I was reading through 1 Kings last week when something caught my eye. In both chapters 17 and 18, Elijah stands before the king. Well in and of itself that is not really that remarkable. True prophets will find themselves standing before rulers and those in authority over them. So my eyes then jumped to the texts between these two appearances. What happened between the two confrontations? What more did God have to do with Elijah? That led to quite an 'aha' moment.
God gave Elijah a 'brook detour'.
The rest of the chapter sees the prophet on a very specific divine journey. God had some deep work to do in him - and that is so often necessary before a larger faith assignment. We hate the God direction to isolation and a sense that we are being forgotten and left behind. God calls Elijah from a pretty cool prophecy moment when the heavens dry up. There is no time for him to be impressed with himself. Preparation for the next faith project is at hand.
Firstly God sends him to a brook. "Far from the maddening crowd" God will show him, as with Abraham, God will provide, 'he is my very great reward'. All too easily we begin to believe our last miracle... sell our podcast, write our book, move our DVD. But the Father says 'No. I have more to teach you - not in a classroom, but in a life or death situation.' I will teach you that I will take care of you. I love the fact that the food was brought by a raven. Wouldn't an eagle have been more cool? A raven? Not so much.
Secondly, God sends him to the widow at Zarephath. Its like, you have passed elementary school of faith -"I have provided for you. Now I will show you my provision for more than your needs". My how hard the 'widow assignments' are. After having to call a famine on the land, it is a little of a let down to go and serve a widow. That is certainly not the promotion in the marketplace. Before a large assignment dear friends, God will always send us on a very humbling chapter - it reveals his love for the disenfranchised and exposes our humility - real or imagined.
Thirdly, we get falsely blamed for something we did not do [the reason for the son's death]. This really hurts, especially when we are simply serving them. But the Father has to teach us about miracles through tenacious faith. Elijah had to pray three times [don't you love the old fashioned way of saying 'thrice'? It sounds quite spiritual actually]. He had to literally lay himself on a dead corpse such was his conviction that God would heal the boy. Biblical conviction will outweigh personal awkwardness and embarrassment. The boy lives - now Elijah is ready for the next assignment...
Dear friend, do not fear the isolation, for God does reveal himself to us that he can only do in the wilderness - ask Jesus himself. We will get sent on a fairly innocuous assignment, yet a most necessary, humble one. I do wonder if Philip knew that he was pulled from the revival in Samaria to speak to a eunuch on a dusty road. Mmmm. It does make you think. And then there is that miracle moment that only God can explain - but one we have to believe in and fight for.
The brook detour... we just can't live without it.