“Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. 7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:3-7).
It was by the brook Cherith that Elijah had come to dwell. He was there because he had heard the Word of the Lord. God does talk to the man who will listen and Elijah was listening. God speaks to people in a variety of ways. The Lord speaks,
through His word,
through His ministers,
through His Holy Spirit,
through His Church,
and by prayer and meditation.
God spoke to Elijah and told him to go to Cherith and so he went. By sending His prophet to the brook, the Lord signaled Israel that He was displeased with the nation because of their various acts of apostasy expressed in the worship of Baal.
Though longsuffering, the Lord demonstrated that He is willing to withdraw His presence from those who do not really care. God will not allow His glory to be dishonored for too long. God wants to be near those who want to be near Him.
In addition to His own honor, the Lord had Elijah’s best interest in His heart as well when He sent His servant to dwell by the brook. Elijah had begun to preach to others to be dependent upon the Lord, but he himself must learn the same lesson. It is a principle of life that spiritual laws apply equally to all (Rom. 2:1-5). Elijah could not tell others to do what he was not willing to do.
By being at the brook Cherith, Elijah demonstrated his dependency upon God, and he also demonstrated the principle of separation from those who do not share a common faith and practices. The best example was Ahab. The king had married outside the known will of God, and through his wife was promoting idolatry to the people of Israel.
Jehovah was publicly being dishonored.
The Laws of God were openly violated.
The principles of righteousness were not respected, as Baal was being worshipped.
Elijah had to separate himself from all of this for “we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
God’s people, in every generation, have been taught to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). In the act of separation, Elijah was not left to decide for himself where he must go and what he must do, for the Lord spoke to him about these matters. Elijah was to go “eastward” (1 Kings 17:3).
Symbolically, the east speaks of the origin of life and light, for it is the source for the morning sun. Spiritually, the Christian is not to walk in darkness, but in the light (John 8:12). In the East, Elijah was to dwell by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan.
Jordan was one of the boundaries that marked the limits of the Land of Promise. The place speaks of life and death, and of separation. When the Exodus generation crossed the Jordan, they went from a place of death into a place of life. They went from being a part of this world’s system to being a holy nation, separated unto the Lord.
At Jordan, God revealed Himself to His people by raising up a great leader after Moses. (Josh 3:7)
At Jordan, God separated the waters (Josh. 3:13).
At Jordan, God caused the people to walk on dry ground (Josh. 3:17).
At Jordan, the people of Israel learned that they could have perfect peace if their minds were stayed on the Lord. Now, many years later, near the Jordan, at the brook Cherith, God would protect from physical and spiritual harm one of His choice vessels. The spiritual harm that Elijah faced was in the natural tendency of the human heart to become proud after there is some spiritual success.
The great prophet had just won a tremendous spiritual victory. The victory came because Elijah had been in secret prayer prior to the bold proclamation of drought before the king. Now that the sermon was over, now that the strategic victory was won, temptation was soon to follow. There was the temptation to be unduly proud. God knew that Elijah needed to be kept humble and to spend time alone if he was to be of further public use. Over the years all of God’s people have learned that, “The man whom the Lord uses has to be kept low; severe discipline has to be experienced by him, if the flesh is to be duly mortified.” (A.W. Pink)
Godly discipline is necessary, for the Lord will not share His glory with another. When we begin to glory in any great accomplishments, God moves in to humble us. This very experience happened to the disciples. After spending a little time with Jesus, the disciples went out to preach. Then they returned flushed with apparent success, and full of themselves. They told Jesus all they had done, and what they had taught (Mark 6:20). But Jesus was not impressed, and quietly responded by saying, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.”
This is still the Divine remedy. Those who are so busy in the Lord’s work that they have no time for the Lord will want to hear the Lord say, “Come and rest awhile.”
The alternative is to find oneself disgraced, discredited, and discarded.
Having ministered to others it is possible to find ourselves disqualified for service—which was the very thing Paul feared the most. Rather than let His people ruin themselves, the Lord will bring them to a quite place where the opportunity is given to be alone with Him. The quite place may be a very trying experience, because it is there that faith is put on trial. The quite place is a place of testing for purification and approval. This seems to be an unchanging practice in God’s dealings with men.
Joseph suffered the pit and the prison before he became the governor of Egypt.
