Surprise! God planned it!

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Elijah: The Desert Prophet

Read at beginning of service:

Deuteronomy 8:1-5 (NIV)

1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

INTRODUCTION

1 Kings 17:2-6 (NIV)

2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook

Last week, in the introduction to Elijah, the desert prophet, we found this unknown man from Tishbe, Gilead, standing before the king of Israel and telling him that there would be no rain falling on Israel or dew in the next few years. If you read ahead a bit you?d learn that indeed there was no rain or dew for three and a half years!

Now we know that Elijah went before King Ahab in response to the calling of God on his life and in obedience to the message God wanted him to deliver before the King of Israel. Remember that Israel was a nation that had fallen away from God and was worshipping false gods and idols as the result of compromising to the influence of the wicked queen, Jezebel. Elijah was sickened spiritually by the depravity of the nation and he made Himself available to God for whatever God would choose to do through his life. So, Elijah walked up to the palace in Samaria, stood before the King and belted out these words recorded in verse 1.

Wouldn?t it have been easier if God simply killed Ahab and Jezebel and replaced them with a Godly king and queen? If I was advising Elijah on these matters that might be what I would have told him to pray for. I mean a drought is a painful thing, no rain for 3 ? years is bad! We?re talking about little children dying, disease running rampant, everyone would be affected in a terrible way. The drought wouldn?t just be Ahab and Jezebel?s problem ? it would?ve been everyone?s problem! “Now just hold on here a bit Elijah, surely that?s not what God told you to say? I mean, why should the good people suffer along with the evil?” Isn?t that a question that a lot of us ask when looking at the world? “Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why doesn?t God take care of the evil that?s in the world?”

However, Elijah was faithful to what God directed Him to speak and pray for. What is remarkable is that what Elijah spoke would affect him too! Throughout history God has allowed evil to exist right along side good and worked out His purpose in spite of the existence of evil. In the midst of terrible circumstances God proves Himself most effectively to us here in the world. So even with Elijah ? God was preparing to prove Himself and ready him for a great work. But along the way there are a few surprises?

AN UNEXPECTED COMMAND “Leave here, turn eastward and hide” (v.3)

This makes me think of another occasion in the Bible where God told Abraham to take his only son to the mountain and sacrifice him…(relate story)?To say this was a surprise is a bit of an understatement!

In our text we see that Elijah goes in the boldness of the Lord and stands before the king with his proclamation of faith ? putting it all on the line for God ? and now God commands him to go hide!! Why?

Maybe for Elijah?s protection?Now, I realize that Elijah must be protected, I know that as the drought begins to get severe Ahab would begin to get irritated and would probably blame Elijah. In fact, if you read further in 1 Kings you find that Ahab sent his spies, his soldiers, his agents all over the known world looking for Elijah as the famine grew more and more severe. So yes, hiding Elijah would be good for his protection ? especially if God wanted to speak through Elijah again! But then again, God could surely protect Elijah without hiding him!! In fact, that would be a powerful way of displaying his power and might to the depraved nation ? but that was not the will of God for the moment?

Maybe so Elijah wouldn?t witness the devastation caused by the drought? and so be moved to intercede on behalf of the Israelites. Maybe God wanted to be sure that Elijah would follow through on the task set out for him.

One thing is for sure, however, that God desired to prepare Elijah for what was ahead and deepen His relationship with Elijah. For we find not only the surprising command of God to hide but also the place that God sent Elijah to hide in. A ravine is usually formed by the torrent of spring floods and this probably would have been the case with the Kerith Ravine. Kerith would most likely have referred to what scholars have said is a transient brook (or creek) that dries up during the summer. So the Kerith Ravine would have been this place that the water rushes through in the spring but dries up in the summer. Now wouldn?t that be a good place to go to with the knowledge of an oncoming drought?! Surely someplace along the wide, deep Jordan river would have been a better place? But therein lies another surprise in store for Elijah?

UNEXPECTED PROVISION “I have ordered the ravens to feed you” (v4)

Trials and tests of life are never announced ahead of time are they? Wouldn?t it be nice if God gave us a little forewarning before hard times hit? That way you could kind of brace yourself and get mentally prepared for it! I?m sure Elijah might have thought to himself, “You could have warned me that You would be sending me to hide before I went to King Ahab ? I would?ve sent supplies ahead to the Kerith Ravine and built a house?” But then God tells Elijah that he has made provision for him in the form of ravens bringing him food. Now I don?t know about you but I think that is an incredible test to depend on ravens for your food. Notice that at this point God didn?t tell Elijah what the ravens would be bringing him! How many of you have ever seen a raven picking away at road-kill while driving along the road? How many of you would like a raven as your chef? If I was in Elijah?s shoes at this point I would be saying, “Ok God, this is the thanks I get for obeying your command, ravens for chefs!!”

