1 Kings 17:1-
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”
5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
In our last study we began to look at the ways the Lord educates his children. Another lesson for us to learn is that in order to give out we first have to take in. And in order to take in it may be necessary for the Lord to drop us out of our busy ‘Christian life’ in order that we may really spend time with him, to hear what he is trying to tell us.
For Elijah, the Lord needed to spend time preparing him for his future ministry so he didn’t allow him to go back to his busy life, instead he led him into a place of seclusion.
Maybe we feel that the Lord is leading us into some new avenue of ministry, or we may simply feel the need to really recharge our spiritual batteries, if that’s so then shouldn’t we try to find some place where we can really seek the Lord without other distractions? Where we may really spend ‘quality time’ in his presence?
What did Jesus say to his disciples when they found they were unable to drive out an evil spirit? Look at Mark 9:28-
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
What did he mean by that? (not just a prayer when you are faced with a problem, but a lifetime spent steeped in prayer)
Where did Jesus go to pray?
23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
If Jesus found it necessary to spend time alone with his father it is wrong of us to presume that we can do without some place where we can get away from the noise and busyness of this earthly life to spend time with him. And it needs to be a conscious deliberate action: ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’. (Jer. 29v13)
The next lesson to learn is to trust God completely
Look back at verse 4. There is a strong emphasis on the word 'there'. I have ordered the ravens to feed you there. Knowing the area, Elijah might have preferred other hiding places to Kerith – after all it was only a wadi, and would be expected to dry up soon. Surely the main Jabbok river to the south, or the Yarmuk river further north, would be better choices. But Kerith was the only place to which the ravens would bring his supplies, and as long as he was there, God had promised to provide for him.
Our first thought should be 'Am I where God wants me?' Or have we put off doing what he has told us because we are afraid that we will not have the resources needed?
Look at Luke 9:2-
Can we really believe that if the Lord sends us, we will have all the resources we need?
When God sends his soldiers to war he does not expect them to be concerned with setting up their own supply lines. If we do his will on earth as it is in heaven, he will give us our daily bread. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mat 6v33)
Some people may have niggling doubts whether the story of the ravens is actually true. Why question that miracle if we can honestly say 'Our Father'? Surely if we believe in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, other lesser miracles recorded for us by God in his word should be easy to believe.
But if we still need proof then we need simply look at the experiences of living people, who have had all their needs supplied in ways that are just as miraculous.
Having got Elijah to Kerith the third lesson can continue. 1 Kings 17:7
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
We can only imagine what condition the Promised Land was in after the first few months of drought. The rough patches of grass that had been on the limestone hills were scorched as if they had been burnt; the wooded valleys were dusty and silent, the leaves shrivelling on the trees; the lowland fields were dry and brown. The rivers and streams shrank in their beds, every day becoming more shallow and still; there was no rain to revive the vegetation, or fill the ponds; the sun rose and set for months in a sky, the blue of which was unflecked by a single cloud and the heat was unbearable. There was no dew to moisten the parched, cracked earth; and Kerith began to dry up.
Each day marked a visible reduction in its flow. Its width became measurably thinner, until its bed became simply a course of stones, baking in the scorching heat. The brook dried up.
What did Elijah think? Did he think that God had forgotten him? Did he begin to make plans for himself? Or did he fall on his knees and like David in his deep suffering say 'I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.' (Psalm 38v1-
Note the phrase at the end of verse 5: and stayed there
This is where this lesson becomes so difficult.
It’s possible that from time to time we may find ourselves sitting by drying brooks. What do I mean? What things have we grown to trust and enjoy which now appear to be drying up?
How about (Ask for suggestions – list on board)
It is hard to sit beside a drying brook -
Why does God let them dry? So that we will learn again to trust him, and not ourselves, or our circumstances.
Or perhaps he needs to loosen our roots before he replants us in some other area of service or learning.
