1 Kings 17:2

When the heavens are shut up by the word of the Lord, what will become of the prophet who declared that word? Will he not suffer from the drought in common with the sinners on whose account the dew and rain are restrained? Will he not be exposed to the rage of an idolatrous king and queen whose humbled gods cannot, in this crisis, vindicate themselves? Will not a demoralized populace resent their sufferings upon the man of God? God knows all, and is equal to all, emergencies.


1. He could defend Elijah in the midst of his enemies.

(1) The power that had shut up the heavens could surely do this. The elemental fire which now scorched the earth, He could cause to fall upon the heads of any who would threaten his servant. (See 2 Kings 1:10-15.)

(2) Without recourse to violence, he could dispose the hearts of men to respect His messenger, as afterwards He did. (See chap. 18.) But this was not now His way.

2. He has also places of refuge for His servants.

(1) If there be a valley secluded from human intrusion God knows it. In the courses traversed by the brook Cherith Elijah may safely hide. These recesses lay "eastward" from Samaria, where probably the prophet had encountered the king; and eastward from the Jordan, for this is the import of the phrase "before Jordan." Probably this seclusion was in his own wild district of Gilead.

(2) Ahab will not suspect that Elijah is here; for how could he possibly subsist in such a desolate region. Water he might find in the streams of the mountains; but where can he get bread from bald rocks in time of drought? (Matthew 13:5, 6.)

3. Into such asylums He can guide His saints.

(1) "The word of the Lord" came to Elijah. Christ is that Word (John 1:1-14). He was the MEMRA of the Targums - that personal Word, who "appeared" to patriarchs and prophets. See Genesis 15:1; Genesis 28:20.) He will be ever with his people guiding them into safety.

(2) "The word of the Lord came unto him saying.," or expressing His wisdom in human vocables. To Elijah the direction was, "Get thee hence," etc. To all He comes in the promises and precepts of holy Scripture.

(3) Those who believe and obey God's Word, as Elijah did, are in safe keeping. They need never fear the combinations of wickedness against them.


1. Their water is sure. "Thou shalt drink of the brook."

(1) There was refreshment for the body. The stream of that brook continued to flow for a whole year. Such is supposed to be the import of (ימים) days, when there is nothing to limit it (as in ver. 7, marg.; see also ver. 15, marg.; Genesis 4:8).

(2) His soul meanwhile was refreshed, as, by faith, he realized the wells of salvation which flow from the Word of the Lord, (See Psalm 46:4; John 4:14; John 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17.)

2. Their bread shall be given. "I have commanded ravens to feed thee there.

(1) What an unlikely thing! Ravens were unclean creatures (Leviticus 11:15). They are insect-feeding, carrion-eating birds, themselves fed by special providence of God. (See Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9.)

(2) Yet God could do it; for the instincts of all creatures are in His hands. He restrained hungry lions from harming Daniel; instructed a fish how to behave to Jonah; and another to lift a piece of silver from the bottom of a lake and then fasten upon a hook. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

(3) But would He do it? Would He employ an unclean creature to feed His servant? He might have His own reasons even for this. Elijah sustained for three years and a half in the wilderness was a type of the Christian Church nourished by the word of God for three and a half prophetic years (Revelation 12:6, 14). Babylon the great, from whose face the Church had to fly, was the mystical Jezebel, as the true Church was the mystical Elijah. But in this Church the destruction of clean and unclean creatures had no place. (See Acts 10:15, 28; Acts 15:7-11.) Might not this gospel have been foreshadowed in the manner in which Elijah was fed?

3. But is it certain that ravens were employed?

(1) He might have been fed by Arabians! For the word (ערבים) translated "ravens" also denotes Arabians. (See it so used in the singular, Isaiah 13:30; Jeremiah 3:2; Nehemiah 2:19; and in the plural as here, 2 Chronicles 21:16: 22:1.) And Gilead bordered upon that tract of country more especially described in Scripture as Arabia.

