“As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1 ESV).
Running from a fight had never been his style. Hiding was never his preferred strategy for dealing with trouble. Hesitation and reticence were alien to him. Once given a word to speak for God, Elijah itched to speak it like a thoroughbred being held back by the start-gate at the beginning of a race.
Thus his explosive and terse message to Ahab: “it will not rain until I say so.” The moment was confrontational. Elijah was going head to head with Israel’s faithless King and that King’s false god. Few Kings will tolerate that kind of thing; they will not lose face when treated with shameless disrespect. Elijah was persona non grata in Israel, an enemy of the state.
So God told Elijah to hide in a ravine on the east side of the Jordan River. Elijah was to stay there, out of the way, removed from the action. He had said what needed to be said. God would take it from here until further notice. In the meantime, the prophet would survive by drinking water from the brook and being fed daily by ravens.
For a while the water in the Kerith ravine ran freely and wide. Elijah drank at will, quenching his thirst and washing down the food that came by ravens every morning and evening. But soon the flow of water narrowed. As God kept his word and confirmed Elijah’s message, the daily supply of water diminished to a trickle. One day, even that had stopped.
The brook dried up.
Many of us live with an unspoken rule, a silent expectation. We quietly carry the conviction that being in the center of God’s will is a “safe” place to be.
We assume that if we will be obedient to what God commands and seek to live life in a way that pleases God, we will somehow dodge the varied troubles that are visited upon the disobedient and the self-indulgent.
We claim exemptions: We will seek to know God’s will and live in it, and the cancer will not find us or those we love. The accident will miss us. The lay-offs will not impact us. We may not be exactly where we want to be. Life won’t be picture perfect. But, like Elijah, we will be fed daily and drink freely from the brook.
Sometimes, however, the brook dries up. Even for bold prophets and ordinary faithful people, the stream narrows to a sliver and then stops altogether.
A Plan Beyond the Brook
If we will keep company with Elijah and pay attention to his life, we’ll see that the promises of God do not always include exemptions. God’s promise to be faithful to us is not a guarantee to spare us from trouble. This doesn’t mean we should live our days nervously expecting the illness or the lay-off or the accident. Rather, the story of Elijah reminds us that God wills our good and often accomplishes that good in the midst of circumstances we would choose to avoid.
God is at purposefully at work by the diminishing brook. God uses deprivation in one place to move the prophet to another place where grace is discovered anew. God still works that way.
You may be in a place right now where you’re watching the brook dry up. What had seemed to be God’s provision is now failing you. The life-giving water grows shallow and thin and your fears rise, their current swift and strong. Why is this happening? And what’s next?
As with Elijah, God has plans for you beyond the brook. You were never meant to get too comfortable there. We move forward not by claiming exemptions but by recognizing our need for grace, daily trusting God to give it.
Brooks and creeks diminish. God’s faithfulness doesn’t.
Too often, Lord God, our faith grows small as we see the brook running dry. We feel cheated or deceived. Teach us through the prophet Elijah to look to you rather than flowing streams, whether of water or money, good fortune or good health. In these days accomplish your purposes for us, reminding us that you work for our good in all things. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.