1 Kings 17: Pointing to Jesus

Jesus on Every Page (610x351)Jesus says that all, not some, but all the Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39). And so when we ponder our Old-Testament reading for today, we should ask, “How does Elijah, the widow, and her son point me to Jesus?”

But before we go there, let’s review last week’s Old-Testament reading. For today’s Old-Testament reading is the second half of the story. In the first half, Elijah meets a widow and her son. They are about to starve to death, running out of food because of a severe drought. But Elijah approaches the woman and asks her for some food.

She tells him:

“I don’t have any food, just a handful of flour in a bowl and some oil left in a jar. I’m collecting a couple of sticks to make one final meal for my son and me. Then we’ll eat the last of the food and die.” [1 Kings 17:12]

But God told Elijah that she could feed him. So, Elijah tells her: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. ‘Until the Lord sends rain on the land, that jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry’” (1 Kings 17:14).

Elijah brought the woman a word of hope. She would not run out of food and die of starvation. She needn’t worry, for the Lord God will take care of her as He has chosen to do! She rejoices.

What happened to Elijah and that woman was a true event. And God the Holy Spirit made sure to include that in the Scriptures. But why? It wasn’t so we could learn something and think, “What an awesome God we have.” If that’s what we get from what God was doing through Elijah, then we miss the point.

How does that story direct us to Jesus? We’ll get to that. But we still need to learn more about the widow. For that widow was what we call a “theologian of glory.” That means that she saw how well she was doing with God based on how well her life was going, not based on God’s Word.

Well, what happens when you do that? Your faith-life is in for a bumpy ride. For a distressing turn of events can happen to someone faithfully living the Christian life. And something good can happen to someone who is in the thick of some evil plot.

So, there was the widow, basking in the glow of the mountain peak—we won’t starve to death! Hooray! And she was faithfully doing what God had given her to do. She was baking bread with the flour and oil, providing for Elijah and her son.

Life was good. God was blessing her. Of course she’s in good with God because her life is going well! And then her son dies! She crashes and burns.

With the doom of death before her eyes, she feels that Elijah has come to bring God’s judgment. Ah, basing your faith-life on feelings is always risky, isn’t it? For feelings come and go. They may or may not reflect your standing before God. How does she know that Elijah has come to deliver God’s judgment on her? She doesn’t.

But that’s what she feels. She has allowed her feelings to override God’s promises. So, she tells Elijah, “Man of God, what do you have against me? Did you come to me to confront me with my sin and kill my son?” She doesn’t get it.

Elijah came for her benefit. He came to give her the word that brings life, not death. But she sees her dead son and feels that God must be punishing her for some sin that she did. She thinks that her standing with God is because of her righteousness, not on the righteousness that God gives her.

That’s what the Law does. It brings the knowledge of sin. And when we see our sin, we see the reality of death, which is the wages of sin. She felt the sting of death and remembered her sin—not that God didn’t count her sin against her. The widow needed to hear more of God’s Word, not listen to her feelings.

Now, God’s Word does need to tell us how we have failed. But that isn’t to make us feel bad about ourselves; it’s to get us not to rely on ourselves to make ourselves right with God. It’s to diagnose our sickness before God gives us His healing medicine.

So, Elijah cries out to the LORD: “O Lord, my God, have you brought disaster on the widow I’m staying with by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself over the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord, my God, let this child’s soul come back to him.” [1 Kings 17:20-21]

Elijah acts as a mouthpiece for the widow. He brings the woman’s pain and emotions before God, interceding for her as God calls us to do. By his prayer, Elijah teaches her to pray to God, having faith in His promises to hear her and act as He chooses to do, not to trust in her feelings.

Okay, so somehow this points me to Jesus. Yes, it does—and we’ll get there. But we still have more to learn about the widow. She then hears the voice of God from the lips of Elijah: “Look, your son is alive” (1 Kings 17:23).

She then cries out, “Now I know that you are a man of God and the Lord’s word from your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:24). Elijah asked God to raise her son from the dead, and that’s what God did.

Elijah, the woman, and her son point us to Jesus. Before Elijah arrived, death was ready to claim the woman and her son. But Elijah came to make sure that they had bread to live. In John chapter 6, Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

We are all on death’s doorstep, as the woman and her son. For who here will escape death? No one. To this, Jesus, the Bread of Life, says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).

And yet, this living forever still includes death. Eternal life, after all, is living without sin’s corruption and death. And such life cannot exist while sinful flesh still clings to us. And so we still die. We die just like the widow’s son died.

He ate the miracle bread that God provided, but he still died.   But the story’s not over yet. Elijah “stretched himself over the boy three times” (1 Kings 17:21) before God brought him back to life.

Why did Elijah stretch himself over the boy, not once, not twice, but three times? It was to point us to Jesus. As the boy would not rise to life until Elijah had stretched himself over the boy the third time, so Jesus would not rise from the dead until the third day. That’s not a coincidence. All Scripture points us to Jesus!

What Elijah did, drew attention to Jesus. For Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Just as God sent Elijah to the widow to bring life instead of death, so also did God send His Son, Jesus, to us to bring us life, not death. Jesus doesn’t come, just to remind us of our sins. That would be like the doctor saying you’re sick but then leaving you there to die. No, Jesus comes to give us that which gives life—Himself!

As we continue to make our way in the fallen world, it’s easy for us to let something other than God’s Word to tell us how we’re doing with God. That’s what the widow did. But God calls us away from judging our faith-life by our feelings and basing it on what He says, His Word. So, don’t trust your feelings, learn to trust in what God says.

Throughout our lives, we are to hear the voice of Jesus declaring that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Think about it. The few times that God raised someone from the dead, it was always to point to Jesus’ resurrection.

But does Jesus’ resurrection point us to anything? Yes! Romans, chapter 6, tells us:

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into His death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we will also be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. [Romans 6:3-5]

When you’re in Jesus, and when He’s in you, His resurrection then becomes your resurrection. Think about everyone whom God raised from the dead. They all later died. God raised them from the dead to lead us to Jesus’ resurrection, which, in turn, points us to our resurrection from the dead. If we don’t get that point, then we’ll just get mad at God for not bringing someone we love back to life.

God raised the widow’s son to direct us—and all people—to what Jesus would do. He will return on the Last Day and raise our bodies from the dust of death. But those bodies will be different. For they will be sinless; then we will have a real life, for our sinful flesh will be no more. We will reign with God in the new heaven and earth.

But for us, right now, death still looms large. That’s why we need to eat the Bread of Life, Jesus, to prepare us for the death that awaits. And how do we know that? Jesus, the Bread of Life, tells us. He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him to life on the Last Day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:54). So, receive Him as He comes to you in His body and blood, that He may raise you to life on the Last Day. Amen.