A STUDY OF 1 KINGS: God Prepares the Way for Us 1 Kings 17

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


The first time we hear of King Ahab was due to an alliance he made with Phoenicia on the coast that culminated in his marriage to the Sidonian princess, Jezebel, who also brought her strong religious/cultural idolatrous influence with her. This led the Northern Kingdom and its kings even further away from a dependence on and a worship of the God of Israel. Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:30-33). In essence, a focus on the economic and political welfare of Israel by the leadership would compromise the nation spiritually and jeopardize its future prosperity due to Gods judgment.


In this period of apostasy Israel’s economic growth and material affluence, due to product that now could be shipped between desert and sea by means of this Phoenician alliance, caused internal spiritual decay, characterized by greed, intrigue and lack of concern for others. Centuries before, Moses had issued a serious warning in regard to the economic, religious and political implications of such a lifestyle in Israel. But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:17-20). Unfortunately, we are about to enter into a period of Israel’s history that fulfilled these predictions. 



Verse 1 The first time we hear about Elijah he predicted drought to King Ahab in Samaria. Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand. Everyone else felt that the Lord was dead, but for Elijah the Lord lived. He was the supreme reality of Elijah’s life. He stood in the presence of Ahab, but he was conscious of the presence of someone greater than any earthly king. 

--Surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word". This was a dramatic demonstration against the pagan god Baal, who was thought to be the sky god, the god of the weather. Elijah showed that through his prayers to the God of Israel, the Lord was mightier than Baal and any idol they made.


We should note that the dominant theme of the ministry of Elijah was his strong, uncompromising, intolerant, stand against idolatry. He killed at least 550 men (450 prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel + two group of 50 sent from Ahaziah) because of idolatry. The majority of his ministry was battling the idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel and their son Ahaziah.

Application: Never tolerate, compromise, or blend any other religious practices into Christianity. Take a strong stand against things like dream catchers, Ouija boards, astrological signs, horoscope, and eastern meditations. Do not respond positively to people who go to false religions for help.


PT—It’s interesting that Elijah’s ministry began and ended across the Jordan as one of the settlers of Gilead. Here is where the dramatic exodus of Elijah occurred. This is where, centuries before, the Israelites received their instructions from Moses after he led the Exodus from Egypt. Here they celebrated Passover for the first time.


·         Given all of this impressive historical and theological press, it is not surprising that in the New Testament times John the Baptist—the new Elijah—chose this region for a major part of his ministry, preaching a message of repentance to Israel. It was in this context that Jesus of Nazareth came to John to be baptized and to begin His own ministry and identified with John instead of the Sadducee’s or Pharisees who did not believe in the need for repentance in Israel.

·         The echo of Elijah’s message is heard throughout the Old and New Testaments. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are intertwined in Malachi’s prophecy. "Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:4-5).

·         That echo is also true in the gospel of Matthew. While John was in prison wondering why Jesus connects John’s ministry with Elijah’s. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:12-15).

·         The strong link between these three is also illustrated in Jesus’ transfiguration. There, behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31). The implication being that Elijah’s ministry was a forerunner of the last and greatest Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist. Jesus declared This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! (Matthew 11:10-11).

·         John was the last Old Testament prophet who had his own ministry of calling people to repentance. He was the forerunner of the Messiah, predicted by Isaiah. John the Baptist confessed that he was NOT the fulfillment of Malachi 4. Rather, he said his ministry was the fulfillment of a different prophecy found in Isaiah 40, a voice crying in the wilderness announcing the Messiah's first comingHe actually fulfilled the prophetic task of Elijah in that he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but Elijah himself will personally return during the tribulation period just before the second coming of Christ (a witnesses of Revelation 11). John while in prison even questioned whether Jesus was the Christ.

PT Don’t be offended by God, i.e. stumbling over what God is or is not doing in your life, when you are in a prison of suffering without explanation. The disciples stumbled over Jesus sleeping while they were perishing on the boat. They thought Jesus did not care, He was no longer with us, involved in our life. Jesus told them they had little faith. When you are in suffering situation, don’t have little faith, don’t respond to that by having less faith in God.

·         The reaction to Elijah’s ministry received in the Northern Kingdom in the days of Ahab served as an illustration for Jesus when he spoke in Nazareth at the beginning of His Galilean ministry. From a hill above the city Jesus could view much of the surrounding terrain was where Elijah had his ministry. He drew lessons from Elijah’s ministry that would associate Jesus with that ministry. And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow (Luke 4:24-26).


Verses 2-3 Here is the Elijah mantra. He is the word of the Lord came to him prophet saying, "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. We should notice that Elijah always and only followed the verbal revelation from God. He never looked to his feelings, circumstances, or advice from others to get a leading from God. But then Elijah seemed to apply that revelation in a creative way. We know of no command from God for him to pray for the widow’s dead son or lie on his body three times. Calling the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel and all that he did there seems to be Elijah’s idea. Killing 450 prophets of Baal, calling down fire from heaven, on three different occasions, all seem to be Elijah’s initiative to fulfill God’s commands.

