Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Philosopher and social pioneer, Eric Hoffer, once said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Read that statement again and again and again until it permeates your consciousness. For in the final analysis it is your willingness to learn new ways of implementing timeless principles that will determine your position in life.
Consider, for example, the story of Elijah in 1 Kings chapter seventeen. Israel was experiencing the ancient world’s version of the global financial crisis: drought … famine … economic ruin … social upheaval. Elijah the prophet, who, some would say had precipitated the crisis through his prayers and proclamations, was not immune to the suffering and deprivation either. However, he had an ace up his sleeve that set him apart from the general population: he was in direct contact with the Source of life itself, the Creator of heaven and earth, who by his very nature is all sufficient and infinitely resourceful.
And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years except at my word.” Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. (1 Kings 17:1-6)
There are two lessons to learn from this story. Firstly, God is our Source – today, tomorrow and forever! Regardless of what is happening in the world around us, He has promised to supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). Indeed, He is El Shaddai, the all-sufficient One, who resources His people in each and every situation (Gen. 17:1).
Secondly, and just as importantly, God’s methods change from day to day and from situation to situation. Whilst His supply is constant, His delivery system is variable. To the best of my knowledge, I cannot find a precedent in the Bible for ravens behaving as waiters in God’s kitchen. If Elijah had been a Christian fundamentalist, he might well have insisted on Biblical precedent or ‘scripture and verse’ to justify the use of ravens in this manner!
To make matters worse, ravens were considered ‘unclean’ birds under the Mosaic law, insofar as they are omnivorous eaters and devour the flesh of dead animals (Lev. 11). It’s not hard to see that the use of such a courier could prove to be a stumbling block to an observant Israelite schooled in the paradigms of traditional thinking. “Why” Elijah could have asked, “doesn’t God send manna from heaven as He did when our ancestors were wandering through the wilderness?” “Why” he could have cried, “doesn’t God do it again?” The fact is, God rarely, if ever, ‘does it again’. He seldom uses the same method twice. But the problem is that we as humans become married to methods. We tend to be more intimately acquainted with the delivery system than with the source of supply.
The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?” (Isa. 43:18-19). The question is not of God as to whether He will do a new thing; the question is of us, as to whether we will perceive it and make the necessary changes to accommodate it.
Most of the great acts of God in the Bible were unprecedented. Think about it: the building of an ark to survive a worldwide flood was unprecedented. The parting of the Red Sea was unprecedented. The virgin birth of the Messiah was unprecedented. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was unprecedented. And why not – there has to be a first time for everything. But from our perspective, it’s more comfortable and less risky when it’s the second time, or the third time, or the fourth time.
First Kings chapter seventeen says that “after a while the brook dried up”. This tells us that God’s methods, as wonderful as they may be, have a use by date. They are for a limited season only. And woe betides the man or woman who resurrects an old way of doing things just because it worked once before.
The Lord said to Elijah, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” Far from a woman who was ready to serve him, Elijah encountered a woman who was ready to die – a woman who was bound by fear, blindsided by lack, and who was literally preparing her last supper.
Nevertheless, acting on the word of the Lord, Elijah said to her, “Do not fear … the bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” And the Bible says that she went away and did according to the word of Elijah, and as a result, she and her household ate for many days (1 Kings 17:13-16).
If Elijah had been married to a method, he would have arrived in Zaraphath and said to the widow, “God’s way of providing for our needs is through ravens; He’s done it once, so He can do it again. Get ready because I can hear the flutter, flutter, flutter of their wings!” But no, ravens were yesterday’s method and yesterday’s miracle. God was about to do a new thing: the multiplication of the resources in her house!
Because Elijah had his eyes on the Source and not the method, he was able to embrace the new thing God was doing. He was able to trim his sail when the wind changed direction, and thus move forward in the purpose of God.
Let us have a similar disposition to Mary, who, when confronted with a new and unusual way of doing things, quickly adjusted her thinking and said to the angel, “Be it unto me according to your word!”