Thursday, August 3, 2006

When The Brook Dries Up

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land." (1 Kings 17:1-7)

Now isn't that something? Elijah declares God's word and it worked! He said it wouldn't rain and it didn't rain. Even better, God sends Elijah out to a little brook where there is water and then sends ravens to bring food to Elijah. Hallelujah! God provides for His servants doesn't He? Let old nasty Ahab and the rest of them have it - NO WATER FOR YOU! Elijah, on the other hand, is sent out to a nice little brook to drink from, so he's OK.
And then the brook dries up. Ooops.

Wait a minute! Isn't God supposed to keep His servants from suffering? Isn't God supposed to provide for those who have faith? Most of us would be sitting there thinking, maybe this shutting up the heavens wasn't such a good idea after all. Do you see the connection here? Elijah said there wouldn't be any rain, the rain stops, and then Elijah's water dries up too. It's real easy to believe in God when He provides what we need. It's gets a little harder when the provision seems to go away. That's a real test of faith. What do you do if the brook dries up? Do you curse God, change your mind, quit believing? Or, do you go right on doing what you know you should do?

This passage in Kings doesn't indicate how long Elijah sat there watching the brook dry up. But, there is no indication that Elijah panicked, backed down, or worried at all. I don't know what was going through his mind, but notice that Elijah stayed right where God told him to go even though things began to look pretty grim.
"And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die." (1 Kings 17:8-12 )

OK! Now this is much better! Yeah, the water dries up and the birds stop coming, but don't worry because God already has a plan! Elijah gets sent down to this widow woman to get some provision. She's probably some well-to-do widow whose husband left a big estate right? Nope. God sends Elijah to this poor woman who only has enough food for one day! Hmmm. Maybe God made a mistake here? Surely He didn't mean for Elijah to take the last bit of food and water from a poor woman and her son! Oh, yeah. Again I think most of us would start thinking that we didn't hear right. Isn't God supposed to pour out blessings on those with faith?

This isn't looking good. It's getting worse and worse. First the brook dries up then the widow woman says she doesn't have any food. And notice that last little bit: "and die." Yep. The woman had given up and decided it was all over. Then to add insult to injury, along comes this crazy old prophet and demands her last bit of food. Sheesh.

"And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah." (1 Kings 17:13-16 )

Notice how Elijah doesn't hesitate for one minute. "Feed me first," he says, and then everything will be fine. Sure enough, the little bit of food she had just kept multiplying every day. WOW! But, think of this. Why didn't God just give them a whole bunch of food all at once? He certainly could have, but instead they had to trust God one day at a time. Enough for today, worry about tomorrow later. That's God's way and it is something we often forget. We want it all right now but by doing it God's way faith is maintained day after day. So all looks good. And then . . .
"And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?" (1 Kings 17:17-18 )

Typical. The woman and here son were about to die anyway, then Elijah shows up and by a miracle they get fed for many days. You would think by that time the woman would have figured it out. But, no, as soon as something bad happens she starts complaining. Once again, Elijah doesn't hesitate. He prays, lays on top of her son and the son comes back to life. Finally, the widow catches on.

"And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth." (1 Kings 17:24 )

This story is one that I have to read and remember from time to time. Everything in here goes against the way people are taught to think about God's ways. We have been told (by some) that if we just trust God then everything will get better right away. What is not talked about is HOW God provides - one day at a time. There never is a point in our lives where all the troubles are over. There will never come a time when we don't need to trust God TODAY.
What sets Elijah apart from most of us is his total obedience. He doesn't question the way God is going to do things. He doesn't worry about what the effect of God's word will have on himself. He follows the voice of God every step of the way even when it doesn't seem to make sense. The miracles that are attached to Elijah come about as Elijah goes from place to place. His faith and obedience is the means God uses to demonstrate His power over our situation.
Just remember that when the brook dries up, it doesn't mean God has abandoned you. So long as we continue to trust, continue to obey, the way is laid out ahead. And by our obedience God will use us to work miracles we can't foresee.

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