Elijah’s Testing by the brook. Part 4 of a written analysis from Bible.org
4. Testings By the Brook (Part 1) (1 Kings 17:2-7)
One of the new terms of our day is “virtual reality.” We live in a day and time filled with imaginary stories, characters and scenes. These transport us into unreality, a world of make believe, even a world of science fiction that catapults us into a another world. Now with modern science, we can experience virtual reality, that which truly seems real, but isn’t. However, when we turn to the Word of God, we are brought face-to-face with reality. Contrary to what the skeptics say, Scripture is not myth or cleverly devised tales. Nor is it some kind of virtual reality, but true reality–realities that teach us about the living God and about fallen mankind living in a fallen world.
Nowhere is reality more clear than in the book of the preacher of wisdom, Ecclesiastes. You will find no imaginary character in the book of Ecclesiastes–not one. Instead, Solomon gives us inspired truth about what life is like on planet earth. He shows us what life is like under the sun: it is like chasing after wind, a phrase found eight times in this book. What is life under the sun? It is life without the dimension of God; life that fails to go beyond the sun into the heavenlies, into the realities of God’s revelation.
Chuck Swindoll writes:
In this ragged-edged reality called earthly existence, life is somewhere between sad and bad. All it takes is a quick look around to discover why we line up to watch fantasies that take us to galaxies far, far away. Who wouldn’t want to escape from an existence as boring and painful as ours? For many, it’s downright horrid. It’s drug abuse. It’s sleepless nights. It’s headaches. It’s heartaches. It’s hate, rape, assault, jail sentences. It’s sickness and sorrow. It’s broken lives. It’s distorted minds. Mainly, as Solomon discovered long ago, it’s empty.There’s nothing down here under the sun that will give you and me a sense of lasting satisfaction. It is planned that way! How else would we realize our need for the living God?
I don’t care how good your professional practice is, much of it is boring. I don’t care how big your house is or how exciting your future is. I don’t care how hard you work or how large your paycheck or how sincere your efforts, when you boil life down to the nubbies . . . when the lights are turned off at night, you’re back to reality–its boring and horribly empty. To quote Solomon the realist, it is like chasing the wind.
You work so that you can make money, so that you can spend it, so that you can work and make more money, so that you can spend it, so that you can get more, which will mean you spend more, and you work harder to make more. So goes this endless cycle called ‘striving after wind.’
That explains why people will line up by the millions to view a fantasy on film and sit in silent amazement at someone’s imaginary world of imaginary characters who do imaginary things–because life under the sun is so dreadfully, unchangingly boring.
To put it bluntly, life on planet Earth without God is the pits.And if I may repeat my point (Solomon does numerous times), that’s the way God designed it. He made it like that. He placed within us that God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. Until He is there, nothing satisfies.10
We dare not forget that Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, was a man who had everything.Indeed, he had everything in luxurious abundance. The issue is not more, a great society, or the removal of all the problems of society. When you add the conditions of a society like Elijah faced, or like we face today, then the feelings of futility, pain, frustration, troubled hearts, dashed expectations, the sense of chasing the wind is magnified many times over.
Are you sufficiently depressed now? I truly hope so, because this is one of the key themes of Scripture. God has designed it this way in a world that has fallen into sin, particularly, the sin of seeking to live life and find meaning in life without God.Truly, our hope in Christ, like a brilliant diamond, needs the stark, black backdrop of the utter futility of life under the sun to show us our need and drive us to our knees. Surely, the word of the Lord that came to Elijah, “go hide yourself,” desperately needs to be heard by every one of us.
“And the word of the LORD came to him saying” (vs. 2). To be more accurate with the Hebrew text, the word “and,” is better rendered as the NIV with “then” or by “thereupon” to show the idea of temporal or logical sequence. The communication from the Lord came after Elijah’s faithfulness and obedience (vs. 1). This illustrates that, having ears to hear, obedience and application of the truth we know lead to greater capacity for more insight into God’s truth andsensitivity to God’s direction in one’s life.
Obeying the revelation he had and being a man who spent time alone with God, he was prepared for more. In other words, he had ears to hear and to obey the commands of God even though he might not understand the nature of those commands. He was not conducting little debates with God.
By contrast, disobedience to the truth has the opposite effect. It hardens our hearts and closes our ears, killing our capacity to hear and respond to the work and ministry God wants to call us to (cf. Mark 6:52; Heb. 3:7-15; 5:11; Ps. 40:6-7). People often complain about how hard it is to know God’s leading. The problem is not God’s leading–He is always ready to lead us.The problem is our listening, and too often, our listening is colored by false expectations and selfish motives.We want the Lord to answer in our way. We want God’s blessing on our will rather than seeking His will. We tend to make up our list of what we would like to do with our lives, even as it pertains to serving the Lord. We then present that to the Lord for His approval.
What the Lord would now tell Elijah was most likely contrary to what he was expecting. After all was he not a prophet, and had he not come to proclaim the Word to Israel? He was there to serve, preach, perform miracles, and to be active for the Lord–right? But please note that the Lord didn’t tell Elijah to do any of these things. In view of this, the command that follows is very interesting and illuminating.
It reveals one of the great insights and priorities of the Word, one that busy, self-sufficient, workaholic people who have been bitten by the bug of activism and/or materialism have a hard time grasping.
Retreat, Conceal Yourself
1 Kings 17:3 Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan..
Our God is awesome!