“I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 1Kings 17:4
Ravens are unclean birds. They are on the prohibited food list in the kosher rule book. I’m not sure what it means that Ravens were bringing him meat and bread. This is clearly a miraculous story. I’m guessing, since they were able to pick up bread for him that they could stop by the kosher deli to get some meat too. It’s just an odd tidbit in this story that illustrates something that runs throughout Elijah’s ministry. This is the concept of odd provision.
Much like the followers of Joshua who entered into the promised land only to find out there was no running water – that they needed to rely on God himself to provide rain to fulfill the promise of the promised land, Elijah was led into service as a prophet and had to rely on odd provision.
So we have Elijah being fed by the birds here. Not just worms and scraps that they might be inclined to carry, but actual people food delivered to Elijah by unclean birds. It’s interesting.
I am not sure how long Elijah lived that way. There was a brook, there was an Elijah imposed drought and the brook dried up. This probably took a while. Elijah was alone in the wilderness, and daily the brook was getting lower and lower until he may have been drinking from a muddy puddle. I can imagine he was feeling pretty anxious. How much longer, Lord? When am I going to get into the action? How much longer must I be in solitude? The brook is looking pretty dry, Lord and I’m feeling thirsty.”
It’s tempting in the dry times to get up and move on, buy some real food, get to a place with real people…Feeling hungry, lonely, thirsty, bored, anxious, nervous, ready for something else – waiting doesn’t seem like the option I would most like to choose. But as uncomfortable as he might have been, even seeing the brook completely dry up, Elijah stayed and waited God’s orders.
God speaks. “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon and dwell there. Behold I have commanded a widow to feed you.”
This can’t have sounded great to Elijah, but at least it was different. Zarephath means “refining.” Oh great. So months of sitting alone eating Raven chow and now my next assignment is refining! Great. But at least there will be food. Real food, right? There’s a widow and she will provide. God set this up. So that will be better. And there will be people too. At least there’s a widow to talk to.
So Elijah goes and he finds a widow gathering sticks. But she doesn’t seem to be expecting him and in fact, because of the drought, she and her son are about to starve to death. “God, you didn’t say she was starving!” God sends Elijah to a starving widow for provision.
Trust is weird. In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning tells the story of a man who during some sort of mid-life crisis, headed off to India. He decided to go work for 3 months at Mother Teresa’s “house of the dying” in Kolkata. On the first morning, he found himself face to face with Mother Teresa who asked, “What can I do for you?” He asked for prayer. “And what would you like me to pray for?” She asked.
“Pray that I have clarity,” was his reply.
Mother Teresa’s answer was surprising. “No. I will not pray for that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of. What you need is trust. I will pray that you trust God.”