What would you do?
The Old Testament records an account of one of God’s spokesman named Elijah. Following a direct confrontation with a wicked king Elijah receives further instructions from the Lord.
“Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
Elijah is now tested by the LORD, who tells him to go back in the direction from which he came and hide. Specifically, in a brook that is actually a ravine or wadi – like a streambed which was dry for most of the year but contained water in the rainy season.
Put yourself in the story – There is going to be a severe famine in the land due to the drought Elijah predicted. Where are the people going to get food? They will have to purchase it from merchants, who transport it in; think runaway inflation. Or they will have to go to somewhere that has food and purchase it and bring it back to their families or they will have to relocate, like the family of Elimelech in the book of Ruth.
But God had told Elijah to go and hide by a little brook, which will likely dwindle as the drought continues.
What would you do? Would you obey God, even though it did not make much sense? Would you obey God or not? Or would you use your “common sense” and rationalize away God’s command? This is a test of faith. Are you willing to obey God, no matter what may happen and leave yourself only in his care?
Scripture says that Elijah went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.
Elijah shows us the way of obedience. He went and did according to the word of the Lord. Do you know what this means? It means that Elijah took God at his word. He believed that God was able to do what he had said; he would make those ravens feed Elijah.
Ravens are large black birds like crows known as voracious eaters and robber birds. By nature they fight for their food and selfishly horde it. There is a word that depicts great, selfish hunger – ravenous. God demonstrated his power by causing his wild creatures to act against their nature and bring food to his prophet Elijah.
Sometimes it is extremely difficult to trust God and obey him even though he has made promises to care for us. In effect, we doubt that he is able to provide for us. Some of us may be in situations where we think we know exactly what to expect from another. We even have a long track record of experience to support our positions and excuse us from obeying the Lord. We think we know what is likely to happen if we obey God and we don’t like it.
But God is able to change his creatures, even if it means that he must change a person and cause them to act contrary to their nature. God blesses obedience in his way and in his time.
And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Elijah was strengthened through the word of the LORD, both physically and in his faith.
We tend to glamorize these narratives. Bread: as if from Panera’s, wrapped in plastic and sliced. Meat: rib-eyes and hamburgers. But ravens are scavengers; they ate carrion – road kill, decaying flesh. Did God cause the ravens to bring fresh, tasty bread and meat? Possibly more like scraps from a dumpster! Are you surprised? Do you think you deserve better? People all around had nothing to eat. The point is that God sustained Elijah. He provided for Elijah. The Lord is God and The Lord always keeps his word.
You would think that after such a demonstration of bold obedience, that the Lord would greatly prosper Elijah. After all, Elijah obeyed the Lord and now he deserved to be blessed! But look what happened.
And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Elijah was further tested because he trusted the word of the LORD. Do you see how the Lord was building the faith of Elijah? God rewarded Elijah’s obedience; he encouraged him and strengthened him by providing for his needs. Elijah now has experience in trusting the Lord. And so now God gives Elijah another opportunity to demonstrate his trust in him. The brook dries up. Elijah has already learned that the Lord will provide. Now, Elijah can show that he continues to trust his God.
Elijah often obeyed the word of the LORD but not always. Elijah reminds us of another man, the Lord Jesus who came not to do his own will but the will of his father who sent him. Jesus is a man of faith par excellence. Jesus fully and completely obeyed God’s commands for us. Believers in Jesus are seen by God as in the obedience of Jesus! Our righteousness comes through faith in him and his obedience and payment for our sins. Then we are to obey God, not to earn his approval but did demonstrate our love for him. As we trust and obey God, He builds our faith in him.