Moses spent 1/3 of his life, 40 years, on the backside of a desert before the Lord gave him the honor of leading his people out of the Land of Bondage. David leaned how to lean upon the Lord while tending sheep before he went forth to slaughter the Philistines. Jesus knew 30 years of seclusion and silence before He began His brief public ministry.
In the quite place, the Christian learns to submit to the will of the Lord. By going to the brook Cherith, Elijah manifested the spirit of submissiveness to the Lord’s will. His energetic disposition was probably more suited for speech and motion, rather than seclusion and meditation. Elijah may have thought the time had come to deliver Israel, and yet he found himself by a drying brook. It is not easy to be removed “into a corner” (Isa. 30:20) but it is necessary at times.
Now, the place where Elijah was sent was a brook, not a river. A brook can easily dry up. Spiritually, God places most of His servants by brooks which can easily dry up. This is done so that His children always depend upon Him. Sometimes, people are placed in the midst of luxury and abundance. But for the most part, there is a brook to exist by, not a river. Jesus Himself has said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.”
It is our hearts that God wants more than anything else. God wants our hearts; we offer Him more often our hands. Martha may serve and be very busy. But she is also very critical, and unhappy with Mary who had chosen the better position in life. Mary’s heart was with the Lord, while Martha’s hands were busy for the Lord.
By the brook Cherith, Elijah waited and, in the waiting, he saw the Lord provide in a miraculous way as a raven brought him bread and flesh in the evening. This was a great miracle indeed, for normally, ravens do not feed men. In fact, the Jews drove off the ravens, for these birds were classified among the unclean animals (Lev. 11:15; Deut. 14:14).
Ravens are not only unclean; they are fierce creatures, with a passion for plucking out the eyes of men and animals. Yet, in the providence of the Lord, even the unclean was to help the prophet. The black birds were directed by God to go twice a day to feed the prophet. They came in the morning and they came in the evening. One bird carried meat, the other carried bread. The butcher and the baker arrive together to feed God’s servant.
This matter of using unclean creatures to help advance His kingdom is a common practice in God’s economy. Pharaoh’s daughter, for example, was used to protect and raise Moses. Balaam, the false prophet who desired nothing but money, was used to make a remarkable prophecy for Israel.
The jawbone of an ass was used by Samson to kill the Philistines.
A hard stone was used to slay one of their champions.
So it is that God uses the weak and the unclean elements of this world to demonstrate His sovereignty. The black fowls of the air, and the fish in the seas obeyed the voice of the Lord (Isa. 43:16-20).
In addition to extra-ordinary means of grace, God also uses the ordinary means of grace. Elijah may have eaten bread from heaven, but he drank the water of earth in the brook until the stream dried up. The natural and the supernatural united to exist side by side. Such is the way of God. The most wonderful example of this is Jesus Christ who is Immanuel—God with us!
Today, in our Christian life, we also enjoy the Lord’s provisions in both ordinary and extra-ordinary ways. Sometimes the Lord commands the ravens to feed us. Sometimes He tells us to do for ourselves what we know can be done within our sphere of existence. But it is all according to grace. The lessons of this passage are familiar.
We are not to trust in our blessings, but in our Blessed Saviour. We are to trust by taking one step at a time. We are not to question God’s will even when it seems difficult to understand. Had Elijah questioned the wisdom of God about going to Cherith, he would have missed out upon a miracle. God’s servants must be taught the value of the humble life. One author has noted that, “there is no better manner of bringing a man down, than by dropping him suddenly out of a sphere to which he was beginning to think himself essential teaching him that he is not at all necessary to God’s plan.” (A.W. Pink)
We are to have a special place to meet with God in faith. God had promised Elijah that he would meet Him there at the brook Cherith.
There, God would visit with His servant.
There, God would feed him.
There, God would show him miracles.
We all need to go to that special place of God’s appointment where we will meet with the Lord.
God’s servants are often called upon to sit by dying brooks. Each day marked a visible diminution of the Cherith brook. It dried up. What did Elijah think? Did he wonder if God had forsaken him? The Psalmist faced this problem and cried out, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”
We will all face the drying brook. It may be the drying brook of popularity ebbing away, as it did for John the Baptist.
The drying brook of health, sinking away under a dread disease.
The drying brook of financial resources, whereby the money is diminished.
God will provide for those who believe in Him, when faith is put on trial by the drying brook.