Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by 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.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while, the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
1 Kings 17:1-7
Henry David Thoreau said he kept three chairs in his little hut on Walden Pond, one for “solitude”, two for “friendship”, and three for “society”. Even an inwardly turned soul like Thoreau wanted more than solitude in his life. He longed for frequent engagement with friends and acquaintances from nearby Concord. He soon would have tired of Zoom conferencing, binging on Netflix and take-out food.
These days of social isolation and quarantine give me new appreciation of our Lord’s words to Adam in paradise about it not being good for man to be alone. Yet scripture after scripture does present people alone. There is Adam in Eden, but also Moses and Elijah on the mountain, Jesus in the wilderness, Paul in remotest Arabia, and John on the Isle of Patmos. Isolation seems somehow essential for spiritual growth and service in God’s Kingdom.
That is the case in today’s scripture in which God commands isolation and quarantine for Elijah: “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith.” Note that Elijah’s isolation was for much more than a few weeks; the New Testament tells us he was in quarantine from the world for “three years and six months” (Luke 4:25; James 5:17).
One might question God’s sidelining His mighty prophet at a time of apostasy and spiritual decline in the land. History shows this to be a critical and pivotal time for Israel. Surely God needed Elijah in action when foundations were crumbling. After all, this is the great prophet whom God assumed into heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), and the man who stood with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration as the greatest of all the prophets (Matthew 17:3). People even sought out Jesus thinking He was Elijah (Matthew 16:13-14; Luke 9:8; John 1:21). That’s how great Elijah was.
But surprisingly God commands His first team prophet to social distance and isolate for this lengthy period of time. God commands a very public Elijah to hide from the public in order to be alone with God by the Wadi Cherith. Scripture reminds that Elijah “was a human being like us” (James 5:16), having the same emotions and problems we have. He had no corner on spirituality. God wanted him alone by a drying brook to learn total dependence on God. Elijah must have wanted to be somewhere else, or to be preaching and working miracles; God wanted him by Wadi Cherith and to provide for him there. God set about growing Elijah’s faith for the greater challenges he will face.
It must have been a unsettling paradigm shift for Elijah to be enrolled in the school of Wadi Cherith. God could have sent angels to feed Elijah, or rained down manna from heaven, but strangely it was “unclean” ravens that God comands to feed him. Every bit of food air-expressed to Elijah came from the beak of an animal pronounced “unclean” by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 11:13-15). Elijah is being reminded of Who is in charge and being taught more about God’s ways and God’s provision.
Sitting by a desert brook and watching it go dry is teaching Elijah about total dependence upon God. Every day God is nourishing his faith and building needed confidence in the Lord. Elijah is being readied to take his stand on Mount Carmel against 500 prophets of Baal and to bring down evil Ahab and Jezebel.
English preacher F. B. Meyer applies Elijah’s time of isolation to any believer’s time of confinement and confusion:
“We might not be surprised, then, if sometimes our Father says: ‘There, child, thou has had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself by the brook – hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber; or in the Cherith of disappointed hopes, or In the Cherith of bereavement; or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away’…Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. A Carmel always presupposes a Cherith, and a Cherith always leads to a Carmel…The acquisition of spiritual power is impossible unless we can hide ourselves from men and from ourselves in some gorge where we may absorb the power of the eternal God.”(F. B. Meyer: “Elijah and the Secret of His Power”)
Might not this pandemic time be our Wadi Cherith in which God is calling us to draw closer to Him and learn more of His ways and His provision?
A Fellow Traveler,