(2) Or he might have been fed by merchants. For this word also designates merchants. (See Ezekiel 27:9, 27.) If Israelitish merchants supplied the prophet's needs, then probably would they be of the seven thousand who scorned to bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18), and so would not discover his hiding place to Ahab.

(3) Or he might have been sustained by certain inhabitants of Oreb, a rocky place beyond Jordan. (See Judges 7:22; Isaiah 10:26.) This opinion is favoured by Jerome, who says, "The Orbim, inhabitants of a town on the confines of the Arabs, gave nourishment to Elijah." (See more in A. Clarke.)

(4) Whether by ravens, Arabians, merchants, or people of Oreb or Orbo, matters little; God can spread a table in the wilderness. He can give us the bread of the day in the day - "bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening." Necessary things are sure; luxuries we may dispense with. The greatest luxury to the wise and good is the feast upon the spiritual food which accompanies faithful obedience to God (John 4:32-34) - J.A.M.

The word of the Lord came unto him.
We have in our theme a suggestion of the Divine guidance. The word of the Lord as a guide comes to the man of prayer. I suppose Elijah was greatly disappointed at the message which came to him. He had the heart of a soldier, and he grieved at the idolatry which he saw everywhere. But it was the best thing for Elijah and for the cause. We have a case like it in the New Testament where Philip, who was a very popular preacher and was enjoying great success, was suddenly instructed by word of the Lord to leave where he was and go away into the desert, It must have been a great disappointment to Philip, a severe cross for him to bear. But Philip obeyed, and it was on that journey that the treasurer of Queen Candace came driving by, and the word of the Lord again indicated to Philip his duty. Then Philip knew why the word of the Lord had guided him as it had. So Elijah's great soul was burning to tear down the idols of Baal and Ashtaroth; but the time was not yet ripe, and God was saving the prophet's life and giving the bold message he had uttered time to work by guiding him away into the wilderness. God went with Elijah into the wilderness, and long afterwards he knew the wisdom of Heaven. The word of the Lord, if we are obedient to it, will work while we are hidden. No doubt Elijah, if he had used his own judgment, would have backed up the Lord's message day after day with his own big body and his own ringing voice. But it was not the time for that. God used Elijah for His message, and he delivered it well. He acted promptly and faithfully, and with perfect courage, and then, against his own judgment, he followed the word of the Lord and went into hiding and into silence.

(L. A. Banks, D. D.)

Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward
I. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST LEARN TO TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME. Our Father only shows us one step at a time — and that, the next; and He bids us take it in faith. If we look up into His face, and say: "But if I take this step, which is certain to involve me in difficulty, what shall I do next?" the heavens will be dumb, save with the one repeated message, "Take it, and trust Me." But directly God's servant took the step to which he was led, and delivered the message, then "the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Get thee hence, hide thyself by the brook Cherith." So it was afterwards: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath."

II. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST BE TAUGHT THE VALUE OF THE HIDDEN LIFE. "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith" The man who is to take a high place before his fellows, must take a low place before his God; and there is no better manner of brining a man down, than by dropping him suddenly out of a sphere to which he was beginning to think himself essential, teaching him that he is not at all necessary to God's plan; and compelling him to consider in the sequestered vale of some Cherith how mixed are his motives, and how insignificant his strength. Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. A Carmel triumph always presupposes a Cherith; and a Cherith always leads to a Carmel. We cannot give out unless we have previously taken in. Bishop Andrewes had his Cherith, in which he spent five hours every day in prayer and devotion. John Welsh had it — who thought the day ill-spent which did not witness eight or ten hours of closet communion. David Brainerd had it in the woods of North America, which were the favourite scene of his devotions. Christmas Evans had it in his long and lonely journeys amid the hills of Wales. Fletcher of Madeley had it — who would often leave his classroom for his private Chamber, and spend hours upon his knees with his students, pleading for the fulness of the Spirit till they could kneel no longer. Or — passing back to the blessed age from which we date the centuries — Patmos, the seclusion of the Roman prisons, the Arabian desert, the hills and vales of Palestine, are for ever memorable as the Cheriths of those who have made our modern world.

