“And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Do you remember this story? Kings and Chronicles tend for me to be four books with lots of exciting stories to read, but not very much that sticks. First Kings gets started with the transition of power from David to Solomon and all the court intrigue that surrounded that. Then we get to the almost tabernacle-like detail of the building of the Temple and Solomon’s exceedingly long prayer of dedication. Then his son, Rehoboam, blows it and sparks a civil war that leaves the nation permanently divided. After that, it’s pretty much a list of various kings and how they blew it and the names, faces, and events all run together. Second Kings is even muddier.
All of that brings us back to this story. Elijah enters the scene somewhat out of nowhere just after Ahab takes over as the king of Israel. Ahab came at the end of a tumultuous period in which four different kings ruled over a period of about 15 years. He followed his father, Omri, who was a bad king, and doubled down on his bad example. Pretty much if the Lord had said not to do something, Ahab did it with gusto. His wife, Jezebel, was even worse. Her name still rings with evil today. To call a woman a “Jezebel” is not a compliment.
Into this mess, God finally sends Elijah, a dramatic prophet sent with a dramatic message for dramatic times. The first thing Elijah does is to predict a drought and accompanying famine that will last for three years. What Elijah gives us that is unique to most prophets, though, is an inside look at what happens to a prophet after he has made his prophecy.
We tend to think of prophets as these faith superstars who always had rich relationship with God and because of that always had everything together. Elijah shows us that although the first two parts of that might ring with a note of truth, the last part is way off. Their faith came just like ours does: The hard way.
Elijah predicted this drought–not a drop of rain for three years–and then God told him to go hide in the wilderness by a little brook and to wait there until further instructions. So he went. And he waited. And he waited. And he waited. All the while the brook got smaller. And smaller. And smaller. It went from a small flow to a trickle to a few drops with which he probably had to fight with the beasts of the wilderness to wet his tongue to nothing. All the while he waited for what God had for him next.
Put yourself in Elijah’s shoes for a minute. Here you were called by God to deliver a message intended to humble a wayward king and now you are sitting in the wilderness watching your only source of water slowly dry up. And how long might that have taken? A year? Two? All the while you sat there waiting for birds to bring food each day. How would you respond?
How have you responded in your own wanderings in the wilderness? Did you stand firm the whole time you wandered? Did you stray a bit? Did you start leaving the place God told you to wait to explore the area around you in order to see if you could find your own way out? Did you just start walking again regardless of what God said and dealt with the consequences of that later? Most of us probably take one of these last two paths. We have the faith of Abraham and Sarah when they decided to use Hagar to bring about the son God had promised them. Don’t think that Elijah wasn’t tempted to take this route too.
When God has called us into the wilderness of life and told us to wait, the very best thing to do is…wait. It’s not easy. At times it’s downright excruciating. There will be open invitations to take other paths that seem much easier–invitations which are sold as guaranteed to be from the Lord. But they aren’t. He told us to wait and hasn’t told us anything else.
We can take any of these other paths, but they won’t lead to the life God has planned for us. The only way to that place is to wait. We wait through the hard. We wait through the crazy. We wait through the sincere and well-meaning calls of others (even other followers of Jesus) to stop waiting and move. We wait past apparently great opportunities to advance ourselves. We wait until it seems like all the options before us are exhausted. We wait until the Lord calls us to move.
He called Elijah when the brook was dry. He called him, provided for him miraculously, and then led him on a path to the top of Mount Carmel and one of the most dramatic displays of His power in all of the Scriptures. That’s chapter 18 and you should stop and read it when you finish with this. But, in order to get to chapter 18, you have to go through chapter 17. In the meantime, wait on the Lord. He always acts right on time. Wait and see the glory He has planned for you to enjoy with Him.