What is the point? The point is that God?s provision doesn?t always come in the form we would expect or like but nevertheless He still provides. Sometimes the provision God offers in the midst of testing or trial is in itself a test of dependence on Him!

Remember how God provided for the Israelites as they crossed the desert on their way to the promised land? Manna was the incredible miracle God performed morning after morning to lead the Israelites to that humbling place where they were dependent on Him. I?d like to highlight a couple of verses from the passage that was read this morning,

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NIV)

2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

And isn?t that the same thing God is teaching Elijah here? Elijah was being tested in his obedience to turn and go East to the Kerith Ravine ? but he was also being taught the principle of living by the word of God. For it was at God?s command, at His word, that the ravens were providing food for Elijah!

The Word of the Lord always accompanies the Will of the Lord.

God was very specific on how He would provide for Elijah. Elijah was not to pick berries or hunt for his food, God told Elijah, you just stay put for now and I?ll take care of you. God was teaching Elijah to be more dependent on Him in preparation for the things that would follow. This was something Elijah could never learn outside of the Kerith Ravine experience.

Friends, you will never find God?s will for your life by looking to the world for answers ? the only way you will know God?s will is through His Word! Where was God?s perfect will for Elijah in this passage? It wasn?t at his home, it wasn?t in some comfortable hotel room, it was in obscurity in the midst of the wilderness at side of a brook that normally dries up in the summer. Elijah didn?t have a TV or a short-wave radio to keep him up to date on the latest happening in Samaria. We need to realize that Elijah had no one to fellowship with except God, all alone ? and this is God?s perfect will for Elijah! For there Elijah learned that God?s word always accompanies His will ? His will always accompanies His Word. Elijah learned to live by the Word of God so that the Will of God would be accomplished in his life.

God will lead us to places we don?t necessarily want to go sometimes ? or we?ll find ourselves in places that God has brought us to that we?d rather not be but it?s in the midst of those places that we can learn to live by His word so that His will can be accomplished in our lives. And friends, when you see and know the will of God working out in your life you begin to realize that there is no better place to be no matter where you are!!!

In all this was the more subtle surprise of God?s?

UNEXPECTED PROCEDURE (v.5-6)

There are too very important phrases attributed to Elijah in verse five, “?he did what the Lord had told him?” and he, “?stayed there.” The text is very plain in stating not only Elijah?s obedience in going where God told him to go but also his perseverance in staying there. Friend?s it is one thing to be obedient to the Word of God, it is yet another thing to persevere when it seems that obedience is getting you nowhere or accomplishing nothing or has no reward!

Many people will find themselves right in the middle of God?s will for their lives, which is out of their comfort zone and they don?t stay there, or they?ll try everything in their power to get out! These places are called the pruning places in life. This is where God takes our life and cuts away the parts of us that drain away spiritual life and produce nothing (or dead life).

John 15:2 (NIV)

2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

God?s will for our life is that we be more fruitful. His procedure for doing this is taking the dead parts of us that are draining us of spiritual vitality and cutting them off so that the only thing left is productive spiritual life. But this is a painful place to be, where God prunes us, and many times we will leave this place too soon and don?t allow God to finish His work in our life. It?s so easy to go back to our places of comfort and our old way of living and turn away from God.

Deuteronomy 8:5 (NIV)

5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

As the Israelites went through the desert on their way to the promised land there were many uncomfortable places that they found themselves in but instead of persevering they began to grumble about there current situation and said they?d rather go back to Egypt where they had been in bondage and slavery! Friends when God leads you to your Kerith Ravine, don?t grumble and complain but persevere and submit to God?s procedure ? for the results will be greater than you or I could ever imagine.

CONCLUSION

Even though it occupies only a few sentences in the first part of chapter 17 Elijah?s experience at the Kerith Ravine lasted at least two and most likely three years of his life. Imagine, three years living in the wilderness ? being fed everyday bread and meat from the beaks of ravens and scavenging for water in an ever dwindling creek! In fact, verse seven tells us that the Kerith eventually dried up! I?ll leave the significance of that for when I speak next week but let me re-emphasize the lessons we learn from Elijah?s hiding place.

Our circumstances are in God?s hands:

Remember that as a believer we are not in control of our lives! Our life is in the hands of God. The problems occur when we take control and become directors of our own destiny because this conflicts with what God wants to do in and through our lives. Now friends, this does not mean that you sit back and wait for things to happen ? all I am saying is that there first of all be a recognition that Christ is our life and that He is in control of what happens; and then there be a surrender to that control with every action we take, with every attitude we have, with every thought we process. Usually its as simple as listening to the voice of the Spirit of God speaking through your conscience.

We can trust that He will provide in the midst of those circumstances:

As we persevere in tests and trials what we already are in Christ spiritually begins to explode into our day to day lives.

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