Later, the son of the woman who owned the house became ill, and his sickness grew severe, until no breath remained in him.
days (ימים), a term which is by some Hebraists understood, when used without qualification, to denote a year. So the phrase with which the text opens, "And it came to pass after these things," imports that the miracle of raising the widow's son occurred "after" Elijah had been one year in her house. The "things" to which this miracle succeeded were the earlier signs of the presence of God with the prophet, meanwhile the widow read the bereavement her own way.
I. SHE SAW THE HAND OF GOD IN IT.
1. She attributed it to Elijah. "Art thou come unto me, to slay my son."
(1) Not, however, under any notion of unkind. ness to her in the heart of the prophet. For
(a) had she not, and her son with her, been saved from death by famine in connexion with his sojourn in her house?
(b) The heavenly conversation they must have had during the year would preclude such an idea.
(2) Yet here is the fact; and it is written for our learning. The incidents in Scripture, given under Divine inspiration, are therefore to be very particularly noted. They cannot be too carefully or too prayerfully studied.
2. She attributed it to him as a "man of God."
(1) This was not, in her estimation, an ordinary case of death. The circumstances surrounding it were all extraordinary,
(2) At least she saw that it was intended by God for some high purpose. She was right. We should not be wrong so to regard ordinary providences. All God's purposes are high. All His providences are important. His providence is in everything. Life therefore is no stale thing
II. SHE READ HIS REPROACHES IN IT. "Art thou come to call my sin to my remembrance?"
1. We should newer forget that we are sinners.
(2) Death especially should remind us of God, before whose tribunal it conducts us. So it should especially remind us of sin, for it is its wages appointed by God.
2. The remembrance, however, will affect us variously according to our moral state.
(1) Sin, in the first instance, is called to the remembrance of all that they may hate it and forsake it.
(2) To those who have endeavoured to do this, it is still called to remembrance, that they may trust in Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
III. SHE CONNECTED THESE REPROACHES WITH THE PRESENCE OF ELIJAH. "What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?" etc.
1. Why did she do this?
(1) Prophets were sent usually to reprove, and denounce judgments. Hence the coming of Samuel to Bethlehem inspired the magistrates and people with alarm. (See 1 Samuel 16:4.) This bereavement, therefore, might suggest to the widow her sin in general, or some particular sin, though not clearly defined to her as yet.
(2) Or it might have brought home to her some imperfection in the service of God which she had not previously sufficiently considered. Had she adequately appreciated the great privilege of having such a guest?
(3) Was there not in this a confession that she was unworthy of such an honour, and a desire implied that she should be made worthy, lest otherwise his continued presence must become an occasion of judgments? Was not the expression of Peter, with whom Jesus lodged, of similar import when the divinity of the Master was brought vividly before him by the miraculous draught of fishes, and he exclaimed, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord?" (Luke 5:8).
2. Did she not here recognize a great truth?
(1) What sanctifications and consecrations Levites, and more especially sons of Aaron, needed, who had to draw near to God; and how perilous to them, even then, were their approaches to that sacred presence! (Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 15:31; Leviticus 16:2, 18; Leviticus 22:9; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 17:18).
(2) How clean should they be who bear now the vessels of the Lord! How careful unsanctified persons should be not to tamper with holy things! Witness the judgments upon Uzzah and Uzziah. (See 1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:7; 2 Chronicles 26:19, 20.) The sanctification now required is moral, of which the ceremonial was the type.
(3) All shall have to appear in the very presence of the Judge. How shall we stand then? Let us now prepare for that solemnity. - J.A.M.
And it came to pass after these things.— Many a man might bear himself as a hero and saint in the solitudes of Cherith, or on the heights of Carmel, and yet wretchedly fail in the home-life of Zarephath. It is one thing to commune with God in the solitudes of nature, and to perform splendid acts of devotion and zeal for Him in the presence of thousands; but it is quite another to walk with Him day by day in the midst of a home, with its many calls for the constant forgetfulness of self. And yet it would be idle to deny that there is much to try and test us just where the flowers bloom, and the voices of hate and passion die away in distant murmurs. There is a constant need for the exercise of gentleness, patience, self-sacrifice, self-restraint. And beneath the test of home, with its incessant duties and demands, many men break down, whose character seems, like some Alpine peak, to shoot up far beyond the average of those with whom they associate in the busy world. Thy home-life was chosen for thee by the unerring skill of One who knows thee better than thou knowest thyself, and who could not mistake. It has been selected as the best school of grace for thee. And now, looking down upon thee, the Master says: "There is nothing in thy life that may not be lived in Me, for Me, through Me: and I am willing to enable thee to be sweet and noble and saint-like in it all." Elijah was the same man in the widow's house as on Carmel's heights. He is like one of those mountains to which we have referred, piercing the heavens with unscaleable heights; but clothed about the lower parts with woodlands, and verdant fields, and smiling bowers, where bees gather honey, and children play. He shows that when a man is full of the Holy Ghost, it will be evidenced by the entire tenor of his daily walk and conversation.
