“And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” (1 Kings 17:4 KJV)
Have you ever been feed by ravens? Really! Think about this for a second. Imagine Ahab’s surprise when he learned that God had used Ravens to feed Elijah! During those years of drought that so threatened his kingdom, Ahab probably had a secret police officer stationed at every grocery store in the country trying to find Elijah. Ahab sought high and low for Elijah (see 1 Kings 18:10) and yet Ahab never stopped to consider the ravens (see Luke 12:24). So, what is there to consider in considering the ravens? God’s provision! It was probably one of the few creatures that could get in and out of even a concentration camp with food unnoticed. Not only does God feed and care for the ravens, but also his provision is often in the least noticed means. Ahab, like many men, thought he had a watertight plan yet he was both blind and helpless to God’s plan. Long before Elijah could taunt prophets of Baal or call fire down from heaven, he had to learn to be still and look and listen for God’s provision.
“And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.” (1 Kings 17:6 KJV)
So, what else is important about God’s provision to Elijah? This really hits home with me. I think it is really powerful to see how God’s provision to Elijah is brought through His provision to the ravens. In Luke 12:24 we are told how God provides for the ravens, and yet here they are providing for Elijah. God does this yet again in Elijah’s life with a widow. “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (1 Kings 17:9 KJV) Compare God’s provision for the widow in Deuteronomy 10:18 with what God is providing for Elijah. Again, God has provided through what is otherwise considered a provisionary command for us. God has a way of multiplying provision through obedience. Why would God illustrate His provision in a powerful back-to-back fashion like this?
One reason may be to show His nature. He commands us to provide for those in need. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:14-17 KJV) God tends to set things up in layers of delegation. Not delegation for salvation, but delegation for operation. Allow me to give you an example. If you were a truck driver and you wanted to teach someone else how to drive a truck, you might at some point in this education process let this other person take the wheel. In order for your student to master the art of backing one of these big rigs up, or learning to make sharp turns; at some point, they have to get out of the lecture hall and into the driver set of the truck. You didn’t give this student life, you simply have taught him a skill that you yourself once had to learn. As your student gets more involved with operating the truck, they will move from forgetting what they learned during the lecture part of their training, to remembering what you said about driving a truck because they now have a need to remember. Eventually, as their skills mature, they will understand what you meant and why you gave specific instruction on the points that you worked so hard to explain to them.
Another interesting thing is that God can use anyone He wants for His purposes. Even if they are not aware, in an intellectual sense, that God even exists. When Jesus tells us in Luke to consider the ravens, all He required of the raven was obedience? The raven did what God commanded even though it may not have gone through a conscious decision process. The raven did not perform any extensive evaluation about what was required of it. The request of the widow is similar in that although she questions Elijah solely because she knows she is at the end of her resources. She still complies with the request. This is important to recognize! We must come to Him with the simplicity of children. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 KJV) This is true not just for salvation, but for every point of surrender that we must trust God with.
There is still more. Why ravens? Think back to the story of Noah in Genesis 8:7,8. Noah sent out two birds. A raven and a dove. The raven first and the dove later. Why? The raven is a much more common bird. It will eat nearly anything and land on nearly anything. The dove will not land on a dead body or something else unclean; thus it returns to Noah (see Genesis 8:11). In Elijah’s case, God seems to provide for Elijah via what may be considered an unclean means. Elijah had to learn from God a trust in God even in the midst of an unclean situation; much like the state the Israelites where in under Ahab. Likewise Elijah is sent to a widow that is in Zarephath. A place not in Israel. A place outside where provision might otherwise be thought to be given. Elijah was a Tishbite; a zealot of sorts and I am sure that it took a great deal of humbling and refining to get him to accept God’s provision for those three years regardless of how God decided to provide it. Once God was able to really work in Elijah, then the real power came and the necessary changes for the whole country could be made.
So, I ask again. Have you ever been feed by ravens? It’s a powerful witness if you have. To learn to surrender to God’s provision is the first step in being able to demonstrate His power. Have you ever completely surrendered your plans to the Lord and sat and waited and watched to see what he would do? Even Jonah who was angry with God had enough sense to sit and wait and watch to see what God would do (see Jonah 4:5). If wisdom and understanding come from the Lord (see Proverbs 2:6), then it would behoove us to leave “civilized thought” and wait at God’s brook for His ravens. How special is it that we see the clean bird, the dove, landing on Jesus as He comes up from His baptism in the Jordan? We see that Jesus is a clean, pure, and solid foundation to land on. He is God’s son capable of cleaning us from what so infects us and the society around us.
“And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 KJV) We see that Jesus really is the perfectly clean one sent from God and capable of cleaning us from what so infects us and our society.