1 Kings 17:17-24 – Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God

1 Kings 17v17-24


Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God.




Death in a family is always difficult. The younger the deceased the more tragic it seems. Although the idea that somehow it is easier to die when you are older doesn’t hold much water. When the death is a child it somehow seems more tragic though!

This past fortnight . two friends we knew in SA died – both young mothers – one of leukaemia (Gill Ostroom) and the other savagely murdered (Shirley – nee Wyness)


Death raises in us many fears and questions!


1. Death: a devastating event.


This widow in Zarephath was no exception – her young son becomes ill and eventually dies. What is interesting is that before Elijah entered their lives She and her son were preparing for death and expecting it – it seems they had resigned themselves to it. 1 Kings 17:12 “…. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.” (NIV)


BUT then enter Elijah – God miraculously provides flour and oil – he stays in the upper room. The widow has exercised a certain faith in responding to God’s promise to provide. She has experienced God’s grace in the never-ending supply of Flour and oil. Life settles into a routine with a certain amount of security – BUT she is about to be tested more severely – tragedy strikes!!! – The boy dies.

Exercising faith in God is not a one-off event. The Bible teaching that we are to walk by faith // live by faith not sight (2 Cor.5v7) It is an ongoing process that is tested again and again.

How will this widow and indeed Elijah cope with God’s latest testing?


2. The Widow – a cry from a broken-heart.


Only those who have lost a loved-one, esp. a child can begin to appreciate the searing pain in the heart of this widow. Her grief and anger and pain is expressed in an outburst against Elijah. Yesterday’s hero becomes tomorrow’s scapegoat. Once Elijah the man of the moment is now the murderer in her eyes.

1 Kings 17:18 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (NIV)


Let’s us not judge her too severely. Sometimes in grief or pain we say things we later regret.

Elijah is God’s man – God’s representative – and she is angry and hurt and bitter – and Elijah is the nearest and most convenient target.

NB – how she quickly links the death of her son with something evil she did in the past. It is true that children sometimes suffer consequences of parent’s sins BUT God doesn’t punish children for their parents – Jesus and the man born blind. John 9:2-3  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (NIV)

In Zarephath, too God’s power would be shown.


BUT this widow is angry and Elijah is in the firing line.

Three bullets:-

  • “Elijah, you have something against me!”
  • “Elijah, you remind me of my sin!”
  • “Elijah, you killed my son!!”


She feels a mixture of hurt, grief and guilt and she looks for someone to blame.


3. Elijah: Response

– Silent in the face of accusation.


You know what is so impressive about Elijah at this point – He says nothing!!!

He doesn’t try to defend his position or his pride – in spite of being falsely accused.

He doesn’t argue with her. // doesn’t rebuke her. // doesn’t remind her how much he has done for her // or how ashamed she should be for blaming him // he doesn’t go off in a huff to leave her in her grief and self-pity.


Elijah has learned a thing or two in his years of testing.


–         Compassionate in his reaction to the widow.


Spiritual maturity s able to take / absorb the outbursts of anger and grief and blame and to see beyond these to the deep need. Selfishness and immaturity takes it personally, becomes defensive, withdraws and leaves the person in need unhelped and alone!!


Elijah’s action is to reach out and take the boy from his grieving mother – to take her burden // her pain // her anguish on himself.

Sound familiar – Isaiah says of Jesus, “… surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”


–         Passionate in his approach to God.


Elijah may have been silent before the woman but he is not silent before God

1 Kings 17:20 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” (NIV)

It is before God that he raises the tough questions.  Elijah is open and rather blunt, even abrupt and angry, with God. “Lord what are you doing? I come here in your name, she takes me in and cares for me and now this?! Whjat’s going on?!”

Ever felt like that? Angry with God – questioning!!?

It is not wrong to ask questions BUT we have no right to demand an answer!


Elijah is not only passionate in his questions but also passionate in his requests!

1 Kings 17:21 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” (NIV)


Now what is going on here. There is no precedent in history to this point. The nearest we get is Enoch (Gen.5v24) who didn’t die but was simply taken straight to glory!

Elijah can’t look back as we can – to the cross and resurrection – Indeed this is a pointing forward to the cross. A taste of what is to come – that God is the God of the Life and Death.


Why stretch himself out over the boy 3x – not told. Maybe he is saying “Lord, take my life in the place of this child – give him my breathe!!”

The point is that Elijah recognises that in such circumstances God and only God has a solution.

What God is trying to teach Elijah and this widow, and the Nation of Israel and us too is that he, and he alone is God and holds the keys of death and life.


In the face of death no idol – least of all Baal could restore life from death.


1 Kings 17:22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. (NIV)


Wider context.

Before we look at the widow’s response let’s zoom out and look at the wider context, which is vitally important. In fact the wider view is much more important than the individual story of this widow’s son.


In response to Elijah’s prediction in the face of King Ahab it has not rained and the famine is severe. What is going on?


God warned Israel when they entered the Promised Land that he would bless them and send rain and good crops IF they obeyed his commands and worshipped him only.