III. GOD'S SERVANTS MUST LEARN TO TRUST GOD ABSOLUTELY. We yield at first a timid obedience to a command which seems to involve manifest impossibilities; but when we find that God is even better than His word, our faith groweth exceedingly, and we advance to further feats of faith and service. This is how God trains His young eaglets to fly. At last nothing is impossible. This is the key to Elijah's experience. There is strong emphasis on the word there. "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." Elijah might have preferred many hiding-places to Cherith; but that was the only place to which the ravens would bring his supplies; and, as long as he was there, God was pledged to provide for him. Our supreme thought should be: "Am I where God wants me to be?" Only trust Him!

IV. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE OFTEN CALLED TO SIT BY DRYING BROOKS. Cherith began to sing less cheerily. Each day marked a visible diminution of its stream. Its voice grew fainter and fainter, till its bed became a course of stones, baking in the scorching heat. It dried up. What did Elijah think? Did he think that God had forgotten him? Did he begin to make plans for himself? This would have been human; but we will hope that he waited quietly for God, quieting himself as a weaned child, as he sang, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him." Many of us have had to sit by drying brooks; perhaps some are sitting by them now — the drying brook of popularity, ebbing away as from John the Baptist. The drying brook of health, sinking under a creeping paralysis, or a slow consumption. Tim drying brook of money, slowly dwindling before the demands of sickness.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. GOD SUITS HIS WORKMEN TO THEIR WORK. To the hospital He sends a nurse; to the battlefield, a soldier; to penitence and sorrow, a son of consolation; to wickedness and brutality, a son of thunder. Such was this rude, stern, volcanic Tishbite as he comes to the rescue of his country; to champion a cause that seemed lost; to stand alone against a huge and dominant iniquity; to challenge Ahab and Jezebel in the palace of their licentious pleasure, in the citadel of their idolatrous power. He came like the flash of a scimitar, uttered his appalling message, voiced the wrath of the Almighty, and was gone.

II. THE PROPHET VANISHED, BUT THE DROUGHT REMAINED. We know little of the horror of a rainless year. Our seasons come and go, and the bounteous heaven waters the bounteous earth, until we cease to associate plenty, beauty, and life itself with the unfailing rain. But to an Oriental dwelling on the desert's verge, where food is a precarious question of moisture, and bread a problem in irrigation, rain is life; the clouds drop fatness. A rainless sky is a heaven of brass, and an unwatered earth an earth of iron. At first there was no alarm. The farmers sowed their seed in hope, the caravans trailed toward the horizon. But the rains were late. Anxious eyes scanned the western sky, the streams became gravel beds, the wells were drained, the vineyards withered in the burning sun. The temples resounded with prayers to Baal, and great pillars of smoke rose to heaven from the altars of Ashtaroth. At last, from out the fiery furnace, Israel raised a cry of despair; and from the king in the palace to the beggar by the,wayside came one common, desperate inquiry, "Where is Elijah the Tishbite?"

III. WHEN GOD UNDERTAKES TO HIDE A MAN WE MAY BE SURE HE WILL BE WELL CONCEALED, Elijah was sent to a secluded ravine east of Samaria, through which the brook Cherith still rippled to the Jordan. There he lived, solitary but safe, an idle but not a useless prophet. When God sends a man into retirement and inactivity let him not think that he is set aside. In the Divine purpose and plan, as poor blind Milton discovered and sang —

They also serve who only stand and wait.

(M. B. Chapman.)

I. A GREAT NATIONAL CALAMITY. A nation without rain or dew for three years and a half! "And," it is said in the next chapter, "there was a sore famine in Samara." "National panics are to be regarded as steps in the demonstration of some great problem of government which Almighty God is working out for the advancement and sanctification of the world."

