What We Learn from Elijah’s Ravens

After millennia of roaming the earth when Noah released them from the ark, the ravens finally find a peaceful place to land long after the dove. It is where Elijah camps by the Brook Cherith. A lot has happened between Genesis 8 and I Kings 17, but one thing remains constant: “The eyes of the Lord look upon all the earth, to strengthen every heart that is perfect toward him.” (Brenton’s LXX translation of 2 Chron 16:9). 

In I Kings 17:6, the ravens come to Elijah, for the Lord has sent them to him. Twice a day, they prepare a table before him in the presence of his enemies. It takes a flock of ravens to compose the table; one with a blood-red grape on a stem, one with eucharistic bread, one with meat plundered unnoticed from the horde of the wicked; and so on.

What can we learn from Elijah’s ravens? If we look through their eyes at the miracle of feeding the prophet for months, we discover they found a man content with:

  1. waiting
  2. silence, and
  3. absolute vulnerability

Waiting: We know from the Hebrew language to wait did not mean to merely bide time as one does in a hospital, penitentiary, or dentist office. “To wait” means, among other things, to be braided into a greater fiber, as when one is splicing together a rope, weaving a mat, or braiding hair. Waiting, therefore, is a process of transformation. It is hope on the move. 

The ravens found a man waiting for them with the calm expectation that they would come. His was a welcome disposition, not merely because they had his food, but because he recognized the gift of God in the ravens and the food.

Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon

Silence:  The ravens found a quiet man when they arrived each day, and that quiet made their work of delivering the meal a peaceful one. His was not the silence of the stones, trees, sky, and stream. His was the silence making space for the One who had created them

For silence is the home of life-giving words from the Word Made Flesh. Therefore, the more silence you cultivate in prayer before your heavenly Father, the richer the words are likely to become that you receive from Him. 

Most of us need a home plate when we practice silence; a handful of scriptures and images to return to when we find that our imaginations are swinging about like monkeys in a rainforest. But, having secured that arena, we learn to wrestle with our restlessness until we begin to touch the meaning of a prophetic word so diametrically opposite of Zen and other man-centered forms of meditation that we might as well compare tar to gold: “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Silence makes space for the Lord to initiate communication with you on His terms and in His way, for you are becoming childlike and trusting. But silence is seldom an experience in tranquility, but rather, a furnace of transformation. Silence opens up the manhole cover on our hearts, whose sin comes scrambling out through our thoughts, feelings, and daydreams, for there are few things that sin and its demonic allies can bear less than simple, innocent silence before “the Holy One of Israel,” as the prophets called Him. 

Photo by Vision Creative Group

Absolute vulnerability: The ravens observed that Elijah had let go of control as he lived among wild beasts in a harsh environment. Each day he received what he was given just as it was. Each day he accepted the cup. He learned faith in the work of the Holy Spirit apart from his ability to directly influence outcomes, be it in the wilderness or in the halls of power.

The paradox of vulnerability is that you are dying to your neighbor, for the more transparent you are, the less certain you can be of their response, one of which could be to cause you pain  — the word “vulnerable” comes from the Latin word vulna: a wound. The ravens communed with a man who had died to his neighbor, accepted the possibility of being wounded, and depended on His creator in precisely the same way as the ravens who fed him. (Luke 12:24)

But to die to your neighbor means you can actually possess compassion for him, for you no longer care what he can do to you or do for you. Your neighbor’s position, power, appeal or resources no longer hold you captive. You are neither intimidated nor infatuated. This dynamic applies even to our view of godly, gifted people. What did Elijah say to Elisha when the latter asked for time to honor his family before following him? “What’s that to me?” 

Icon by Uncut Mountain Supply

Elijah is not modeling a gruff hermit; he is modeling the freedom required for truly serving others with no strings attached. For it is people who do not metric their success by the hugs and punches of others who are truly successful, since they are free of the forces of favor and rejection. They are moved by a gentle breeze of His presence, not the wind and waves of the world.

Waiting, silence, and vulnerability create an environment where the Incarnation of Christ finds much faith to work with; a welcome place to rest His head (Matt 8:20); and a portal whereby His kingdom comes to earth for the saving of many lives and the healing of the nations, which is your calling in the Last Days.

The ravens discovered that Elijah, for all the ways he felt himself to be alone and an outsider, was actually the patriarch of those led by the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. This child of Abraham continued in the promise made to his fathers, that many — often countless and unseen — would love the Lord above all things. 

In light of these things, let us ask the ravens if they could summarize what they saw, for they were ahead of Elijah in a unique way, having a birds-eye view of the land, where no less than 7,000 others unknown to the prophet loved the Lord wholeheartedly, and likewise practiced waiting, silence, and vulnerability in whatever form the Lord had led them to in their nation’s dark hour. (I Kings 19:18)

Among other things, here is what the ravens would say if we asked them to give us the birds-eye view of our present world.

“There are many Elijahs on the earth, and all of them are hidden. Like arrows in a quiver, you do not see them until the moment when — at their expense — they are sent into the heart of whatever darkness afflicts the earth to bring it down. For they have become a place where our Lord makes His home. Their waiting, silence, and vulnerability are key to this. And it is in this way they are a mercy to the nations.”

You can live this legacy too. 

© Kurt Mähler

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