Application—Understand the word of God literally and apply it creatively. Take the initiative to creatively apply the the written word of God. Look for creative ways to do evangelism, discipleship and teach the Bible to your children or grandchildren. For example, travel together, read together, evaluate movies together, go listen to an evolutionist talk about something from nature and evaluate it together from the Bible. Get your children and grandchildren and extended family and disciples used to evaluating the world’s lies with biblical truth.


Verses 4-6 It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there."So, God has a purpose for Elijah in all of this. While others may also suffer consequences, God is on a mission to teach His servant so he is prepared for what lies ahead through wilderness training.

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.This is a desolate place where God often takes us through the spiritual school of discipleship. Isolation and obscurity are usually His preference. Just look a Jesus or Paul or even the Israelites in the wilderness.

The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook— The drought announced by Elijah in the previous verse was a great threat to the northern kingdom of Israel and the reign of Ahab. Therefore, his life was in danger, and God sent him to the Brook Cherith for his own safety. Probably this was a seasonal brook that flowed during the rainy season but dried up when the weather turned hot. It was located east of the Jordan River. This was God’s supernatural provision, much like the manna and quail during Israel’s wilderness wanderings (Exodus 16:13-36).

PT The escape to the Brook Cherith was for more than protection. It was also to train Elijah in dependence upon the Lord. In a season of drought, he had to trust that God could keep this brook flowing. He also had to accept food from the ravens, which were unclean animals. So now he would be faced with the reality that his need to survive was total not partial. But this is always the case for us. We just need situations that are threatening and personal enough to remind us of such.


Verse 7 It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Once again we see that following the will of God can often be dangerous to our personal well-being. Don’t use danger as an excuse to not perform the will of God. Elijah’s dependence upon God increased as he entered increasingly difficult situations. His obedience went from being fed by ravens, to being supplied by unending grain and oil, to raising a boy from the dead, to calling down fire from heaven when challenging the prophets of Baal, to running for his life.

Application—Maturity will probably include increasingly difficult situations requiring our faith to mature. Faith will have to increasingly be dependent upon understanding truth, if we are to mature.



Verses 8-10— Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. God led Elijah from the dry brook to a Gentile city. This was an unusual and challenging move for Elijah to make. God kept transplanting Elijah: From home to Jezreel to Cherith to Zarephath. This transplanting made him stronger and stronger.

—Behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." God had gone ahead of Elijah anticipating his need as Elijah followed the clearly revealed will of God from the actual verbal Words of God.  

So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink." God had placed the widow here, so Elijah could make immediate contact with her. The fact that she was gathering sticks showed that things were not very good with her. Probably as much as Elijah being helped by the woman, is the fact that God will help her through Elijah. Elijah requesting water from her for a drink opens the door to conversation with her.


Verses 11-12 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand."— Widows were poor in the ancient Near East and would have been the first to run out of food in a drought. Elijah’s request for water and then bread evidently identified the widow God had in mind. Her response revealed a Gentile believer in the Lord. Elijah asked the widow to put God’s interests—represented by himself, a prophet of God—before her own as the condition for her blessing. This was certainly putting the widow’s faith to an extraordinary trial: to take and give to a stranger, of whom she knew nothing, the small pittance requisite to keep her child from perishing, was too much to be expected.

But she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die."— You can sense her despair. Elijah quickly found out that she was not only poor, but desperately poor. Elijah found her right before she was going to prepare her last morsel of food for herself and her son, and then resign themselves to death. The entire episode expresses the utter deprivation she faces. All does not only seem lost. All is lost. In the midst of her pain God asks for even more deprivation for her.

PT—Make no mistake. This is God at work bringing us to the edge of the cliff where there is nowhere else to go but to jump and then have to trust the Lord to intervene. God tests us. God tests the faithful. The demonstration f and quality of our faith is paramount because the articulation of our faith here is the means of our favor with God in heaven. That faith must be tested so as to determine its maturity.


Verses 13-14 Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. — She responded obediently to the word of Elijah. God honored her faith; He provided her need for food. Elijah made an audaciously bold request. He asked this destitute widow to first give him 

something from her last bit of food. This seemed like the worst kind of predatory fund-raising. Elijah is sure now, that this is the widow the Lord had sent him to. Notice, the first thing he says to her is, do not fear. He realizes at this point, that the Lord had sent him for two purposes. (1) He would be safe with this poor widow, and (2) God would miraculously feed Elijah, the widow, and her son.

For thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty— If we are living for the Lord, He will provide for our needs, not our greed. God will replenish their food; each time they go to the barrel. He sent the Manna every day, except Sabbath, for 40 years for hundreds of thousands. It would be no problem for Him to feed these three, who were faithful to Him. There will be no lack of food for them.

Until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth which was assuring her the rain would be sent, and that the Lord, who had the sole command of it, would send it. And that, until that time it should be sent, she would have no lack of provisions, and therefore need not hesitate dressing for the prophet first.


