Sitting By The Book Cherith
By Billie Marie Zal
A prophet of the Lord is always lonely. I read a story once about prophets, and the writer mentioned that the gift of prophecy involves a lonely and dangerous walk. At the time, I was so young in Christ that I did not fully comprehend the reality of the statement. As babes in Christ, we expect “good things” to happen to men and women of God who are called to a specific purpose, and prophecy is a coveted gift in the Church today (the Body of Christ). But those who have this gift must be warned that it is a lonely and difficult life when the message of God nullifies what is going on in a world gone crazy. People do not like you and they do not support your work.
Prophets get tired and lonely, and want to go HOME to God. This world as we know it is not made for prophets. The world wants to have a good time (and so does the Church), and to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” God never promised that this would happen. Rather, He warns us to know His Word that “in the last days, perilous times shall come,” and if ever we lived in perilous times, it is now - TODAY.
It could discourage me if I did not know the future and the glory that awaits those who belong to Christ and who do His will in a world gone crazy. But even now - at times - I sense a spirit of discouragement coming in upon me like a flood of darkness, but I recall God’s promise, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” And I use this Word, like a “two edged sword,” and God grants me strength to go on.
Elijah, the prophet of Israel, had little encouragement during his life time here on earth. There is not a lot of background information about him. In face, the narrator of his story in our Bible does not even mention his life until he burst upon the scene in I Kings, chapter 17. We read, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab the King, ‘As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (I Kings 17:1).
We had not heard of Elijah before this incident but he was commanded immediately after being told to prophesy to the King of Israel that a draught was coming, “to get thee hence, and turn thee eastward and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (I Kings 17:3).
A prophet is chosen by God because God knows that the individual will obey His Word, no matter how bewildering the circumstances might be. Elijah claimed no great five star hotel for his appointed place by God. He went to the brook and of all things, “unclean birds” were sent by God to feed him. Again, there was no four or five course dinner at the best restaurant awaiting him. God doesn’t spoil His messengers, He trains them for hard service. So Elijah sat at the brook and true to God’s promise, the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning which he ate, and bread and flesh in the evening.
But the brook Cherith dried up and Elijah was told by God to leave the brook (how often Christians hang out at the brook and beg for money) and to go to Zarephath (which belonged to Zidon) and live there. How often God has told ME to leave all that I felt was mine and “go to another place.” I praise God I was granted grace to obey Him, even when it made no sense at all. Faith and common sense often collide.
God had someone for Elijah to meet and to bless. For God says to him, “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee” (I Kings 17: . .9).
The terrible drought predicted by God through Elijah had already begun and as Elijah got to the gate of the city, sure enough, there was a widow woman right there, gathering sticks. You would not expect him to ask anything of a widow woman who obviously had nothing for herself. But he did. He said to her, “Fetch me a little water in a vessel that I may drink.”
Well, just as God knew she would, she went immediately to “fetch him a little water.” In time of drought water is precious but she obeyed the prophet. And then Elijah added this word, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand” (I Kings 17:11). I love this widow woman for all that she was and is. One day I hope to meet her in Heaven. Because not only was she willing to share what water she had left with God’s servant, but she was willing - if possible - to give him a morsel of bread.
She was honest with the prophet and she replied, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die” (I Kings 17:12).
She expected no great “supply” from her God (and Elijah’s God) for her willingness to give him water. By her own words, she was only sad that she had nothing left and no hope that she and her son could live because of the drought.
But she told the prophet the Truth: and the truth was rewarded with this reply from God’s prophet for the day: “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and afterward make for thee and thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (I Kings 17:13-14).
Everything now hinged upon the depth of her faith in God’s Word to her, announced by the prophet Elijah. Would she believe him? Would she look at her own need, and her son’s need, and refuse to give when there was nothing left?
How many times throughout my walk with Christ, and my commission from Him, have I had nothing. No “store,” and no promise of monetary supply. But I have believed God and when these times come (and they will always come because the believers today worship the gods of wealth and power and success and signs), I never forget the little widow of Zarephath and her two sticks and enough meal and oil to last one more time before she and her son died of starvation. I have had no excuse NOT to give God His portion first, even if it means that there is nothing at all left for me. If this little widow could do it, how can I not?!
Her obedience brought to her a promise of unending supply and the barrel of meal never wasted and the cruse of oil never ran dry, the Bible tells us, “until the day that the Lord sendeth rain
upon the earth.” People scoff at the simplicity of faith, but faith is real and it keeps us when we have nothing else to rely on except God’s pure Word.
I do not know how I survived these many years of service to my Father in Heaven, because faith has nothing to do with knowledge - except by reading and knowing God’s Word, then He can impart faith to us. But as I look back thirty three years this very month of June, 2003, I cannot imagine how I survived.
After all of the moving bills were paid, and the electric meters were installed, the propane gas lines were put in, etc. - I looked at my “store” and truly, there was nothing left. I had twenty five dollars, and the tremendous task of starting over here on our mountain in Northwest Arkansas could have frightened me, making me run for the nearest place of employment.
