In 1 Kings 17:1, the prophet Elijah announces a drought: “Elijah was a prophet from Tishbe in Gilead. One day he went to King Ahab and said, ‘I’m a servant of the living Lord, the God of Israel. And I swear in his name that it won’t rain until I say so. There won’t even be any dew on the ground.’”
This begins a feud between Elijah and Ahab that occupies the latter part of 1 Kings. In verse 16.30 we learn that “Ahab did more things to disobey the Lord than any king before him.” His worst crime was that “he married Jezebel the daughter of King Ethbaal of Sidon and started worshipping Baal.” Ahab was King of Israel from 874 to 853 BC.
Here we see the Old Testament’s message that drought and desertification are caused by disobeying the Lord and worshipping other gods, which I wrote about in Part III of ROCI21, Taboos. But the Old Testament contains other, more subtle messages that still resonate today.
God told Elijah to hide at Cherith Creek: “You can drink water from the creek, and eat the food I’ve told the ravens to bring you.” Elijah obeyed. “Ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day, and he drank water from the creek. But after a while, it dried up because there was no rain.” (1 Kings 17:4-7)
This begs a question: why did God send Elijah to live by a creek that was about to dry up? Like God’s instruction to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gn 22), it has the feel of an obedience test—something I have my own experience of. Like Abraham, if Elijah truly listened to God all would be well. Although the ravens brought him food, Elijah had to let go of Cherith Creek and move on.
Why did God send Elijah to live by a creek that was about to dry up? If Elijah truly listened to God all would be well. Although the ravens brought him food, Elijah had to let go of Cherith Creek and move on.
I learned this lesson the hard way, trying to continue a personal connection when it was no longer appropriate. I wasn’t listening.
Educator Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”
This doesn’t apply just to when someone speaks to us; it applies to our dialogue with God. We listen for what we want to hear, not what we should hear. There were subtle promptings that I should let go and move on, but I wanted more “bread and meat” from the ravens. Inevitably, the creek ran dry.
Christian theologian Jean-Yves Leloup echoes this sentiment of close, conscious listening in his commentary on The Gospel of Mary Magdalene: ‘Be in harmony’. “To be in harmony is to be in a conscious and loving relationship with what is… Harmony means to have a musical relationship with the world, to enter into resonance, to be in tune with all that is.”
To enter into a musical relationship with “all that is” means listening—and it also means letting go of ‘all that isn’t’—all that is false, dysfunctional or simply expired in our lives.
Elijah listened to God. He went to Sidon and the widow of Zarephath, where he found food and shelter until the drought ended. (1 Kings 17:8-15) Significant people and events in our lives serve their evolutionary purpose and advance us towards God. But, like Elijah and the ravens at Cherith Creek, there’s a time to let go.
Photo by Sergio Ibanez on Unsplash