Just as Elijah shows up in abrupt fashion before Ahab in 1 Kings 17 to pronounce Yahweh’s superiority to Baal and His judgment upon Israel, he leaves in a rather abrupt way too. After pronouncing God’s curse upon the land in verse 1, verse 2 tells us:
2And the word of the LORD came to him, 3“Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
We don’t get much back story here. God doesn’t give Elijah any reason why he should go and hide by the brook Cherith. Remember it is a time of drought, Israel had been under drought for at least 6 months, and Elijah is sent to hide near a brook. If Elijah hopes to survive the drought, why not send him near the Jordan River itself? This brook Cherith is sure to dry up! All we get here is that the Word of the Lord came to Elijah and Elijah went. Elijah was a man of faith. He believed that the Word of the Lord was true and he responded by faith to God’s Word.
God tells Elijah that ravens would feed him there! Do you know what Ravens do? They are scavenger birds. In other words, ravens steal food from other animals (they don’t hunt for themselves or anyone else but rather steal the food that others have hunted). And yet God tells Elijah: go to Cherith and if its food you are worried about, don’t worry. Ravens will feed you! I don’t need to tell you that this is not typical behavior for a raven. And yet Elijah doesn’t ask questions or even ponder how it was that a raven might feed him–he simply responded in obedient faith to God’s Word. Elijah provides a tremendous example of faith for us here. He doesn’t know what will happen at Cherith; he simply hears God’s Word and goes, relying on God’s promises.
We need this attitude in our witness for the Lord. We need to respond to God’s Word to share the gospel with our neighbors and with our friends at work. We don’t know what will come of it, but we can rest on God’s promises to never leave us or forsake us, to be with us as we do His work and to cause His Word to bear fruit (Heb. 4:12; Isa. 55:11). We don’t know the outcome of our service to the Lord but we can trust that He will be faithful to all his promises.
Further, this story tells us that God is sovereign over the animal world. He uses ravens–birds that steal food from other animals–to feed Elijah. And while all Israel is under a terrible famine due to God’s judgment, Elijah is eating bread and meat and has water from the brook to drink. Later we will learn (see 18:10) that during this time there was no country or land in which Ahab did not send his servants to search for Elijah in order to kill him. Not only was God sovereignly providing for Elijah through ravens, but God was soveriegnly and mercifully preserving Elijah’s life.
Yet this brook dries up, doesn’t it? This, too, certainly would have been a test of faith for Elijah–each day seeing the brook get drier and drier until the day when it is completely dry and Elijah has no water. It is at this point that the Word of the Lord comes to Elijah again and he is commanded to go on another journey, this time through Israel and into the land of Sidon, where Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, was from. Another great test of faith: a call to travel through a nation that has sold itself into idolatry and into a Gentile land from which Elijah’s greatest adversary, Jezebel, arose. And yet 1 Kings 17:10 simply tells us that Elijah “arose and went to Zarephath” at the Word of the Lord. Elijah was a man of great faith because He served a mighty God who would protect him, provide for him, and use him to proclaim his glory over rain, false gods, animals, and even the nations as we will soon see. Elijah responded by faith because He served a mighty God who is glorious beyond compare!