Elijah is one of my favorite characters in the Bible and these chapters that recount his life have spoken to me many times when I have needed encouragement from the Lord.
It is quite startling, I think, that the first act of Elijah’s prophetic career, at least that we read about, was the declaration of a drought against the wicked King Ahab. It was certainly courageous of Elijah to speak this word from the Lord because if it did not happen it would immediately be clear that he was a false prophet and the penalty for false prophecy was death.
As we know, Elijah’s prophecy did come true. So how did the Lord provide for the prophet during these years of drought? The answer is: in many ingenious ways. First, Elijah was told, “hide yourself in the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” (1 Kings 17:4)
I have an interesting personal story connected to this verse. When I was going through a very difficult time ten years ago, I needed to step out of pastoral ministry for a time and take a break. However, I had no idea how the Lord was going to provide for me or my family. Before I even told my mother what was happening in my life, she was approached by a woman at her church, hundreds of miles from where we lived, and this woman had a demonstrated gift of prophecy. The woman asked my mother how I was doing and my mother said, “Fine. Why?” The woman answered, “Well, the Lord impressed upon me while I was in prayer that Will was going through a difficult time, and so I have been praying for him.” The fascinating thing about this is that I hardly knew this woman and was not in touch with her at all. The woman later gave instructions to me through my mother. Part of that instruction included this verse: “Hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith.” When I heard this, I took it as a word from the Lord that I was to have a time of rest away from all ministry and that the Lord would provide for me and my family.
Later, when this woman learned through my mother that my family and I were moving to Ireland to live and work with C. S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, she got very excited. Prior to hearing this news from my mother, the woman had a vision of me and my family living in an Irish town, attending a stone church. This woman had never been to Ireland and could not have known what the place was like to which we were moving, but what she saw in her vision matched rather precisely with the place where we ended up living and the church we ended up attending.
However, that is not the end of the story. Eight months later, we felt led, due to a number of circumstances, that it was time for us to return to the United States. When we did, our story once again dovetailed with that of Elijah. God provided for our needs through a widow ... who happened to be my mother. When we came back to the States, we had no car. My mother had a Jeep Grand Cherokee that she could no longer drive due to macular degeneration. She gave her car to us, but that was just the beginning of how the Lord provided for us upon our return. Over and over again we witnessed the truth of this Scripture about the jar of meal not being emptied and the jug of oil not failing.
The story of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is another one of my favorites. I was assigned this piece of Scripture to read in a speech class at Princeton Seminary many years ago. My speech professor, who was a professional actor, was very moved by my reading. I do not think that was because I was such a great reader. I think it was because this is a powerful piece of Scripture, beautifully written. Try reading chapter 18 aloud to yourself and perhaps you will see what I mean.
1 Kings 19 is another chapter that has spoken to me spiritually on any number of occasions. I never think about this passage without thinking about Charles Stanley who says that whenever we get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, we need to call a H.A.L.T.
Elijah got too hungry, angry, lonely, and tired all at once. That is what happens when we go through spiritual warfare as Elijah did in 1 Kings 18. The result was that Elijah, who was so courageous in chapter 18, becomes fearful of Queen Jezebel, who was out to kill him in chapter 19.
Thus, as we often do, Elijah ran away, but he could not run away from himself or from the Lord. When he had gotten a day’s journey into the wilderness, he collapsed and asked the Lord to take his life. The Lord’s solution to Elijah’s problem was simple: rest and food.
Then, after Elijah, had sufficient rest and sustenance, the Lord spoke to him: not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in a “still, small voice”. So often we look for the Lord to speak to us in dramatic ways, but more often he speaks to us in the less theatrical, in that still, small, voice.
In that quiet voice, the Lord told Elijah very clearly what he needed to do next in his life. Furthermore, more importantly, the Lord reminded Elijah that he was not alone. “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18)
Have you gotten too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired lately? If so, perhaps it is time to call a HALT and get some rest, get some food, and listen for that still small voice that will remind you that you are not alone.