TEXT: 1 Kings 17:2- 12 :
TITLE: “The Word of the Lord directs
DATE: 17th February 2013
The main theme of this passage is “the Word of the Lord”. In the first verse of this chapter the Word of the Lord came through Elijah to Ahab the king of Israel, that there would be a drought in the land. This was a word of divine judgment, because Ahab and the kings before him had forsaken the LORD and worshipped Baal.
In v. 1 Elijah is presented as one who stands ( face to face) before the (living) LORD . He is the embodiment of the Word of the LORD to Ahab. The Word of the Lord directs Elijah’s itinerary (vv2,8). He himself is obedient to the Word (v.5) as he stays at the brook Cherith. As circumstances change (v.7) the Word of the LORD directs Elijah to his next venue (vv 8,9) to Zarephath in Sidon to a widow. This widow is doomed to die in this terrible drought, but because of Elijah’s presence , representing the Word of God, she and her son are sustained by the Word of the LORD (vv. 14,16). The Word of the LORD pervades the life of Elijah. This is incidentally true for all the prophets of God. They speak His Word : “Thus says the Lord! “
God leads His servants by His Word, step by step. It is not as if the prophets know everything in advance. This is also true for us. Although we are so often tempted to want to know the future, the principal way in which we are called to live is “by faith” - one step at a time. It is not the way we like to live, but it is the way we are called to live. Elijah’s duty was to obey the divine order and leave God to tell him what he should do next. Elijah is clearly not a free agent. His life is in God’s hands.
Having delivered God’s message to Ahab concerning the drought, Elijah receives the next word from the LORD (Yahweh). 17:2-4 : And the word of the LORD came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide  yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
Hide yourself ! This is not a suggestion. It is a command. We have no right of changing God’s commands into God’s suggestions! Jonah tried to run away from God’s commands , and by his fleeing Jonah suggested that he did not think that this was a good idea. He came off second best! We shall see that Elijah will fall into the same temptation in Chapter 19. But now God commands him to hide at the brook Cherith, and he obeys the Word of the LORD. Cherith was one of the many little rivers that flowed into the Jordan from the mountains to the east of the Jordan river.
Why did he need to hide? “Cherith“ means ‘to cut’. Some expositors have suggested that this place of hiding was to become a place of ‘pruning’ for Elijah. Perhaps God was intending to prune , cut and prepare Elijah for future service. It is not uncommon for God to hide and prepare His choicest servants for a while before He brings them out into the open .
A.W. Pink says : “Every servant that God deigns to use must pass through the trying experience of Cherith before he is ready for the triumph of Carmel. This is an unchanging principal in the ways of God. Joseph suffered the indignities of both the pit and the prison before he became governor of all Egypt, second only to the king himself. Moses spent one third of this long life at "the backside of the desert" before Jehovah gave him the honour of leading His people out of the house of bondage. David had to learn the sufficiency of God’s power on the farm before he went forth and slew Goliath in the sight of the assembled armies of Israel and the Philistines.”  This was also the case with Jesus who only entered upon His public ministry at the age of 30. John the Baptist came out of obscurity (the desert) only later – to announce the coming of the Messiah. There are many ‘silent years’ in which we know nothing of the ministry of the apostle Paul. He was hidden. It was, most likely a time of spiritual preparation.
Moreover Elijah needed to hide because he was an offense to the rulers of the Northern kingdom. We know that Ahab and Jezebel hated the prophets of the Lord . Later in 18:4,10 we note that this evil couple conducts a genocide of the prophets of the LORD. So perhaps Elijah needed to hide because his life was in danger. But here our theology is tested. Who gives and sustains our life? Who takes life? It is God, not Ahab! God has been known to keep His people through and in trials. George Whitfield, the English Evangelist so greatly used of God writes in the preface of the 1756 edition of his journal: “ I find we are immortal, till our work is done.” Our days are in His hands! There is surely more to Elijah’s hiding than the mere protection of Elijah.
So what else might it be? The commentator Dale Ralph Davies suggests that “the disappearance of Elijah spells the absence of the Word of God from the life of Israel. Israel’s judgment is the drought of the land and the silence of the Lord. Scripture always treats the withdrawal of his voice as an agonizing judgment .” ( see 1 Sam 28:6,15; Ps 74:9; Amos 8:11-12 )
Arthur Pink concurs: “Ah, my reader, little as it may be realized in our day, there is no surer and more solemn proof that God is hiding His face from a people or nation than for Him to deprive them of the inestimable blessings of those who faithfully minister His Holy Word to them, for as far as heavenly mercies excel earthly so much more dreadful are spiritual calamities than material ones ….and now all dew and rain was to be withheld from Ahab’s land, not only literally so, but spiritually so as well. Those who ministered His Word were removed from the scene of public action.” 
