1 Kings 17:2-3
“And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
The life and ministry of Elijah underscores the necessity of discipleship and training.
Discipleship is the process of growing progressively more mature in Christ. It is called various things: spiritual formation; spiritual development; spiritual growth; and the fancy theological phrase “progressive sanctification.”
Whatever description you use, it is the process of growing in grace, wisdom, and skill. It is the process of developing and growing in your relationship with Jesus so that you know God more deeply, obey him more consistently, and bear fruit in the work that you do every day.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3.18)
Elijah confronted king Ahab and pronounced God’s judgment on the land of Israel: no rain for three years. God’s next step with Elijah is not exactly what you would expect.
None of king Ahab’s advisors and counselors had Elijah’s integrity and courage. No one else was confronting the king’s rebellion toward God and cruelty toward the people of Israel. It would make sense to leave Elijah in or near the court of the king and use the prophet’s relentless voice to proclaim the truth and hold Ahab accountable.
But this isn’t what the Lord did.
There were things the Lord wanted to accomplish deep within Elijah’s inner life, things that would prepare Elijah for the challenges and battles to come. Challenges that might destroy a less-obedient, less-committed, and less-prepared servant.
Elijah had responded to God’s initial call with a step of faith and courage. He confronted Ahab and pronounced God’s judgment, but that was just the beginning of what would be a long, protracted and fierce battle with Ahab, Jezebel, and the forces of evil that were at work in Israel.
Elijah was not yet ready for the long war. He wasn’t equipped. So God sent him east of the Jordan to get trained in what he would need for victory: humility and trust toward God.
“So Elijah went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.” (1 Kings 17.4-7)
God sent Elijah away to a place of isolation, hidden from everyone, where he would not only be protected from physical danger but also better prepared for a greater mission. Great spiritual battles were coming, and for Elijah to be victorious, he needed to learn great humility and deep trust toward God. We could say that the Lord sent Elijah to spiritual boot camp, where Elijah would be trained for spiritual warfare.
There is a powerful message here for the followers of Jesus. Once you are saved, it is time for discipleship and spiritual development. It is time to be trained.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1.28-29)
So let me ask the central question: Are you trained?