Verses 15-16 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days— The widow actually did it – she willingly gave at great risk, based on her trust in the promise of God. She continually had only enough food for one more meal – possibly for up to three years—before the rains began again at Elijah’s command.

PTGod is looking or people who respond in faith to His message. Biblical faith involves at least three things: (1) It involves taking risks where one is willing to jeopardize winning while venturing possible loss. (2) It involves problems where risk taking is required in order for the problem to possibly be resolved. (3) It involves a worthy object which is capable of addressing the need that the risk requires. The widow must gamble her meager provision to address her family’s starvation in order to have the Lord miraculously provide for her.

The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord Which He spoke through Elijah.There being a continual increase and supply of both, through the mighty power of God working a continued miracle. The same as the loaves and fishes were increased while the disciples were eating in (Matthew 14:19). God's Word is true. He did just as He had spoken through Elijah. There was plenty of food to take care of their needs.

PT—For Elijah the miracles of God were, supernatural, contrary to nature, real-world events, not religious stories and ideas. Baals were chiseled out of stone. Asherah were carved out of wood. The only reality in them was the religious mysticism in the minds of the worshippers. But the supernatural acts of God were real and demonstrated that God was not just an idea, but the real creator and judge of the world.

Application: Never call anything a miracle of God that is not a supernatural real-world event. The beauty of a flower, the birth of a baby, the wonders of nature are not miracles. Raising someone from the dead and calling down fire from heaven are miracles. The miracles recorded in the Bible are real, contrary to nature, interruptions in the natural course of history.



Verses 17-19 Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. — One crisis diverted now gives way to another. There is no doubt that the boy has died. The death of the son was a double blow to the widow. Not only did she suffer as any mother who loses a child, but she also suffered as one who lost her only hope for the future. The expectation was that her son would grow and provide for her in her old age. Now that expectation was shattered.

So she said to Elijah, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God? — As if she should say, it would have been well for me if I had never seen thy face, or had any conversation with you. This she said rashly, and in her passion and agony, being extremely affected with the death of her child, which made her forget and overlook all the benefits she had received through the prophet's being with her.

—You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!"At the death of her son, the widow indirectly blamed Elijah. She more directly blamed herself and her unnamed sin. Whatever her sin was, the guilty memory of it was always close to her. She fears that sin in her life had taken the life of her child.

He said to her, "Give me your son." Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed.This son had to be very young for her to be able to carry him. The upper room was usually for guests, and was as good as the owner of the house had. The fact that he laid him upon the bed, shows the helplessness of the child.


Verses 20-21 He called to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?" Elijah realized that only God could bring the boy back to life, so he called on God in prayer to do so. Elijah prayed with great heart and intimacy with God. He brought this seemingly unexplainable and irredeemable tragedy to God in prayer. Since he knew God led him to this widow, Elijah laid this tragedy on God and asked Him to remedy it.

Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child's life return to him."Elijah lay across him to listen for a heartbeat, and to pray for him. This was an unusual prayer technique, but Elijah had no precedent for this. It was not because of his prayer technique, but because of his faith that God answered this prayer. Three times shows the involvement in the fullness of the godhead in the miracle restoration of this child. Notice in the prayer that Elijah prayed, it is in the power of God to let the child live or not. This problem with the son is not to punish the widow, but to glorify God.

PT— Elijah is the praying prophet. His entire ministry was soaked in prayer. Prayer for healing is biblical prayer although there may be many reasons for a lack of healing.

Verses 21-24The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.The son was raised and God provided for the widow on every level, not only with the miraculous supply of food, but also with the resuscitation of her son. This is the first restoration to life of a dead person that Scripture records. Elijah prayed shamelessly to obtain his petitions in such a difficult case. God restored the lad’s life. We, too, pray in desperation that God would miraculously work. 

Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, "See, your son is alive."This conclusively demonstrated that the Lord was the only true God and Elijah was His prophet.

Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."— This miracle left no doubt at all that this prophet, Elijah, is a man of God. The restoration of her son had brought new confidence in this widow. She had unselfishly given to this prophet a place to stay and food that God provided. Now, she is reassured she had done the right thing. For Elijah, he learned the power of God and the power of prayer. He applied both of these lessons in his contest with the Baal prophets (18:16-46). His confidence in his own ability as a channel of God’s blessing and word received added strength from the widow’s confession.



·         God’s priority is to strengthen and facilitate the development of our spiritual character. The reason is because that is what is valuable on the other side of the grave.

·         God will orchestrate our affairs in such a way that the circumstances related to them will increase the potential for our spiritual character to be developed. Our temptation will be to short circuit those troubling circumstances so as o abort the laboratory God is using to do so.

·         The way we manage and negotiate situations that our beyond our control or ability to meet is by prayer and faith. So we communicate massages to God while trusting Him to address the need we are praying for in terms of our bests interest. He gets to determine that.