I’m sure we’ve all at one time or another been unfairly blamed for something that has gone wrong with someone else.
Elijah Brings a Boy Back to Life
17 Several days later, the son of the woman who owned the house got sick, and he kept getting worse, until finally he died.
18 The woman shouted at Elijah, “What have I done to you? I thought you were God’s prophet. Did you come here to cause the death of my son as a reminder that I’ve sinned against God?”
19 “Bring me your son,” Elijah said. Then he took the boy from her arms and carried him upstairs to the room where he was staying. Elijah laid the boy on his bed 20 and prayed, “Lord God, why did you do such a terrible thing to this woman? She’s letting me stay here, and now you’ve let her son die.” 21 Elijah stretched himself out over the boy three times, while praying, “Lord God, bring this boy back to life!”
22 The Lord answered Elijah’s prayer, and the boy started breathing again. 23 Elijah picked him up and carried him downstairs. He gave the boy to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive.”
24 “You are God’s prophet!” the woman replied. “Now I know that you really do speak for the Lord.”
This passage gives us an interesting journey into Old Testament beliefs about the cause and effects of death.
Elijah was staying with this widow in Zarephath, had indeed saved her and her son from certain starvation, yet when her son becomes ill and dies, she blames Elijah.
Of course we are familiar with searching for a reason for illness. If we are unwell, we go to the doctors and expect them to tell us what is wrong, why we feel so poorly – and what they are going to do about it. We are used to medical science being able to explain our ills, and become very uncomfortable if the answer is a genuine, ‘we don’t know why’. So perhaps we can understand this woman looking for a reason for why her son has become ill – if not agree with the conclusion she reaches.
She concludes that her son’s illness is to remind her, if not punish her for her sin. That may seem like an antiquated belief to us, but is it any different to the question we often hear,
What have I done to deserve this?
The implication being that there is a cause and effect of illness. Well of course there is, but it is more to do with bacteria, genetics and pathology – not related to the good or otherwise we have done in life. People getting ill and dying is a fact of life – totally unconnected to their morality. They have done nothing to deserve it.
Elijah proves to her that this is not the case. He prays, the son starts breathing again and is restored to his mother.
The collection of stories in these chapters are about Elijah being proven to be God’s prophet and being able to do God’s work – not any theology of sickness and death, and that is how we must treat them.
Is the death of a child any prove or consequence of a mothers sin? Emphatically not.
Does God speak in and through his people? Certainly yes.
Thank you Lord
that illness and disease
are not punishment
that that is not the kind of God you are.
that you are a God of love and faithfulness.
that though others may seek to blame us
that is not the case.
that in all our questions,
our failure to grasp your ways,
you continue to speak
and to work,
and through us