I. ELIJAH TEACHES US CONTENTMENT. God's rule is — day by day. The manna fell on the desert sands day by day. Our bread is promised to us for the day. As our day, so will our strength be. And they who live like this are constantly reminded of their blessed dependence on their Father's love. If God guarantees, as He does, our support, does it much matter whether we can see the sources from which He will obtain it? It might gratify our curiosity; but it would not make them more sure.
II. ELIJAH ALSO TEACHES US GENTLENESS UNDER PROVOCATION. "Art thou come to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" A remark, so uncalled-for and unjust, might well have stung the prophet to the quick, or prompted a bitter reply. And it would have doubtless done so, had his goodness been anything less than inspired by the Holy Ghost. But one of the fruits of His indwelling is Gentleness. We need more of this practical godliness. Many deceive themselves. If the Holy Spirit is really filling the heart, there will come over the rudest, the least refined, the most selfish, a marvellous change; there will be a gentleness in speech, in the very tones of the voice; a tender thoughtfulness in the smallest actions; a peace passing understanding on the face; and these shall be the evident seal of the Holy Ghost, the mint-mark of heaven. Are they evident in ourselves?
III. ELIJAH TEACHES ALSO THE POWER OF A HOLY LIFE. Somewhere in the background of this woman's life there was a dark deed, which dwarfed all other memories of wrong-doing, and stood out before her mind as her sin — "my sin" (1 Kings 17:18). What it was we do not know; it may have been connected with the birth of that very son. There is a wonderful invention, recently perfected, by which sound can be fixed pictorially; and, from the picture, it may be produced again, long years after it was spoken. Imagine your hearing once again the voices long bushed in death! But memory is like this: it fixes all impressions and retains them; it never permits them to be destroyed, though it may not always be able to produce them instantly to a given call. Some memories are like well-classified libraries, in which you can readily discover even the smallest pamphlet; others are so confused that they are useless for practical purposes: yet even in these, nothing that ever came within their range has ever been lost; and whenever the right clue is presented, there is an immediate resurrection and recovery of sounds, and sights, and trains of thought long buried. How terrible will it be, when the lost soul is met on the threshold of the dark world to which it goes, by the solemn words, "Son, remember!"
IV. ELIJAH TEACHES, LASTLY, THE SECRET OF GIVING LIFE. It is a characteristic of those who are filled with the Holy Ghost, that they carry with them everywhere the spirit of life, even resurrection-life. We shall not only convince men of sin; but we shall become channels through which the Divine Life may enter them. Thus was it with the prophet. But mark the conditions under which alone we shall be able to fulfil this glorious function.
1. Lonely wrestlings. "He took him out of her bosom," etc. We are not specific enough in prayer; and we do not spend enough time in intercession, dwelling with holy ardour on each beloved name, and on each heart-rending case. What wonder that we achieve so little!
2. Humility. "He measured himself upon the child." How wonder. ful that so great a man should spend so much time and thought on that slender frame, and be content to bring himself into direct contact with that which might be thought to defile! It is a touching spectacle.
3. Perseverance. "He measured himself three times, and cried unto the Lord." He was not soon daunted. It is thus that God tests the genuineness of our desire. These deferred answers lead us to lengths of holy boldness and pertinacity of which we should not otherwise have dreamed, but from which we shall never go back. "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
(F. B. Meyer, M. A.)
1. The personal interest, the actual effort; how many times we think about winning some one to Christ, but we let all our interest ooze out in thinking; we do not act.
2. We have suggested to us that we are to save them by prayer. Elijah knew he had no power to bring this boy to life, but he knew God had the power. He gave himself in prayer to God, and God heard his prayer.
3. We must add our personal influence to prayer. Elijah, as if to infuse some of his own vitality into the body of the dead child, stretched himself upon it three times. We never can tell when a personal touch may win a soul to the Lord.
(L. A. Banks, D. D.)
Homilist.The resurrection of the widow's son at Zarephath.
