1 Kings 17:1-7
The prophet has been alone with God in the secret place of prayer. Then for a brief moment he speaks for God in the presence of the apostate king. The future, however, holds a far greater service for Elijah. The day will come when he will defeat the assembled hosts of Baal and turn the nation of Israel to the living God. But the time is not yet ripe for Carmel: the prophet is not ready to speak, and the nation is not ready to hear. Elijah must be trained in secret before he can speak for God, and Israel must first suffer the years of famine before they will listen to the Word of God.
The first step that leads to Carmel in the west, must be taken in another direction. "Get thee hence and turn thee eastward," is the word of the Lord. In God's due time He will bring His servant to the very spot where He is going to use him, but He will bring him there in the right condition to be used. To become a vessel fit for the Master's use, he must dwell for a time in solitary places and travel by rough ways, therein to learn his own weakness and the mighty power of God.
Every servant of God has his Cherith before he reaches his Carmel. Joseph must pass by way of the pit and the prison to reach the throne. Moses must have his Cherith at the backside of the desert before he becomes the leader of God's people. And was not the Lord Himself alone in the wilderness forty days and tempted of Satan before He came forth in public ministry? The testing circumstances that were used to reveal the perfections of Christ are needed in our case to bring to light our imperfections, that all may be judged in the presence of God, and we may thus become vessels fitted for His use.
This indeed was the first lesson that Elijah had to learn at Cherith—the lesson of the empty vessel. In order to be preserved from making something of himself before men, he must learn his own nothingness before God. Elijah must spend three and a half years in hidden seclusion with God before he spends one day in prominence before men. Is Elijah to exercise faith in the living God before Israel? Then he must first learn to live by faith from day to day in secret before God. The brook and the ravens are provided by God to meet His servant's needs.
But the brook Cherith had a yet harder and deeper lesson for the prophet—the lesson of the brook that dried up. The very brook that the Lord had provided, of which He had bid the prophet to drink, runs dry. What can it mean? How painful this experience, to be in the place of God's appointment, to be acting in obedience to His express commands, and yet suddenly to face the complete failure of the provision that God has made for the daily need. Had not Elijah boldly said before the king that he stood before the living God? Now he is confronted with the drying brook to test the reality of his faith. If God lives, what matter if the brook dries? The prophet must learn to trust in God rather than in the gifts that He gives. The deep lesson of the brook that dried up is that the Giver is greater than His gifts.
If God allows the brook to dry up, it is because He has some better, brighter portion for His beloved servant. Nor is it otherwise with the people of God today. We all like to have some earthly resource to draw upon. Yet how often, in the ways of a Father that knows we have need of these things, we have to face the brook that dries up. It crosses our path in different forms: perhaps by bereavement, or by the breakdown of health, or by the sudden failure of some source of supply, we find ourselves beside the brook that dried up. It is well if we can by faith in the living God accept all from Him in such moments. We shall then find the trial itself to be the means God is using to unfold to us the vast resources of His heart of love, and lead our souls into deeper, richer blessing than we have ever known.
—Condensed from Elijah: A Prophet of the Lord by Hamilton Smith. Published by Bible Truth Publishers, used by permission.