Read: I Kings 17:1-6
Reflect: It doesn’t take long for milk to spoil, meat to become rancid or for a country to nosedive. The events of I Kings 17 take place approximately 100 years after the death of King David and followed the tragic division of the Kingdom of Israel into 2 separate kingdoms: The Southern Kingdom (Judah) and the Northern Kingdom (Samaria). Sadly, the Northern Kingdom had as its ruler Ahab who was noted in I Kings 16 verse 30 as doing “evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.” This definitely was not star leadership. Ahab was a coward, a scoundrel. It is into this situation where we first hear of Elijah, who I call “The Man Who Showed Up”. It is almost like God says, “You think I had forgotten my people; I had Elijah in mind all of the time.” All we know is that no one else had the courage and the faith to put his life on the line before King Ahab and to say that enough was enough. There is no irony that the translation of the name “Elijah” is “The LORD is my God.”
Chuck Swindoll says of Elijah: God’s methods are often surprising. God did not raise up an army to destroy Ahab and Jezebel. God did the unimaginable—He chose a gaunt, rugged figure striding out of nowhere, suddenly stepping into the pages of history. Elijah is a clear witness of the value of one life completely committed to God. An unknown man from a backwater place, he was called to stand against evil in the most turbulent and violent and decadent of times. The spiritual chasm between God and His people had reached its widest breadth. Elijah stood alone in that gap."
At the time of Elijah, Ahab had instilled an entire religious system, centering around the worship of Baal, the “god of rain”. Can you see the irony in that God’s punishment on the Northern Kingdom was to be a huge drought? However, at the time he announced the drought, Elijah did not know how long it was going to last. God didn’t choose to tell him that portion of the puzzle. Please also remember that God’s ways often do coincide with our requests for quick, strong, and immediate solutions.
And what did God tell Elijah to do after the big announcement at the palace? Hustle off to the middle of the wilderness, east of the Jordan River and to hide by the Brook of Cherith. We know that the drought eventually lasted 3 ½ years, but we are not told how long Elijah was holed up next to the brook. It could have been a year, maybe longer. This is where Elijah was schooled by God, getting his Master’s Degree in the specialty of learning utter dependence on God. The meaning of “Cherith” is to “cut away, to cut up or off.” God had some pruning to do in Elijah’s life while Elijah resided at the brook.
God’s set-up for Elijah was rather unique. The brook was one that was fed by the rainy season (but remember a drought had just begun) and the food delivery system was unheard of. “And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he would drink from the brook.” So, what do you think entertained Elijah’s mind as he waited day after day at the brook and gradually saw the stream of water becoming thinner and thinner? Probably even the ravens were becoming scrawnier. The big picture lesson for Elijah during this time was to teach him not to trust in his own gifts, but to trust in God Himself. Notice, that Elijah did not pray for rain again, even for his own survival; not until God told him to offer that prayer. This is the value of the seasons when we learn to live unknown and reputed as nothing, siting by the brook and waiting for Him. Our most difficult trials, when we are learning to walk in obedience to God can be scary. God usually does not share with us His calendar, His game plan, or the answers we want at the time when we want them. These are the times we can learn to hide ourselves in Him and His Character.
Are you in this season right now? Are you exhausted from trying to find your own solutions and coming up empty? How about shutting the door, getting on your knees, and finally handing over to God all that pain and confusion you have been harboring. Consider sitting quietly by the brook with your hands outstretched to God. Remember, God didn’t choose to tell Elijah how all the puzzle pieces fit together, He just asked Elijah to show up with a heart which followed his name, “The LORD is my God.”