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1 Kings 17:17-25 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 34 secs

The Living God, The Only Source of Life. 1 Kings 17:17-24


Zarephath was located 14 miles north of Tyre, eight miles south of Sidon. It was about 100 miles from Cherith where Elijah had been hidden out for the past year or so. Elijah had to move through 100 miles of hostile territory to get to Zarephath (which means smelting or refining). This was certainly a time when God was going to refine Elijah in his spiritual growth and continue to teach him to trust in God on a day by day basis in training him and preparing him for what he is going to be used to do in chapter eighteen—the confrontation of the false prophets of Baal and the Asherah. Zarephath is mentioned in the New Testament in Luke chapter four. What Jesus was pointing out was that there was such a level of negative volition, hostility and rejection of the truth in the northern kingdom of Israel that the only person who was exhibiting positive volition to God to respond to His command to take care of Elijah was the widow of Zarephath: that there was no one qualified in the northern kingdom of Israel to whom the Lord could send Elijah for protection. So the Lord is taking that and applying it to Nazareth and saying that they have the same kind of negative volition now that the northern kingdom exhibited in the time of Elijah, and for that reason He was not going to perform any miracles there either.


So God was in control. It doesn't matter how unstable the economy looks, no matter how uncertain the weather report is or how empty the pantry is. The widow's pantry had just enough to get them by for one more day, but what matters is what God's resources are and not what man's resources are. So Elijah is going to again learn what it is to walk day by day, to depend upon God in terms of the faith-rest drill ion a day to day basis. 2 Peter 1:3 NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." He has given us the logistics we need to handle life—food, shelter, clothing, finances. Whatever it is that we need to fulfill God's mission for our life He provides for us. If we don't have it, then God says we don't need it in order to do what He wants us to do. "Godliness" is eusebeia [e)usebeia] and this comes through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, through the study of His Word we learn who He is, what He has provided for us, and we learn His excellencies, His attributes. His character is what backs His promises. In the faith-rest drill we are claiming His promises in order that by them we might become sharers of the divine nature. This means that we participate in His provision for us so that our character is transformed into the character of Jesus Christ. This is exemplified in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five.


Romans 12:2—we are exchanging the concepts of worldly thinking for biblical thinking. That is an important principle to understand. That summarizes the whole process of our spiritual life. We are to learn to identify the elements in our thinking that come out of the cosmic system around us. There are some elements in our thinking that we easily spot from the beginning of our spiritual regeneration and we know that it is pure relativism. We know some of the garbage that is there, the rationalizations, the sins, the relativism of the culture, the lack of absolutes, the sense of right and wrong that God has put into our soul that is confirmed by the Word of God. But there are a lot of other things that are much more subtle and much more deeply embedded within our thinking. We just pick this stuff up from the culture around us and we think a certain way simply because that is our upbringing.


Elijah has been through the test of provision, now he is going to go through the test of opposition. This is something we all have to learn to deal with. We are going to go through times in life when we are faced with opposition and antagonism from family members, from friends, from the culture around us, to our belief system and our trust in God's Word. False things are said about us and what we believe, our positions will be distorted, but what else can we expect from the world that is in opposition to everything that God is doing? In fact they are so opposed that they crucified His Son of a cross. So this is Elijah's third test, to learn how to operate in the midst of hostility and contempt. That is the environment of this woman. She is bitter towards God. We have to learn not to react to that but to maintain a calm, relaxed mental attitude and demeanor when we are dealing with those who oppose us, whether they are friends, family or people a work, or whoever it might be. Elijah has to learn how to do this on this small scale to prepare him for this large-scale opposition he will face on Mount Carmel. What we see here is a picture of how the believer is to operate in this hostile environment.

1 Kings 17:17, 18 NASB "Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. So she said to Elijah, 'What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!'" The problem is that her son has died. If she didn't have enough to be mad about God already, now the Lord was going to take the life of her son, the only thing she has that makes life worth living. She reacts in anger and resentment to Elijah. The question we should be asking is why this is here. Why does God tell us about this episode? What is the significance of it? These things are not only included in the canon to teach us about God's training but there is another element here that is of equal significance, and that has to do with two doctrines: the doctrine of apologetics and the doctrine of polemics. Apologetics refers to that branch of theology that provides a rational defense of the truths of the Scripture. The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia [a)pologia] which was a term that described the rational, legal arguments that a lawyer would bring to a courtroom as he was presenting his case. So at its very core it is something that is thoughtful, something that involves intellectual activity, organization; it is rational, not simply throwing a Bible verse at somebody.  The more we live in a pagan culture the more it is important for believers to understand basic apologetics.