And so, God sends Elijah into a lonely place for a number of reasons perhaps, and there he receives God’s special and unusual care in the midst of this terrible drought. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. (v.4) How this was possible, I do not know. I do not even want to conjecture how ravens could have done this. God knows. Since we are interested in principles, I want us to be focused on the fact that God knows how to sustain His faithful servants through the fiercest droughts and famines (the testimony of the widow of Zarephath will confirm this again). God who has taught us to pray for our daily bread is committed to give us our daily bread. Our job is to obey God. God’s job is to keep us alive until our work is done! It was Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission that said: God’s child , doing God’s work in God’s way will shall never lack God’s supply. So it was with Elijah.
A.W. Pink has an interesting note on this verse …” you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. He makes the point that this was the place of God’s appointed blessing and providence for Elijah at this time . He writes : “…The prophet might have preferred many another hiding-place, but to Cherith he must go if he was to receive the Divine supplies: as long as he remained there, God pledged to provide for him. How important, then, is the question, “Am I in the place which God has (by His Word or providence) assigned me” ? If so, He will assuredly supply my every need. But if like the younger son I turn my back upon Him and journey into the far country, then like that prodigal I shall certainly suffer want. How many a servant of God has laboured in some lowly or difficult sphere with the dew of the Spirit on his soul and the blessing of Heaven on his ministry, when there came an invitation from some other field which seemed to offer a wider scope (and a larger salary!), and as he yielded to the temptation, the Spirit was grieved and his usefulness in God’s kingdom was at an end.
The same principle applies with equal force to the rank and file of God’s people … But how many professing Christians have we personally known who resided in a town where God sent one of His own qualified servants, who fed them with "the finest of the wheat," and their souls prospered. Then came a tempting business offer from some distant place, which would improve their position in the world. The offer was accepted, their tent was removed, only to enter a spiritual wilderness where there was no edifying ministry available. In consequence their souls were starved, their testimony for Christ ruined, and a period of fruitless backsliding ensued. As Israel had to follow the cloud of old in order to obtain supplies of manna, so must we be in the place of God’s ordering if our souls are to be watered and our spiritual lives prospered.
17:5-9: So 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. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land . 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.”
When the river dries up, God ‘s Word has a fresh direction for changed circumstances. Elijah must go to Zarephath where God has directed a widow to sustain him. This is fascinating since widows were known to be needy persons. D.R. Davies observes humourously: “If one could choose, ravens sounded more dependable than widows! Is this not vintage Yahweh? Who would ever design to use the unclean ravens and the unlikely widow as sustainers of his servant? Who am I to object if Yahweh delights to use dirty birds and hopeless women? We should adore the scintillating creativity of a God who brings help to His people through channels they would never suspect.”
Vv 10 - 12 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
He comes to Zarephath in Sidon. This is an interesting fact. Zarephath is the territory of Ethbaal whose daughter Jezebel married Ahab (16 :31). And now God is going against the conventional thinking of a kosher Jew! He designates a gentile widow, from a despised territory to help a Hebrew prophet- a Word bearer! Jesus actually told His town people this story in Luke 4:25-26 – and His town people became angry with Him . They had no place for gentiles and widows in God’s plan. They wanted to kill Him! God’s grace is extended through Elijah beyond Israel because that grace was being ignored within Israel.
What are we learning from these few verses?
Major truths :
The Word of the Lord directs the believer
The Word of the Lord sustains the believer
The Word of the Lord is Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1-14 ). Today He directs and sustains you and I who believe in Him. We must steadfastly look to Him. We must stand before Him. And we must obey Him. We must give particular attention to the gospels in which He teaches us truths concerning the kingdom, and how we may know that we will have access to that kingdom. Warnings like Matt 7:22 must be understood. Discipleship (follow me) must be a reality. We must read the Acts of the Apostles to appreciate the work of the Holy Spirit and the fulfilment of Jesus words. We must read the epistles of Paul and John and James etc to find particular applications for church life. We must read the book of Revelation to know our future – to be assured that our future is in sovereign hands , and to know where we are going . To know the living Lord in the written Word is to be directed by Him every step of our way – from beginning to end and into eternity. Elijah is a living testimony to this fact .