Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him.”
Psalm 42: 5
“In ‘hope against hope,’ I wait, Lord,
Faced by some fast-barred gate, Lord,
Hope never says, ‘Too late,’ Lord,
Therefore in Thee I hope!
Hope though the night be long, Lord,
Hope of a glowing dawn, Lord,
Morning must break in song, Lord.”
Hymns of Consecration and Faith
Today’s Study Text:
“You shall drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. So he did according to the word of the Lord; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook.”
1 Kings 17: 4-6
“The Cherith Experience – Part 2
God’s Catering Service -- Unexpected and Unclean”
“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.
No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.”
Civilla D. Martin
Am I in a position right now where I need to know that God will take care of me?
What past experience in my life has shown me that God keeps His Word and that He does care for me?
“Casting the whole of your care, all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”
1 Peter 5: 7
“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.”
Every morning, even before the sun rises in the sky, at the first crack of dawn, if you were to join me on our outdoor patio, you would hear a sound of flapping wings and you would be able to watch as the sky literally fills with hundreds of large, shiny-winged black birds. Ravens to be exact. On a daily basis, these scavengers in the sky make their daily trek from the rocky crags of the red rocks surrounding our small town. They arrive early, often coming back to the same haunts where in previous days they found tidbits left by the over 3 million visitors who come through our city each year. These huge birds, on a daily basis forage from cast-away lunch sacks and stuffed to over-flowing waste cans. With the large number of tourists who briefly wander our city streets, it’s no wonder that scavengers like ravens, find our city such a feasting haven. And when, after a day of trashcan diving is done, if you were to again join me on the patio, and watch as the sinking sun casts a pinkish glow over our valley town, you would immediately hear the flapping of wings again, as the ravens head back to their “homes” in the rocky cliffs. It’s quite a sight to see, as the sky is filled with hundreds of birds making their way back to their dwellings where they will spend the night.
In Scripture, even though the “raven” is listed in Leviticus as an “abomination among birds” and the children of Israel were instructed by Moses that they should not be eaten for “they are detestable,” it is interesting to find that God chose to use these merchants of decaying matter to assist Him in providing food for His servant Elijah, who was hidden away in what I’ll refer to as the “raven’s abode.”
Just as I have witnessed the daily routine undertaken by ravens who surround our house, so God used a hidden canyon which contained a seasonal stream and rocky cliffs to serve as a temporary home for Elijah because He knew His special catering service -- a host of ravens -- could be called upon to provide sustenance for Elijah.
Just imagine if you were Elijah, sitting by a babbling brook, drinking of the cool, refreshing water, when all of a sudden, you hear a noise. You turn and there beside you is a large raven. The bird drops something in front of you. It’s a piece of meat. And without warning you realize, “Supper is served!” Thankfully, God had warned Elijah that his meals would be delivered by none other than the “unclean” bird, identified in Leviticus 11: 15.
Since God had warned Elijah that He had chosen this particular food service, Elijah didn’t get the shock of his life. Yet, I must confess, had I been in Elijah’s sandals, I think I would have cringed a little, the first time I took a bite of food which had been personally delivered to me by a big feathered dump-truck.
However, before we totally curl up our noses at the thought of eating food delivered by such a low form on the animal chain, I looked at what Jesus stated, when on earth, about these feathered friends, specifically the ravens: “Observe and consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn; and yet God feeds them. Of how much more worth are you than the birds!” (Luke 12: 24, Amplified Bible).
This particular passage in Scripture really got my attention. Especially when I took a moment to put myself in Elijah’s place, a person who was hidden away and whose daily food supply was based on a seasonal spring and a catering service called “The Ravens!”
Frankly, not only are ravens noted in the Bible as unclean, they are also an unexpected choice for they’ll eat just about anything in the food chain, even if it has begun the process of decomposition -- meaning, they’ll eat rotten food. Yuck! The ravens, as a delivery service are certainly an unexpected way for God to provide food to someone who is hungry. But so was a little boy who had only a sack lunch. What an unexpected way to feed 5,000 people.
I want to share with you some of the tremendous thoughts penned by Matthew Henry, whose Biblical commentary sheds a great deal of light on Elijah’s unique situation. It would be a shame to pass over his insight so here are some of the “morsels for thought” which Henry writes about:
“Why ravens? They are birds of prey, ravenous devouring creatures, more likely to have taken (Elijah’s) meat from him or picked out his eyes…they are unclean creatures, yet the ravens are faithful and constant to Elijah. Ravens feed on insects and carrion themselves, yet they brought the prophet man’s meat and wholesome food.”
Further along, I found two distinct lessons which Henry points out are what we call in the 21st century, “teachable moments.” First, our God is sovereign. He can make use of whatever He needs. As the Psalmist so eloquently penned, “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135: 6, NRSV). I would add, even when it means that our catering service just happens to be the big black ravens in the sky.
However, this isn’t the only lesson for us. God also sent a message of encouragement to Elijah by “carrier raven.” Matthew Henry explains this fact clearly when he observes that not only Elijah, but also individuals like ourselves, can be encouraged, when we find ourselves “in the greatest straits.” Henry provides this comforting thought: “He that could furnish a table in the wilderness, and make ravens purveyors, cooks, and servitors to his prophet, is able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory.”
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is found in Philippians 4: 19, Amplified Bible, where the Apostle Paul writes: “My God will liberally supply, fill to the full your every need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” And I’ll add, even when the bearer of God’s gifts comes from an unexpected source or from something we think is unclean.
As I was reading our study text for today and thinking about how ready our God is to provide for all our needs, I thought of a story I read many years ago in a book I’ve recommended more than once entitled, Waiting, written by Ben Patterson. This story has encouraged me on more than one occasion to trust my God to care for me, no matter how small and insignificant or how large and overwhelming the need is:
“In 1924, Dallas Theological Seminary almost went bankrupt. On the day it was to foreclose at noon, Dr. Harry Ironside, the president, held a prayer meeting in his office. That day he prayed a prayer he had often prayed: ‘Lord, we know the cattle on a thousand hills are thine. Please sell some of them and give us the money.’ As he prayed with some staff and faculty, a tall Texas oilman walked into the receptionist’s office and told the secretary: ‘I just sold two carloads of cattle in Fort Worth. I’ve been trying to make a business deal go through and it won’t work, and I’ve been compelled to give this money to the seminary. I don’t know if you need this, but here’s the check.’ The secretary burst into the room where the men were praying and said to Dr. Ironside, ‘Harry, God just sold the cattle!’”
Never doubt our God, for at the right moment, His provisions will arrive to rescue us -- be their arrival by land or sea, or possibly by a big raven, who brings us the fulfillment of our Father’s instructive promise:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Matthew 6: 25-27
Look to the heavens. God has a surprise for you. And I can guarantee, from personal experience, God’s provision may be from an unexpected source. You may think it unclean at first, only to find out later that God is increasing and expanding our vision of what He can do.
God of the Unexpected
guidance is my friend, and will always be so, but may my mind never become closed…May it always be open to the surprise of You, to the newness of You, to the rush of wonder that comes with the discovery of You in unexpected places. AMEN. AMEN.”
Psalms for the Road
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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