Elijah had to be taught that his supplies do not come from the failing Kerith, but from the unfailing Saviour. It’s something we need to learn too. All our needs are met in him: look at John 4v14 – Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
Why teach us that we mustn’t trust our current circumstances? Because God needs to be able to move us on:
Look for a minute at a strange verse in Jeremiah 48:11
11 “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs,
not poured from one jar to another— she has not gone into exile.
So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.
Grape juice, when it is first pressed, is impure and thick. It is left in tanks for a time until fermentation has done its work, and the dregs have settled to the bottom. When this is done, the liquid is carefully drawn off into another container so that all the sediment is left behind. This emptying process is repeated from one container to another until the liquid has become clear and pure.
In the case of the Moabites, we are told there had been none of this unsettling process and in consequence the people had made no moral or spiritual progress: Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another – she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.
This suggests that the quiet life is not necessarily the best life. Sometimes the lessons we need to learn can only come from the unsettling that God's plan provides. This explains how God dealt with Elijah.
He was settled at home.
It doesn’t appear that he had a wife but he certainly had a mother and father! Probably there would be others in his family circle. And we are not told what he did for a living but he must have had some form of employment. Later we will read that he had a servant, so maybe he was a man with some authority.
But the conviction he felt was very strong. He was compelled to pray earnestly. But now the conviction had become even stronger. He was unsettled: so he set out to deliver his message. He was compelled to go to see Ahab. But having given his message, he was not allowed to go home and resume his former life. Why not? Going back is not God’s way – he takes us forward.
Having surrendered his will to God. God was not going to let him return to his old ways.
To return to the analogy of winemaking Elijah was emptied into the presence of Ahab. From there he was emptied into Kerith and from there he will be emptied again into Zarephath. Each time he has lessons to learn which bring him closer to God, and which ultimately qualify him to take his place with Christ and Moses on the mount of transfiguration.
As he set out, would Elijah have had any concept of what God had planned for him? No, none at all.
But having turned his faith into action he opened the door into the untold possibilities that God had for him. He has begun a journey of faith and we are privileged to see how the Lord is now going to lead him.
But before we continue, what do we really mean when we sing ‘All to Jesus I surrender’?
Do we just mean we are prepared to give up some of our precious time to pray earnestly?
Or do we mean we are actually prepared to turn our back on our work, our family, our friends, our bank accounts and our store cupboards in order to follow the Lord?
What are we afraid of?
Probably all our fears come down to one: The fear of loosing control.
So do we think that we are the best person to be in control of our life?
If only we would surrender our heart and life and give total commitment to our Lord, then we would be more like Elijah:
Is this sort of life actually possible in our modern world?
How can we become that committed?
What can we practically do to hand control back to Jesus?
Surely we can’t just walk away from our family, work, or church commitments?
Let’s look at that first. Are we being called to walk away from family, work or church? The last one (Church) is easiest. If the Lord is truly moving us on then yes we will probably have to join a new fellowship. It will not be our concern to help the Lord choose another of his servants to fill the role we once had!
Should we give up our work if we believe the Lord is calling us to some other work for him? Yes – if that’s what the Lord is wanting you to do – and many people have done just that.
What about our families? Some Christians have used their calling to effectively sideline their wives and children. Others have ignored their responsibilities to elderly parents. Both of these are wrong. Families come with us!
Families are fundamental in God’s plan for humans. Marriage is ordained by God, and in that union husband and wife become one (Mat 19v4-
What about children? We know Jesus’ attitude to children: Matthew 18:5-
5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea”.
Children are our major responsibility and cannot be ignored. Whatever we are called to do for the Lord, our whole family must be included and our children must never suffer as a result. But what lessons can be learnt early in life if our children can see true faith in action!
What about our parents? Parents of course expect their children to move away and live their own lives, but when they become elderly, or frail, or ill, we continue to have a family responsibility towards them. Jesus specifically warned against putting our ‘Work for the Lord’ before our responsibilities in Mark 7:9-
9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
(Effectively saying ‘My life is devoted to God so now I can’t waste my time or resources on you’)
It appears Elijah had no family responsibilities and so it was perhaps easier to launch out into this new life of trust. But he hadn’t been on his new path long before the brook dried up.
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