II. THE CARE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. The calamities which befall nations visit also the people of God who dwell in them. The tares and the wheat grow up together; and if the tares are withered for lack of moisture, the wheat suffers from the same cause. As a principle, God does not exempt His people from their share of national calamity and sorrow. But, although He permits His people to suffer in the midst of a general visitation, He never forgets or forsakes them. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." Elijah had his part in the national distress, but the Lord remembered His servant. The modern history of God's providence furnishes many instances of suit and service rendered to His people by the animal creation, scarcely less wonderful than the supply of Elijah by ravens. I will relate one. Far up in one of the Highland glens, lived a poor but pious woman named Jenny Maclean. One day when her food was almost exhausted, and she was intending to take a journey to get a fresh supply, a heavy snowstorm came on. Never had been seen in that locality such a constant and heavy fall, with such deep snow-drifts. When the heavens at last became clear, the whole face of the country seemed changed. It was some time before the thought suddenly occurred to a shepherd, "What has old Jenny been doing all this time?" No sooner was her name mentioned than she at once became the theme of general conversation. But for many days, such was the state of the weather, that no mortal feet could wade through the snow-wreaths, or buffet the successive storms that swept down with blinding fury from the hills. Jenny was given up as lost. At last, three men resolved, on the first day that made the attempt possible, to proceed up the long and dreary glen, and search for Jenny. They reached a rock at an angle where the glen takes a turn to the left, and where the old woman's cottage ought to have been seen. But nothing met the eye except a smooth, white sheet of glittering snow, surmounted by black rocks; and all below was silent as the sky above. No sign of life greeted the eye or ear. The men spoke not a word, but muttered some exclamations of sorrow. Suddenly one of them cried, "She is alive! for I see smoke." They pushed bravely on. When they reached the hut, nothing was visible except the two chimneys; and even these were lower than the snow-wreath. There was no immediate entrance but by one of the chimneys. A shepherd first called to Jenny down the chimney, and asked if she was alive; but before receiving a reply, a large fox sprang out of the chimney, and darted off to the rocks. "Alive!" replied Jenny, "but thank God you have come to see me! I cannot say come in by the door; but come down — come down." In a few minutes her three friends easily descended by the chimney, and were shaking Jenny warmly by the hand. "O woman!" said they, "how have you lived all this time?" "Sit down, and I will tell you," said old Jenny, whose feelings now gave way in a fit of hysterical weeping. After composing herself, she continued, "How did I live? you ask, Sandy? I may say just as I have always lived, by the power and goodness of God, who feeds the wild beasts." "The wild beasts, indeed!" replied Sandy, drying his eyes; "did you know that a wild beast was in your house? Did you see the fox that jumped out of your chimney as we entered? My blessings on the dear beast!" said Jenny, with fervour. "May no huntsman ever kill it! and may it never want food in summer or winter!" The shepherds looked at one another by the dim light of Jenny's fire, evidently believing that she had become slightly insane. "Stop, lads," she continued, "till I tell you the story. I had in the house, when the storm began, the goat and two hens. Fortunately, I had fodder gathered for the goat, which kept it alive, although, poor thing, it has had but scanty meals. I had also peats for my fire, but very little meal. Yet I never lived better, and I have been able besides to preserve my two bonnie hens for summer. I every day dined on flesh meat too, a thing I have not done for years before; and thus have I lived like a lady." "Where did you get meat from?" they asked. "From the old fox," she replied. "The day of the storm he looked into the chimney, and came slowly down, and set himself on the rafter beside the hens, yet never once touched them. He every day provided for himself and me too. He brought in game in abundance for his own dinner — a hare almost every day — and what he left I got, and washed, and cooked, and ate, and so I have never wanted. Now that he is gone, you have come to relieve me." "God's ways are past finding out!" said the men, bowing down their heads with reverence. "Praise the Lord!" said Jenny, "Who giveth food to the hungry." This incident was related by an old clergyman who attended Jenny's funeral. How much like the supply of Elijah by the brook Cherith! Why are we surprised almost to scepticism at such facts?

