Elijah is in Cherith, a remote place where God hides him, leads him, and feeds him. Here is this man who trusts and obeys God, and God is providing for him. There is a brook, and Elijah is able to drink from it. And when he does, he must have said, “Thank you Lord! Every day you provide for me through this brook.” Look what happens next:
After a while, the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land… (1 Kings 17:7).
God used the brook to sustain Elijah, and now the means God had used to provide for His servant dried up. Perhaps you are in exactly this position today. God has provided a stream of income for you through a certain form of work. The work you have done, the business you have pursued, has been your brook. But now the brook is drying up. What was working before, isn’t working now. It becomes obvious that you have to move on.
Others are not there yet, but you can see that there is less water in the brook of God’s provision for you than there used to be. You wonder what the future is going to hold for you, and you say, “What happens if this brook dries up altogether?”
Elijah must have expected this. He told the king there would be no rain, and if there’s no rain, the brook will eventually dry up. The dry brook is evidence that God keeps His promise. The same hand that held back the rain would soon pour out His provision through the oil and the flour.
Know When It’s Time to Move On
The Word of the Lord came to him: “Arise and go to Zarephath which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (1 Kings 17:8).
God has more than one way of supplying what you need. When one means of supply dries up, God will provide another. What we learn here is to trust the God who provides, not His means of supply.
If you have had a stable and steady job for 5, 10, or 20 years, it’s easy to get the idea that the job that is what provides for you. No, God provides for you. He may do that through the job and if that stream dries up, He will provide for you in another way.
You may say—God has provided a small group for me, a dear friend for me, a healthy church for me, a wonderful ministry for me. These are the means of God’s supply. The way God supplies will change. The brook will dry up. Change will come in your life.
When that happens, God will call you to leave Cherith and go to Zarephath, where He will provide for you in another way. Don’t get fixated on the means of His supply. Trust the Lord who provides, because He never changes. If you cling to how God has blessed you in the past, you may miss how He will bless you in the future. Clinging to Cherith when God calls you to Zarephath is the surest way to miss God’s blessing.
God says to Elijah, “The brook that was such a blessing to you in the past is not what I have for you now. I’m drying it up.” But there is blessing and ministry for you in a place where you’d least expect it—Zarephath!
Walk in Faith and Obedience
So [Elijah] arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold a widow was there gathering sticks (1 Kings 17:10).
Obedience was the pattern of Elijah’s life. When he arrived in Zarephath there was a woman in desperate poverty, gathering sticks on the dump outside the city. Elijah asks her for a drink, and as the woman turns to go and get the water, Elijah says, “And bring me some bread” (17:11).
The woman says, “As the Lord your God lives” (17:12). She knows who the Lord is, but she is not yet a believer. At this point in the story, the Lord is Elijah’s God, not hers. “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug” (17:12). There she was at the dump outside the city gathering sticks to make a fire. On this fire she planned to bake some bread, with the full expectation that this would be her last meal.
Then we have these astonishing words:
Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son (1 Kings 17:13).
Elijah was a prophet. That means he spoke the word of God. What the prophet says, God says. So, the word of the Lord comes to this woman through Elijah, calling her to make a great sacrifice.
Notice God also gives her a great promise: “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth’” (17:14). Someone might say, “Well, this sounds a bit like the health and wealth gospel to me.” Not a bit of it. God never promised wealth to the woman. The promise was not “Make me a cake and I’ll give you a bread factory.” The promise was “Bake me a cake, and the jar of flour will not be empty. The jug of oil will not run dry.”
God will provide what you need when you need it—not an overflowing jar and an overflowing jug. You can trust Him as you walk with Him in faith and obedience.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Why God Requires Sacrifice”, from his series, The Surprising Influence of a Godly Life.