“Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” 1 Kings 17:4
The supernatural and metaphorical stories in the bible are sacred stories. They show us the strange and mysterious ways of God and reveal the sinful nature of our human hearts. Secular stories entertain us with the struggles and sorrows of human life. Sacred stories teach us the spiritual truths about living in the kingdom of heaven with the grace of God in the here and now.
The stories of Elijah in the wilderness and the conversion of Saul provides insights of how to live a life of grace. After telling King Ahab about the famine that was to befall Israel, Elijah was told by God to hide in the wilderness where he will be fed by ravens. Saul, before his conversion to Paul, was struck blind when his zeal for God was misplaced and misdirected:
“He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” Acts of the Apostles 9:2-4 NLT
Elijah was totally dependent on God to meet all his needs in solitude. He demonstrated the truth that living by God’s grace is to be totally surrendered to God and to live in total dependence on God. But before we can do so, we need to come to the end of ourselves – to a place of utter helplessness. Like Saul, we need to experience God’s amazing grace to see through our spiritual blindness.
We also need to hear the sweet sound of God’s amazing grace in our prayers. In the midst of persecution, I wondered if Ananias might have been praying for Saul when he received God’s call to go to Saul and to heal him:
“But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” ” Acts of the Apostles 9:15-17 NLT
Praying for others and for our enemies is not to get God to heal or change them but to listen to what God wants us to do for them. Like Ananias, who was God’s “raven” to heal Paul’s blindness and to commission him to share the gospel, we may be called to be God’s ‘ravens” to minister to the poor, the sick and the dying through the ministry of caring and healing. In Acts 9:32-41, we read of how Peter healed Aeneas and raised Tabitha from the dead.
God’s ways often defy logic and only make sense when we have the right beliefs and a right relationship with Him. Our beliefs determine what we think and our thoughts are seen in our actions. Paul had knowledge of the Scriptures but without the Holy Spirit he was an intolerant fundamentalist. We may have the Holy Spirit but without a right understanding of Scripture, we may become fanatics trying to heal everyone and trying to raise the dead. We need the Holy Spirit to listen to God speaking to us through Scripture in order to know what God wants to do through us. We may be called to be like John the Baptist – to be a voice in the wilderness.
We need God’s truth in these dark and challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic is the storm that reveals what is deep in our hearts – the sins of lust, greed and pride. The bad news is that without a right image and right relationship with God, we are imprisoned by our guilt, our doubts and our fears. We cannot live in the kingdom of heaven as the children of God when we do not have a relationship with God as our Heavenly Father. Without Jesus as our Saviour we are living in a hellish world enslaved by the fear of death to the evil one (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot live the abundant life of grace and have a foretaste of heaven now. We need to turn back to God. The good news is that God wants to give us the power of the Holy Spirit to live holy and godly lives through our faith in Christ:
“Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.” 2 Peter 1:3-4 MSG
Like Saul, we need God to change our mindset. Otherwise our zeal for God will be misdirected. Like Elijah, we need to spend time in solitude for silence is the Rest of God. Through silence, we will be led to the meditative prayer of rest – to abide in Christ who is in us. And as we wait on God, the Holy Spirit will lead us to be the “ravens” of God – to live out the gospel of God’s grace for others to see:
“Speak O Lord, and renew our minds,
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us –
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak O Lord, until Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.”