June, 2003 Wingspread
SITTING BY THE BROOK 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 that is going on in a world gone crazy. People do not like you and they do not support your work.
Prophets gets 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 willl 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 fact, the narrator of his story in our Bibles does not even mention his life until he bursts 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 Elihjah before this incident but he was commanded immediately after being told to prophesy to the King of Israel that a drought 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 circusmtances 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. Time and again, as I read my journals of my spiritual walk with God, my appointed “brook has dried up.” Once I had no nylons without large holes in them and I was to minister at a church in Gary, Indiana. I didn’t believe it was a glory to God to show up like that and I had prayed for a miracle, but the morning of my departure came and there were no nylons.
I checked the mail just before I left and in my mail box was a small package. I opened it, and guess what was in it?? A pair of nylons!!! Someone had found a coupon and they had them mailed to me--FREE! But the lesson was learned. When the brook dries up, God has already planned the next step for anyone who loves Him.
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 belongs 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 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 and 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 dress 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,” no promise of monetary supply for the many, many hourse of love and encouragement and Light God has poured out through me to others. 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!
But 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, and the propane gas lines were put in----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 my God had commanded me to leave all---and 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 (again, no five star hotel accommodations), and the child died.
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 streteched 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.
These people will be the “conscience to the Church” and it is my prayer and hope that this is what the seven of us are----and that all over the world, there are little companies of people who love our God more than they love themselves and if need be, they will refuse the “dainties” offered to them by unanointed prophets and teachers and preachers, and choose rather to embace the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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 watchcare 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. 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 My Father in Heaven. Jesus had always been threre and always would be, and He will always be enough.
I might never know the spiritual impact of our corporate life here---the seven of us---on the world. But on this thirty third anniversary of our arrival, I do know that the Light of the world shines out from our forty acre plot of ground, and IF people seek that Light, then they will surely find Him. We face an uncertain future but beyond what is earthly, we have no doubt that Heaven awaits us.
And I praise God Almighty with all of my heart, soul, strength and mind that on a dark, snowy night in a Bible Church building in Chicago, God had mercy upon me, heard my cry for deliverance and set me free. I share that freedom with each of you, and pray that you, too, will know beyond any mental doubts that there is a God in Heaven who knows you, who cares about you, and who made it possible for you to find the Way back to His great Father Heart. He waits.
“Reach for the heights, O my Soul,
The heights are but the depths of God’s almighty Plans.
And if, perchance, ye stumble on the way. . . Reach out, look up,
God’s help is on the Way.
Reach for the heights, O my soul,
Yet a little while and all will tell of what you sought. . .
And it will come to you, in time, that heights and depths
Are but God’s signature on life.”
By Billie M. Zal/Mcdaniel
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