09 July 2007

The Drying Brook

"And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land" (1 Kings 17:7)

ou might think if the Lord wanted to protect and care for His most important prophet during a drought, he would situate him beside a large river rather than a drying brook. The drought was severe, because it was a divine judgment. God surely knew the brook would evaporate. Why didn't he put Elijah somewhere where he wasn't affected by the consequences of Israel's judgment? Why did He place Elijah at Cherith, a small, unreliable tributary of the Jordan? Why not hide Elijah by the Jordan River itself?

God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

This was a great test of Elijah's faith. God deliberately placed him beside a drying brook, a diminishing provision, to show Elijah in a graphic way how trustworthy Jehovah really is. Each day Elijah could see the stream growing smaller. With neither dew nor rain to replenish the resource, he watched as the trickle of water grew more shallow and more rocks than water lined the stream-bed. He did not have a clue what God would do when the stream dried up, and God gave him no instructions for the next step until the stream was fully dry (1 Kings 17:7-8).

God often uses similar means to teach us the same lesson. Life itself is a drying stream. I celebrated my 54th birthday last month, and I'm faced with daily reminders that my life is almost certainly more than half over. These come in the form of aches and pains, a failing short-term memory, and all the other typical indignities of being fifty-something. The stream of my earthly life is gradually evaporating; there's no question about it. It's a temptation for all of us to worry about whether the Lord's provision will run out before our needs are fully met.

Scripture stresses God's faithfulness in that regard. David wrote: "I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). The Lord's promise to Israel in Isaiah 46:4 is a principle that applies to us all: "Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you."

Nevertheless, we all experience times when we feel as if we have been utterly abandoned, and we wonder if the Lord has somehow forgotten about us. It takes great faith to trust Him for the future—and even greater faith to trust when we can see the brook dying up.

Why does God use drying brooks to provide his people's needs? Why does He send manna enough for only one day at a time? Why does the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal always seem to have enough for just one more breakfast?

That's because God wants us to keep trusting Him, and not shift our trust to earthly provisions or massive storehouses of our own making. He wants us perpetually to rely on and look to the Giver, not to hoard or become obsessed with the gifts He gives.

It's the same lesson Jesus taught when He instructed us to pray "this day" for daily bread, rather than seeking a week's supply at a time. God's grace is sufficient for the evils of today. And tomorrow, He will give us grace to meet the evils of that day. He always giveth more grace.

And as we discover in Elijah's case, when the brook dries up, He is still able to meet our needs through other means. Even though we often don't know His plan further in advance than one step at a time, He already has the future worked out, and He promises it will be for our good.

Phil's signature


FX Turk said...

Don't use up all your good stuff in one month, Phil.

Mason said...

Oh to be a youthful 54 again! By the way what is a "short term memory?"

DJP said...

Thanks for that, Phil. Very good.

FX Turk said...

Dan: ... you know what I was going to say.

JackW said...

I also just turned 54 last month. It was a fun year of telling people that I was 53, born in 53 and I was a little sad to see it go ... but it was just another year.

It was nice of John Piper to offer his books at $5 a piece on my birthday though!

Joshua said...

Very good point. We can learn a lot from the challenges Elijah faced.

Al said...

Excellent post... For the believer every event in life has suddenly become gospel. A dried up brook is living water for the prophet, driving him to Spring that slacks his thirst forever.

John 4:13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

al sends

Carla Rolfe said...

Such a timely reminder for me personally.

Thank you Phil - I needed to read this today.

Ben N said...

Wow ... I feel too young among you guys ... I'm only half your age Phil!

Your post reminded me of this hymn:
Day By Day (Lyrics: Lina Sandell, 1865)

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

donsands said...

"He wants us perpetually to rely on and look to the Giver, not to hoard or become obsessed with the gifts He gives."

It's so easy to get carried away in this blessed nation. We are so very wealthy.

Nice lesson here. Perfect timing for me.

God is sovereign. And we need to seek His kingdom and righteousness first.

bassicallymike said...

