In 1 Kings Chapter 17, we are told of the prophet Elijah and how God instructed him to go to a brook named Cherith on the other side of the Jordan River. God told him that he would have water to drink from the brook and that ravens would bring him food to eat every morning and every evening. The two things God told Elijah were:
1. What he needed to d0
2. That God would supply his needs
The two things Elijah was not told were:
2. For how long
When I think about this story, it reminds me how much farther I have to go in my spiritual growth. I imagine what it must have been like for Elijah, to go to the brook in obedience and just sit there and wait, and to do so in the faith that those ravens would show up every day. I imagine myself sitting there every morning and evening, scouring the sky for any signs of the ravens and, more importantly, my breakfast and dinner. I imagine myself sitting there throughout each day, twiddling my thumbs during the time between breakfast and dinner. I imagine me wondering if I heard God correctly? I imagine me getting frustrated with God at His silence. Surely He could mercifully give me a few words of communication as the hours painfully tick by, after all, I showed up didn’t I? I obeyed You Lord, You could at least acknowledge that I’m here. A thumbs up. Something. All the while, forgetting that God already told me everything I needed to know, which is what I’m supposed to be doing and that He would supply all my needs.
For all intents and purposes, it would appear to us that Elijah’s time at the brook accomplished no real purpose. After all, the only thing he did during his time at the brook was sit there and wait. No crossword puzzles, no Sudoku, no newspaper. To make matters worse, we are told that the brook eventually dried up. I imagine my horror at watching that stupid brook grow smaller and smaller each day, growing more and more frantic with God’s silence each day. Being tempted to get irritated with God, asking Him why He would lead me to this place and allow such torment? After all, I obeyed didn’t I? And watching my only source of water slowly dry up was my reward? Thanks a whole bunch, Lord.
We are told that Elijah didn’t hear from God again until the brook had dried up. The silence of God wasn’t broken until Elijah’s resources ran out. Yet still, Elijah waited. He didn’t search for another source of water. He didn’t try to look for his own solution to his problem. God had told Elijah to go to brook Cherith and he made up his mind that he would stay there until he died if he had to, rather than disobey or doubt God.
After Elijah’s seemingly unfruitful waste of time at brook Cherith, God next instructed him to go to a widow’s house in Zarapheth, “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1 Kings 17:9). Elijah obediently went to the widow’s house, only to find out that she had one handful of flour and a few tablespoons of oil left for her and her son to share. When I think of myself in this situation, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Well, so much for plan ‘B’. Where next Lord? The mouth of an active volcano?” But it is here that I realize the purpose for Elijah’s time at the brook.
For God to use you as a source of strength and guidance for others, you must die to your own strength and reasoning. Only then can the Holy Spirit– the true source of all strength and all wisdom– flow freely through you and pour out into the lives of others. During the time Elijah spent at the brook, he learned not only how to wait on God, but he also learned how to rely on God and God alone, and how to hold on to His promises regardless of his circumstances, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
Unless it is God working through us, any attempt at trying to be a source of strength for others becomes an unbearable burden. And because Elijah had endured the time at brook Cherith, he was spiritually mature enough for God to use him as a source of strength and guidance for the widow at Zarapheth. When she tells Elijah that she and her son are going to eat what little they have left and then wait for death, he tells her, “Do not fear.” (1 Kings 17:13).
He said, “Do not fear..”, and he meant it. He was able to say “Do not fear…”, and stand firmly upon it.
I want that kind of faith. I want to be a source of strength and guidance for others. And to have that kind of faith, and for God to operate through us as a source of strength and guidance for others, we have to endure our own brook Cherith. We have to learn how to be obedient to what God tells us to do and not question why or for how long. We have to make up our mind that we are committed to Him even until death, if that’s what it takes. The death of our own reasoning and the death of our own strength.