III. THE EXERCISE OF HUMAN SYMPATHY. It came to pass, after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. The continued drought and heat of the sun gradually lessened the stream; it dried to a narrow thread; then that narrow thread dwindled and disappeared, and Elijah was left by the brook, with no prospect before him but to perish, unless the Lord interposed to save him. The Lord did interpose; and mark how — "The word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath."

IV. THE REWARD OF CHEERFUL GENEROSITY. Elijah found the widow gathering sticks to dress her last handful of meal for herself and son, that they might eat it and die. Elijah said unto her, "Fear not." The word of the Lord comes to us with a promise similar in principle. "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered himself." That is God's principle of recompense still. "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he hath given will He pay him again." If that is true, if the Word of the Lord is to be relied on, then no man is the poorer for what he gives to the poor. Lending to the Lord, the Lord becomes his creditor: and surely He may be trusted with our deposits. As good Matthew Henry says, "What is laid out in charity or pity, is lent out on the best interest, upon the best security."

(J. H. Wood.)

The Study and the Pulpit.
I. MEN MUST BE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR OBEDIENCE TO GOD. We do not always see such consequences, and when they come upon us they very often find us unprepared to meet them. Obedience to God often exposes men to hatred, scorn, ridicule, opposition, inconvenience, loss of trade, loss of liberty, and even life itself. But when we chose God's service we chose these consequences, and when they come they should not deter us from our duty. Daniel, when he knew that the law was passed, condemning to the lions' den any who should pray except to the king for thirty days, went into his chamber and prayed as aforetime. Peter and John determined to obey God rather than man, notwithstanding the threat of stripes and imprisonment.

II. THAT GOD MAKES PROVISION FOR THE EXIGENCIES INTO WHICH OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE COMMANDS MAY BRING HIS SERVANTS. He imposes no task but He provides strength for its accomplishment. Whatever may be the con. sequences of their obedience, He will not leave His servants to meet them alone.

III. THIS PROVISION IS FREQUENTLY NOT MADE KNOWN TO THE OBEDIENT UNTIL THEIR NEED IS PRESSING. When the drought comes upon the land, God will not forsake His people; but His voice shall be heard directing them to Cherith, where their need shall be amply provided for.

(The Study and the Pulpit.)

The Study and the Pulpit.
I. THE UNCERTAINTY OF EARTHLY COMFORTS. When Elijah went to Cherith under the direction of God, he would never dream of that brook becoming exhausted. What a picture of human life this is! How many there are of whose worldly comforts it may be said: "After a while the brook dried up." One man is settled in life, with circumstances all that could be desired, and he contemplates the future with pleasure; but, unexpectedly something arises — bank failure, or commercial crisis — which tells him that the brook is dried up, and he has to leave his Cherith. Another looks with pride and hope upon a child — his pleasure and joy flow from that child — but, unnoticed, disease settles upon it and takes it away. After a while the brook dried up. And so with earthly comforts. They are uncertain, and do not warrant the eagerness with which they are sought or the value with which they are invested.

II. THE CERTAINTY OF GOD'S CARE. Though the water of the brook failed, God's care was not exhausted. He had made provision for Elijah at Zarephath before He commanded him to leave Cherith. Decay and change may characterise all our earthly comforts, but they do not characterise God; He remains the same, and His care can never fail.

III. GODLY GENEROSITY SHALL NOT LOSE ITS REWARD. Whosoever even giveth a cup of cold water to a disciple, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.

(The Study and the Pulpit.)

It was the natural, not the supernatural, provision that came to an end. That for which the prophet looked upward morning and evening continued steadily. That which had been flowing at his feet all day long began suddenly to diminish. When a trouble comes straight from heaven we are more likely to see God's hand in it, and to submit patiently and trustfully. When, however, the trouble seems to come quite naturally, we are tempted to look at secondary causes, and to forget that God is behind them all

(F. S. Webster, M. A.)

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