Bird Feast or Famine

Many, Many years ago there was a man named Elijah, who had a very special relationship with God.  He was a prophet.  As a prophet, God gave him the job of telling everyone, including the King, what God wanted them to do.  How did Elijah know what God wanted?  God told him, of course.  At that time the King of Judah was a very wicked king, not only because he treated his subjects badly, but also because he felt no guilt for disobeying God’s law, the Ten Commandments. But that isn’t all King Ahab did that was evil and wicked. King Ahab also worshipped other God’s, those made of wood and clay, instead of the one true God of Israel.  To make matters worse, he convinced many of God’s chosen people to worship these false gods as well, making God very angry at him and the people.

One day God decided to punish King Ahab and those who followed him in his evil ways.  God told Elijah that He would bring a drought upon the land, that in would not rain for years.  Of course, without rain or even heavy dew all the crops would dry up and die and even the livestock would perish once the rivers and streams dried up from which they drank.  It would be a very difficult time for everyone in the land of Judah because King Ahab and the people turned their back on God.  Following God’s instruction, Elijah told the King of the punishment He would bring on the land, which of course made Ahab very angry.  Now all that the King had to do to prevent the drought was to ask for God’s forgiveness, stop worshipping the false gods and turn away from their wickedness.  But instead of doing what was right, King Ahab told Elijah that he was very angry with him and blamed Elijah for the calamity that was about to befall the Land of Judah.  Elijah was then warned by God that King Ahab would try to harm him, if he could, so God told Elijah to flee to a place called, Kerith Ravine, east of the city of Jordan.

Kerith Ravine was just that, a ravine.  It was a place that looked like it had been cut out of the ground like a wedge of birthday cake.  It had steep hills on both sides and down the middle ran a brook or stream where animals of all kinds would come to drink, including birds.  It’s no surprise that God had selected it as Elijah’s hiding place, since one could easily hide among the trees to escape the search parties the King would surely send.  But this wasn’t all God told Elijah and it is what He said next that must have astonished Elijah at its telling, “You will drink from the brook and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” I’m sure that at some time in his life, Elijah had fed birds or at least seen it done by others.  But for a man to be fed by ravens or any bird, must have seemed very hard to believe and even a bit silly.

But Elijah obeyed God and hid at the Kerith ravine as he had been told to.  And just as he had been promised by God, “Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and Elijah drank from the brook.”  God had promised Elijah that the birds would feed him, but I’m sure that he was still surprised to see them arrive with breakfast and dinner each day!  So Elijah stayed there and waited for what God would have him to do next.  He remained hidden from site for days and days, weeks and weeks, month after month …waiting…just waiting on God.  Elijah wondered, asking himself, what does God want me to do next or am I to stay here forever with only the ravens to talk to?

Living in a village not far from Kerith Ravine was a young boy and his widowed mother.  They were very poor, but when the drought came and killed off their small garden and the goat that provided them milk, life went from just being poor to being poor and hungry.  As with most kids in the village, the widow’s son didn’t really care that much about being poor, since everybody else in their village was poor as well.  But he did care about being hungry and the reality that his father had died and left him and his mother to fend for themselves.  Every day, morning and evening, breakfast and dinner was always the same.  His mother would bake a small loaf of bread from flour and oil every morning and afternoon and they would eat it, giving thanks to God that they had something to eat.  But each day they would peer into the flour jar to see how much longer it would be before they had no flour for their daily bread.  It was the same for the oil, the jug was quickly drying up and there was no money to buy more at the market or rain to make their small garden grow.  What would they do when it all ran out…how would they survive without food?

Hungry or not the boy loved to hike along the path in back of their house to the ravine, both to get water and to play by the brook, skipping rocks and splashing about.  Now, for the past few weeks, he had discovered that there was somebody living on the banks of the Kerith Ravine only a short distance from where he filled his water canteens.  He hadn’t noticed the old man until recently because he was hidden from sight among the big trees that surrounded and hung over the brook.  The boy was careful not to be seen by the man, which wasn’t hard, so he often would stop and listen to the man as he spoke to himself.  Now he wasn’t sure but it sounded like the old man was praying to God but he was too far away to know for sure.  He even heard the man mumble something about a raven, but exactly what was unclear.  Each time the boy was careful not to be seen and never spoke of it to his mother for fear she would not allow him to return.

Well, the lack of rain for months on end had dried up the brook at Kerith Ravine, but the boy could always draw water from the village well; but it was not anywhere near as much fun as going down to the brook.  With the ravine dried up, God spoke to Elijah telling him, “Go at once to the village and stay there.  I have commanded a widow to supply you with food.”  Now the widow and mother of the young boy, was visited by God in a dream and told to supply food to a stranger that would approach her at the town gate.  She thought it was only a ridiculous dream since it would not be but a few days before there would be no more flour or oil to make bread.  She and her young son would surely starve to death and there was little or nothing she could do about it.  Only God could save them and to give food to a stranger seemed like a very foolish thing to do.

Only a day had passed when the widow was gathering firewood by the town gate and just as God had told her as she slept, a man approached her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”  The widow replied, “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread…only a handful of flour in in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it, or we will surely die.”  Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said.  But first make a small cake of bread for me, and then some for yourself and your son.  For this is what God has promised, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord give rain on the land.”  The widow did what Elijah asked, faithfully pre paring bread for Elijah, she and her son every morning and evening. And to the widow’s surprise, every morning there was flour and oil for their daily bread although none was purchased.  God provided for them just as He had promised and continued to do so until the rains returned and the garden could provide what they needed.

Elijah stayed at the widow’s house in an upstairs bedroom for a time and helped with daily chores in return for her kindness.  Elijah spent hour with the young boy, and over time became Elijah became like a father to the boy.  They spoke of a day when the rain would return and both of them could return to brook and play together in the woods by the ravine.  Now although God was providing their daily bread, the drought had brought much sickness to their small village and it wasn’t long before the young boy became ill.  Maybe it was from lack of water or from drinking water that was no longer safe to drink but the boy grew worse and worse with each passing day.  Night and day the widow sat with him, praying that he might get better, but it was not to be, he “finally stopped breathing.”  The widow was stricken with grief and sadness and accused Elijah of not caring whether her son lived or died.  She asked the prophet of God if he was punishing her for the things she had done wrong, by asking God to kill her beloved son.  This made Elijah very sad so he said to the widow, “Give me your son.”  Elijah took the boy in his arms and carried him up to his room and laid him on the bed.  In a voice filled with sorrow and anguish, Elijah cried out to God, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him.”

No sooner had the word’s left the prophet’s lips did the boy begin to breath and life return to his body.  “Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from his room and into the house and gave him to his mother saying, ‘Look, your son is alive.’”  Then the widow said to Elijah, “Now I know you are a man sent from God and the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”  Elijah stayed with the widow and her son until it was time for him to confront the King Ahab once more and bring the drought to an end.  The widow told everyone in the village what God had done through Elijah, and they were amazed; many turned from worshipping the god’s of wood and clay and returned to worshipping the Lord God of Israel, the God of truth and life.  (1Kings, chapters 16 & 17)

Do you think Elijah was afraid when he told King Ahab that God would bring a drought and famine on his kingdom?

If you had been Elijah, would you have believed that the ravens could or would feed you?

Is there anything that God cannot do?

Did Elijah bring the boy back to life, or did God?

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