I believe in the church we make it easy for people to feel ordinary. When we take our lives and place them along side the likes of John Wesley, Mother Teresa, Peter, Paul, Mary, or Martha we become very ordinary by comparison. Yet, I still believe God is calling the ordinary people in the world to do extraordinary things. I believe God is still in the business of transforming people. We just need to learn how to trust God.
The story of Elijah could just as easily be the story of any ordinary person transformed by God into the extraordinary. Elijah’s story begins as if Dickens were telling it: “It was the best of times and the worst of times”.
From the worlds’ perspective King Ahab had built on his father King Omri’s success. Israel was a great regional power with extensive military might (2000 chariots and 10,000 troops fought the Assyrians to a stand still in 853). Israel was experiencing great economic prosperity. Archaeology has shown that the craftsmanship of the Israelites was unequaled in this era.
On the other hand, Ahab performed more evil in the eyes of God than his father.
Ahab introduced pluralism or polytheism to the nation. He married Jezebel who sought to rid the land of God’s prophets and brought Baal worship to the nation.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe (of the settlers) in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
I Kings 17:1
If there were any doubt that Elijah was ordinary, we need only look to his introduction. We have no idea where or what a Tishbite is, this was a man from a small town so small that nobody knew or cared where it was so no record of it was kept. For all we know Elijah may be the only claim to fame the town ever had and he was so ordinary no one bothered claiming him. One unique thing about Elijah is his name which means “My God is Yahweh.” This name will be significant in the role that Elijah will play in proclaiming God’s sovereignty.
Elijah announces to the king that there will be no rain in the land. This is significant for several reasons:
1) Baal is the god of the clouds and the rain.
2) Elijah is making a pronouncement that it is Yahweh and not Baal who is in control
3) This announcement comes at the same that the 6 month long dry season is to be ending
Immediately after delivering the message to King Ahab, Elijah will disappear from the public eye for the next three years.
Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. I Kings 17:2-6
God directs Elijah first to camp out at the Kerith Ravine. It is there that God will supply all of Elijah’s needs. It is there that Elijah will learn to trust God.
In the Ravine, God will send ravens to feed him meat in the morning and in the evening. The very thought of ravens becoming providers is absurd! Ravens by their nature are scavengers. Only an act of God could cause this to happen.
This very process of provision for Elijah sits starkly in contrast with God’s law. God’s law delivered through Moses and Abraham clearly dictated that the nation was to care for the prophets of God. However, during this time period the nation was using its resources to support the false prophets of Baal and Asherath. So Elijah must learn to trust that God will take care of him.
I wonder how Elijah handled the waiting for the birds. Did Elijah search for food? Did he wake early to find the birds had already been there, or did he have to wait wondering if they would come? How long did it take before Elijah trusted God that the provision that God had promised would be there?
While daily meat was being supplied, God was also supplying daily drink to Elijah through the brook that runs through the ravine.
Sometime later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
I Kings 17:7
No doubt Elijah had been watching the level of water go down every day, anxiously wondering what was going to happen to him when it dried up. This brook was fed by the spring rains which are not going to come. Perhaps this contradiction between promise and reality did not go unnoticed by Elijah. But he lived as if to say, “No, God commanded me to be here, and I am going to be here until he tells me to leave.”
What was it like for Elijah as the brook began to dry up? Did he look for other sources of water? Did he cry out to God in frustration over the dried up brook? The dried up brook which was a result of God’s action (foretold by Elijah) could have easily become a point of frustration.
But when the brook dried up, Elijah was not anxious. What did Elijah do? Oh, he may have second guessed whether or not he was in the right place – certainly camping out near the Jordan River would have made more sense. But instead Elijah stayed where he was and waited for further direction from God. He was learning that he must not lean on his own understanding but instead learn to trust God.
How often do we become we frustrated in the very moments in which God is taking care of us? We spend most of our lives living in these type of moments … the space between God’s promise and our reality. Too often we quit on God before the promise is delivered. Elijah provides us an example of someone who trusts in that moment as he stays in the Ravine … even as the brook dries up … Elijah learns to trust God in the moment between the promise and reality.
We leave Elijah this week at the Ravine, as the brook dries up, sorting out what it means to trust God. Elijah is an ordinary man trying to discover what it means to follow God’s leading.
It is in his willingness to follow God’s leading that he will discover the first steps to becoming extraordinary.
Want to be more than ordinary? Begin by submitting yourself to God’s leading.
Elijah has learned that God’s direction will include provisions and that these provisions can come from some surprising places.
Want to be more than ordinary? Trust God to supply the provisions. You just might be surprised.
Elijah has also learned during his camp out that faith must fill the gap in the time between promise and reality.
Want to be more than ordinary? Learn to trust in the promises and allow your faith to keep you while you wait for the assurance of the promises you are trusting in.
Elijah has learned that a dried up brook can be signs of God’s pleasure.
Want to be more than ordinary? Learn to read the signs in your life.
Find the brooks in your life that are there to feed you. Allow yourself to be drawn to those brooks, but remember that God can also call you away … come back next week to continue the journey.
Want to be more than ordinary?
Begin today by learning to trust God in all places and at all times…
It won’t be easy, but the rewards are worth waiting for.