A third miracle—and a more dramatic one—took place next in 1 Kings 17. The widow’s son became ill and died (v. 17), but God raised him from the dead through the ministry of Elijah. We’re reminded of the reality and pain of death in this story. Stories of death are all around us. At any moment, a loved one could take his or her last breath. Like in this story, just when things seem to be working out wonderfully, death can take someone. In this case, it was a precious child.
But there is hope beyond the grave for every grieving believer: God raises the dead. God gives us a little sign of his resurrection power in this Old Testament story.
We should look forward to the resurrection when Christ comes again. Yet in the present, we should ask God to do what only He can do—raise spiritually dead people to life (Eph. 2:4-5). This young boy eventually died again. What everyone needs is to be raised up forever by the resurrection power of God through faith in His Son, Jesus.
How might this story inspire you to pray more fervently?
In this passage, God provided for His prophet through a widow at Zarephath. She had nothing to offer but a handful of flour and a bit of oil, but God multiplied these meager supplies. Elijah promised the widow that if she would bake him a cake before feeding herself and her son that the flour jar would not be empty and the oil would not run out. She submitted to Elijah’s word, and her household ate for days. This all took place according to the word of God (17:8,14,15,16).
Observe God’s sovereignty and grace. God chose this widow to provide for Elijah. God told Elijah, “I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (v. 9). But we don’t read that God ever spoke directly to the widow. Even though she may not have heard this news from a prophet beforehand, God proclaimed it to be so because He is the only sovereign. He works in the hearts of the mighty and in the hearts of the lowly to accomplish His purposes.
How might this passage address the times when you are anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed by the cares of this life?
Evil king after evil king, and then—“Boom!”—we meet Elijah the prophet. He was a settler from the wild, forested area east of the Jordan in Gilead.
God chose this man from the middle of nowhere. Unlike the kings, we don’t know who his family was, and we don’t know anything about his childhood. God chose him out of obscurity in order to confront apostasy. God loves to use “nobodies” from “nowhere” places.
The chapter begins with Eljiah proclaiming a message to King Ahab (17:1). Picture the awkward sight of a wild man entering the presence of the king. But because Elijah knew the living God, he was able to stand fearlessly before Ahab. Because he knew the living God, he could also trust God for his daily provision (vv. 2-7). Elijah had great faith because he had a great God.
What steps can you take this week to elevate your understanding and trust of God?
This chapter highlights the exceeding sinfulness of sin. It also shows us our need for and the trustworthiness of God’s Word. We meet the prophet Jehu, who brought a word against Baasha. Baasha acted like Jeroboam, leading the people to sin against the Lord with their false worship, and consequently, he shared Jeroboam’s fate (16:2-4). Then his son, Elah, got drunk and was assassinated by Zimri, who went on to kill the rest of Baasha’s house (vv. 8-14). This fulfilled Jehu’s prophecy against Baasha (vv. 3,12). Zimri only reigned for seven days (v. 15). Omri then reigned for twelve years (v. 23). He established Samaria as the new capital city of the Northern Kingdom. It remained Israel’s capital until Assyria plundered it in 722 BC.
Finally, we meet the evil king Ahab. He reigned for twenty-two years (v. 29). He married Jezebel, a daughter of the king of the Sidonians. She was a Baal worshiper, and she had hundreds of prophets for Baal. She also killed God’s prophets (18:4,13). Following the heart of his wife, Ahab also served Baal, the first Israelite king to do so. It was into this context that God sent His prophet Elijah to proclaim the His word.
What are some of the consequences of sin, whether yours or others’, that you have experienced?
Some of the kings in 1–2 Kings had commendable traits, though none were flawless, and many were a total mess. What keeps certain portions of 1–2 Kings from being depressing is this: God was preserving a remnant so that the ultimate Son of David would come and reign forever. God was preserving “a lamp before me in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4).
The writer gave quick facts about many kings, such as: 1) the king’s identity; 2) the length of his reign; 3) his relationship to the king in Judah or Israel; 4) the identity of the king’s mother (in the case of Judah’s kings); 5) occasionally an explanation of the divine point of view; 6) a statement of death; and 7) recommendations for further study.