But God had commanded me to leave all and to trust Him alone day by day for my needs (and the needs of His ministry through me) to be met from His “unseen treasury.” We receive grace to endure for the moment and so when we “look back” the utter impossibility of such a call from God is seen with the eyes of “reality,” and reality IS impossible.
Yet in my heart of hearts I knew that God calls and He enables and the little widow woman came to my mind that day so long ago, and I refused to bow to the god of this world and all of the things he promises us if we will bow down to him. I thank God I refused and so very often I, too, sat by the “brook Cherith” and it would dry up. I would be fed day by day by the “Ravens,” and miraculous supply would arrive “just in time.” A Christian lady whom we met when we arrived would stop by with a big basket of vegetables from her garden; and once we found “throw away chickens” and the meal was delicious. There was never enough and yet I never lacked. That is faith, I guess.
I am thankful for a happy ending to this widow woman’s story. There was one more trial for her to endure and this one was probably the most difficult of all. It concerned “human love.” This woman’s son fell sick while Elijah dwelt in the loft at her home. She reacted like any Mother would react! She felt that God had punished her for her past sins, and taken her child. But Elijah said to her, “Give me thy son.” Taking the boy up to his loft he laid him on the bed. And then Elijah cried unto God and asked Him if He had brought evil upon the widow because he had lived there. We often blame ourselves when bad things happen, but if we know and love our Father in Heaven, we do not persist in that self blame until it overcomes us and becomes self pity.
Elijah stretched himself upon the child three times and, praying as he ministered to the lifeless child, God heard and answered. The Bible tells us that “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (I Kings 17:22). THEN the widow woman believed for certain, as the story tells us, that Elijah was truly a man of God, “and that the word of the Lord in his mouth is truth” (I Kings 24).
For so many of you who read this story, it won’t make sense. You won’t understand that all of it really happened. But it did happen and for every age God raises up faithful ones who will love Him more than they love the accumulation of wealth, or the applause of the church crowds, or the prosperity that our preachers promise to people of God today. He will raise up a handful of individuals all over the world, here and there, and those in high places will not like them nor applaud them nor support their work because they speak the Truth and the world hates Truth.
I can understand the story of the widow woman of Zarephath because God’s Spirit leads all of
us - if we will hear Him - in the same manner - the way of pure faith in Him, His ability to supply, and His watch care over our children. Sometimes the promised answer does not come at once, but if we believe that God is who He says He is, then we wait patiently and expectantly for His Word to be fulfilled.
I look at our mountain now - a quiet, sacred and protected sanctuary from the confusion of the world and a society gone mad. There is water now. God promised me that He would let me have plenty of water when I first arrived and discovered that my water well had broken pipes and no way to fix them. Now, when the sprinklers are running and the great trees spread out their branches to receive God’s bounty of moisture, I remember the days when I washed dishes in a pan of water and carefully measured how much to use. I remember the nights when there was no heat and the house was frigid; I carried in heavy logs to keep the fireplace going all night long and then my cat, “Big Tom,” and I would watch the sparks fly and praise God for the fireplace.
I remember the day, late in that first Autumn, when the yellow leaves covered the ground and a gentle rain caused the scent of them to surround me and suddenly, God’s Holy Spirit was there - JESUS - and He asked me, “Tell me, in all these years that you have walked with Me, have you lacked anything?” My response was immediate, “NOTHING, LORD.”
Once the Presence was gone, I was puzzled. I had been poor, and I had been cold. I’d had no water for the house, and no food for the cupboards. I had been sick and no way for a doctor to attend to me.
But I meant what I had said, “I HAVE LACKED NOTHING, LORD.”
Then I knew that if we are born again; if we truly call God our Father and believe it; if we know for certain that on one particular day or night we received a brand new life and “old things had passed away, and all things had become new . . .” IF we live in this new life we never feel a lack of anything.
Why? The answer came to me from God: JESUS HAD ALWAYS BEEN THERE, AND ALWAYS WOULD BE, AND HE WILL ALWAYS BE ENOUGH.
By Billie Marie Zal
God’s Spirit has placed a heavy burden upon my heart for all of you in prison. Sometimes it is so heavy that I feel as if lead weights are placed upon my body. It is not a hard burden, because I know it comes from God in Heaven so that I might somehow reach out HIS arms to all of you - good and bad, interested and uninterested, sincere and deceitful, angry and peaceful, and bring you in. There is an old hymn I sang so long ago in the little Methodist Church in southern Arkansas when Mama and Daddy took me to church every Sunday. The name of the song was, BRING THEM IN. I loved it. The words gave me hope that we could all be brought in: “Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin. Bring them in, bring them in, bring the wandering ones to Jesus.” I always felt this joy that God really did love all of us and we could somehow bring everyone into His family and live happily ever after.
