1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)
Prior to our Hebrew Bible reading Elijah proclaimed a drought brought on by God because of the sins of Ahab and Jezebel and the Israelites who followed them. The drought as a punishment and prophetic sign was significant because Ahab and Jezebel championed and worshipped “Baal” who was the god of rain and fertility. In bringing on the drought YHWH, the God of the Israelites, and Elijah his prophet showed their superiority to Baal and the prophets of Baal.
Because of the drought food is scarce and Elijah is unable to find the sustenance he needs to survive. God instructs Elijah to travel to Zarephath in Sidon and be fed by a widow. These are unusual instructions since Zeraphath was in the heartland of Baal worship. Nevertheless Elijah obeys. Elijah finds the widow in terrible straights. Her own food supplies are dangerously low (she only has a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug and is about ready to prepare her last meal). To make matters worse her son is deathly ill. Elijah asks her to have faith that God can provide, and instructs her to first make him a cake from her provisions and only then to make something for herself and her son. Elijah promises the widow that until the rain comes her jar of meal would not run empty nor her jug of oil.
During Elijah’s stay the widow’s son takes a turn for the worse. This causes the widow to question the blessings brought on by Elijah’s presence. She wonders if by allowing Elijah to lodge in her home she has brought about the death of her child. Elijah assures her that this is not the case by reviving her son who was “without breath.” In response the widow offers a statement of faith, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
Psalm 30 provides an appropriate response to our Hebrew Bible Leciton. It is a psalm of thanksgiving, praising God for deliverance from a bad circumstance–“His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.” The condition that the psalmist was delivered from was very dire, similar in seriousness to the condition that plagued the widow’s son, “O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.” The response to the healing of God is praise. The psalmist openly confesses that it is easy to praise God in good times, and it is a difficult thing to feel God’s absence and still remain filled with praise. However, when God answers our cries for help during the hard circumstances of life it brings forth a deep and resounding praise.
In our epistle reading Paul instructs the Galatians as to the origin of the gospel he proclaimed to them. Paul assures his readers that his gospel was not of his own making, nor did it come from another human. Rather, the gospel that Paul preached came directly from God in the person of Jesus Christ. In particular Paul takes pains to separate himself from Jerusalem’s influence. Paul is not acting as an envoy for any political body within the newly formed church. He is not out there risking his life to please an agenda comprised of earthly opinions.
Jesus is in Nain. This location is very near where Elijah healed the son of the widow of Zeraphath. Here Jesus raises the dead son of a widow of Nain. The parallels are fully intended. Even some of the wording in Greek found in the gospel of Luke is identical to the wording used in the Septuagint translation of 1 Kings 17. The story links Jesus with the prophetic ministry of Elijah. Many expected that in the last days a prophet like Elijah would come to the people. Jesus fulfills this expectation by doing the same miracle in the same location. Just as the widow of Zerpaphath identified Elijah as a prophet of God by the miracle he worked, so Jesus is also identified as God’s prophet in Nain.
Celebration of Worship: As you prepare your hearts and minds for worship consider the ability of God to bring to life things that seem lifeless. There is perhaps no greater fingerprint of God on the cosmos then God’s ability to resurrect that which is dead and gone. Both the widow of Zeraphath and the widow of Nain agree.