27 August 2015

Lessons from Zarepheth

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in August 2007. It was the last in a series of posts about the life of Elijah. Phil summarized the lessons we should take away from the account of the widow at Zarepheth.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Last week I promised to draw out some practical lessons and underscore a few other things to remember from Elijah's experiences in Zarephath. Here are some that stood out to me as I read over that episode:

1. Providence is characterized by many unexpected twists and turns. This reminds us that God's ways are mysterious and beyond human scrutiny—so that all we can know for sure about God's sovereign dealings with us is that His purposes are always righteous.
     Often He intervenes in our lives in ways that don't instantly appear good to us. Elijah was a prophet, but even he did not see the death of the widow's son coming. When the boy died, Elijah was clearly as shocked and dismayed as anyone about it.
     Those are the times when we need to remind ourselves that God's thoughts are higher than ours, and His ways are not like ours (Isaiah 55:8). But He is still working all things together for our good. His purposes and His strategies are better than the way we would do things. And He hasn't lost control—even if at the moment our whole world might seem to be in complete disarray.

2. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away—and we should praise Him in either case. This woman had benefited from God's generous provision in the time of drought, but she had no right to interpret that as a guarantee that her life would be free from calamity from then on. God has as much right to afflict us as He does to bless us. And we should glorify Him in either case.
    God doesn't promise that all His dealings with us will always be pleasant and easy. On the contrary, He assures us that trials and afflictions will be our lot and our portion. But He promises grace to endure, and He commands us to trust that His purpose for us is ultimately good. We must learn to trust in the dark times as well as in the times of good fortune.

3. Temporal blessings are nothing compared to Spiritual blessings. Consider this: the time eventually came when that boy died again. He may have lived to adulthood. Tradition says he became a lifelong servant of Elijah. One ancient rabbinical tradition even held that he became the prophet we know as Jonah. (It's pretty hard to see how that's possible, because Jonah was Jewish, and this boy was the son of a Phoenician woman. Also, Jonah is identified as the son of Amittai [2 Kings 14:25; Jonah 1:1]; nothing suggests he was an orphan like this boy.)
     In any case, it is safe to assume that this boy died at the end of his life, just like everyone in Scripture except Enoch and Elijah. It is appointed unto men to die once (Hebrews 9:27). In this boy's case, he was appointed to die twice.

And so the one enduring aspect of this miracle is seen in the faith of the widow. That was the greatest miracle of all—not that the boy was given his life back. (That was merely a temporal blessing.) But that a heart once dead to the things of God could be established in unshakable faith, with a rock-solid pre-modern conviction that the Word of God is absolute truth.

Real faith is to be able to trust Him in the midst of the tragedy—before we see the final outcome—and rest in the assurance that He does all things well.