Understanding apologetics involves three things. It involves understanding the correct way to present the arguments for the veracity of Scripture. There are right ways and wrong ways to present a case. It may depend on the context and the people that the arguments are being presented to. Secondly, the correct use of evidence within the Bible must be understood for the truthfulness of Scripture. Evidence isn't the final court of appeal for the truthfulness of Scripture—historical evidence, logical evidence; this has to do with the nature of how we present evidence. Scripture presents the evidence as a confirmation of truth, not as the final arbiter of truth. Third, we can say that apologetics is at its most simple form being able to explain to people why we believe what we believe. 1 Peter 3:15 NASB "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always {being} ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

The word apologia is used several times in the New Testament. In Acts 22 Paul is going to Jerusalem to fulfill a vow, he goes to the temple and the forces there that are hostile to Christianity begin to spread a rumour that he is taking Gentiles into the temple and so there is a riot. As he is being led off he requests to address the crowd. He said: "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now {offer} to you." In reading the rest of the chapter we see a great explanation of the gospel. This is his apologia. 1 Corinthians 9:3 NASB "My defense [apologia] to those who examine me is this." There is nothing wrong with stating your case for what you say, why you say it, what you believe. Philippians 1:7 NASB "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense [apologia] and confirmation of the gospel …" [16] "…knowing that I am appointed for the defense [apologia] of the gospel." So this is what the believer is supposed to be engaged in. God never expects people to believe the gospel in an intellectual vacuum (that's mysticism). God always presents who He is and His Word in a way that does not insult their intelligence of the believer. He expects people to believe within an intellectual framework and belief is based on knowledge that is rational, logical, and is also vindicated by God through historical objective events. This is the role of signs and wonders, miracles and the resurrection. It is confirmatory, it establishes credentials, it is not the ultimate point of proof. Acts 1:3 NASB "To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over {a period of} forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." The word that Luke uses there is tekmerion [tekmhrion] which was used by Aristotle to refer to a compelling or irrefutable sign, or piece of evidence. So the Lord gives his compelling proofs of His resurrection. The point we see here is that belief in Christ is not a vacating of the mind in some sort of mystical leap of faith but that we look at the evidence, and there is solid objective evidence in history of who God is what He has done, and what the alternatives are. So this involves apologetics.

Polemics is where we may get some reaction from people. The Bible is filled with polemics. According to Webster's Dictionary polemics are an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another. The Oxford English Dictionary says, polemics is the art or practice of dispute or argument as in attacking or defending a doctrine or belief. God is often on the offense against false belief systems. Then the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms defines polemics as: "A polemic can also be aggressive refutation of another position or principle. In theology polemics often refers to the attempt to show that the superiority of Christian teaching over its rivals by means of a systematic, ordered delineation of the Christian belief system." That overlaps the whole idea of apologetics. Almost every sentence in Genesis chapter one is a polemic against the false gods of Egypt and Babylon. The ten plagues in Egypt are a polemic against the gods of Egypt. Each one of those plagues counters some false claim by one or more of the Egyptian false gods. 1 Samuel 8 is a polemic against the pagan governmental systems of the world and the desire to locate authority in a strong government. When we read through the prophets we see numerous polemics against the idolatry of the Israelites and the false religious systems of their neighbors. In the New Testament Jesus constantly engages in polemics against the self-righteous practices and beliefs of the Pharisees and the Sadduccees. In Galatians Paul utilizes numerous polemics against the false teachings of the Judaizers as he does on Colossians which is targeting the early Gnostics and the false teachers that was influencing believers in Colosse. Again and again and again the Scriptures have an aggressive reputation of the false systems of thought and present the positive view of what God can do. That is what we see in 1 Kings 17.

What is the role of these miracles? They are not to prove as the final court of approval the proof of the truth of Scripture. They are confirmatory. For example, 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." They provided credentials for Paul but they weren't the only credentials. The Bible says that for anything to be confirmed they must have two witnesses. The two witnesses have to do with the content of the message and the confirmatory signs. A lot people forget the content aspect and say, Well look at that miracle!

God allows things to happen for the purpose for testing our obedience. What has happened in the midst of the crisis in the northern kingdom is that rather than trusting in God to provide for them they are trusting in Baal. So there is going to be this evidence that is going to be presented through Elijah that Baal can't do what only God can do. Baal was the weather god of the Canaanite pantheon and he controlled fertility. In an agricultural society he controlled fertility through rain, and thus he was the god of thunder, the god of lightning, the god of rain, productivity, prosperity, and the god who provides life. Also part of another aspect of the myth of Baal was that he was part of the dying-rising god pattern—the idea of resurrection—that at the height of the summer drought he was slain by the god of death and then his mother would search for him and eventually find him and restore him to life. So there is this resurrection idea there. And how is this going to be countered?   

1 Kings 17:19 NASB "He said to her, 'Give me your son.' Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. [20] He called to the LORD and said, 'O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?' [21] Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, 'O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child's life return to him.' [22] The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived." The word "revived" is a bad translation, it indicates that maybe he really wasn't dead. Literally in the Hebrew it says, "and he lived." Because he was dead. [23] "Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, 'See, your son is alive.'" This is a polemic against Baal. The worship of Baal was that Baal was the one who gave life. Baal never gave life, the God of Israel gives life. This was a polemic to show that anyone who trusted in the false system of the Canaanites gods and goddesses couldn't live that way because those gods and goddesses couldn't provide anything. But the God of the Bible dies, He is the only God who solves the problem of physical death and the ultimate problem of spiritual death through Jesus Christ. 

So the woman is confirmed in her belief. 1 Kings 17:24 NASB "Then the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth'." It confirmed his credentials. So there is a correlation between the confirmatory sign and the message of the Word of God.

This is the first resurrection that we have in Scripture. There are numerous other resurrections that occur down through the Old Testament, leading up to the ultimate resurrection which is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.