The Evaporation of Hope
“And after a while the brook dried up. Then the word of YHWH came to him…”
– 1 Kings 17:7-8
For today’s blog post I want to briefly point out one interesting element in this account: the the order of the two events. First the brook dries up, and then the word of the Lord comes to Elijah. By ordering the events in this way, God gives us a glimpse into His heart and into His relationship with His people.
The Evaporation of Hope
Elijah is in the wilderness, and while the Lord has miraculously provided food for him through the ministry of the ravens, his only source of water–that we know of–is the brook, “Cherith.” A human can only survive a few days without water….so Cherith is vitally important to Elijah. And yet….the Lord allows the stream to run dry. Put yourself in Elijah’s position. Brooks don’t just disappear over night. It’s likely that this man had been watching Cherith dry up for quite a while. Day after day the size diminished, the familiar, comforting babbling of life-giving water in the wilderness slowly died away, it got harder and harder to get a fully satisfying drink until…it was gone. And all the while, so it seems, there was no word from the Lord, no direction as to where he was to go when the brook dried up, where he was to turn. YHWH remained silent and let Elijah wait while he watched the stream–his lifeblood in the wilderness–dry up.
Imagine being Elijah on the day Cherith was completely gone…no longer was the lack of water an impending threat, it was now a present and deadly reality. How long did YHWH leave Elijah in this state? Minutes? Hours? We don’t know. But what we do know is that only after the brook was gone does the word of YHWH come and offer relief. God lead Elijah, not just up to the precipice, but into the shadow of the valley of despair. He does not swoop in to save Elijah at the last minute, just as the water is drying up…rather, He lets the brook disappear. He allows Elijah to enter the despair of being without water in the wilderness….. And it is only once the darkness has settled in, once hope has seemingly been lost, once Lazarus–as it were–has been dead for four days, it is only then that the word of YHWH comes to Him.
And, as a side note, isn’t this true for all of humanity? Was it not within our darkest night that the Word of the Lord truly and climactically came to us in Christ? Was it not when Iron-clawed Rome had trampled the people of God and the line of kings lay in ruins and the drought of God’s word had rested on the land for centuries, was it not then that “the word of YHWH came”–not by voice, but in the flesh–to His people?
What the Timing Teaches
And then we see that God has made provision. Even as Cherith was drying up, He was preparing the widow of Zarephath to function as a provider for His prophet’s needs (1 Kings 17:9-16). And this is always the way with the Lord. He can be trusted. He must be trusted. There is no other Hope, no other security, no other sure refuge except for He Himself.
I think that is a central reason that the Lord ordained for the Cherith to dry up first, and His providing word to come second….so that He might show Himself to be the one who can and must be trusted. Even in our darkest night….even when the thing we most fear descends upon us…even when that dreaded prognosis is given, or that beloved one is taken away, even when the “Cheriths” of our life run dry–He can, He must be trusted.
But trust is personal, isn’t it. You don’t trust someone just because they are powerful, not even just because they are all-powerful, you trust someone because you have seen their heart and found it to be true, to be good, to be beautiful. Well, God has shown us His heart. Every act and word of God in history has this great end in sight: that we might KNOW HIM for who He is, and so love and trust Him with all that we are…..even when our brooks are gone. So, May we see His heart and know His character as we consider His ways in the past……..and especially as we consider that single greatest act of provision, that climactic revelation of His heart, that ultimate proclamation of His Name: Jesus Christ, poured out in love on the cross.
From Christ’s side a Cherith that will never run dry flows into the wilderness of our sin-cursed world; His broken body is the bread that will eternally sustain us; the Spirit whom He sends is the oil that will never be expended; HE is the Word of the Lord who comes to us in our most dire need, when the brook of all our hopes and the stream of all our peace has been extinguished. Those who trust God in Christ will have brooks that dry up, in fact, they may even die in the wilderness, but that will never be the end of their story…..for the Christian, every story ends in exponential joy. So, may Jesus Christ be the one to whom we look when our Cherith has evaporated.
Ah, Lord Christ, living Lord and God, Savior and King, Provider and Sustainer, Food, and Drink, Life and Light, Hope and Strength, Salvation and Song, bind us to you this day, I ask. May we see and savor and be conformed to and so sing YOU………Father, let these things be so for the glory of your name, I ask in Jesus’ name, amen.