As a fellow "53" model, I often tell folks one of the advantages in growing older is to be able to look back on our life and see Gods hand at work in so many situations of the past. It can really put that dark cloud on the horizon in it's proper perspective.

Ebeth said...

For spare time reading, I would suggest LOST IN THE MIDDLE Midlife and the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp. Even in the later 50s it is beneficial [voice of experience].

Stefan Ewing said...

Wow, this post is so very true. Evidence of God's miraculous providence abounds, but it's always a matter of His giving us just the sufficient amount we need to sustain us in the here and now. He knows what we need—as opposed to what in our sinfulness we may merely want—and he dispenses it. And never so much that we lose sight of Him who gave it to us.

How about another "economical" miracle involving oil? According to the Talmud, when the Maccabees were preparing to rededicate the Temple after the blasphemous depradations of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they discovered they had only enough oil to keep the main flame of the Temple menorah (that was supposed to always burn) going for one night, even though it would be eight days before new oil could be prepared and consecrated. What the Lord provided was not nothing, but something—but neither did he give them a perpetual wellspring of oil to last for all time. Instead, what he provided was that the oil they had was miraculously just sufficient enough to last for the eight days necessary to prepare and consecrate the new oil.

brentjthomas said...

I don't think I've ever before paid attention to those two beautiful, comforting verses you quoted: Psalm 37:25 and Isaiah 46:4. Beautiful. Thank you. Although I'm a decade-younger model than you, my knees are beginning to complain when I run, and "indignities" in general seem to be growing in number. This is a valuable sermon, will share it, and can't say that I've ever read or heard one quite like it. Thank you. Also, thanks for the additional kitten picture on this post.

Phil Johnson said...

We aim to please our readers. You asked us for some cat pictures. We are more than happy to oblige.

Warm and fuzzy, right?

Solameanie said...

You don't look 54, Phil. My compliments! You'll need to share your secrets to retard aging. Could swinging a meat chub have anything to do with it?

Just kidding.

Seriously, I've often thought of how our affluent lifestyle here in America probably feeds our "do it yourself" mentality. We forget that it's God's grace, mercy and provision that keeps us afloat. Laodicea also comes to mind.."we have need of nothing." Poor beggars that we really are!

Stefan Ewing said...

Duh, I forgot to add that the miracle of the oil for the Temple menorah is the basis of the holiday of Hannukah (referred to in John as the Feast of the Rededication, ne c'est pas?).

DJP said...

You don't look 54, Phil.

Now that I have seen Phil in person, I can report -- that he really doesn't.

Plus, I hate him for his hair.

Kenny Archbold said...

God wants us to keep trusting Him, and not shift our trust to earthly provisions or massive storehouses of our own making. He wants us perpetually to rely on and look to the Giver, not to hoard or become obsessed with the gifts He gives.

I do not know that I have EVER known what it was to trust God apart from His gifts. In our culture of credit cards , retirement funds and government handouts I have never had the opportunity to trust God and God alone. I always keep an ace up my sleeve so I can rely on it. It is comforting to believe the delusion that I am in control and am in need of nothing. I hope that one day God will grant the blessing of experiencing complete trust in Him alone, a trust that drives me to prayer and a confidence that God provides. Sadly it will probably be against my will with me kicking and screaming.

Zack Allen said...

I'm faced with daily reminders that my life is almost certainly more than half over. These come in the form of aches and pains, a failing short-term memory, and all the other typical indignities of being fifty-something.

LOL. If these are the signs of your life being half over, then at 21 I'm not sure if I'll make it past 40 (actually by these standards I should be dead in about 3 years, LOL).

Good article. Good point.

In a time that and a place where we have no need it is difficult to find God moving. We are a people that no longer "need" God. Why would we when we can just take a pill?

in love,

PS. Ditto on you not looking 54, Phil.

Kim said...

I must be really under-caffeinated, because when I saw that title, I thought it said, "The Drying BOOK" as opposed to Brook. *sigh*

DJP said...

Actually, Zack, Phil looks even better in person than in his pictures. It's really quite appalling.

Jim Peet said...

Thanks. Excellent and it really ministered to me!