As the Coronavirus crisis deepens all across the world, the leaders of the nations are instructing everyone to “stay at home”, to isolate themselves, to be out of contact from everyone. The adjustments in all our lives because of this instruction are very significant.
In the Bible, in 1 Kings 17, there is a crisis in the nation of Israel. King Ahab has rejected Jehovah as God and is worshipping the god Baal. The consequences of his actions are that God is withholding rain for three years and this will create a serious economic/health crisis. Israel’s economy was based on agriculture and very dependent on rainfall.
God’s spokesman was Elijah and he delivered the news to King Ahab that there would be no rain or dew for the next few years. God understood what the reaction of King Ahab would be. Ahab would seek to destroy Elijah and so, for Elijah’s protection, God instructs him to self-isolate: “Go to the east and hide by the Brook Cherith” (a wild glen in the Transjordan Valley).
Let us consider the verses in 1 Kings 17:1 – 7 under the following headings:
- Elijah’s Reliance on the Ravens
- Elijah’s Removal from Society
- Elijah’s Risk in Trusting God
1 Kings 17: 1 – 7 Elijah Fed by Ravens
And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.
Elijah’s Removal from Society: Self-Isolating
The Bible gives no information about Elijah’s background, whether he was single or married, etc. His story suddenly appears on the stage of life with the unexpected news that a crisis is ahead and will have serious repercussions for everyone in the nation. For his own protection, God’s instruction is SELF-ISOLATION – “Go hide yourself in the Cherith Ravine!”
At the end of January, completely unexpectedly, the news flashed across the world that the Coronavirus had broken on the Wuhan Province in China. Since then its spread around the world has been unimaginable. It is so serious and tragically so many people are dying all over the world. The instruction that is ringing out around the world from every nation in order to stem the outbreak is, “stay at home, self-isolate”!
It is staggering that the Prime Minster of India has called on 1.3 billion people to stay at home!
How did Elijah survive in this remote valley by the Cherith Brook? What did he do all day? How did he pass his time? How did he cope with aloneness? What was the mental impact on him?
He had no-one to talk to, only God. What a challenge to our faith when we have no-one to talk to but God. It seems likely that this period of self-isolation could be with us for some considerable time and could provide a great opportunity to deepen our ‘quiet times’ with God and enrich our personal relationship with God our Father.
On a personal note, 45 years ago, having returned from a GLO team in Italy, I became seriously ill and was diagnosed as having tuberculosis in both lungs. I was immediately hospitalised and had to spend the next three months isolated in a fever hospital 20 miles from home.
I had no contact with my children for fear of infection and I recall it vividly as being a deeply challenging experience for us as a family. I had to lay aside all my forward ministry programme and in doing so we were totally dependent on the Lord to sustain us. Reflecting on this period of ill health and isolation, Cathie and I can say that it was a spiritually enriching period in our lives where we proved that our faithful God doesn’t desert us even in our isolation.
Elijah’s Reliance on the Ravens
In unprecedented circumstances, God is still able to meet our need. Elijah needed to eat and be refreshed each day and God provided Birds and a Brook for his daily supply.
I have been served my food in many different countries by many different waiters but never have I been served by air from the birds!
Elijah relied on the ravens to be on time each day and to drop the food at the right place. The ravens were under God’s control.
How thankful are we each day and at each meal time that God has answered our prayer, “give us this day our daily bread”? This virus is teaching us that our dependence for life and daily living is entirely reliant on God.
Do Not Worry Luke 12:22-24
“Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Elijah’s Risk in Trusting God
Elijah was content to remain in self-isolation until God moved him on. Each day as time passed he watched the brook run slower and become shallower until it says, “the brook dried up”. Did he try to project his mind as he witnessed his water supply dry up and ask himself what will I do when I have no water? Or, was he content to trust God that there would be an answer to the dried brook?
There is a degree of risk involved in faith. When we do not know what lies ahead do we continue to trust God when our brook dries up?
When will this Coronavirus be over? We do not know and we tend to get anxious about dates and times. We like to have more certainty about the future.
God’s instruction to Elijah when the brook dried up was to move on to a village called Zarephath. He said, “I have instructed a widow there to feed you”. Our lives and our futures are in God’s hands and He is making provision for our daily needs. Let’s take the risk and trust Him when reflecting on these words.
*”Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by”
Songwriters: Thomas Mosie Lister