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Returning Real Life

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Text:  1 Kings 17:17-24

Title:  Returning Real Life

Textual Theme, Goal, Need:




Sermon Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  Yahweh returns life to those who are obedient to his will.

Goal:  to encourage God’s people that God is the God of true life.

Need:  We often think of God as being the one who takes away life as a punishment.

Textual Outline:

  1. Account of the widow’s son’s illness and death.
  2. Widow’s Question: Did you come to remind of sin and kill son.
    1. Elijah’s Command:  Give me your son.

     i.      Elijah’s action:  Takes son to the upper room and lays him on the bed.

    1. Elijah’s Question:  Have you brought tragedy upon the widow.

   i.      Elijah’s action:  Lays on the son.

    1. Elijah’s Command:  Give his life back.            

i.      God’s Action:  Listening and returning life to the boy.

   ii.      Elijah’s Action:  Brings the child down to the widow.

    1. Elijah’s Exclamation:  Look.  He is alive! #. Widow’s response:  Confidence that Elijah is from God and his word his the truth.  

Textual Notes:

Sermon Outline:

  1. Introduction about how it is easy to believe God is bringing judgement or punishment through some evil that occurs.
  2. Why would you take my son?!
  3. Caring through asking the same question.
  4. Life comes through the power of God.
  5. When we experience the life giving power of God we see the truth of the word of God.
  6. Conclusion:  Nail it.  God is the God of new life.

Sermon in Oral Style:

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

          Bad things happen.  But, WHY?  That question never goes away does it?  If we aren’t the one asking that question right now, it is someone else close to us.  WHY GOD? 

I remember going to church as I was growing up, and I got so sick of hearing sermons that dealt with that question.  The pastor would talk about some of the bad things that had happened in our congregation in a vague way… illness, natural disasters, deaths.  I remember thinking… oh no, not this same sermon again.

          Its amazing how some things you just absolutely will not understand until you have a few more years under your belt.

          A couple of things that have really struck me recently are things that you might have already known for years and years.  One thing that I have started to understand is that we will have a time in our lives where we look at our lives, stunned at what has just happened.  We will look and say, why?  …why… WHY?!?

          It may not be right now that we are going through that, but the inevitable fact of life is that we will experience the brokenness of this life.   The inevitable fact of life is we all will have a time where we want to ask God, why?

          That “why” may also turn against God.  We might start to think of God as the one who takes away life and health and wellness.  We might think of God as the one who punishes people for their sin by letting some sort of evil happen to them.  Because of the darkness of evil that has happened in our lives, we turn God from the loving caring provider into a judgmental punisher.

          Another thing I have noticed in the couple of years of ministry is that the Bible is filled with places where Scripture is meant specifically to reassure us when we begin to think that he is a big punishing God.  Out to hurt those who have messed up in their lives.  Apparently it has been a part of human nature to think that God is constantly doing bad things to us when we do bad things in our lives.  Scripture is always helping us in our times of doubt about the goodness of God, to see that he isn’t the God of death and punishment.  He is the God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.  He is the God that gladly brings new life into situations of sin, or darkness, or hopelessness.

          The woman from Zarephath is going through that experience in the passage for this evening.  She has already been through a lot.  Last week we looked at the passage just before this and we saw how God proves he gives fertility, really real life to those that trust his word and obey.  The widow does that as she is on to her last little cake of food.  She gives it to Elijah and God blesses her and her son with life.  The flour jar never runs out.  The oil jar never runs dry until there is food again in Zarephath.

          Then something absolutely life shattering happens.  In the midst of her joy and her love of life with her and her son, suddenly her son gets sick and dies. 

          Can you imagine?  So much hope for her life and the life of her son after this miracle God has done.  Then suddenly, her son is dead.  Grief in this broken world is always only a flash away isn’t it?

          Listen to the thoughts that are going through the mind of the widow after the death of her son.  In verse 18 she says maybe screams to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

          Immediately her thoughts have turned against Elijah and his God.  At one moment she is being blessed because of her faith.  The next her son is dead.  She thinks now that God has turned and is now punishing her for some evil that she has done in her life.

          Logically it seems to makes sense.  Good things happening to us are God’s blessings for doing good.  Bad things are God’s punishment for doing bad.  Emotionally, that’s how it feels some times.  I must have done something wrong for God to turn on me in this way.  Then we start laying the feelings of guilt on ourselves.  Why have I been so wicked?  Or we begin to blame God.  Why did you have to do such a terrible thing to pay me back for my sin?

