“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. 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” (1 Kings 17:17-24).
It is always wonderful when life goes well. It is a happy time when the bills are paid, and there is money left over at the end of the month. There is great joy when the family is healthy, the children are obedient, friends are faithful, and the church is in the midst of a spiritual renewal. The challenge to our faith comes when the money is not readily available, there is sickness in the family, the children are disrespectful, friends prove faithless, and the church members hurt more than they comfort.
These are the times that try men’s souls. It seems that there is a dark side to Providence. The woman of Zarephath experienced the dark side of Providence as well as the bright side. When the prophet Elijah came to her and worked a miracle of grace, how easy it was to love God and give Him the glory. How effortless did the widow minister to God’s servant. He was welcomed in her home. She could not do enough. Since God came into her life in a mighty way, things had been so different.
Joy replaced despair.
Death was dismissed from all thoughts.
Her heart was happy.
Miracles were being performed every day.
But the blessings of Divine grace were not to last.
There was going to be some difficult moments for the widow.
Her faith was going to be tried in a way that would shake her to the foundation of her being, for, 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 sure, that there was no breath left in him.
The details of the death of this child are not given. What is certain is that it was sudden, and unexpected. Once, the woman had been prepared for the worst. Once the shadow of death had cast its pale over both mother and son. But then came grace, and life changed for the better. God came. He sent His prophet. Life was full, sweet, and pleasant once more. How was it possible for her child to die? Did she deserve the severity of His hand? The immediate reaction to the disturbing situation was to blame Elijah. With tears in her eyes and anguish in her voice, the woman reproached Elijah. Bitterly she asked, “What have I to do with thee…”
The clear implication is that any relationship she had with Elijah was over. To this wound came sarcasm. “O thou man of God?” The woman wanted to know how a true prophet could come into her house and let her son die? In her pain the woman looked at Elijah with a new perception. Her perception was not true. It was not kind. It was not fair.
However, perception becomes reality in times of crisis. Secret motives are often assigned to the most innocent of hearts. The woman suspected that the real reason behind the prophet’s presence was to judge her sin, and execute her son. Though there was nothing in Elijah’s history that would suggest such a thing, the charge still stood. Elijah was now guilty of heinous things until he could prove his innocence.
Once an untrue accusation has been made, once a charge has been leveled against the character of a minister, what can be done to correct, or even to challenge what has been said? The sad, harsh reality is summarized in one word: nothing.
Elijah could not defend his character, or his conduct, but he did what he could. He continued to minister to the woman and show her love. Most men would have left this situation immediately but not Elijah. Despite the fact that he had been criticized unfairly, and his motives questioned, he still tried to help this hurting heart according to grace and the will of the Lord (cp. Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:39). Ignoring the personal attacks, Elijah said to the woman in a gentile voice, “Give me thy son.”
Elijah did not demand anything. He did not wrestle the dead child from his mother arms. He asked that the situation be placed back in his hands. There was something compelling about the way Elijah spoke that convinced the mother to relinquish the child. With a broken heart, she handed her son to Elijah. The prophet carried the child up into a loft where he slept. Elijah placed the little one on his own bed.
And then the prophet prayed. He really prayed. He was alone with God, but he was with God. With an anguished heart, Elijah cried unto the Lord, and prayed a prayer that God will hear. The prayer was characterized by fervency, integrity, and earnestness.
The prayer was grounded in the attributes of God’s mercy, and His honor. And the Lord listened. 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the LORD are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the LORD is against them that do evil.” Consider the spiritual lessons of this passage.
First, as there is a bright side to God’s Providence, there is a dark side as well.
Second, the dark side of Providence is the result of men’s rebellion and sin. We should not be surprised, for change and decay is all around in everything we see.
Third, we must never think our troubles are over, for man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards.
Fourth, the place of death is the place of miracles, but the place of miracles is also the place of death.
Fifth, death and sorrow is no sign of God’s abandonment. “For whom the LORD loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6).
Sixth, how easily do our friends turn against us, abandon us and blame us in times of testing.
Seventh, not all people react as well as Job did (2:10; 1:21), and so it would be good to prepare our hearts to forgive.
Finally, this is the first resurrection mentioned in the Bible, but not the last. It is really the first resuscitation in the Bible, for, in the best usage of the word, once a resurrection takes place, there is no more death. Still, it is a wonderful preview of things to come. On the other side of the dark side of Providence, there is more glory and more grace to follow.