In the Waiting Room
A devotional by Dana McNeely
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.” So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. ~1 Kings 17:2-6 NLT
"Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!" ~James 5:17 NLT
Immediately after the prophet Elijah declared God’s judgment on Israel, God sent him into the wilderness. And there he waited … and waited. Perhaps God’s purpose was to keep the prophet safe from an angry king. After all, Elijah had rebuked Ahab quite publicly. A price was put on the prophet’s head.
But did God hide Elijah only to protect him?
Elijah was one of the most heroic characters in the Old Testament. He stood alone against wicked and powerful people to turn a nation back to God. But we’re also told he was subject to human frailty. The Bible tells of a time when the prophet became overcome by fear, weariness, and depression. He felt so discouraged he wanted to die.
But despite Elijah’s human weaknesses, God used him to accomplish great things. Scripture details how God prepared Elijah to turn Israel to the one true God.
One step at a time
Throughout the Bible, we see examples of God’s step-by-step leading. God told Abram, then 75 years old, to leave his home and relatives for a far-off country. He told Moses to ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites worship in the desert. He told Gideon, who was hiding in fear at the time, to rescue Israel from the Midianites. Each time, the command was met with astonishment. None felt capable of the task. But Abram, Moses, and Gideon chose to believe God and took their first step in obedience. God prepared them for great acts of service, one step at a time.
The waiting room
We learn from James 5:17 that Elijah “prayed earnestly” that no rain would fall. That speaks of spending time in close communication with the Lord. I imagine Elijah’s prayers began in the mountains of Thisbe, continued on the journey to Samaria, and deepened in the “waiting room” beside the Kerith Brook where God—and the ravens—were his only companions. Elijah used this time to draw close to the Lord.
God uses the “waiting room” throughout scripture. God spoke to Moses, alone, on Mount Sinai. Jesus often asked his disciples to come apart to a quiet place, where he would teach them. Paul wrote the Revelation during enforced seclusion on the island of Patmos.
During my father’s long decline, I spent hours in nursing homes and hospitals. Sometimes dad would be asleep when I arrived or nod off during my visit. Knowing he needed the rest, I used that time to pray—for him, for myself, for my mom, and other friends and family.
God sent Elijah to wait near the brook Kerith. Each day, ravens would bring meat and bread. As he headed east into the desert, Elijah must have wondered about this promise. The drought would cause the brook to dry up—wouldn’t it? And how could ravens, carrion eaters, find food fit for humans? Or if they found it, wouldn’t they eat it themselves? And how long could he stay hidden from the king’s soldiers, anywhere in Israel?
But as the days passed, and he rested by the brook, Elijah’s trust grew. He was where God wanted him to be. The brook sparkled and the water was cool. The ravens became friends. Though enemies might search, God kept him safe in a hidden ravine. Later, when Elijah needed to trust God’s power before a king and a nation, he was prepared.
Think about it
· Did you ever feel God call you to take some action—but you hesitated to take that first step?
· Have you ever been in God’s Waiting Room? How did that time change you?
· Have you ever needed God’s provision? Did you pray for help? To strengthen your trust, write down your prayer and how God answered. Keep it in a journal or a slip of paper to use as a bookmark.
Author Bio: Inspired by the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s son, Dana McNeely wondered why the prophet had come to stay with these two. Who were they? What was their life, before? And how did the boy change after dying, seeing the other world … and coming back? Dana began research for her novel, “Rain,” which tells the story of the three-and-a-half-year drought from the boy’s perspective.
No stranger to drought, Dana lives in an Arizona oasis with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and migrating butterflies. She writes biblical fiction, cozy mysteries, and has written for magazines and newspapers. Her short story “Death in the Butterfly Garden” appears in SoWest: Killer Nights (2017).
Connect with Dana on Facebook, Twitter, or DanaMcNeely.com