"Give Me Your Son"
Sermon Preached by Pastor Edward Brockwell
Based on 1 Kings 17:17-24
September 22, 2007,
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
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Dear friends in Christ Jesus. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2). Amen.
1 Kings, chapter 17, gives us a clear understanding of why God executes judgment upon a nation, even when that nation is His own people. Our minds cannot begin to understand how loathsome man’s sins are to God. Throughout Israel’s history there were times when sin, iniquity and evil seemed to have simply run rampant. It was in these difficult times that God raised up prophets whom He sent to speak His words. The prophets called people to repentance. Sometimes the call to repentance fell on deaf ears. God’s appointed spokesmen then had to announce words of judgement. God hates what is evil because He loves people. Thus God has to intervene in the lives of men. He is both “just” and “loving” when He has to deal with sin.
Our text for today has much to say about God’s love. It speaks about God’s election by grace and of His providence in our lives, viz., how He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” and “that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Room. 8:28). May God open our eyes to see that He also loves and cares for us.
Our text begins with Elijah’s proclamation of judgement to King Ahab. When Ahab ascended the throne of Israel the religious life in Israel took a nosedive, it took a giant step into wickedness. Ahab earned for himself the following distinction given in verse 30, in chapter 16: “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.” He was a wicked king, and his wife Jezebel was also very wicked. She was devoted to the Phoenician and Canaanite false god, Baal. She was determined to make Baal the official god in Israel and eradicate the worship of Jehovah, Israel’s true God. Jezebel put some muscle into her plans by having temples and shrines erected throughout Israel. She also had the true prophets of Israel hunted down and killed. The religious life of Israel was threatened with extinction!
Into this dire situation God sent Elijah, who is one of the most remarkable men in Scripture. He came out of the desert and confronted Ahab and challenged the prophets of Baal. By this time in Israel’s history the Jews had become polytheistic, which means they worshipped many gods. They would worship both the Lord God of Israel and idols that were made by the hands of men. Baal was known as the god of rain and agriculture. Israel treated the Lord God as if He were the God of the desert. Elijah then pronounced God’s judgement on Ahab, saying: “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).
God then sent Elijah to a place called Brook Cherith. There “the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (verse 6). But as the drought went on, the brook dried up and Elijah lost his water supply. So, God gave Elijah these instructions: “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you” (vs. 9). Here we have an example of God’s love. In His providence and through His grace God chose a gentile widow to serve Elijah with food and shelter. It is amazing, that even in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, the wickedness of its leaders, and now the drought that caused much suffering, God’s love was at work. He chose a lowly Gentile widow of Zarephath, one who wasn’t wealthy nor did she have the resources to take care of Elijah. Notice that God did not choose any of the many widows in Israel. Jesus reminded the religious leaders that salvation is not earned but comes as a result of God’s grace and election. It is the work of God, not man’s. He said: “but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:26).
Things could not be any bleaker. However, Elijah spoke to her with these words: “Do not fear” (vs. 13). These are God’s words, which we find throughout the Scriptures. These words were spoken by His prophets, proclaimed by angels, and by our Lord Jesus Christ. Elijah was not speaking his own words but God’s words to this widow. God’s Word is powerful, they are creative, meaning, they create what is spoken. Take for example how in difficult situations you often hear someone say, “Oh, don’t worry, things will be OK.” But, those are human words and no matter how sincere or how many times you tell a person to not worry; you cannot dispel their fears and doubts. Things are completely different with God’s Word. He only needed to speak and He brought all of creation into existence. God’s Word creates faith; His Word is “living and active” (Heb 4:12). Elijah was a mere, mortal man sent by God to widow of Zarephath. However, the words he spoke were life-giving words, words that would create faith in the widow. God word put the widow’s fears to flight. They would bring peace to her soul, a peace that she had never known before. Such is the power of the Word. This same powerful and creative word is spoken to us by our pastors. God has also sent them, but the power is in the Word of God. He has chosen us, and speaks to us in His mighty Word.
Elijah then bids the widow to do something strange, he told the widow to feed him first, and then she and her son could eat later. However, Elijah’s words were followed with a promise: “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘he bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth’” (vs. 14). Through the preaching of Word these ‘faith-giving’ and ‘miracle-producing’ words enabled the widow to believe that God was faithful to His word and promises.
“Some time later...” the situation changed. “... the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him” (vs. 17). The widow at Zarephath had been through a lot, both bad and good. Oh, how her heart had to be abounding with hope and with life. But then suddenly, her son died and so does her thankfulness. She had some very harsh words for Elijah: “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” She blames the prophet, accusing him of killing her son. She also accuses herself, thinking the death of her son had something to do with her past and her sins.
