1 Kings 17:1-24


I remember once when it did not rain in south Florida for 6 months.  The dry season over-extended itself.  When the rainy season arrived, the rains didn’t come.  Parched lawns.   Forest fires.  Wilting vegetation.  Oppressive heat.  The absence of water.  There was no worse disaster that could take place in the ancient world than a drought.  They lived in an agricultural economy.  The absence of water meant the death of crops and complete economic ruin.




Elijah vs. Ahab



Command: “Hide by the brook Cherith.”


Promise:  Food & water


Response:   Obedience


Test:   A Dry Place





            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, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1).


Elijah comes out of the pages of obscurity and onto the scene of ministry in a single sentence.  We know only that he was from the settlers of Gilead.  Gilead was the designation for the lands of Israel on the east side of the Jordan River.  These were the lands which had been taken by the two and a half tribes.



  Half of the tribe of Manasseh


When Moses had led the Israelites to the Jordan, these tribes had looked at this land and they had said, “We don’t need to go any further.  We don’t care what the promised land looks like, we will settle for this land.”


Elijah now comes on the scene from Gilead.  His name means “my God is Yahweh.”  And he is a man with a message.  His message is one of the judgment of God.  “There shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (17:1)  James tells us that this lack of rain was in answer to a PRAYER which was prayed by Elijah.


            Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. (James 5:17).


Why would Elijah pray such a prayer?  We normally pray for that which is good for our country.  But Elijah prayed for the judgment of God to fall on his land and on his people.  In doing so, he was praying in accordance with the Scriptures.


13                     And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul, 14  that He will give the rain of your land in its season, the early rain and the late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil.

15                     And He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied.

16                     Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them.

17                     Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you. (Deuteronomy 11:13-17).


The covenant which God made with Israel consisted of both blessings and cursings.  If they would be obedient to serve the Lord, then He would bless them with rainfall and cause their crops to grow and to prosper.  If they would turn away from the Lord, then rain would be removed from the land and they would see a lack of prosperity.


Now we can understand why Elijah prayed this prayer.  He was a man for his times.  The glory days of Solomon had come and gone.  The kingdom was now a divided kingdom.  Although the southern kingdom of Judah had enjoyed an occasional good king, the northern kingdom of Israel had not.  Each king had been progressively worse than the one before.  Omri had been the worst of an entire line of bad kings.  And now Ahab was a man after his father’s heart.  He had gone so far as to marry a Phoenician princess named Jezebel - her name meant “Helper of Baal” and she was as good as her name.  Under her influence, Baal had become the god of Samaria and the prophets of the Lord had been persecuted and scattered.


Now comes Elijah.  His name means “My God is Yahweh.”  He stands before Ahab and he invokes a solemn oath in the name of the Lord.  “As the Lord lives” - if this oath does not come to pass, then God will cease to live.  When we were kids, we said things like, “I cross my heart and hope to die.”  God says the same thing, only He means it.


The promise of the Lord is that there will be neither dew nor rain.  This is the worst weather forecast in history.  But it is more than that.  It is a challenge.  Baal is a god of fertility - a rain god.  He will be seen to be impotent before the God of Israel.





            The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. (1 Kings 17:2-3).


Having issued his prophecy, Elijah was instructed to go to an isolated place.  Why was this retreat necessary?  There are several reasons.


1.         Protection from Ahab.


This was a hiding place.  It was one of hundreds of tiny wadis which feed into the Jordan River.  Once the drought begins in earnest, Ahab will be ready to have Elijah put to death.


2.         Preservation of Elijah.


It will be here that the Lord meets Elijah’s physical needs - food and water.  The Lord never promised comfort, but He DOES promise to provide the basic necessities.


3.         Preparation for the Future.


The Lord is preparing Elijah for a confrontation.  But that confrontation will not take place until Elijah has had the opportunity to learn to trust in the Lord.  Here is the principle.  You will have nothing to say to the world unless the Lord first speaks to you.  Not what you read in a commentary.  Not what you are taught in seminary.  Not what your pastor tells you.  You cannot effectively share Christ until you have Christ.  Real evangelism is more caught than taught.  In order to be a contagious Christian, you have to be infected with the real disease.





            “It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” (1 Kings 17:4).


