1 Kings 17:1-7 – Elijah at Cherith the Brook

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1Kings 17:1

  1. The name “Elijah” means “Yahweh is my God”. It is very common for the names of biblical characters to indicate the purpose of their lives. For example, Jesus’ name means “God saves”, which was Jesus’ mission, to save us humans. Elijah’s name thus becomes a clear signal to the people of Israel to stop worshipping Baal and return to worshipping Yahweh.
    1. Elijah is called as a prophet at a time when virtually all of Israel had forsaken God and had begun to worship the idol Baal (1 Kings 19:10). Israel’s King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel incurred God’s wrath more than any of the Israelite kings who had gone before him” (1 Kings 16:33).
      1. During this ungodly time in Israel’s history, only 7,000 men had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18).
  2. The idol “Baal” was a Canaanite fertility god and the name can be translated as “lord”. Israel worshipped Baal for rain, good harvests, etc.
    1. Baal worship was a recurring problem for the people of Israel who were tempted by the idolatry of the surrounding nations.
    1. It is no coincidence that God punishes Israel with drought because Baal was considered to have power over the weather. In doing so, God shows Israel that Baal is powerless in comparison to Yahweh and that Israel should therefore return to him, even if they don’t really want to, at least to get rain, which was the reason they worshipped Baal in the first place.
  3. It’s easy to think that Elijah was some kind of superman who just needed to pray a little prayer and it stopped raining for over 3 years, but in James’ letter we see that Elijah was just an ordinary man like us (James 5:16-18).

1Kings 17:2-3

  1. Because Elijah had caused a severe drought in Israel, his life was in danger and God sent Elijah to a small stream to hide him.
    1. Elijah had quickly become a well-known prophet in the land, and by hiding Elijah by a brook, God teaches Elijah the importance of being alone with God.
      1. Perhaps Elijah would have preferred to continue preaching to the people and telling them about God’s plan for Israel, but at the brook Cherith, Elijah learns that working for God must never be more important than living with God.
      1. It is probably no coincidence that Jesus compares streams of water to the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Those who want to work for God need to find their own hidden place where they can be alone with God and draw strength.
  2. Even though God knew all this beforehand, he did not tell Elijah all at once, but let Elijah know one thing at a time. Only when Elijah obeyed God and did what God had commanded did he learn the next step.
    1. Even today, God leads us step by step, letting us know one thing at a time. This can be very frustrating but it leads us to depend on God and to trust in his care.
      1. What would have happened if we had known God’s whole plan in advance? Probably we would have backed out because we don’t feel we can handle something that big.
      1. It is often only in retrospect that we can see how wonderfully God has led us all along. It is often only when we look back on our lives that we realise that many of the difficulties we went through were actually good for us and made us grow in our faith or learn to trust in God more.
  3. God uses Elijah’s time at the brook Cherith to teach Elijah even more about being a servant of God. But Elijah didn’t have to be fully trained before God called him into ministry; God developed Elijah as he went along.

1Kings 17:4

  1. In a time of drought, Elijah had to sit by a stream of water. In this way, God taught Elijah to depend on God for his sustenance.
  2. Ravens were an “abomination” according to the Law (Leviticus 11:15), and now God allows Elijah to be served his food by “unclean animals”. An overzealous literalist might find it hard to accept that God does this, but here Elijah is forced to realize what Jesus taught the Pharisees: God is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28) or what Paul taught the Corinthians: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). If Elijah had followed the “letter” he would have died of starvation, but because he understood that it was God who gave him the food, he ate and was given life.
    1. In the same way, we need to learn today that even if it is wrong, for example, to drink drunk on alcohol, we should not consider those with alcohol problems so “impure” that we cannot even associate with them. Or how would we react if someone with a snuff under his lip preached to us?
    2. One lesson from the raven is that God can use even an unclean tool for his holy will. For example, even if a preacher preaches God’s word in a wonderful way, that does not necessarily mean that the preacher is a saint and thus we should not exalt the preacher.
      1. Nor should we consider ourselves so impure that we do not believe God can use us. If God can use unclean animals to feed God’s servants, he can use us sinners to give God’s word to God’s people.
  3. The name “Cherith” means “to cut off” or “to cut down”, which could mean that God had the opportunity to shape and refine Elijah by removing the negative and destructive character traits that Elijah had.

1Kings 17:6

  1. Just as God provided food for Israel when they were in the wilderness, God now provides for Elijah. God not only does his miracles with the nation of Israel, but also with the individual Elijah.
    1. In the same way, we can expect God to work great miracles even with people who do not work as pastors or missionaries. Sure, God wants to do great miracles with us as a whole, but he also wants to do great miracles in your personal life.
  2. If we look at Elijah’s stay at Cherith as a symbolic place where every believer can be alone with God, then the bread symbolizes the Bible and the water the Spirit. Every morning and every evening it is useful and good for every person who wants to serve God to be still in solitude and read the Bible and be filled with the Spirit of God.

1Kings 17:7

  1. It must have been a difficult test for Elijah to maintain his trust in God’s providence as he watched the brook slowly but surely dry up. But Elijah persevered, trusting that God would eventually reveal something new when the time came.
  2. Elijah knew that it would not rain until he “said so”, yet Elijah refrains from praying to God for water even though he risks dying of thirst himself.
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