          That’s where this widow is at in her grief.  But she lays the blame on Elijah, the representative of God for her.  “Did you keep my son and I alive with the miracle of the food, just so you could kill my son and make an example of me and whatever sin I have done?  Is that what this is all about?

          She is probably on the verge of rebelling against Elijah and against the only true God of really real life.  About to kick Elijah out of the house and say forget God.

          But Elijah snaps into action.  He takes the boy and brings him to the upper room where Elijah is staying.  Don’t picture a big house with a winding staircase.  This is a poor starving widows house.  Elijah brings the boy to the tiny little closet of a room put on the top of a little hut of a home. 

          He takes her son, sets him on the bed in the room he was staying in.  Then he cries out to God almost the same feelings as the widow.  He kind of calls God out in verse 20.  He says, “O Lord, my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 

He knows that the widows complaint is understandable.  So he shares the frustration in his own way.  It really echoes to God what the widow has said to him.  Elijah probably feels a huge sense of loss as well.  He’s been living at the home of this widow, sharing meals with them.  He has gotten to know this broken family.  The death of the young son causes him to cry out to God.

          As a congregation we are called to carry each others burdens.  We are supposed to weep with those who weep.  Do you think it would change things if we prayed the way Elijah did?  Would it be any more effective before God, no.  But do you think it might change something in us if we prayed as if we had stepped into the grief of the person who is mourning the loss of a loved one?  Would it change something in us if we prayed with the same distraught heart as a person who has discovered they have cancer or another serious illness? 

          Out of real concern we often don’t show our care for people in the appropriate way.  We try and fix the problem without ever trying to understand the pain or the grief.  “At least they are in a better place.”  “Cheer up.  Lots of people go through this illness and get better.” 

        It would probably do us a lot of good as a family of God to really lament in our hearts with those who lament.  Grieve in our prayers with those who grieve.  Cry out to God with those who are crying out

          But that care is a side note in the main point is about life again.  God is not a God committed to punishment and famine and death.  He is the God of life.  He is the God of NEW LIFE. 

          Elijah knows this.  He knows that God has the power to even bring people back to life again.  Verse 21.  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”  The Lord heard Elijah’s cry and the boy’s life returned to him and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house.  He gave him to hi mother and said, “look, your son is alive!”

          Great.  We’ve heard this story.  We know that God can bring people back to life again.  Jesus brought people back to life again.  Jesus was brought back.  We know that God is a God of new life. 


          But what you probably didn’t know is that this is the first account in the Bible of someones life going from them and then God giving it back again.  What Elijah asks for is something crazy to ask for.  Life doesn’t return to people.  Death is death.  But Elijah knows that there is more to his God than that.  He does the unthinkable.  He asks for life to return.  This is a first.  This is breaking new ground.  We might be kind of used to the idea.  We have heard the story before.  We have heard stories of returning from the dead.  But this is a first.  This is precedent setting.  This is a new way to picture God.  He is the God who not only controls life but has power over death.  Power to bring new life.

          The point of it is that where God’s word is present, there is really real life.  Sound familiar?  Where the word of God is obeyed, there is even new life. 

          For us that is true as well.  If we have been comfortable with God’s word, but not comfortable having a life that is changed completely towards love and grace and forgiveness and truth, then we haven’t experienced the power of God and his word.  It brings new life.

          Hopefully this widow has learned something tremendous about God.  He isn’t a God that uses evil things to punish people.  It happens in the New Testament.  A blind man is brought to Jesus and the Pharisees asked, WHO SINNED that Caused this man to be BLIND.  Obviously where there is brokenness in the world, it is God’s punishment, right?  Well, what is Jesus’ answer?  John 9:3.  Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.  But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  Isn’t the same true for the widow in Zarephath?  Isn’t the same true today?  Our gracious God works through the evil things of the world to display his power.  Doesn’t God use his word and his power to bring NEW LIFE in the places that we are broken down?

          The story of the widow in Zarephath ends with her testimony.  Verse 24.  “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

          Her life is changed through this encounter with Elijah and the really real new life giving God of Israel. Elijah has shown that he is most definitely a prophet of this God.  That there is power in the word of God.

          But now we have experienced the word of God for us tonight.  The same word of God that brought new life in the house of the widow of Zarephath.  Let’s allow God to give us new life, and show his glory in whatever brokenness we encounter in our lives.


This is God’s will from his word.  And all God’s people say, AMEN.

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