Many of you may know the story of Elijah. He was a Prophet no doubt spreading the message of condemnation to those disobeying God, which happens to be King Ahab. The Bible says, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.” You get the picture that Ahab was definitely on God’s short list.
Elijah drops in on the pages of the Bible much like Melchisedek, without any mention of his father, or mother, or beginning of his days; like a man dropt out of the clouds, and raised by God's special providence. Elijah’s first job was to tell King Ahab because he was disobeying God there was going to be a drought, until he spoke again. Of course this did not go over well, so Elijah had to go into hiding. God told Elijah exactly what to do.
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 directed the ravens to supply you with food 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.
Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
If someone told you to hide out, and birds would bring you your food; you would think they were nuts. Then he tells him to go to the brook, also known as a wadi. Wadi’s are seasonal and eventually dry up without rainfall, so this was definitely was not a solid source for water. It is also interesting that God used birds to minister to Elijah. By their nature Ravens are mean and greedy birds. Ravens neglect their own young, and do not feed them: yet when God commanded, they brought food twice a day to the prophet Elijah. So not only did God provide food, He did it in an extravagant way. Meat was normally only eaten on feast days, certainly not twice a day like Elijah was being fed.
Eventually the water dried up, and the Lord commanded Elijah to move on to Zarepahath, which was a Gentile city. Jezebel was Elijah's greatest enemy; yet, to show her how powerless was her malice, God would find a hiding-place for Elijah in her own country. Elijah was now being tested from another perspective, taking charity from a Gentile woman. Jews and Gentiles were not exactly on the same page with their religious practices. This was a foreshadowing of the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews. Because Elijah was a man of God he did exactly what God said. He found the widow at the gate, and asked for a bite to eat. The woman had a choice to make. In her mind she knew she only had enough for one more meal for her family; yet this man claimed she would never go hungry if she obeyed the Lord. Can you imagine having to make a decision between something you can see, and something you hope will happen? The widow chose wisely, and provides a cake for Elijah in her home. The Bible tells us the flour jar, and the jug of oil did not run dry until the famine was over.
Elijah, and the widow were living their lives fully relying on God. A gentile trusting in God even before God grafted the Gentiles into the family. A prophet receiving his food from birds, drinking from a brook for water, and being fed by a gentile woman. This story is a powerful example of waiting on God. God sent Elijah to the brook Cherith for protection, training and provision. God provided for Elijah and sustained him, even when it looked like God’s plan might not work out. Imagine the thoughts that went through Elijah’s mind as he watched the brook slowly dry up each day. Notice how God waited until after the brook dried up to give Elijah his next orders. Elijah was truly depending on God for his very life.
We can apply the principles in this story to just about any situation we are facing in life. Human nature usually does not wait on God, but strives to fulfill its own needs. It is encouraged by the world’s idea that if we don’t look out for ourselves, nobody will. The truth is that if we surrender our lives to God, he will provide for us. This is also a story that reminds us that our prayers might not necessarily be answered the way we hope. We must be careful to be flexible in our expectations. What we envision as God’s provision may be different from what he gives us. Finally the story reminds us no challenge is too big for God; He can use anybody, and anything to fulfill His will.
May we find ourselves saying, “The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”