BUT Israel (Northern tribe) had had a series of kings who turned away from God and worshipped idols – the nation went into steep spiritual decline and all the warning of impending punishment went unhindered.

Instead of looking to God for their well-being they looked to idols – Baal – the god of wind and rain and fire – life  – fertility.

In Canaanite mythology the gods were often portrayed as being at war.

At the end of the growing season the god “Mot” (death) defeated Baal who descended into the nether world and stayed there until the dry season was over.

Then with the help of his consort, Anat, he would return from the realms of death bring life-giving rain for the crops – Baal was the source of life and he annually defeated death. (Except he hadn’t been doing to well lately!!


BUT Israel should have known better … God had long ago told them who was behind the growing seasons. Genesis 8:22

22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night    will never cease.” (NIV)

Israel’s God didn’t have to die each year to bring life to the earth!!


SO the issue of POWER is again raised – right here in Zarephath – on Baal’s turf. Baal’s alleged power over life was at best indirect – it was one thing for the rains to come or not come and crops to fail or not. BUT to bring a dead person back to life!! Even in Canaanite mythology Baal could not return from death each year without help – SO what good was he in raising the widow’s son?


In reality Baal was just as dead as the wood used to make his image – He was simply the product of warped / sinful human imaginations.


Humans are ever ready and willing to trust in idols! Today in our so-called sophisticated world we do not bow to statues made of wood or stone. BUT we have plenty of other idols – things that we serve in order to establish and maintain our sense of wholeness and well-being. Money, material things, jobs, position, pleasure, influence and even other people. BUT all end in the grave. Like Baal these things cannot deal with the great leveller – death.

What in this life do you have that will go with you to the grave???


Just like Elijah going into the territory of Baal and showing God’s superior power right in the centre of Baal worship SO TOO Jesus in a greater way takes the battle to the enemy’s home turf. Satan’s great power is death

Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — (NIV)

After his death and before his resurrection Jesus enters Satan’s domain – he descends into Hades / the grave and shows himself to be Lord over death as well as life.


Baal worshipper thought that Baal was in control – BUT Elijah’s God shows himself to LORD. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”

And no matter how much people may erect idols to the contrary, the earth and life and death and all creation belongs to God.


It is interesting that as Elijah takes the dead boy to his upper room so in Jesus in the upper room with his disciples at his last meal before his death he teaches them “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14)


And Elijah stretches himself out to cover the boy’s death – the Son of God, God’s True Man, the God-Man, is stretched out on a cross bring life to a world dead in sin.


And isn’t it ironic that the widow think that her son has died  because of her sin! BUT in reality her son could never be given as a price for her sin. Only God could give his Son to pay that price.


SO this is not just a story about a widow’s son who comes back to life – like some fairy tale “Once upon a time ….. and  …. They lived happily ever after

This is about HE who is the One True God  – whose power is over all the earth, and over life and death itself!


People spend billions to extend life and search for immortality – what else explains the obsession to remain young looking – but they refuse to come to the One who can give it. WHY? Because like our forebears, Adam and Eve, we think we know better than God himself.


4. The widow – a faith response.


Elijah return’s with her son alive. He simply gives him back. No long explanations – he doesn’t say, “Wow! look what happens when I pray” – God’s power has been demonstrated and God’s word has been proved true.


1 Kings 17:24  Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (NIV)


Her response is one of faith in the word of God because she has seen in demonstrated through the man of God.

Do the people we live and work with see the Word of God, the power of God at work in and through us.


Oh!”, you say, “If only God would raise the dead today then people will believe!” NO! In spite of all the miracles Israel witnessed they still turned away from God and followed useless idols.


ILLUS.: Jesus told story of Rich man and a beggar named Lazarus .. both die .. Rich man to Hades and poor Lazarus to heaven Abraham’s bosom.  Rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers ….

Luke 16:29-31     29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (NIV)


The Bible teaches us that the Christian life is a life of faith – we walk by faith not by sight – we are to believe God and take him at his word.

He has spoken supremely in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus and IF we will not believe that then there is no hope.


BUT as God’s people we are called like Elijah to live out that life of faith in the real world.

ILLUS.: Story this week of a farm hand who came to the Pastor and said he wanted to become a Christian – because for 15 years he had watch the farmer’s life and had seen a consistently honest, upright, compassionate man – “Now I am convinced his Faith and his God are true and I want what he’s got!”


Can our families and friends and colleagues look at us and like the widow say, “I have watched you – through ups and downs // through joys and heartaches // And now I know that that you are a man // woman of God and that word of the Lord from your mouth is the Truth!”

May this be true of us  — for God’s sake!




Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God.


1 Kings 17v17-24


1. Death: a devastating event.


2. The Widow: a cry from a broken-heart.


–     She feels a mixture of hurt and anger, grief and guilt and she looks for someone to blame.


3. Elijah: his response


– Silent in the face of accusation.

–     Compassionate in his reaction to the widow.

–     Passionate in his approach to God.


4. The Widow: a faith response.


–     to the witness of Elijah

–     to the Word of God


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