Elijah performs the first reanimation in scripture for the son of the widow from Zarephath. Reanimation and resurrection are distinct, as will be explained in later readings. Instead of focusing on this great miracle, I want to note God’s surprising choice of Zarephath as the location for the extraordinary signs we read about today.
Zarephath was located in Sidon, a place characterized by Baal worship. This widow would not have been Jewish. While Ahab, the king of Israel is afflicted by drought for worshiping Baal, this woman accustomed to Baal worship will receive grace from the true God, YHWH. Elijah brings God’s grace to a foreigner while many Jews in Israel suffer. Jesus makes the same observation about this event years later when describing his mission to bring good news to the sick, weak, and poor (Luke 4:16-126). Jesus’ point notes God’s free choice to bless those outside of the covenants and ethnic lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not to mention those afflicted by extreme hardships in life.
In Elijah’s encounter, Israel is facing consequences due their sins, and God is still showing His compassion to the poor, regardless of ethnicity or even false worship practices. In the same way, when Jesus references this event, He is declaring that He will bring His good news to whomever will receive it: poor or rich, Jew or Gentile, monotheist or idolater. At the same time, Jesus’ audience infers that even those that have the right pedigree can be excluded from the blessings God would give if they choose the wrong path. The wrong path for Israel is idolatry in Elijah’s day or rejecting the true King hundreds of years later. The miracles of Elijah demonstrate grace as well as a warning to those attending to scripture’s grand story.