1 Kings 17 has so much in it, it’s almost impossible to cover it all in one devotion. It starts with Elijah standing before King Ahab and declaring that there wouldn’t be rain for the next few years, except at Elijah’s command. We need a little context for this. King Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, a foreigner, who worshiped Baal. Baal was the Phoenician fertility god that supposedly sent rain. Jezebel was actively trying to cause Israel to worship Baal, and was trying to eliminate the worship of Jehovah, the one true God.
God had made promises to Moses long before in Deuteronomy 11:13-14, “If you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine, and oil.” In Deuteronomy 28, we find the curses for turning away from God. In verses 23-24, we find, “the sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.”
Remember that God always keeps his word, whether it is the promise of blessing for obedience, or of cursing for disobedience. And in Israel, at that time, the country had already been worshiping the two calf idols that Jeroboam had made many generations before. Now, the Israelites were increasing their rebellion by completely turning away from God, so God sent Elijah to Ahab to punish the country, and to set up a showdown three and a half years later to prove once and for all who was the real God.
Once Elijah had delivered his message, God sent him to a ravine, where ravens brought him food twice a day, and he drank from a brook – until it dried up.
Then, God sent Elijah to a poor widow in a foreign country. Elijah asked her for some water and food. The widow told him (1 Kings 17:12), “I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I’m gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, so that we may eat it – and die.”
Elijah told her that if she baked that bread for him, after that, she could bake some for herself and for her son – because God would cause the flour and oil not to run out until the famine was over. If you were that widow, would you have given your last meal to a stranger? She did, and as a result of her faith and God’s blessing, her flour and oil did not run out – just like Elijah had said.
Eventually, the widow’s son got sick and died. Elijah prayed, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” And in verse 22, we read, “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.” Incredible!
I see several applications in this chapter to us today.
Elijah was a godly man. His name meant “the Lord (Jehovah) is my God”, and his name fits. And this was at a time when virtually everyone else had forsaken God. It’s only because Elijah was a godly man that his prayers were so powerfully answered, and that God protected him. We too need to be godly if we want good things from God.
Elijah went where God told him to go, and when God told him to go there. Presumably, God sent Elijah to Ahab. We know that God sent him to the Kerith Ravine – and because of his obedience, God provided for him. Then, after the brook dried up, Elijah didn’t go anywhere until God told him to go to Zarephath and meet up with the widow God had arranged. Again Elijah obeyed, and God provided. We need to be willing to do what God says, when he says it, if we expect God to provide for us.
Elijah experienced hardship, even though he was obviously doing God’s will. He certainly didn’t have a life of ease, but God did provide for his needs. We can expect the same.
Elijah could pray! He prayed that there would be a drought, and it happened. He prayed that the boy would be resurrected, and he was. We’re told in James 5:17-18, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” Yes, these were incredible miracles, but God did the miracles, not Elijah. Elijah was a person just like us, but he was close to God, and God answered his prayers. If we want our prayers to be answered, we too need to be close to God.
Everything Elijah was able to do was because of his obedience to God. How do you compare?
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- God has a way of creatively providing for those who obey Him. How did God provide for Elijah’s needs? How have you experienced God’s providence?
- What was the widow asked to do to help provide for the man of God? Why do you think she did it? How can God use you to help provide for His faithful people in hard times? What are you willing to sacrifice to be used by God in this way? What do you think would have happened to her if she had declined helping and fed herself and her son first? What would have happened to Elijah?
- What do you think of Elijah’s prayer life? What do you think of yours? What do you think contributed to Elijah’s prayer life? If you want to see your prayer life deepen and expand, what steps should you take? How serious are you about it?