“Elijah left and did what the Lord’s Word had told him.
He went to live by the Cherith River,
which is east of the Jordan River.
Ravens brought him bread and meat
in the morning and in the evening.
And he drank from the stream.
But after some time the stream dried up because no rain had fallen in the land.”
1 Kings 17:5-7
It’s no fun being a Prophet. It’s tough being the “bearer of bad news” from God to people…often to powerful leaders. Elijah was cutting edge …the first in a long line of important prophets God would send to Israel and Judah. Elijah had no guide book to follow. And the messages God told him to tell wicked rulers were Bad News.
No wonder he gave his messages and then left. Quickly. Very quickly.
This time, he had bad news for King Ahab. There would be no rain or even dew for the next few years. Ahab’s “god Baal” was the “god” who brought the rains and good harvests. So Elijah delivered the news….and ran. (He seemed to do a lot of running…) Ahab was left with a situation of water in his kingdom drying up, in the face of his “god of rain.”
God led Elijah to a river where he could rest and be peacefully alone. (Prophets seem to be very comfortable with “alone.”) God sent ravens (considered “unclean” birds for God’s people) to bring bread and meat to Elijah. The “dirty” ravens that he would have found “unclean” and very distasteful in normal circumstances, brought him bread and meat each day….a most unlikely delivery service that God used to take care of His chosen prophet.
But day after day, the stream began to run more slowly, and shrink from its banks. It went from a clear running stream to a narrow trickle. Grasses began to wither…turn brown. It was more and more difficult to catch the water to drink. It must have felt like each day brought him nearer to his death. He had delivered the message of no rain or harvests as God had directed, but had God really meant that he would suffer as well? Wouldn’t he have been excused?
Try to imagine the mental and emotional battle growing in Elijah as he sat each day, alone, watching his life dry up. What would you be thinking? How well do you wait? To what do you run when life gets tough…when there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances? When you feel that life is slipping away, and you cannot stop it? When you begin wondering, ‘Where is God? I thought I was doing what He’d told me to do!”
Elijah’s life was at risk on two fronts: a murdurous king chasing him, and the bare necessities of life disappearing. What God had said would happen, was happening. Elijah simply hadn’t expected it would happen to him.
Yet, just at the right time, God spoke, telling him to go to a village outside of God’s peoples’ land (hostile territory.) He told Elijah exactly who he would meet (a widow) and that God had instructed her to feed him. (She had no food.)
The story is one that only God could come up with, using most unlikely people struggling in impossible circumstances. Nothing humanly logical. The ingredients of miracles.
But there was something that was coming “just around the corner” that God needed to prepare His Prophet to face. . . a certain Ultimate Showdown on a certain mountaintop. Elijah would need every ounce of faith for what was ahead. God’s “School of Faith” beside that stream, with the dirty birds, and the widow/son living in extreme poverty, were inserted into Elijah’s life.
He was being prepared for what God knew was coming.