" And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land." (1 Kings 17:7)
In 1 Kings 17:1-7, Elijah has just announced to king Ahab that there would be no dew nor rain for three years because of the great wickedness in the land. No sooner has Elijah spoken to Ahab on behalf of God than God tells His prophet to get out of town. He is to go down near Jericho about forty-five miles to the south and to hide himself on the east side of the Jordan river by the brook called Cherith. Amidst the famine and drought, the Lord leads Elijah to a quiet stream. Why does God need to do that?
God’s preparation for Elijah
I can think of two reasons. First, by hiding himself out of reach of the wicked king and his rebellious people, the Lord is fulfilling His prophecy to bring judgment to the nation of Israel for forsaking Him and worshipping false gods. Second, God needs to strengthen Elijah’s faith through protected time with Him in a quiet place, so as to prepare him for the biggest spiritual battle of his life when he takes on king Ahab and the false prophets at Mount Carmel.
When the brook dries up for Elijah
During his three years of solitude at Cherith, Elijah was led by God to adapt to a different way of life. Away from his usual encounter with people, this enforced retreat must have been a frustrating experience for him as a prophet of God. As a prophet, he is entrusted by God to speak and deliver words of judgment as well as comfort to his people and king.
But, for now, Elijah must trust that God has a purpose for him to be in solitude, with no message for him to deliver.
Even his daily needs for food and water are provided by God and not by human sources. Although Elijah may not feel comfortable having his daily meals brought to him by ravens, as ravens are considered unclean (Leviticus 11:15), God is teaching him to trust His provision for him, even if it is provided in an unconventional way. In the process, God is strengthening his faith in Him for the task ahead.
In God’s appointed timing, the days of solitude for Elijah came to an end when the brook dried. Elijah then had to move on to his next appointed mission. “Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So, he arose and went to Zarephath.” (1 Kings 17: 8-10).
When the brook dries up for us
Most of us will not have similar experiences as Elijah, as God had a special mission for him. However, the “brook” can be seen as symbolising God’s provision for our daily needs, in the same way as the water from the brook refreshes Elijah.
The drying up of the “brook” is God’s appointed timing for us to trust Him for the next stage of His providential care for us. It may involve us adapting to a different environment with different set of people. When God calls us to move on, He will usually not reveal everything to us. What He wants is for us to trust Him for the next step of His plan. As a local church, we have seen this happened in our stay at CCK Bible Centre (CCKBC). After a period of about 25 years, the Lord has closed the door at CCKBC and opened the door for us to relocate to 219 Henderson. The move to Henderson was not without pains and soul-searching. But, by God’s enabling grace, He has led us to trust Him as our Ebenezer as we look forward to new and greater opportunities for ministry and outreach at Henderson.
At the crossroads
Some of us may be at the crossroads of our life and need to decide soon what to pursue for our studies, whether to accept a more promising job offer, pursuing a new relationship, going into full-time ministry, getting married and starting a family or to relocate overseas. As God’s people, we have His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), even “when the brook dries up”. May we be encouraged by God’s word in Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters (of testing), I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Amen.
- Elder Elgin Chan