This is one of those Bible passages that really excites me. I love when the power of God is recognized and applauded. Our previous readings have been building up to this moment of triumph! I almost get giddy with joy at how Ahab and the prophets of Baal must be feeling.
I don’t imagine Elijah will gloat because it was not his power at work. He has to be even more in love with the LORD. If I were him, I would be overcome with the honor and privilege of bringing this message to the Israelites.
King Ahab has been searching for Elijah all this time. Elijah has been kept safe by the LORD, who now sends Elijah out. If Elijah was at all fearful to meet King Ahab, his boldness seems to cover that well.
Elijah encounters another believer in Obadiah. Obadiah wants his allegiance to be clear. Yet, he also reveals to us his own fearfulness to bring King Ahab the news of Elijah’s presence. He fears for his life. Is King Ahab really that ruthless?
Elijah is now deep in “enemy” territory in Sidon. God’s power can work anywhere. Elijah goes with confidence to the widow, but she is less than welcoming. At least she recognizes Elijah as following a different God when she protests, “I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house.” (Emphasis added).
But the widow has plenty of resources in God’s economy. Elijah’s own words of comfort, “don’t be afraid” tell us that God is going to move. There is a bit of a “faith test” to come, and we can be sure God’s saving action will be next. If God is going to use this woman, as he promised Elijah, then there will be a miracle.
It will be helpful to know that Elijah is the first of several important prophets that God will use to bring messages to his people in both Israel and Judah (northern and southern kingdoms). Elijah is from Gilead (Israel) so he reports to his king, Ahab.
We’ve already seen how the kings of the north have all been evil and corrupt. For years, there were some in Israel who remained faithful to the God of Abraham who had brought them out of bondage in Egypt. They have lived under leaders who flaunt an entirely different spirituality, totally ignoring the God of their inheritance.
We are walking through some very dark days in the history of Israelite leadership. Each new king seems to be worse than the one before. How is that even possible?
Meanwhile, we must assume that because Judah’s king, Asa, is following God, everything is going well over there. The remnant of the Israelite people living in Judah and Benjamin are living lives that are more pleasing to God, honoring him with their obedience.