Elijah tells the widow, “Give me your son.” This son was all that this woman really had in life. I am sure that she was depending on him to take care of her in her old age. “So [Elijah] took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. 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?” Elijah now tells God what the widow told him, “You killed her son!” Nevertheless, he looked beyond what he saw and felt and trusted in God.
Elijah then “… stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him” (vs. 21). The child was restored to life, Elijah returned him to his mother, saying: “See, your son is alive” (vs. 23). The widow then made this confession of faith: “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth” (vs. 24). Dear friends, such simple faith confesses to the truthfulness of God’s Word!
What can we learn from Elijah and widow of Zarephath? God permitted all that had happened; the drought, facing death through starvation the death of the widow’s son. All of these things happened, but they happened according to God’s permissive will. He allows things to happen in our lives, as well. Of course, God is NOT the Author of evil; He does not start wars, He is not cause or the agent of suffering, He does not willy-nilly give people cancer. However, whatever God permits He is also working in these things for good!
God is the author of good, of faith and in saving those who despair of life. The widow of Zarephath was not looking for God, but God came to her through the preaching of the Word. God began a good work in her, but her young faith needed to grow stronger. And the same is true with us. The trials in life are never meant to hurt. If anything, they come to strengthen our faith and not to destroy it. It is in our trials that God is at work. We are reminded of the verse in Scripture that reads: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
The widow at Zarephath, her son, and even Elijah experienced great suffering. We remember how the widow blamed Elijah for her son’s death, thinking that his was on account of her sins. Then we heard how Elijah, one of the most famous of all prophets, he too, questioned God. Elijah certain had feet of clay. And even this man of God needed his faith to be tested. Elijah would later face the death of God’s prophets because of Jezebel, who was eagerly seeking to kill Elijah. Elijah wanted to give up and die. Yes, his faith was being tested while staying with the widow of Zarephath.
Faith is tested and strengthened through trials. It does not hold to what it sees or understands. The widow’s faith was sustained and strengthened through the preaching of the Word. She needed the creative power of God’s Word, working faith in her. She needed to hear “Do not fear” from God Himself. Oh, how we need to hear such words ourselves. Everything depends on the Word.
The real time of testing came for the widow through the death of her son. There were angry words, there was fear concerning past sins. Nevertheless, it was faith that enabled the widow to give her son to Elijah. The same is true for us. A lot of things happen in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from trials and tribulations. Some Christians have actually many troubles simply because of their faith. Again, think of Elijah. He was the one person that Jezebel wanted to silence the most.
Dear Christians, God has been sustaining your faith through the preaching of the Word, and He is doing so right this very moment. Are you in the midst of trial? Do you find your faith being tested? The widow was strengthened in her faith and so are we. God gives us faith so that we may GIVE HIM OUR TROUBLES! Again, the Apostle Peter reminds us: “[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps for some among us, your sins have come to your remembrance, you find it hard to let go of the past. God bids you to give Him your sins and not try to deal with them through your works or through wrestling in prayer. Again, we remember how Elijah bid the widow to give him her son. And, that she did. She did not hold on to him. This was because God was at work in her life through the Word. Her faith was sorely tried, but she believed and did as Elijah said.
Oh, dear friends, God has given you faith! Yes, you have faith. Jesus is the Author of that faith and He will bring it to completion! Jesus dealt with our sins on cross. Like the prophetic act of Elijah, stretching himself over the corpse of the boy three times, we remember how actions and prophecies of all the prophets pointed to Jesus, Who stretched Himself over our sins in His body on the cross. Through His innocent suffering and death in our place He has removed our sins, the memory of our sins, and all of the guilt of our sins. His death meant that we would live forever as His own in the light of His forgiveness. Oh, dear friends, when I think of how the widow of Zarephath struggled with the memory of her sins, I think of song that we sing in English. As I close, let me read you the precious words of this hymn. It sums up what we have heard and learned from our text today.
I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all and frees us
From the accursed load.
I bring my guilt to Jesus
To wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious
Till not a spot remains.
I lay my wants on Jesus,
All fulness dwells in Him;
He healeth my diseases,
He doth my soul redeem.
I lay my griefs on Jesus,
My burdens and my cares;
He from them all releases,
He all my sorrows shares.
“In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
"I Lay My Sins on Jesus" by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1899
THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941).