God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.” Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook. Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought.
Provision is central to the human existence. Almost every action we take is in someway or another tied into our desire and need to provide for ourselves and for those we love. We go to school so we can get an education so we can qualify for a job so someday we can provide an education for our children so they too will have greater opportunities than we did. We work hard so we can provide for ourselves in terms of food and shelter and transport and enjoyment and other basic necessities that make life possible and worth living.
In our minds, without provision, we are essentially as good as dead, so it’s no surprise that seasons of drought bring along with them worry and depression over the issue of provision. In droughts, the manna stops and the well begins to dry up, and we start to question:
How will I pay these bills?
Where will my next pay check come from?
How will I achieve this goal without the resources?
How will I ever qualify for that position?
How will I get what I need to do what it is I’ve been called to in this season?
I’m about to graduate – how will I pay off those loans?
How will I be able to provide for myself and those I love when there is no sign of breakthrough and the heavens seem to be completely shut up over me?
Elijah must have faced similar questions as he stood in front of Ahab to tell him about the drought that would befall the land. Drought for Ahab meant drought for all the people in the land – including Elijah. I sincerely doubt he had some water reserve hidden away, prepared for the disaster he was about to call down. No, Elijah knew from the moment he opened his mouth to declare God’s will that he would be fully dependent on God for provision.
And while we know God to be Omniscient, being solely dependent on Him and not on our own abilities and devices like we are used to is a difficult place to be. We are creatures that enjoy having things completely under our control – so when things are all the way out of our control, we develop chronic panic attacks and start to fret about where our next provision could possibly come from.
But let’s go back to Elijah, because there’s a lot to learn about what Jehovh Jireh’s heart for provision is in times of drought from Elijah’s story.
So he tells Ahab about this drought and immediately heads off into hiding by this brook, Kerith, and as God promises, the ravens feed him bread and meat and he drinks from the brook. But if you know anything about water bodies and droughts, what usually happens is that they eventually start to dry up. I don’t know how long Elijah stayed in hiding with God by that brook, but you can be sure that he knew that it would eventually dry up. Imagine being Elijah and watching week after week, month after month, the brook begin to dwindle in size. This drought was supposed to last over three years. I definitely would have started panicking at some point, because in a season of drought, you don’t know where your next source of provision is going to come from.
But here’s the thing about provision when it comes to God:
1.God’s provision is seasonal.
The brook was never meant to run forever. The brook and the ravens were meant to provide Elijah with provision in the drought for a season.
Too often we look at our current circumstances as the finish line. We think what we have now is all we will ever have and so we begin to panic because we cannot see what’s next. But God never means for what you have today to sustain you forever. His Word says that even His mercies are new every morning! Like Elijah with the brook, and the manna for the Israelites that stopped on their arrival in Canaan, God gives us seasonal provision that is meant for now. What is needed for tomorrow will be provided when the time comes. The brooks in your life drying up is only a signal that there is new provision on the way.
The story continues that God did indeed direct Elijah to a new source of provision:
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
There are two points that stand out to me from this passage. The first is that
2. God’s provision comes in pieces
Imagine if God gave us everything we needed all at once. If every single dollar you’d need for the rest of your life – right down to the last cent – was given to you today, what would you do with it?
Personally, I’d start off ordering some new gym gear – a pair of Nike’s and probably cop some Ivy Park. Then I’d buy a trip to Disneyland for my niece’s fifth birthday for me and my whole family. Then a house – probably one more extravagant then I’ll ever need – of course there are a couple shopping sprees I left out in that list, but you get the gist. Human beings have the tendency to misuse provision. And somewhere along the way, we also have the tendency to forget where it came from. If God gave us everything that we needed today, not only are we likely to misuse it for our own devices and outside of God’s will, but also to begin to be more reliant on ourselves and what we can provide than on God and what He already has and will again. Provision comes in pieces so that our eyes will be more focused on the Giver than on the gift – more focused on the purpose than our own plan. When the brook dried up, another door for provision opened up for Elijah in the home of a widow.
Let’s take a closer look at the place Elijah was sent to by God, as well as who he was sent to.
Zarephath was actually home to Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. That word, zarephath, actually means refining place or furnace, like a place where silver would be processed. Widows in those days were some of the poorest and most destitute community members, as they owned no property and had no value of their own – only that which their dead husband had bestowed upon them while they were still alive. AND she was surely a pagan. I imagine that being told to go to Jezebel’s hometown and seek food from a woman who may very well have been the poorest person in the entire town probably raised some questions for Elijah. But here’s the truth that strikes me about this passage:
3. God’s provision comes from unlikely places.
We are trained to look for provision in likely places – a raise, a better job, a loan – but God is in the habit of using unlikely places and unlikely people to bless us in ways we never could have fathomed. It all boils down to whether we choose to look at those sources through God’s eyes or through our own. What might seem like a stressful volunteering opportunity might be the launchpad that will give you the connections you need to start that project that God has put on your heart. But you’ll never know if you choose to despise what God has set before you because it seems unlikely or like a small beginning. Had Elijah chosen to view Zarapheth and the widow as sources of nothing good, he would have starved to death by that brook.
As much as provision comes from unlikely places, sometimes those unlikely places are found within us:
4. Sometimes God’s provision comes from within.
The story in 1 Kings continues this way:
So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?” She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.
Elijah didn’t ask the widow for a three-cheese pizza or a three-course meal. He asked her for something to eat. And she had exactly what she needed to provide for Elijah- she had flour and oil. In fact, the Bible says God had already given her the means and instructed her to do so (which is probably why she said ‘as surely as YOUR God lives). But she was too busy looking at what she didn’t have and at the drought around her that she didn’t see that God’s provision was already in her hands. The Bible tells us what happened next:
Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”
The other day my friend Menee and I were discussing the Parable of the Talents, and she was telling me about how God had been speaking to her about all the talents and gifts He had invested in her that she wasn’t as yet utilizing. She said ‘God has given us a lot of what we need to provide for ourselves and to pour into Kingdom purposes – but we will never see that realized if we keep those talents buried in the ground instead of investing in them so they can yield dividends.’ What has God already placed in your hands that could be a source of provision for you during the drought? I know it might seem meager and not of much use, but God uses exactly those things to achieve His purposes for us if only we will not despise them.
5. God’s provision is proportional to our needs
The Bible continues on to say this:
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Enough. As much or as many as required or necessary. Sufficient. Adequate. Not ‘more than’. Not ‘too much’. He didn’t make it so that they had to stretch resources or go hungry some days so they’d have enough for others. He gave them enough to feed Elijah, her, and her entire family until the drought ended.
In times of drought you have to trust that God will always give you enough to supply your needs and the needs of those who you support. God will always provide for us in proportion to our needs in any given season. This might require a reevaluation of needs and wants in your life: do you need those new Jordans or is that just a want? Do you need a vacation, or is what you need to invest that money into your business idea, or in a certification that will take you to the next level in your career? Do you need nicer car? Or do you need to use the refund you got to pay off what’s left on the one you already have so you can be in less debt? In a season of drought, God is more focused on providing your basic needs, and you should be more concerned with using what He has given you to meet them.
I sincerely believe that what got Elijah through this season of trusting in God’s provision during the drought was that season in which he stayed completely hidden in him, and as we will see as we continue this series, there were even greater tests of faith to come.