Ahab was the wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel. He married Jezebel who worshiped Baal, and together they led Israel in great wickedness. The Lord had caused prophets, such as Jehu, to curse the kings of Israel for practicing unrighteous dominion over the people of Israel. The Lord was prepared to humble the people. Chapter 17 begins with the following:
1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
2 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
5 So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
Elijah was a prophet, who went to Ahab and cursed the land with a drought and famine, which would only be ended by his word. I believe he was able to do this, because he held the sealing power from God, which allowed men the ability to close up the heavens by their word. Then, the Lord told Elijah to go into hiding, where the Lord would provide water from the brook Cherith and food from the ravens. Elijah, like so many other prophets, went into hiding and the ravens brought him bread and meat each day and he drank from the brook. However, because of the drought in the land, the brook eventually dried up.
The work of a prophet is to bring people unto the Lord, mainly by calling them to repentance. This is not meant to be words that are pleasing for the people to hear. People engrossed in sin, especially the great sins that were everywhere in the days of Elijah, are not going to take these words well. It is no surprise that Elijah would have a threat come upon him. The Lord had a work for Elijah to do, and because Elijah was faithful to His command to hide, Elijah was sustained with the necessities of life. Elijah had to be a man full of faith and hope. He had been willing to go to the king who was not living righteously and had the power to kill him, and speak of a curse. I am sure that he knew the people would feel that he, Elijah, had brought this curse upon them, rather than look to themselves and repent of their wicked ways. And then, in faith, trusting in the sustaining power of the Lord, he went into hiding.
8 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.
15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.
The Lord told Elijah to go to Zarephath, where he would be sustained by a widow. Elijah followed the direction of the Lord, and found a widow gathering sticks at the entrance of the city. He asked her to get him some water to drink. As she went, he also asked her for some bread as well. She told Elijah that she did not have any bread, but that she had a small portion of meal (flour) and oil, that she was going to prepare for herself and her son to eat as their last meal. Elijah told her to faithfully do as she had said, but bring him a little first before making for herself and her son. He promised her that the Lord would provide meal and oil until the drought had ended with rain. She did what Elijah had commanded her to do, and the promise was fulfilled. Her flour and oil did not fail her by becoming empty. This was a huge blessing from acting with faith in a prophet and the promises of the Lord that he spoke.
Again, Elijah showed faith and trust in God, and the power to sustain him. He must have known that he was on the Lord’s errand because he had been helped to this point. As a man of God, I am sure Elijah was a man of compassion. I cannot imagine what it would have felt like, knowing his own hunger, to ask the widow to part with what she felt was her last meal and give it to him instead. I know he could not have asked it of her, unless he felt sure that the Lord would provide all that she needed to survive.
Greater faith would have been required by the widow in this story. She had not been sustained by the Lord during this season of famine. She was sure her death was soon at hand and she had such a simple desire to share a last meal with her son. To have a man come to her and command that she bring him food with that precious last meal, must have been a hard choice for her. This choice to sacrifice would have meant the difference between a few more days of living with her son. She trusted in the word of Elijah and had faith in his promises.
17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.
18 And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?
19 And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.
20 And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again.
22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.
After this miracle of provisions had taken place, the widows son was taken ill and died. She pleaded with Elijah, as the prophet, asking if he came to them to remind her of her own sins and then to take her son from her by death. Elijah commanded the widow to bring her son to him, which she did. He took her son to the place where Elijah slept, and laid him on the bed. Then, he prayed to God, stretching himself on the boy three times, asking that he would have his soul again. God answered the prayer of Elijah and allowed his soul to return to him. The boy was raised from the dead. Elijah took the boy to his mother.
24 And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.
The woman testified that she knew then, that Elijah was a man of God or a prophet, and that his words were the true word of the Lord. This testimony must have given her hope in her own future, and greater faith in the Lord. When we experience the hand of God in our own lives, we should also recognize what that means to us, and be willing to testify of those things to others. When we do this, we are uplifted and others around us can be edified and strengthened by our words.
What a sweet miracle this woman received through her faith and diligence in following the words of the prophet. This was a time of suffering for the people in the land, and she was provided for because she put the Lord’s servant before herself when asked. Then, God blessed her with the continued companionship of her son, even after death had separated them. This should be an example to us, that as we diligently follow the commands of the prophets, which are the word of God, we can have miracles in our own lives. Moreover, we can have our own faith strengthened and be able to bear a mighty testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ.