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Has God Given You A Cherith Experience?

December 13, 2018

The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith.’  (1 Kings 17:2)

Elijah has been preparing himself for ministry. He has given himself to studying the Word (Deuteronomy 11) and to prayer (James 5). His ministry is on the launch pad and God says “Go hide yourself!”

Elijah is a prophet. His whole calling is about bringing the word of God to the people of God. But there are no people in Cherith. There is no platform for the work he wants to do, no opportunity for him to pursue his calling. For the next three years Elijah ministers to a congregation of just two people. One is a widow and the other is her son. What is all this about?

This is the “Cherith experience.” Cherith is the place where God withholds what you wanted most. Cherith is the place where God closes the door on what you wanted to do for him.

You go to college and train for a particular career, but the door does not open for you. All this preparation and where is the opportunity? You say, “I have the skills. I have the training. But there doesn’t seem to be a place I can use them. The door is not open for me.”

Friend, welcome to Cherith. It comes to every Christian at some point in their journey. Cherith is where God closes the door to the thing you most want to do.

God Hid Elijah

“Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith.” (1 Kings 17:3)

You’ll find this all through the Scriptures in the lives of God’s hidden servants: God hid Joseph in a prison before he came to the palace. He hid Moses in the desert for a third of his life before he led the people out of Egypt. God hid David in the mountains, running in and out of caves from Saul, before he was recognized as king.

In the New Testament, God hid Paul for three years in Arabia after his conversion, before he became a missionary. And here, God hides Elijah at Cherith before his great life contribution at Carmel.

God can take you to Cherith by removing you from a position. God can take you to Cherith through a prolonged sickness that limits what you are able to do. Cherith is the place where God hides you and holds back what you most want to do.

Don’t count it a strange thing if God hides you. Here’s the principle: When God chooses to hide you for a time, he is preparing you for a greater purpose.

Everyone knows about the triumphs of Elijah’s ministry on Mount Carmel, but here’s something you must know: God will take you to Cherith before he ever takes you to Carmel.

God Led Elijah

The word of the Lord came to him ‘Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith which is east of the Jordan…’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. (1 Kings 17:2,5)

God led him to Cherith, and then God led him out of Cherith. It will be the same for you. As a believer, you can have absolute confidence through your entire life that God is leading you. The Lord is your shepherd, and he is your shepherd even at Cherith.

One step at a time

God leads his people one step at a time—as we walk in obedience. God does not normally lay out the long-term scenario. When Elijah spoke to Ahab, he had no idea what the next step would be. God made the next step clear as Elijah was faithful in what God had already given him to do.

As you take a step of obedience, then God will show you what to do next. That’s the importance of the link between verse 1 and verse 2. Verse 1 tells us about Elijah’s step of faith and obedience. Then in verse 2 God tells him what to do next.

That same pattern runs throughout this story. Verse 5 tells us about Elijah’s obedience: “Elijah went and did according to the word of the Lord.” Then in verse 8 God tells him what to do next: “The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Arise and go to Zarepath.’”

If God is not making your next step clear, perhaps it could be that you have not finished what he has called you to do already. Move forward with all that God has given you to do now, and then trust Him to show you the next step at the right time. That’s the principle of Christian obedience.

At Cherith We Learn to Live on God

I take that phrase from John Bunyan. His Cherith experience came when he was thrown into prison. He was a pastor serving the Lord and he had a family. It was a time of persecution for believers like us in England, and Bunyan was seized from his church and from his family and incarcerated in the town of Bedford.

God took Bunyan out of public ministry and hid him in the prison. Out of that came the book Pilgrim’s Progress. When Bunyan wrote about his Cherith experience, he said that he learned “to live upon God who is invisible.”

“God has put me in a place where I can no longer live on my work. I can no longer live on my family… on my friends…on my pleasures… [or,] on my ministry. I have to live on God, who is invisible.” [1]

That’s where Elijah was in Cherith. To live on God who is invisible means to find what you need in God when there isn’t anything or anyone else.

That’s what God does at Cherith. When you come to the place where God hides you, know this: If you will walk with him in faith and obedience, he will lead you and he will feed you. You will find him faithful at Cherith, and you will come out saying, “Even Cherith was in the purpose of God.”

[This article was adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “When God Hides You,” from his series, The Surprising Influence of a Godly Life] [Photo Credit: Unsplash]
1 John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,” p. 173, Emerald House, 1998

The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the President and Teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.

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