Elijah is sent by God to this out-of-the-way location.  There is no nearby city.  There are no farms.  There are no jobs.  Elijah is to come here and he is to wait during the dry season.


Here is the principle.  God never said that you would not have dry seasons in your life.  What He has promised is that He will provide in the midst of your dry season.  Because of this, there are some things that YOU can do in the dry season.


1.         You are called to wait in the dry season.


This is a period of outward inactivity.  There are times when God says, “Stop” and the only thing that you can do is to stop.  That is a difficult thing, especially if you are one of those “action-oriented” types of people.


2.         You are called to trust in the Lord during the dry season.


The dry season means that you cannot see all that awaits in the future.  Therefore you must believe the promises of God.  You must hold onto the Lord because there is nothing else to which you can hold.





5                       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.

6                       The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. (1 Kings 17:5-6).


Elijah believed the promise of God.  How do we know that this is the case?  We know because of his OBEDIENCE.

What do you do when you have trouble believing the promises of God?  Those times when you want to believe and you are praying, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief!”  What do you do while you are waiting for such a prayer to be answered?  You OBEY.  That is what Elijah did.  And the Lord honored his obedience.


The thing that I love about Elijah’s obedience is that he was obedient in PRIVATE.  You show me a man who is real in private and I will show you a man who is real.  Who you really are is who you are when no one is looking.  Do you want to know what I am really like?  Ask my wife and my daughter.  They know the real me.  As Elijah obeyed, he found that God had provided.  But that provision was not realized until Elijah had first obeyed.





            It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:7).


Things were going well for Elijah until the drought caught up with where he was living and his brook dried up.  That often happens in the Scriptures.


Abraham is told to leave his family and his home and to go to a foreign land and he obeys and arrives in Canaan and the very next thing that happens is a famine in the land.


Isaac is told by God to live in the land and so he digs a well and suddenly the neighbors move in and take over.


Joseph is given a vision from the Lord that his brothers and his father and mother will bow down before him and he is taken and sold as a slave into Egypt where no one ever bows down to him.


Moses is sent by God to confront the pharaoh and order the freedom of the Israelites and instead pharaoh increases their workload and makes their bondage even more oppressive.


David is anointed as the future king and he honors the Lord by standing up to Goliath and the next thing you see is that he is a fugitive on the run.  That is the way God often works.  He give a promise and then there is a period of waiting for the fulfillment of that promise and, more often than not, things appear to go from bad to worse.


What do you do when your brook dries up?  When you are in the place where God wants you to be and when you are doing the thing that God wants you to do and things still go wrong.  When the blessings of God seem to dwindle and then vanish altogether.  When your prayers don’t seem to make it any higher than the ceiling.  What do you do?  The Psalmist once asked that same question.  He was also in a dry place.


As the deer pants for the water brooks,

So my soul pants for Thee, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2).


The answer which comes to him in the midst of his dry place can also be used when you experience the same place.  It is seen when he REMEMBERS.  He remembers that there was a time when he stood in the presence of the Lord and worshiped with joy and a song.  He remembers the past faithfulness of God.  And this memory brings him hope for the future.


Here is the principle.  Don’t depart from the stream when you are in the desert.  Don’t doubt in the darkness what God has taught you in the light.  Remember that God has always kept His word.  And know that He will continue to keep His word in the future.





The older we are as Christians, the more we understand that hardship comes.  The closer we come to God, the more acquainted we become with grief.  Jesus was known as “the man of sorrows.”  And as we follow Him, we will partake of some of those sorrows.


            “When God wants to use a person greatly, he hurts him deeply.” - A. W. Tozer.


Elijah was such a man.  God had given him a very unpopular message - no rain.  Now Elijah is hiding out.  He had hidden for a time on the east bank of the Jordan River.  How would you like such a ministry?


  No church.

  No congregation.

  No disciples.

  Nothing but birds and a lonely brook.


And now the brook has dried up.  We don’t know how much time elapsed between verse 7 and verse 8.  But eventually God called for a change of locations.


1.         Retreat to Zarephath.


            Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1 Kings 17:8-9).


Zarephath was an old Phoenician coastal city astride a promontory between Sidon and Tyre.  Its name comes from the Akkadian root sarapu, “to dye.”  It was known for its glass manufacturing as well for its dye production.  At this phase of its history, it was under the dominion of Sidon to the north.