We meet Judah’s King Abijam in 15:1-8. He was not completely devoted to the Lord as David had been. But his son, Asa, Judah’s next king, sought the Lord for the majority of his life (vv. 9-24). Only Hezekiah and Josiah receive higher praise than Asa. Sadly, Asa fell later in life due to unbelief (2 Chron. 16). Then we read of Israel’s King Nadab, who did evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Kings 15:25-32). He continued in the sins of his father before being killed and replaced by another bad king, Baasha (vv. 28-30).
We need a better king, and praise God we have one—the Lord Jesus!
What are some lessons to glean from the lives of the kings in 1 Kings 15?
Two factors contributed to Israel’s apostasy. First, Jeroboam attempted to use religion in the service of politics. Jeroboam reasoned that if people were required to return to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, they wouldn’t identify with Shechem as their new capital. Jeroboam missed the point of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It wasn’t to align the people with an earthly kingdom but with a heavenly one.
Second, Jeroboam appealed to his people’s desire for comfort and convenience. Instead of requiring them to go to one place to offer sacrifices, he established two shrines—one at Dan, on the northern border of Israel, and the second at Bethel, on the southern border. He placed a golden calf in each one, saying, “Behold your gods [or God] … who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 28). You have to wonder if Jeroboam knew he was repeating the words Aaron used when he made the first golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:4).
The problem with Jeroboam was that he saw the worship of God as a means to some other end. To him, worship of God was a means by which he could realize the end of a united people under his rule. Put simply, he made worship, and the God of that worship, a crass tool to bring about his purposes. Worship is never a means to an end. Worship is the end. May we remember that.
What do you need to do this week to make sure you are worshiping God with a pure heart?
Verse 19 has a double meaning. On one level, “to this day” refers to the writing of 1 Kings itself, which could have been any time prior to the destruction of the temple (based on 1 Kings 8:8, that the poles to carry the ark could still be seen “to this day”). But this statement can also be seen as a commentary on the future state of Israel. It was Israel who first rejected Jesus (Acts 4:11). Paul wrote in Romans 9:31-32: “Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law … Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” Any time we seek to be justified apart from grace, we are in rebellion against Jesus, the house of David. This continues to happen—to this day.
How are you seeking to be justified before God? Spiritually speaking, are you in rebellion against the house of David, against Jesus?
Rehoboam had two choices: listen to the old men who had counseled his father or listen to the young men with whom he had grown up. You know the rest of the story, and you know it didn’t turn out so well. It can be tempting to discount the previous generation and assume their ideas and perspectives are outdated. But consider these truths from God’s Word: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4); “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12); and “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Prov. 23:22).
Not only does it benefit us to seek wisdom from the previous generation, we also ignore it at our own peril. Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, put it this way: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). If only he had listened! What will it take for us to listen?
From whom do you seek advice and counsel? Whom do you need to seek out for wisdom in the future?
At the start of any large organized marathon, there are thousands of people lined up. There is energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. There are costumes. It isn’t uncommon to see people planning to run 26.2 miles dressed as Elvis.
That’s the starting line. The finish line looks quite different. There are a lot less people. Far fewer costumes. And while some finish well, many more barely finish, stumbling, walking, or even crawling or being carried across that line on the pavement. But whether they sprint across or crawl across, and no matter what the time reads as they cross, everyone who crosses the finish line has one thing in common: they all finished. Many who start never do. The point isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish.
The first eleven chapters of 1 Kings detail Solomon’s life and accomplishments. No king in Israel’s history built more, taught more, spent more, wrote more, or married more. But for all that, his death is summed up with this simple statement: “And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father.” He started well—with the best of them—but he didn’t finish well. May we be a people who finish strong.
What adjustments do you need to make in your race to finish well?
God had prohibited the Israelites from intermarrying with the nations surrounding them (Deut. 7:1-4). This was to preserve religious, not racial, purity, as is made clear in 1 Kings 11:2: “for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon was an extreme example that proves the rule. With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and likely most of them foreigners, his heart was literally turned in a thousand different directions.
Notice the emphasis on the “heart” in these first four verses. The writer of 1 Kings wanted to make sure we understand that Solomon suffered from a terminal heart condition: the divided heart.
Sin doesn’t just happen because of something external, something happening “out there.” The work of sin is primarily internal, the result of something that has already happened “in here.” If you find your heart has been divided, pulled and turned in multiple directions, Scripture provides the remedy for uniting it again: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Only God can bring together a divided heart.
Have you allowed your heart to become divided over time? Ask God to bring it back together again.