Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 1 Kings 17:8-24:

Wherever Elijah goes, life breaks out, abundantly, since he is the bearer of the word and presence of the life-giving creator. By providing food for the widow of Zarephath, a Canaanite counterpart to Jezebel, Yahweh shows his superiority to Baal, who, after all, is unable to provide a bit of bread for a Sidonian widow and her household. In the midst of drought and famine, Elijah’s arrival makes her house a place of uninterrupted provision.

When she honors the prophet by giving her her first cake of bread, Yahweh gives her a prophet’s reward (Matt. 10:41), replenishing her oil and flour. In the midst of Baal territory, Yahweh provides bread for his prophet and for the window who supports him. In faith, the woman puts bread upon the waters and receives an abundant return.

The greatest test is the last. After Elijah saves the widow and her house from starvation, after Elijah brings new life to the house, suddenly death invades the house. The widow blames Elijah, and we can hear the disappointment and dismay in her accusing question: “I thought you were coming to save me and my son, but you’ve come to kill. I thought you came as a mediator of life, but you come instead with death.”

This complaint raises a climactic challenge. Yahweh crosses into the wilderness and gives life; he gives life in Baal’s territory. But can he cross the boundary to rescue a boy from Sheol? Yahweh is the lord of life: but is he the lord of death?

Again, the answer is yes. Elijah brings the widow’s accusation to Yahweh and then prays that the Lord will revive the boy. Yahweh listens to Elijah’s voice and restores the boy’s soul to his body. Yahweh is not only superior to Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility and life, but also greater than Mot, the Canaanite god of the underworld, snatching the dead boy from the grave. . . .

Through his prophet, Yahweh demonstrates his lordship, his boundary-bursting power. He shows his power over the wilderness, over enemy territory, over the grave. And in this he manifests his relentless persistence, his unwavering commitment to preserve his prophet and to save Israel.

Elijah goes to the wilderness, and Yahweh follows him. Elijah goes to Zarephath, and Yahweh follows him. The widow’s son goes to the grave, and Yahweh follows to bring life from death. Yahweh’s commitment is not confined to the prophet, but extends to call of Israel, for he preserves the prophet for the sake of his people. . . .

This is the God of Jesus Christ, the God who comes to us in Christ Jesus. Will our God enter the wilderness for us? He has done, in Jesus. Will he cross into the territory of the “prince of this world” for us? He has done, in Jesus. Will he cross the boundary between the living and the dead for us He has done, in Jesus.


©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.