1 Kings 17:17-24 (3rd Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
June 9, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament Lesson from 1 Kings 17:
After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And 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.”
One of the stumbling blocks to a life of faith and trust in the Lord God is the reality of evil. For many people it is unfathomable that an all-powerful, loving, and gracious God would allow evil, much less allow evil to affect people who say they believe and trust in Him. It doesn’t sit well with our human sense of justice or fairness. Yet the Lord doesn’t operate with a human sense of fairness or justice. He works from a holy, just, and right justice that goes beyond anything we can understand. As Martin Luther replied when asked why God created man when He knew he would sin, “Let us keep clear of these abstract questions and consider the will of God such as it has been revealed to us.”
God’s Word reveals and assures us that we need not understand the works and ways of God in order to trust Him as our God and Father who is always working for the good and blessing of His creation.
In 1 Kings 17, Elijah was God’s “man-of-the-hour.” He was the Lord’s prophet, His spokesman and messenger to proclaim the Word of the Lord to Israel. Because the people of Israel and their king, Ahab, had rejected God’s Word, Elijah announced that there would be a drought. There would be no rain for 3 ½ years. The Lord sent Elijah to live with a widow in the country of Sidon who lived in the town of Zerephath. It was there that this widow and her son, who had only a handful of flour and a little oil in a jug, along with Elijah were provided for by the Lord because “the jar of flour was not spent and the jug of oil did not run out.” (1 Kings 17:16)
Have you ever been watering the garden when the water stopped flowing from the hose? I’d imagine that when such a thing happens, you’d try to see what’s preventing the water from flowing. There could be a kink in the hose or maybe one of your kids came and turned off the faucet. When the Israelites found themselves in the midst of a drought, they should have looked to the source of the rain and discerned what was preventing the water from flowing. They could have learned from God’s prophet Elijah that God was calling them to repent of their idolatries. But they didn’t.
When misfortune comes to us, we never know God’s particular explanation. But every hardship or sadness should be a reminder to us that we live in a world broken by sin—Adam’s sin, Eve’s sin, our sin. The ultimate consequence of sin is death. The ultimate, all-time, most horrible hardship, at least in my mind, is the death of one’s child. Losing a child in death by miscarriage creates a grief that hurts deeply. My wife and I have experienced that grief three times. Losing a child in stillbirth is far worse. My brother and his wife and our family together experienced that incredible grief when my niece Molly was stillborn. And yet, as horrible and intense as they are, I don’t believe that it can be compared to the loss of a child after birth, a child with whom you have lived and loved and raised—a child of any age who dies before his or her parents creates a grief beyond my knowing. And there are those in this congregation who have experienced such a loss. There are those in our community, state, and nation, who through shootings and tornados know this death firsthand. And so did the widow with whom Elijah was living.
Her son, of unknown age, became ill. The illness was so severe that it caused the young man to die. The widow was now left without husband and without son. She had no one left to care for her. Her grief must have been beyond knowing. And so she says to Elijah, “What have you to do with me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” This widow saw in this death of her son a punishment from God for her sin. She supposed that it had been drawn towards her by the presence of Elijah, the man of God. Yet, like the man born blind in John 9, the death of this widow’s son was not sent as a punishment for particular sins, but was used by the Lord as a way to make known to her the works of God, that she might learn that the Lord was not merely the God of Israel, but the God of Gentiles also.
Elijah carried the boy upstairs to his room and laid the young man’s body on his own bed. Elijah prayed, stretching himself upon the child three times—in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?—“O Yahweh, my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” “And Yahweh listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he lived.” Upon receiving from Elijah her once dead son, now alive, the widow responds with faith and trust in the Lord, “Now, this I know, that you are a man of God and the Word of Yahweh your God is truth.”
Through a horrible, tragic event, the death of her son, by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit this woman received faith in the only Triune God. She was now able to confess with faith that God’s Word is truth.
See how God used a consequence of sin in the world to make Himself known? We see evil and bad things happening in the world as having the upper hand on us. We see temptation and sin as dominating. We look at death as having the final word. But the Word of the Lord comes to us and says, “Guess what? Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, has overcome Satan, sin, and death. Christ has the final word!” The widow of Nain lost her only son to death. Evil had befallen this family. Death had claimed another victim. Yet the Divine Word came in the person of Jesus Christ and said of His own authority, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother.
To assure all people everywhere that Satan, sin, and death do not have the last word, Jesus went took on sin, Satan, and death face to face. To do so, Jesus placed Himself in harm’s way, going to the most dangerous place in the world—to the cross of death. He went there for the sins of the world so that He could restore us through His blood-bought forgiveness. Jesus endured the hatred and evil of the world, the chaos of sin and Satan, and a violent death to save us from such a fate. The “mighty arm of God” was nailed, weak and dying, to a cross. The “rock and fortress” poured out His blood in suffering and death. The fearless One underwent great agony in His passion so we might be strong, so we might stand courageous, as we face the trails, the evils, and the terrors of life.
As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The victory over sin, death, and the devil is ours through Christ the Victor! This victory is ours now through faith in Jesus, who is the “Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” It is real victory. Yet, we might not always see it by sight. We still experience weakness, defeat, troubles, illness, hardship, tragedy, and even death. But even though we still experience these things in this world, we know that God is for us. We know that one day, death will be swallowed up by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ when He comes again in great power and glory.
This is the assurance that faith, trust in the Lord and His Word of truth, gives to each and every one of us. Our sins today stand forgiven, covered by and atoned for with the blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Satan today stands defeated, for Christ Jesus has conquered Him by His death and resurrection. Death today stands powerless before us, defeated by the rising again of our Lord. It is with this confidence that we meet the days, months, and years ahead. We know that there will continue to be devastating tragedies, the effects of sin and evil in this world. We know that we may have to face terrible things in our own lives. But we face them with Christ by our side through the presence of God the Holy Spirit. We are confident, like the widow in the days of Elijah, to say with faith, “The word of the Lord is truth—nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” We know this is true and sure and certain because a Great Prophet has visited us—the Son of God, the Son of Man, Christ Jesus. He dwelt among us, went to the cross and the grave for us, lives and reigns to all eternity to be for us, not against us. We live under His forgiveness and the assurance of life forever with Him in the joys of paradise.
Continue to trust this Word of Truth. You don’t need understand the works and ways of God in order to trust Him as your God and Father. You already have that guaranteed by Christ who has made you children of the heavenly Father. When things we can’t understand come our way in this life, know for certain that Christ the Victor has conquered Satan, sin, and death for you. Now, you are victorious in Him, no matter what! Amen.