"Provision And Protection" (August 2007)
“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” (1 Kings 17:1-10)
In the days of Elijah, there was a drought in the land and it caused the river to dry up. Have you ever experienced a “drought”? A time when your “river” dried up? Perhaps you are experiencing one now? There are two kinds of drought: A physical drought- you lose your job and have no income coming in, your health is gone, something happens that forces you out of a comfortable place, or your supply runs out. A spiritual drought- you lose your zeal, the “fire” isn’t in you like it once was, your first love is gone. We have all been there, and may be again. The question is, “What do you do when you are in a drought?” What do you do when all visible means of support is gone? What do you do when you feel dry inside and away from God?
As we look at the scriptures above, we will find our answer. “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.” In the time of drought the Lord told Elijah to go hide by the brook Cherith. The word Cherith means- cutting. This is significant because it represents a place of covenant. What is a covenant? According to the dictionary a covenant is- an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified. According to the Bible a covenant is- the conditional promises made to humanity by God, as revealed in Scripture. Biblically speaking, a covenant is an agreement that God has made with His people in which He promises to protect and provide for them. So what does this have to do with Cherith- cutting? In Genesis 15:7-21 we see that God established a covenant with Abraham which we call “cutting the covenant”. “And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.” (verses 8-10,17) God had Abraham “cut” the animal sacrifice into two parts, then the Lord walked through the divided halves. In doing so, He established a covenant that He would not break with the descendants of Abraham. “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (verses 18-21) Here is another example of “cutting a covenant”, it’s called circumcision. “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.“ (Genesis 17:10,11)
Part of the covenant that God has established with His children- those who come into a covenant agreement with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ- is that of protection and provision. From Genesis to Revelations we find God’s covenant with mankind. He is a God of covenant. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” (Hebrews 10:16) God’s covenant protects and provides for us even in times of judgment as seen in His protection of Noah and his family during the flood. “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.” (Genesis 6:18) As we have already read, (Genesis 15) God provided for Abraham’s seed by giving them houses they did not build and vineyards they did not plant when they inherited the Promised Land. He also protected them by fighting their enemies for them- remember Jericho? “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8)
So what do we do when our river dries up? What do we do when we are in a drought? What do we do if the economy falls, when we hear of wars and rumors of war, when natural disasters strike, and there are pestilence and earthquakes in the land that cause a drought? We go to the brook Cherith. We look to and lean upon the faithfulness of this covenant making God. God has never broken His covenant with His people and will not begin now. “Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season. Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.” (Jeremiah 33:20,21) It is impossible to break God’s covenant with His people. If you can stop the sun from shining or the moon from rising then you can break His covenant, but you can’t. Even when we aren’t faithful He remains faithful. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
He has always provided for His people. He has sent manna to feed His people in the wilderness, water from a rock, money in a fish’s mouth and ravens to feed Elijah. God remembered His covenant with Elijah and provided for him when the drought came. He supernaturally fed him by a raven. Elijah did not go hungry; he was fed at Cherith- symbolic of a place of covenant provision. When the brook dried up, God was still faithful to provide for the prophet. He sent him to the home of a widow. There the widow fed him until the drought was over. “And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” Notice a couple of things here. While the brook was still flowing with water, God provided for Elijah through a raven- before the drought took effect. After the brook dried up, God still provided for him this time through a widow. God’s provisions aren’t limited because of the situation. He provides in good times and bad times- when the river is flowing and when it’s dried up. He is the Source of all provisions. Secondly, it says, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee” and “I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” Did you notice? “I have commanded” in both instances. “I have” is past tense. It means that He has already done it. He had already provided for Elijah before he got to Cherith or Zarephath. He is Jehovah-Jireh - God the Provider - the One who sees ahead and makes provision for. There is never a situation that you find yourself in that God does not already know about and has not already made provision for it. Nothing takes Him unaware or by surprise. He knows what you need before you know what you need. We see this in creation when God waited to create man on the last day. Before He created man He made sure that everything he would need would already be there for him. He created oxygen, water, sun