1 Kings 17:7 - And it happened after a while, that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. Read 1 Kings 17.
The story of Elijah is one of the thrilling episodes of Old Testament history. If historical videos are available in Heaven we will not want to miss this one! Elijah's first appearance on the pages of Scripture is a dramatic confrontation with wicked King Ahab. This evil king had permitted the pagan worship of Baal to spread unchecked throughout the kingdom of Israel. The Bible says that "Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him" (1 Kings 16:33). Such idolatrous conditions were the setting for the arrival of the prophet Elijah. Dressed in homespun garb of camel's hair and leather belt, this rough-hewn prophet burst into the sophisticated capital city of Samaria (or Ahab's palatial estate in Jezreel) and boldly announced to King Ahab that there would be no rain. We can imagine the king's sarcastic response to such a pronouncement. This "Rambo-style" intruder was probably looked on by Ahab as some sort of religious crack-pot who thought he had a direct line to God. Official pronouncements from such uncultured zealots meant nothing to Ahab. But this prophecy of a long-term drought was not some spur-of-the-moment proclamation made by a religious fanatic. Elijah was a righteous man, a prophet of God, who had earnestly prayed on the authority of God's Word that it would not rain. Such praying was based on what God had clearly declared in His Law. (See Deuteronomy 11:16-17 and James 5:17.) Little did Ahab realize that more than three years of desert conditions were in store for him and his kingdom before the rains would return. The backslidden nation would finally be forced to recognize the truth of Elijah's prophecy, and more importantly, the supremacy of Elijah's God. The extended drought would culminate in Elijah's decisive victory over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. But what was Elijah to do during the intervening years while the nation was being prepared for the showdown at Mount Carmel? Was God's prophet to sit around and do nothing? Never! Elijah was going to be enrolled for three years in the school of God and take a number of different courses. There is never any slack time in the life of a believer. This is as true today as it was in the day of Elijah. We are continually learning lessons in God's school that mature our faith. What courses are you taking at present? One of the required courses that Elijah took (and passed) was Dried-Up Brooks. This course is certainly not for first year students and is not an easy course even for advanced students. Like Elijah, we too may find ourselves facing the rigors of this demanding course. God told Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith and there God took care of his servant. Elijah was miraculously fed by ravens each day and the natural brook was his water supply. Not a bad deal! Oh, it wasn't a full course steak dinner every day, but God's "Cherith Retreat Center for Prophets" specialized in good basic sustenance. That, by the way, is exactly what God promises us--not everything we want, but everything we need. (See Matthew 6:33.) Often we wrongly confuse our selfish wants with what we really need in this life. In verse 7, however, we read that after a while the brook dried up. How could God do this to His faithful prophet Elijah? Water was a basic need, essential for Elijah's survival. What lessons could Elijah possibly learn from this difficult course in God's school? What lessons can we learn when God lets one of our "brooks" dry up? We could define "brooks" in this context as sources of natural supply that God uses to meet our needs. Our jobs, for example, are brooks that help meet our financial needs. Our family and friends are brooks which help meet our emotional needs. Our leisure activities are brooks which help meet our physical and mental needs. Sometimes God allows these brooks to dry up temporarily or permanently. Why would God let this happen to us? First of all, dried-up brooks can be an answer to our prayers. Answer to prayer?! Yes! Remember that Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop. God had answered Elijah's prayer. Now, without rain, even the brook Cherith was bound to dry up. Have we ever prayed to the Lord to increase our faith? That's right-on praying, but let's not be surprised if God permits one of our brooks to dry up so that we will look to Him alone in dependence and faith. There's nothing quite like the sudden drying up of our financial brooks, for example, to test and increase our faith! Have we ever prayed that we would experience more of the Lord's personal presence in our lives? God may dry up a brook that we have been depending on for security or emotional support--in order to answer our prayers. Sometimes we become so dependent on the preachers, counSSselors or close friends that God gives us, that we lose sight of God Himself. Only when these brooks dry up do we again realize and practice the Lord's abiding personal presence with us. God may also use dried-up brooks to prepare us for change. God's plan for Elijah was relocation--with a new ministry and a different source of supply. Elijah was going to be transferred from his private hide-away at brook Cherith to the town of Zarephath over 100 miles away. In many ways this new location was "the pits" compared to the quiet and peaceful camp at Cherith. Elijah was going to have to live in very humble surroundings in the home of a poor, Gentile widow. And his ministry would be limited to one woman and her household. And he would have to tolerate a little kid running around the house all day. And there would be no other believers nearby for fellowship, because Zarephath was "Jezebel territory", steeped in Baal worship. (See 1 Kings 16:31 and 17:9 and then look at your Bible maps.) And his stay would not be overnight but "many days" (1 Kings 18:1). All this was not exactly the ideal set-up for a traveling Jewish prophet! It was certainly not the place that Elijah would naturally have chosen for relocation. God had His reasons for directing His prophet to Zarephath. Elijah was going to learn further lessons in the school of God there. (Find some of these lessons in the rest of the chapter. Maybe compare Luke 4:25-26 as a starter.) Our point here, however, is that God used a dried-up water brook to prepare and motivate His servant to move. He may do the same in our lives. How reluctant we are to change at times. We get so sedentary and stationary and secure with our sources of supply that we can't even conceive of God wanting to move us into new areas of service or new surroundings for spiritual growth. Sometimes the Lord has to dry up our sources of supply so that we are prepared for change. Is it possible that you've been relying too much on certain brooks that God has given--so much so that you aren't prepared for some changes that He may have for you in the near future? Don't be surprised if the Lord allows one of your favorite brooks to dry up. This doesn't mean that God is mad at you! In fact, we can be sure that if the Lord permits any job or activity or relationship to dry up in our lives, it is for our own best interests in the long run. Another reason that God allows dried-up brooks in our lives is to link us with the sufferings of mankind. The nation of Israel was being brought to its knees by the prolonged drought throughout the land. Was it right that Elijah should completely escape this national crisis? Although Elijah was not personally to blame, God let His servant experience some of what the people were suffering. By means of the dried-up brook and then being "forced" into survival-type living conditions, Elijah was made to "feel" what his fellow-citizens were suffering. There may be times when we face dried-up brooks for the same reason. We are linked with the sufferings of mankind so that we can empathize with the hurting people of this world and reach out to them with the love of Christ in more understanding and caring ways. God has not ordered events so that Christians escape the sufferings that are common to man. Brooks dry up for Christians as well as for non-Christians. We are not speaking here about the spiritual strength and power and peace and joy in Christ that are always available for the Christian. They never dry up! We are talking aboutnatural sources of supply. The idea, for example, that Christians should expect overflowing physical blessings such as good-paying jobs and business success is not biblical. These brooks may be full, but they may also dry up. Our natural strength, as another example, will definitely dry up as we get older. In fact, our good health may dry up earlier than we expect as a result of a sudden accident or long-term illness, and we should not expect miraculous cures in every case. The Bible never promises perfect health to every Christian. While every spiritual blessing that heaven can offer is guaranteed to every Christian, overflowing natural resources are not guaranteed. And dried-up brooks are not necessarily the result of a lack of faith or a deficient prayer life. As in the case of Elijah, sometimes God purposely dries up our brooks to link us in humility with the sufferings of our fellow human beings. Perhaps you will experience a dried-up brook this coming year. In fact, you may be confronted right now by a brook that is drying up. Don't be anxious or afraid. Our Heavenly Father not only knows what He is doing, but He knows your every need and limitation. And remember, He alone is in complete control of the rains!