1 Kings 17:17-24
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…
The miracles wrought by Elijah or associated with his name were for the most part of the nacre of severe judgments, and present the person of the lowly prophet in a stern and terrible light before us. But the two miracles that mark the opening of his career were miracles of mercy, and show that there was another side to his character, one that was tenderly sympathetic and humane. Having at first brought hope and a new lease of life to the starving mother and her child, he now lifts the dark shadow of death from off the desolated home and turns its sorrow into joy. This narrative has a peculiarly pathetic interest, and is suggestive of lessons that touch the deepest realities of human life. It naturally divides itself into two parts, in which we see
(1) the sadness of death and
(2) the joy of restoration.
I. THE SADNESS OF DEATH. That the child was really dead we cannot doubt. "There was no breath left in him." The gleam of hope in the poor widow's condition was suddenly beclouded, and a strange, yet not altogether unnatural, revulsion of feeling took possession of her breast. Thus does an unexpected calamity, especially perhaps when it takes the form of personal bereavement, often work for a while a sad change in the attitude of the soul
1. It darkens the whole horizon of life - quenches the light of other joys. The abundance of meal and oil, and the honour of the prophet's presence are as nothing while the child lies dead in the house. There are sorrows which seem utterly to blot out the sunshine of one's existence, and to be aggravated rather than relieved by the joys that accompany them.
2. It creates resentment against the supposed, or perhaps the real, author of it. "What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?" The prophet, who had proved himself so beneficent a friend, is regarded as an enemy.
3. It's a severe test of one's faith in God. This woman, it may be, was in an intermediate state of mind between blind devotion to the old idolatries and the full acceptance of the faith of Israel How rude a check did this event seem to give to her progress into clearer light! Thus is the faith of men often sorely tried by the adversities of life. This is part of their Divine purpose. The "fiery trial" seems "strange at first, but the meaning and reason of it are revealed afterwards." Happy they whose faith, in spite of the severe strain put upon it, holds fast to the living God - too deeply rooted in the soul to be torn up by any sudden sweeping blast.
4. It awakens the sense of sin. "Art thou come to me to bring my sin to remembrance?" It is significant that the thought of her own sin should be her first thought. The calamity brought this to her remembrance because it seemed to her a sign of God's remembrance of it. Learn that though particular afflictions are not always to be connected with any particular transgression as their cause (John 9:2, 8), yet all sorrow must be traced ultimately to its source in moral evil. It is a true instinct that leads us to think of our sins in times of adversity. Whenever affliction comes to us it should produce tenderness of conscience and call forth the prayer, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me," in order that if there be any secret wrong in ourselves that demands this severe discipline we may have grace to fight against it and cast it out.
II. THE JOY OF RESTORATION. The behaviour of Elijah is beautifully expressive of his deep human sympathy, and also of the intimacy of the relation between himself and God as a man of prayer and the instrument of the Divine energy. Having special regard to the nature and effect of this miracle of restoration, observe that -
1. It is typical of the beneficent ministry of Christ. In Him the power of God came, as it never had before, into healing contact with the flame of our diseased and dying humanity. He took our nature upon Him that He might effectually cure its infirmities and sicknesses. "Virtue" continually went forth from Him. He was the great health-restorer and life giver; and as all the healing ministries of former ages had anticipated His coming, so all true philanthropy since has caught its highest inspiration from the constraint of His love and the force of His example.
2. It is prophetic of the future glorious resurrection. We see here one of the many witnesses that gleam out amid the obscurity of the olden times to the truth that God would surely one day "bring life and immortality to Light," while it points us on to the time when, "at the voice of the son of God, all that are in their graves shall come forth." "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54).
3. It illustrates the joy of a soul that for the first time is made fully conscious of the gracious presence and power of God. "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God," etc. There is a tone of deep satisfaction in these words. It is the satisfaction that springs from the discovery of Divine truth and the vivid sense of God. There is no satisfaction of which the soul of man is capable that can be compared with this. The end of all forms of Divine manifestation - prophetic visitations, miracles, providences, etc. - is this. We reach the highest joy possible to us upon earth when we can say with St. John, "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is tame, and we are in him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 4:20). - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.