The home at Zarephath was probably quiet and peaceful for many weeks. There was sufficiency there, and a sense of Jehovah’s special interest and care. Then suddenly the cloud arose. Sickness entered the home, which terminated in the death of the widow’s only child. How many homes of believers in the Lord Jesus have had the same painful experience! How often have we said at the throne of grace, ‘Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick’; then perhaps later we have been constrained to say through our tears, ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here!’
The Lord frequently uses sickness and death in a disciplinary way; and perhaps these things have more frequently this character than our dull hearts realize.
We need to exercise ourselves more than perhaps we do with reference to sickness. We are too ready when trouble comes, to send for the physician; and also when a fellow-Christian falls sick, to ask the Lord to heal him. Should we not, first, exercise our hearts and consciences before God, and enquire of Him why these things have come about? There are sometimes moral reasons why our loved ones, or we, are laid low. The affliction may be preventive in character, as in the case of Job, or it may be corrective. In any case, exercise of heart and conscience before God is good and cannot fail to yield blessed results. Another has said, ‘As long as life flows quietly, and our daily needs are met, we may live with little exercise as to much that, in God’s sight, calls for self-judgement. But under the exercise of some special trial, conscience becomes active, the vision is cleared, and much that may have been wrong in the past in thoughts, words, habits and ways, is seen, dealt with, and judged in God’s presence’.
This exactly describes what happened at Zarephath. The stricken mother seemed to recognize at once that the hand of God was in the sickness and death of her child. She said unto Elijah, ‘What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?’ 1 Kgs.17. 18. Zarephath means ‘smelting furnace’; the woman was now experiencing its heat: Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who only got rid of encumbrances (bands) in the fire, this woman emerged from the affliction a happier soul, and with a fuller knowledge of God. There was evidently something in her past life, or in her innermost soul at that very moment which she was seeking to cover, but God in His goodness to her brought it out into the light in His own way.
‘When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply:
The flame shall not hurt thee: I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.'