I still believe it. Why else would I send out the Truth about life and death and morality and immorality and the effects of sin upon the human race each month (and sometimes each day of the month) if I did not have hope for each of you? I could not.
The burden I have for each of you to find this deliverance from sin and death comes directly from the Throne of God. At His right hand, His Beloved Son sits, “ever living to make intercession for us.” His Presence at the right hand of God the Father assures us that we are not forgotten. His Word tells us that He knows when a sparrow falls; and are we not of much more value than sparrows? Of course we are. And for His sake, because He cares about a fallen sparrow, I write of His Love, His forgiveness, His patience, His gift of eternal life if we truly want Him. No mere man or woman can ever tell us that we are born of God. Not even the words in a book can give us this assurance - not UNTIL each of you have been alone with God, knowing that you are helpless, hopeless, in total bondage to the power of sin, and headed for hell. Even if you do not believe in hell, your belief does not change the reality that it is there. Jesus speaks often of it in His Word and Jesus cannot lie. And anyhow, we know it, instinctively, because of the conscience that God gives to every one of us when we are born into this world. We are born knowing that this world cannot last forever and one day we will face the end of our mortal lives and THEN we will live eternally, either in heaven or in hell.
So it is a spiritual revelation, then that assures us that we are born again, into a new life of power and peace and love and the reality that we belong to God, forever.
I was recently heart broken by an incident that has happened before, but this time it was something very close to my heart.
I had ministered God’s love toward a prisoner in Colorado for many, many years. I believe he was only twenty three years old when he heard of me and began to correspond. God gave me wisdom in my letters to Him. It is always God’s wisdom, not man’s wisdom that touches the heart of sinners and saints alike. But nothing had changed his mind about sin. Upon release he moved in with his aunt, and after an argument about the flavor of the chili she had made, he became infuriated and stabbed and shot her to death.
I do not believe that he “premeditated” this crime. He had found a benefactor who showered him with financial aid and he probably had no idea that this kind of rage lived within his heart. But God knew. Sometimes he use to call me (he was permitted pre-paid phone calls at the Colorado prison were he was incarcerated) and we would talk at length about the anger that can take over our being and ruin our lives. He didn’t like to hear it, but I always told him, “Richard, you don’t have the right to hate the guards and the system; if you want to be healed of your rage, you begin with realizing that God can set you free from it, but He is going to use your circumstances to show you the depth of your willfulness and then give you victory - if you want the victory. But it’s your call, not God’s.”
This could be a lesson to any of you who have never “managed your anger.” I know that before I was born again, of God’s Spirit, my anger often vented itself on others. Not as a child, my Mother was a strict disciplinarian and if I had even looked as though I wanted to “talk back,” I would “get it” (and thank God I did). But once I had a new life and the Spirit of God actually living within my heart, the victory of power over sin (and anger is murder, Jesus says so) was gone forever. Something hateful was replaced in my life with something lovely.
I tell you this story about Richard because it can wake you up, if you are wasting your time in a prison cell with hateful thoughts, ideas, things that can only lead to destruction. Perhaps, during those 16 years in prison, my friend Richard never thought that he could do such a thing. Perhaps, this time, he might get serious with God and begin again. There is still hope. But not if you delude yourselves into thinking that you can make it outside and apart from the Spirit of God indwelling your hearts and minds and giving you grace to defeat the devil as he goes about, roaring as a lion and seeking whom he may destroy. Richard is still alive and so as long as there is life there is hope.
- February, 2003
Prayer Requests for July, 2010
For Willie Davis at the Cook County jail in Chicago, who is being retried after an appeal.
For Joseph Runge at Centralia, Illinois, who injured his shoulder lifting weights; also for his children: Crystal, Joe, & Angel, that God will open their hearts to receive the Gospel.
For Mickey Ray Reil, McAlester, Oklahoma, that the Lord will guide him after he discharges.
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona, that his hernia condition is treated soon.
For James Montilla’s Mother-in-law, Ava, who has pneumonia and is awaiting surgery; and also for their family friend, Gary, for his health. James is at Florence, Arizona.
For Thomas Bible at Ina, Illinois, and for his son to be taken care of until Thomas gets out.
For Stephen Clayton at Grady, Arkansas, who has a bad liver. He also wants the sadness and burdens in his life to be replaced with the joy and Love of God’s Grace.
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, for the right words to put into his appeal.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health. Also, Willie comes up for clemency later this year.
For Jimmy Huff, Colorado City, Texas. He needs transportation.
For our neighbor, Colleen Brock, who is facing knee replacement surgery.
For Willie Clark, Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Cleveland Cook, Buckeye, Arizona, that his family will come back into his life.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the Church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas, who is preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, for his health and that he stays “cancer free.”
For our friend, Sandra Beckcom, Prairie Grove, Arkansas. She is facing a very serious surgery soon as she continues to battle cancer.
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health.
For Ed Ewing, Visalia, California, who is 88 years old and in bad health.
For Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread, especially for improvement in Barney’s health.
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