Believe it or not, Resurrection Sunday (Easter) is just around the corner, so I’ve been reflecting on some of the different resurrection stories in the Bible, and how each of them points to our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. One such story, in the Old Testament, fascinates me because it illustrates God’s power and purpose in raising someone to new life. It encourages my faith to consider how this new life principle works today in the body of Christ, the Church.
In 1 Kings 17:9, the LORD said to the prophet Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you” (NLT). There was a severe famine in the land, and when Elijah arrived, this widow was actually gathering sticks to make a fire so that she could prepare one last meal for her and her son. “And then my son and I will die,” (1 Kings 17:12 NLT) she said, expressing the hopelessness she felt.
But God had a different plan. As the story unfolds, the LORD, through Elijah, miraculously multiplies the remaining oil and flour she has, providing a continual supply of bread to feed them until the famine is over. However, this is just the warm up, as there is an even greater miracle to come! In the course of time, the woman’s son becomes sick and dies, and this is where we pick up the story…
1 Kings 17:17-24 (NLT)
18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”
19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”
21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”
24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”
What an amazing story! Let’s consider now four lessons that we might learn together as a church.
- We have to be a church with arms open as wide as the world (v. 8)
In the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus actually mentions this incredible story about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Sadly, people got very upset about it, and even tried to kill Him (Luke 4:24-29)! What was the issue? He was suggesting, to a Jewish audience, that God loves the Gentiles (whom they despised) as much as He loves them. This story was a rebuke to their loveless, self-righteous hearts. He was saying, in effect, “You just can’t go through life looking down your nose at ‘those’ people.” Whoever “those” people are in your life, Jesus conquered death for them, too.
Furthermore, if we rightly understand God’s heart, we will be willing to go out of our way for the sake of reaching those who might not otherwise see or hear God. There were an awful lot of widows during the famine, but God sent Elijah to the Gentile, the outsider. Who are the “outsiders” in your life?
- We have to be a church of praying people (v. 20)
Notice what Elijah does. He prays so incredibly. What is interesting to me, though, isn’t that he prays, but what he prays, and what he doesn’t pray. There’s an amazing balance and fervency to his prayer. On the one hand, he does not say (and even the woman doesn’t say), “This isn’t fair,” or, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” On the contrary, it’s clear that she knows she is a sinner (v. 18). Elijah also does not say, “God, this isn’t right! You’re unfair!” There is no complaint here. He doesn’t suggest that God isn’t in control, or that He doesn’t care. He sees the sovereignty of God. Elijah is completely respectful, and yet he goes after God. He is like a defense attorney. He is pleading, “Lord!” He is praying for the resurrection of this little boy.
I am reminded that for people to be spiritually resurrected, other believers need to be praying for them. I am humbled at the thought of faithful believers, like my mother, and my aunt, who prayed for me to know Christ. Who are the unsaved people God has placed in your life who need prayer?
- We have to be willing to lay our lives on other people’s lives (v. 21)
I don’t think I’m reading too much into this. Elijah stretches himself out on the boy. Is that magic? No. We know enough about the miracles of the Bible to know there’s no magic in what God does through the people He chooses to use. So, why does Elijah do this? I’m not entirely sure, however, I believe it is simply illustrative of a greater principle so necessary in a spiritually resurrected life.
May God help us to be a church of people who are willing to put our lives on other people’s lives. It’s not enough just to say, “Listen to this online sermon,” or, “Read this book.” It’s life on a life. People who don’t yet have eternal life have to look into your life. This can start to happen over coffee, or on the sidelines of a soccer field, but find ways to have a Christ-centered conversation about real life. They have to see it. You have to lay yourself out for them.
- We have to be a church of resurrected people (v. 24)
Finally, I want you to notice bottom line at the end of the story. What was the purpose of this resurrection? The words of the widow say it all. “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.” One of the things I love about the Bible is the consistency of its message! In the New Testament, we see the same thing being communicated by Jesus and the apostles. The miracles always pointed back to the message. On the one hand, you can’t just have people talking about the great miracles in their lives without saying, “But it’s the message. It’s believing the truths Jesus taught.” On the other hand, it has to be fleshed out in the lives of people.
If you say you’re a Christian, but you’re not becoming more loving, humble, joyful, or hopeful, why should anyone listen to the message? The Lord calls us to be a church of resurrected people. He wants others to look at our lives and say, “Now I know your words are truth.”