I. MAN THE ORGAN OF THE MIRACULOUS. This is confessedly a miracle — an event altogether out of the ordinary course of nature. In this very chapter there are no less than three miracles wrought by Elijah. The heavens were sealed by him;-there was no rain or dew for three years; and there was a famine. The widow's meal and oil remained undiminished, after supplying the wants of the widow, her son, and himself: — and now her son is brought to life. Why does the Almighty thus employ man as the medium of His miraculous agency?
1. It serves to impress us with the infinite regard which God has for good men.
2. It serves to foreshadow the wonderful power which good men, when perfected in eternity, may possess. May it not be that the grandest of their miracles here are but symbols and types of their splendid achievements there?
II. POVERTY THE HOME OF THE GREAT. Elijah's chamber was a small "loft" in that humble cottage. This should teach us —
1. Not to make secular position a test of moral character. This in every age man has been apt to do. Job's friends did this.
2. Not to make secular wealth an end of life. Our life "consisteth not in the abundance of things."
3. Not to shun men because they are poor.
4. Not to neglect the cultivation of spiritual excellence because of our poverty. Poverty is no excuse either for impiety or uselessness. Paul said, "Though poor, yet making many rich."
III. EVIL THE OCCASION OF GOOD. This woman's trial was great in the death of her son. It would teach her —
1. How absolutely life is in the hands of God. It taught her that He can take it away and give it back at pleasure. "The Lord gave," etc.
2. How great the influence a truly good man has with heaven.
1. The first is this, Trust and Obey. The departure from Cherith, the journey through Samaria, the encounter with a widow so poor that she was forced to gather sticks by the highway, were all a severe test of Elijah's faith. He had to look, not at outward appearances, but at the word of the Lord. So, too, with the widow. If she had asked for a full barrel and a new cruse to start with, it would have been only what our hearts are always craving. We say, "Give us this day our daily bread," but we like to see an assured income between us and want.
2. But the woman was to learn a deeper lesson still. It may be summed up in Remember and Repent. Before long God's hand was laid upon her son, and he fell sick and died. This awakened memories that had slumbered long. "Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" We do not know whether it was her general sinfulness that was brought home to her or some particular offence — some forgotten sin, buried and covered over in the rubbish-heap of the past. We notice, however, that this sense of sin was not awakened until death threatened her home, and her own son paid the first instalment of the dread penalty of sin. And yet surely she had not been resisting God's grace. The word of the Lord in Elijah's mouth had not been rejected by her. It needed death, however, to bring about in this widow a true sense of sin. "Grace and Truth" are both needed for the development of spiritual life. Grace was manifest in the daily supply of food. Truth shone forth with awful and searching power in the death of her son. Grace revealed the goodness of God — Truth made to pass before her the evil of her own heart. And God's people, as well as the careless and ungodly, need to remember and repent.
3. Our third motto is Ask and Receive. There are deep mysteries in life which yield to nothing but prayer. What a tangle there was in that home! How mysterious — how, from the human standpoint, inexplicable, the blow that had fallen! We are all prejudiced against God by nature, and unwilling to accept judgment without murmuring. But in this case God's dealings must have seemed terribly severe. There is one explanation, however, of all these mysterious and inexplicable dealings of God's providence. They are sent to teach us the value of prayer, to draw us out of ourselves, and to make us lay hold of that power of God, which reaches even beyond the grave. What a prayer was this of Elijah's! Prayer is still all-powerful along the line of God's will. We, too, may know the power of Christ's resurrection; indeed, a measure of resurrection power should be manifest in our lives, if we are indeed risen with Christ.
4. Love and know, is illustrated by this story. It is beyond our power to conceive the deep effect upon this widow of her son's resurrection. "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God," was the widow's comment. Clearly the bitterness had given place to love. She had learnt that God only wounds to heal.
(F. S. Webster, M. A.)
I. NO HOME EXEMPT FROM THE TRIALS AND SUFFERINGS OF THIS LIFE. This widow would doubtless be looked upon with envy by her neighbours. They would think that in the midst of the distress suffered by them that she was free, and protected by an unseen hand from wretchedness and woe. But a deeper sorrow than they imagined was soon her portion. And in looking upon some homes we are apt to think that they are strangers to the ordinary trials and sorrows of life. There is no home that can exclude these.
II. THE DEEPEST SORROW MAY BE MADE THE INSTRUMENT OF OUR HIGHEST GOOD.
III. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE POWER OF PRAYER.
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