Since the brook is now dry, the Lord sends Elijah to a Gentile widow in Zarephath. The Lord tells Elijah that He has commanded her to provide for him. And we see the widow shows great faith in the Lord as she feeds Elijah first from her last meal she was preparing for herself and her son before they die of starvation. The Lord rewards her faith by keeping her flour bin and oil jar full until the drought is over.
However, the widow’s faith waivers when her son dies. She blames his death on her own sin and asks Elijah if he came to kill her son. The Lord, who is always faithful, brings her child back to life when Elijah prays over the boy. Then the widow says to Elijah, “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.”
Later in the story, when Jesus is being rejected by His own people just as Elijah was rejected by the Israelites, He will use the story of Elijah going to a Gentile widow to rebuke the unbelieving Jews, and to illustrate that when they don’t believe, the Lord sends His prophets out to others, even to Gentiles – “But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:25-26).
After three years and six months of drought, the Lord sends Elijah back to Ahab to tell him the drought is coming to an end. When Ahab sees Elijah he says, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” Ahab blames Elijah for their troubles instead of repenting of his wickedness and turning to the Lord for healing and restoration. Remember Solomon’s prayer after the temple was complete? Solomon specifically said, “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance” (1 Kings 8:35-36).
Ahab and the people never repent, so the Lord throws down a challenge against Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah asks the people whom they are going to serve, Baal or the Lord. The people do not respond. So the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and Elijah each build an altar on Mount Carmel. Elijah says, “the God who answers by fire, He is God!” The prophets of Baal go first, and they begin to call on their god to bring fire upon the offering, but Baal does not answer. In an attempt to get Baal to respond, they begin cutting themselves and shedding their own blood, but still nothing happens. Why does nothing happen? Because they are calling upon a god that has no power. Nothing happens because the prophets of Baal do not know the God who doesn’t require them to shed their own blood. They don’t know the God who is sending His own Son to shed His blood in order to provide salvation for anyone who has faith in Him. No, they don’t know that God, but Elijah does. So Elijah steps forward and prays, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
Then the Lord rains down fire and consumes the offering, and the people fall to the ground shouting “The Lord, He is God!” However, the people calling upon the name of the Lord is temporary, as they soon will turn back to idolatry. However, after the Lord responds, Elijah kills the prophets of Baal and then prays seven times for the Lord to send the rain. When Elijah sees a cloud as small as a man’s fist, he tells Ahab he better head home because Elijah knows the Lord is sending a powerful rain from that small cloud.
When Jezebel hears about the showdown on Mount Carmel, she seeks to kill Elijah. So Elijah flees into the wilderness, lies under a tree and says, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life.” Elijah went from a spiritual high on Mount Carmel to a spiritual low in the wilderness. He is so low that he wants the Lord to take his life. Remember when Moses felt the same way in the wilderness. Moses cried out to the Lord to kill him when he was overwhelmed and discouraged (Numbers 11:15). However, Elijah isn’t qualified to say when it is enough in his own life, just like Moses wasn’t. Only the Lord, our God and Creator, is qualified to know when it is enough — and He will take us home in His own timing after He has fulfilled all He has purposed for us. We saw that David believed this was true when he was on the run from Saul. David wrote – “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57:2).
Since the Lord still has plans for Elijah, the Lord refreshes him and sends him on a forty day journey to Mount Horeb where He gives Elijah exactly what he needs — an encounter with Him. On that mount, Elijah pours out his heart to the Lord saying, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the Lord shows Elijah His power by passing by him in a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but He speaks to him in a gentle voice. The Lord ensures Elijah that He is raising up men, Hazael and Jehu, to use as tools in His hand to take down the wicked, which we will read about soon. Then He tells Elijah that he isn’t alone because there are seven thousand others who did not bow down to Baal. In addition, the Lord gives Elijah a friend in ministry, Elisha, who will succeed Elijah when it finally is enough and the Lord takes Elijah home to be with Him for eternity.
We end the reading with the Lord giving Israel victory over the Syrians, but the Syrians attack again tomorrow, so reading. (1 Kings 17:8-20:22)