The story of Elijah and the ravens is found in a few verses of Old Testament Scripture. At first glance, it may seem a simple account of God providing in a miraculous way for His prophet. But there are also important lessons here for us regarding God’s provision and protection when life takes an unexpected turn…
Elijah fed by ravens!
This story begins with Elijah’s call and commission by God, in 1 Kings 17, when he was catapulted from obscurity to prominence! Elijah was sent by God to deliver an important message to Ahab the king of Israel.
Ahab had the reputation of being ‘more evil’ than those before him. The king had married Jezebel, a Sidonian, and began to serve and worship her gods. Ahab had even set up a temple for Baal worship in his capital city, Samaria.
God’s word to Ahab was one of divine judgement and Elijah was the one chosen to deliver this message:
“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 1 Kings 17:1
Sometimes things do not work out the way we think they are going to. People don’t always react or behave in the way that we expect. God’s word to Ahab did not bring him to repentance – but to anger directed towards Elijah, the messenger!
Before Ahab could act, God moved Elijah out of harm’s way, back into obscurity!
Where was Elijah when he was fed by the ravens?
God told Elijah to leave Israel, the promised land, and to go eastward across the Jordan. Elijah was to hide in the Kerith Ravine. God was removing His prophet from the land and cutting the people off from the blessing of His word.
Kerith Ravine Meaning –
Some translations of the original Hebrew say ‘Kerith Ravine’ some ‘the brook Cherith’ or ‘Wadi Cherith’ but they all describe the same location. The word ‘kerith’ in Hebrew is derived from ‘karath’ meaning cut, to cut off, or cut down. This could simply be the description of a gorge or a cut in the land, creating a ravine through which a brook or a river flowed. It could also symbolically re-enforce the image of God cutting off His people from His word.
The Kerith Ravine would be a safe place for Elijah, although he was unaware of the threat to his life and the danger that he was in. Sometimes we are unaware of the extent of God’s protection – and we may never know exactly what God has protected us from!
With God’s protection there also came provision for Elijah but in an unusual way.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” I Kings 17:2-3
Elijah by the brook Cherith
Elijah was obedient to God’s word and he went to the Kerith Ravine. There he had a supply of water from the brook, while Israel began to experience a drought. Elijah and the ravens were the only occupants of the Kerith Ravine, and the ravens supplied him with bread and meat, morning and evening.
God provided a natural supply of water for Elijah and a supernatural supply of food. To an Israelite who was being obedient to God’s laws, ravens were unclean birds. The meat of dead animals – carrion – that ravens would feed off was also regarded as unclean. This would have seemed strange to Elijah!
But there was provision for Elijah, he was safe and undisturbed. Miraculously the ravens brought him food twice a day – they are scavengers and naturally will feed where they find food. God, however, directed the ravens to carry food to Elijah – he had all that he needed!.
What is the significance of ravens feeding Elijah?
A wilderness experience is a lonely place – but so often it is there that our trust in God grows. When everything else is stripped away and we can no longer depend on our own sufficiency, we rely and depend on God. The desert by it’s very nature is a hard and tough place – but often it is our training ground. The desert reveals what is in our hearts and what requires refining.
For Elijah the Kerith Ravine may not have looked like a good place to be. But for this season of his life it was exactly the right place to be, the safe place, hidden by God.
Perhaps God choosing the ravens as a means of supplying Elijah with food challenged his perceptions. The law as regards dietary requirements was given as guidance for godly living, but the law alone does not produce a godly life. God does not look only at outer observance but at the motivation of our hearts. Are we are attentive to His voice and obedient to respond – even when we don’t understand what is going on!
"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Deuteronomy 8:2-3
Are we willing to trust and depend on God? Willing to keep on trusting even when we don’t know why we are where we are, or how things will work out…
Later in 1 Kings 18, we learn that Ahab had sent men out into the surrounding nations searching for Elijah, but they were unable to find him. Maybe the ravens were also part of God’s protection over Elijah in keeping him hidden. Ravens hover and swoop where there are dead bodies, if anyone saw them flying over an area they would be regarded as a sign of death. No one would ever suspect that the ravens were sustaining life by providing food for a man in hiding!
How long was Elijah at the Kerith Brook?
Scripture does not tell us how long Elijah and the ravens remained at the Kerith brook. The period of drought and famine in Israel lasted for three and a half years. But Elijah spent part of that time in the Kerith Ravine and the remainder in Zarephath. He stayed by the Kerith brook until God moved him on…
What did Elijah do after the brook dried up?
I would suggest that may be Elijah became comfortable in the Kerith Ravine. But after a time the brook dried up, and the natural water supply came to an end, due to the drought in the whole area.
Then God spoke to Elijah with new instructions, it was time for him to move on. Without water, Elijah had no choice although the ‘lack’ of water was no problem to God. He could have provided a fresh water supply, supernaturally, if it had been his plan for Elijah to remain hidden in the Kerith Ravine.
It was at the brook Cherith that Elijah learned to trust in God’s word. This season of being alone and depending on God’s word every day was preparing him for what was to come next. It was time for Elijah to move on and apply the lessons that he had learned in this safe place to the next season of his life. What he had learned for himself, he was now to put into practice and to speak to someone else.
God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a town in the heart of an enemy territory that was also hit by famine. For this next season, Elijah again would live outside of Israel but this time among the Gentiles. There he would experience God’s provision for a lonely, desperate, widow who had just enough food left for one last meal….
Lessons from the story of Elijah and the ravens
God’s provision was there at the Kerith brook for Elijah. It was a safe place for him, hidden by God for a season.
We can be unaware of what God is hiding us from when He keeps us in a ‘safe place.’ In the wilderness, a barren place, we may become frustrated as to why we are there. Sometimes God allows circumstances, that appear to work against us, to work for our good.
But the tough times have the potential for growth in trust and dependency on God. The lessons we learn through those experiences shape and change us like nothing else – they also prepare us for what lies ahead. There comes a time to move on – and if we have become too comfortable God will often give us a push!
We look for a change without – but often God is looking for a change within!Tweet
Whatever experiences we are going through, we always have the choice to dine at the King’s table. We can choose life, to dine on the word of God and allow His word to nourish us. This is the way to replace fear with trust, and anxiety with peace of mind, that God is our ever-present help. He is with us!
God can redeem the time if we are willing to trust in Him. What we learn now in this season may be an essential component for the next, to apply and to pass on and even to bless someone else…
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Related Post: 5 Benefits of Waiting on the Lord