Thursday, October 25, 2007

When the brook dries up...

1 Kings 17

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." 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 ordered the ravens to feed you 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.

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 of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."

My CBS study this week was on this passage in 1 Kings, and it really spoke to me, so I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned with you. King Ahab was one of the wickedest kings that Israel ever saw. He pumped up the Baal worship to unheard of levels, and he married the queen of Baal worship herself, the infamous Jezebel. If you worshipped Baal, you believed that he made everything fertile. You believed that he provided the rain from heaven to make your crops grow. Into this scene, seemingly from nowhere, steps the prophet Elijah. He has the audacity to claim that the Hebrew God that everyone has been ignoring is the only one that can bring rain, and he promises to prove it. He says that he won't be asking God for any rain, and if he doesn't ask, it won't come. He then promptly goes into hiding, at God's command. Smart.

Alone at the Brook Kerith, I imagine that the Prophet Elijah learned a lot about himself and about the God that he served. Day after day, he probably saw no one. He had lots of time alone with God. Each day, he saw the scenery that God provided, and I'm betting that that was a constant reminder of His creator. No tv, no juicy gossip, no vacations, no great praise music even. No distractions. Into this God shaped silence, his other major reminder of God came each day. God provided food, and he did it in a very unlikely way. He sent ravens to bring it. Now this is laughable, if you know anything about ravens. Ravens barely take care of their own young. Ravens are scavengers. They're more likely to eat you or steal your food than bring you anything to eat. But yet, they brought it. Things were going ok... and then the brook started to dry up.

When Elijah promised to deliver God's message and be a part of God's plan for divine drought, he signed on to a process that wouldn't just bring hurt to an unrepentant people. Their sin affected him. Personally. In the form of a brook that dried up. His water supply was also in peril. And though he saw God provide for him each and every day in the form of raven-brought food, I wonder how he felt when he saw the waters receding day by day. Maybe at first he thought, "Ok, I've still got enough. I'm good." The next day, the water went a little lower. Maybe fear started to gnaw at his heart. Maybe he thought, "Surely God has a back up plan here. I'm sure he'll tell me where to go next before the brook dries up." Another day goes by, and the brook is becoming a muddy puddle...

I wonder how he felt. Notice that God doesn't tell him what to do next until the brook is completely dry. How many times in my own life have I been sitting beside a completely dry brook, staring up at the sky, saying, "God, I'd really appreciate some direction here."? How many times have you? God doesn't give Elijah a new direction to head until long past when he's probably ready for it. Maybe, despite the fact that he's seen God's provision for him daily up to this point, just maybe, he's beginning to doubt that God will take care of him. After all, the biggest thing in his current line of sight in a dried up brook. James tells us that Elijah had a nature just like ours, and this is a comfort to me. Maybe I'm not alone when I doubt because all I can see in front of me is a dusty hole.

What's your dried up brook? I've had several dried brooks, some more dry than others. They come in lots of forms. A few of mine came in the forms of repeated and unwelcome change, infertility, and unexplained health problems. Everybody has them, and if you don't now, you will. And when they come, though it's hard, we need to look up at the ravens. Look up at those heaven sent birds, and look away from that dusty ground.

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