The great prophet Elijah had burst like a tornado into the presence of Ahab and Jezebel. He had with him a key that could lock or unlock the sun, the rain, the wind, and the storm. Before the astonished eyes of that godless and guilty king and queen, Elijah locked up the rain. "No more rain!" he said, "No more rain but according to my word." Then he stormed back out of the royal presence and vanished from view. And he remained hidden for three and a half years while great tribulation fell on the land. "Go hide yourself," God said. Later He would say, "Go show yourself." God invariably conceals his chosen servant before He reveals that one.
During this three-and-a-half-year period, Elijah was hidden by God in a wadi and then by a widow. By the winding brook, Elijah developed a faith that could conquer drought. By the wasting barrel, in the widow's bare kitchen, Elijah developed a hope that could conquer despair. By that widow's boy, Elijah developed a faith that could conquer death. Once he had learned these lessons, God was able to use him as few have ever been used before or since. Israel's faith was as dry as that brook. Israel's hope was as dismal as that depleted barrel, and Israel's love was as dead as that boy. Elijah, having learned personally how to deal with such things, could now deal with them publicly.
But let us spend some time with the great prophet as he sits beside that drying brook in a hidden place, far from the haunts and habitations of people. And let us recall the Lord's own words to His own about the raven: "Consider the raven," He said (Luke 12:24-28). Elijah certainly must have considered them during those days beside that brook. He looked forward to their visits twice a day.
Elijah must have considered their color, black and glossy. Elijah would doubtless think of the Shulamite, in Solomon's spirit-born song, and her description of her beloved: "His locks," she said, "are bushy, and black as a raven" (5:11). That reminder would take Elijah's soul by storm, for the Shulamite's words reached far beyond her own beloved. They pointed to Another, one who was yet to come, one to whom the Shulamite's beloved was but a type. Elijah's thoughts took wing. From the visiting ravens and from the shepherd-love of the Shulamite, his thoughts would soar down the centuries from the Shulamite's beloved to heaven's Beloved. So, the color of the ravens alone reminded the lonely prophet of Christ.
Then he considered their cry. As they dropped their tribute at his feet and wheeled away into the setting sun, Elijah would think, perhaps of, the psalmist's words, "Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving. . . . He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Ps. 147:7, 9). True, the ravens waited on his table in the wilds, but it was God Himself who spread the feast.
Moreover he would consider their character. The Levitical Law would come to his mind. Moses had specifically pronounced ravens to be unclean: "And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls . . . every raven after his kind (Lev. 11:13, 15). The raven by nature was an unclean bird.
The black, unclean birds would remind Elijah of the abomination that rode triumphant in Israel, spurred on by Jezebel and urged on by hundreds of her attendant court priests. He would take courage as he viewed the ravens coming from afar. If God could so cleanse ravens and make them ministers to His own, then there was nothing too hard for God. He had changed the very nature of these birds so that twice a day they brought him meat and bread to eat. God could change the heart of erring Israel.
Finally, the prophet would consider their course, as he watched them whirling and diving in the sky. He would remember the first mention of ravens in the Bible. God had given them room in the ark; but, at the first opportunity, they went back to their wild, corrupt, and carnal ways. Unlike the dove, which came eagerly back to the ark from its flight abroad, the ravens preferred a world where death reigned.
So, sitting by his brook, Elijah drew lessons from the ravens; and his faith grew strong. There was nothing too hard for God. The man who had thus learned to look to heaven for food would soon be able to look to heaven for his fire.