Have you ever noticed that God tends to take us on winding paths on His way to getting us to our destination? One minute there is provision, and the next minute, the provision we had gotten used to disappears. It happened to Elijah, and if it hasn’t already happened to you, it will.
Elijah, in 1 Kings 17, was working for God. He was delivering yet another of his not-so-popular “words of the Lord”, this time saying there would be no more rain until Elijah said so. God then directed his path to go to a particular brook for water, where ravens would bring him food.
This is a perfect picture of when we have obeyed God’s word, have come through some trial, and our worldly life becomes pleasant and easy – for a while.
1 Kings 17
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe [a] 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.
But that WASN’T the end of the story – no “and he lived happily ever after”. This was just a season of provision which built his faith and proved to Elijah in a personal way that God was faithful to do as He said, even in the most peculiar ways. This time of rest and increase in faith was just what he would need in the next part of his journey with God.
Don’t you think that Elijah wouldn’t have minded staying by the brook indefinitely, not having to worry about food or drink, and having utter peace and quiet? No Ahabs, no Jezebels, no false prophets. Just peace and quiet and all of his needs met by God’s direct provision.
I have heard it said that one of the biggest challenges and problems for the church today is not persecution, but prosperity. During persecution and trouble, the church actually grows. People scatter and take the word of God with them, sharing it with their new acquaintances. With prosperity, the church stagnates, gets lazy and content, and wants to simply enjoy what they have. And that is what happens to us individually when everything is easy and taken care of for us.
But God knew there was a widow at Zaraphath that needed a miracle. So he let the provisions for Elijah dry up so Elijah would have to go to Zaraphath. Elijah knew what it was like to run out of provision, but he trusted in a God who could find a way where there was no way. Sometimes God lets your provisions dry up for a reason you cannot see presently, but may be made clear eventually.
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.” 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 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 cake 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 gives 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.
Maybe Elijah initially thought that God would once again bring ravens by with food for the widow, her son and Elijah. Sometimes we are looking for God to provide in the same way He had previously done. That’s not his way of working. He’s like my husband, who never likes to take the same way twice when we are driving. 🙂
Instead, God decides to show up and show off by doing it differently. The jar of flour and the jar of oil never ran out. First, did you notice that the widow had to provide for Elijah first, and then herself and her son? If you were her, wouldn’t you say, “Uh, I don’t think so. My son gets it first, and then maybe you and me.” God was requiring the widow to REALLY trust in Him by using up what should have been the last of the flour and oil for someone else. But she did, and she and her son (and Elijah) were saved.
You would have thought that would have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Elijah’s purpose was still not fulfilled – not until the woman’s son died, and Elijah had to bring him back to life. And this act solidified the woman’s belief in Elijah as a prophet of God.
17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”
Have you ever thought you had finally figured out what God was doing, thinking that maybe you could move on from this place in your life, only to find out God was keeping you there a bit longer for a reason you couldn’t see? God sees what is ahead, and He may be positioning you to save a life, either physically or spiritually.
In closing, let me share with you a story of a friend of mine. She got up earlier than usual one morning and changed her schedule, which included going to the dry cleaners. The doors were open, but no one was there. She called over a fire fighter from the station across the street, and he got worried and called over the police. They finally found out that the owner was just running late, so my friend went on her way, returning later that day.
When she returned, she asked if the man was all right – being late to his own store and leaving it unlocked like that. He shared with her that he was a Christian, but he was facing foreclosure, working two jobs, and still was busy keeping an obligation at his church every morning before work. She offered him encouragement from the Word and prayed with him. He cried and was so thankful and uplifted.
Now, God cared so much about that man that he awoke my friend early to find his store open, and have her return later with a reason to ask the man how he was. God knew the man was discouraged and scared, but God set an appointment between the man and my friend – without ever telling either of them. (I think God really gets a kick out of doing that.)
So when everything seems to dry up, simply do what Oswald Chambers (of My Utmost for His Highest) says to do: Obey God and do the next thing. Let God work out His plan among His people and those who are lost. If you are available and willing to be used, He can use your lack of provision, your scary time, or simply your altered schedule to be an overwhelming blessing to someone else. When everything dries up, God is moving you somewhere to do something else in His plan. Keep your eyes open for it.