Elijah was going into the lion’s den.  Sidon was a Phoenician city which worshiped Baal.  The king of Sidon was Ethbaal, Jezebel’s daddy (1 Kings 16:31).


This was a 100 mile trip.  It would take Elijah on a route through the territory of Ahab into the realm of Ahab’s father-in-law.  Don’t miss the humor of this.  Elijah was sent to the center of Baal worship to hide out from the Baal worshipers.   He would be staying with a pagan woman in a pagan land.


There is a pattern shown here if we care to see it.  It is a pattern that is seen by anyone who is familiar with Jewish ideas of that which is clean and unclean.



Elijah is fed by ravens


Elijah is fed by a Gentile widow


In both cases, Elijah was fed by that which was considered by the Jews to be unclean.  The raven was an unclean bird.  A Gentile widow was also considered to be unclean.


Jesus pointed out that the fact that Elijah went and stayed in the home of a pagan woman is evidence of the fact that God does not play favorites (Luke 4:24-26).  He did not play favorites in that day and He does not play favorites today.


2.         Elijah’s Request from the Woman.


10                     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.”

11                     As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.”

12                     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.” (1 Kings 17:10-12).


This woman was a widow.  Her husband had died.  There was no Social Security in that day.  If a woman did not have grown children to care for her then she was on her own.  That was the situation in which this woman found herself.


This woman had problems.  She had not asked to be a widow.  Tragedy had struck her life in taking away her husband as well as her means of livelihood.  She was beyond hope.


3.         The Promise of the Prophet.


13                     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.

14                     “For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:13-14).


Notice the first words of Elijah to this woman.  They are words of comfort.  “Do not fear.”  That is what God always says to people.  Churchill once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  That isn’t true.  There are a lot of things to fear.  But if you fear the Lord first and obey Him, then everything else takes care of itself.


Elijah’s instructions are very specific.  First she is to move sacrificially to meet the needs of the prophet.  Then she is to move to meet her own needs and the needs of her son.  As long as she is faithful, then God will also be faithful.  This was a promise.  She could believe it or she could refuse to believe it.


15                     So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days.

16                     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. (1 Kings 17:15-16).


And so, she learned obedience in the same way Elijah did.  He is teaching her the same lesson that God taught him by the brook.  It is the lesson of faith.



Concealment by the Brook Cherith

Command To Elijah




Response:   Faithful Obedience


Test:   A Dried-up Brook


Concealment in Zarephath

Command to the Widow Woman


Promise:   Faithful Obedience




Test:   A Lifeless Son


It should not seem strange that God sends trials to teach us obedience.  The Scriputres teach us that even Jesus learned obedience by going to the cross (Hebrews 5:8).


4.         The Testing of Faith.


17                     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.

18                     So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God?  You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” (1 Kings 17:17-18).


Now the woman’s brook dries up.  Her faith is tested in the same way that Elijah’s faith had been tested.  We could say that her brook has dried up.  Her testing strikes at the most important thing in her life - her son.  In her grief, she lashes out at Elijah and at God.


5.         Elijah’s Intercession.


19                     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.

20                     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?” (1 Kings 17:19-20).


Elijah had taken no seminary classes that prepared him to deal with this kind of situation.  So he goes to the Lord.  He intercedes with the Lord on her behalf.  That is what Christ does for us.  When our faith is weak, He makes intercession for us.  When we do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us in words which we are unable to speak.


6.         Resurrection.


21                     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.”

22                     The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. (1 Kings 17:21-22).


Why did Elijah stretch himself over the child three times?  I don’t know.  But it is significant that Jesus would rise from the dead after three days.


7.         Resulting Faith.


23                     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.”

24                     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.” (1 Kings 17:23-24).


This is the climax of the story and the lesson of the passage.  It is that the word of the Lord is true.  I can’t promise that all of your problems will be solved.  But I can promise that God is true.


Here is the point of the narrative.  If God is able to breathe physical life into the dead corpse of this child, then He is also able to breath spiritual life into the nation of Israel.  And He is able to bring back vitality into the deadness of your own soul.


If you haven’t noticed already, there is a Christ motif here in the story of Elijah.  This is the same God who came to earth, entering time and space to...


·        Ask a foreign woman for a drink.

·        Feed hungry multitudes with a miraculous supply of food.

·        Rise from the dead after three days.



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