light, fruit, etc., so that man would lack for nothing once he was created. Thirdly, God used a raven and a widow. God’s provisions usually come from the most unlikely sources. A raven is a scavenger- it eats anything it can get; yet this bird did not eat what was intended for Elijah. Ravens were also considered “unclean” under the law, yet God used one. (Selah- that’s food for thought, and a whole other sermon.) You would have thought that God would have used a millionaire or more prominent person, one with wealth and means, but He used a widow- a woman who could barely provide for herself. You can never tell where God’s provisions will come from- they might come through a raven, a widow, a rock, a fish, etc. There is one thing for sure, the avenue He uses will always let you know it’s Him because it is such an unlikely source, and as a result He will receive the glory. As His children, we have a covenant of provision also. As He was faithful to provide for Elijah, He will be faithful to provide for us also. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25) “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” (Psalm 34:9,10)
God has always protected His people. He has shut the mouths’ of lions, quenched the fire of the furnace, hid them from their enemy with a cloud by day and fire by night. He protected Elijah in the time of drought. “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.” “Hide thyself.” You hide for protection. God protected him in an isolated place- along a brook. Cherith was a place of safety from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. God provides safety and protection for us. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1) You need to read the whole Psalm, it is a wonderful Psalm of the protection of the Lord. He protects us from pestilence, evil, the snare, our enemies, destruction, and so on. He is our Ark of safety. We do not have to fear man, circumstances, disease or lack. God has a wonderful hiding place for His children where the enemy cannot find them. “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
Let’s talk a moment about a “spiritual drought” since God’s covenant takes care of both. In the covenant that God made with Abraham, He told him, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” (Genesis 22:17) When you read this passage, you see that God was going to bless Abraham with “spiritual” seed (children) as well as “physical” seed. The physical- “the sand of the sea shore”- is the natural nation of Israel; the Jews. The spiritual- “the stars of the heaven”- are those who have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ. “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:6-8, 28,29)
There is no reason why we should ever become spiritually dry if we are seeking Him first, reading His word daily, applying it’s precepts to our lives, and living a life of praise and adoration before the Lord. But we sometimes do “let down our guard”- we let the “cares of this life” choke out the word and life of God in us. We become too concerned with material things and neglect the spiritual things- quenching the Spirit. When this happens, we get dry. That “river of life” doesn’t seem to flow as freely as it should. Thank God, that He loves us enough to provide a refreshing and reviving for us. God commanded the raven to “feed” Elijah, but He commanded the widow to “sustain” him. ‘Feeding’ speaks of the physical provision and ‘sustain’ speaks of the spiritual provision. The word sustain means to give support, to keep (one’s mind and spirit) from sinking or giving way. God commanded the widow to not only provide for Elijah’s physical well being but for his spiritual well being also. God will send the right people into your life to encourage and minister to you. This is why the role of the fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) is so important. They help encourage us in the Lord. This is also why it’s important that we love one another and support one another. We are commanded to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2); “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12); “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Elijha needed this widow to help sustain him in time of drought. We need each other. We learned this from 1 Corinthians 12:21- “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”- that everyone is valuable and everyone is needed. “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16- NLT) “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10)
God has made a covenant with us to provide for us and protect us- physically and spiritually. But we have a part in this covenant that we can’t neglect. Elijah had to put his faith in the Lord, not in material things, and obey what He told him to do. “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.” “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath. So he arose and went to Zarephath.” Our part is to live by faith- faith in God’s word and His unchanging character to be faithful as promised; regardless of what we see or what is happening around us. It doesn’t matter how fast the brook is flowing or if it becomes a dry river bed. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) We also have to be obedient. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” (Isaiah 1:19) So what do we do when the river dries up or drought comes? Do we get anxious or worried, fretful or depressed? No, we put our faith and trust in the Lord to provide for us and protect us. We look to Him as our source. We listen to His instructions, and we obey what He says. When we do, we can rest assured that He will “feed” and “sustain” us because He has made a covenant with us to do so.