijah faith in God and His willingness to go forward with God no matter what, God works through Elijah to raise the widow’s son from the dead. Now, there’s some evidence for you. Can the widow be doubtful in the future?

Here we have two people going through a rough time? Elijah bursts on the biblical scene and predicts famine and then he must then go live by a river and have unclean birds bring him his daily food. He was obedient but immediately found hard times. We have a widow who is going through a rough, rough existence without a husband to the point that that she had gotten down to her last meal for herself and her son. Sure, we can have questions for God as to when He will provide and we can earnestly cry out to Him for His help, but we cannot lose faith that He WILL PROVIDE for those who love Him and honor Him. No matter what you are going through, yes, you can question. Yes, you can’t cry out to God with pain, anguish, and hurt! But how often has God NOT provided you what you needed (not what you wanted but what you needed)? How often has God NOT seen you through your troubled waters? How often has God NOT made a way for you even when you did not ask Him for it? NEVER. God always provides. It may not be in our way, our timing, our preference. But HE DOES PROVIDE. Even in the death of a loved one, we may not get the experience of a resurrection of that loved one (although modern science may call it a recovery instead of a resurrection – it still sometimes happens at God’s hand alone), but we can have full assurance that God will line our steps ahead of us and He will use our pain, our experience, our heartaches for His glory through our story – of how trusting in God even in the hardest times will lead to the miracle of provision for our lives that can only be explained as a GOD THING!

I began with a hopeless song from Hee-Haw so I think it is fitting to end with one as well that speaks of trusting God because we know He will provide, we have faith He will provide, so we live knowing and trusting it. It is a song by Elevation Worship called “Do It Again”

Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

But You have never failed me yet

Waiting for change to come

Knowing the battle’s won

For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last

Your Word will come to pass

My heart will sing Your praise again

Jesus, You’re still enough

Keep me within Your love

My heart will sing Your praise again

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Amen and Amen.

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