When Prosperity Comes, Head to the Brook

A postcard of the brook Cherith from 1921
[Image credit: Picryl/Library of Congress

Have you, as a child of God, ever noticed that when a prosperous season comes to you, God will often send you away to a place of separation? It won’t necessarily be to an isolated shack in the middle of a desert or a forest; in fact, you may never even leave your own home. Instead, it will most likely be to a place where you are removed from regular contact, perhaps with close friends or relatives, or maybe those you work with. You would very likely have difficulty fulfilling even your daily needs through them anyway. You may try to seek assistance instead from someone else you know, or perhaps through some public service, only to be politely turned down. You will probably reach a point where your main source of sustenance seems to just disappear.

It is at this point that you will likely question God about your current circumstances, with the thought that something has gone seriously wrong here! Feelings of self-pity begin to spring up from sources previously unknown to you. Your thinking begins to be dominated by the mindset that “practically everyone else is doing well, so why can’t I do well too?” What you fail to realize is that this is just the place where God wants you to be! He doesn’t want you feeling sorry for yourself. In your time of desperation, His goal is for you to no longer be centered on self-reliance, but on developing and increasing your God-reliance.

We find Elijah, a prophet of God in the Old Testament, at a time when he was also separated from others and led into a position where he was forced to be dependent on God.

At that particular period, Israel had drifted away from God, and He brought a drought into the land through Elijah as a result. “…Elijah …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” (1 Kings 17:1).

Even though the rains did stop and the dew no longer formed, the land did not immediately cease being prosperous. Yet God told Elijah, “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” (1 Kings 17:3, 4). Elijah knew that he had to remove himself from the presence of the king and his officials after publicly making the proclamation of no rain. But he could have discreetly stayed somewhere in the region for a while. After all, the land was still producing abundantly and the people still had plenty. Yet he “did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (1 Kings 17:5) before the drought began to take its toll.

Notice that God sent him to a brook, not a river. This particular brook was a seasonal stream anyway, and it would not last.

“…it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:7). God surely could have led Elijah to the Jordan River, or some other large body of water. And even Elijah’s food was brought in by the birds, since there were no herds that could have continually sustained him grazing nearby. Once again, God had Elijah where He wanted him, just like He has you.

God wants His children, in flourishing times or in lean times, to be dependent on Him. Elijah’s assigned brook was feeble, but God could have kept it continually flowing, and He could have even provided additional birds to deliver more food. Elijah could have tried digging a well, or searching for work with a sheepherder or farmer. It would have been a very difficult journey, but the possibility existed for him to go to another region or country that had plenty to eat and drink. But to do so would only have separated him from the will of God.

It was God who placed Elijah into this situation, but it was not permanent, because God did not intend for him to stay there long. When the brook dried up later, Elijah was forced to move on. But even after it dried up and the birds ceased to provide for Elijah, God still made a way through a widow nearby. Not only was Elijah sustained then by her, but the woman and her son were also blessed to overflowing! If God had sent Elijah to a large river instead, he would have very likely taken God for granted, and would not have left the area.

During a season of prosperity, the child of God can stop being dependent on Him so easily.

But He wants us to look to Him, not on what He gives us, or on what the world provides. Even if your rain and dew do not stop, the brook will still cease to flow. The birds will also no longer supply your needs. This is not accidental—God has intended it to be this way. As your Heavenly Father, it is not His desire for you to be independent of Him and self-reliant. Follow Elijah’s example by looking to Him and depending on His faithfulness, and not by looking to others or the world around you for your sustenance.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him” Lamentations (3:22-25).

“And I Sent the Hornet before You”

 

A graphical image of a hornet.

Many times in our walk with God He will use something small, or even unseen, to bring about a great victory for His glory. One example of this occurred thousands of years ago, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River and were entering the land that God had promised for many years to give them. One thing remained though—the occupants of the land did not simply leave after their arrival. God ordered the Israelites to destroy the people of the land because they were idolaters who worshipped everything but God Himself. They loved the creation more than the Creator.

Some may think that God is an evil tyrant who kills on a whim and has no compassion for anyone, yet He is quite the opposite. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 emphasis added). He never wants any of us to die eternally lost. The depth of His love no one can fathom. What is overlooked here is, that God’s love and longsuffering had given these people the opportunity to forsake their disobedience and rebellion for hundreds of years—but they never did. Noah and his family did not build the ark in a few hours, and then God immediately destroyed everyone else with a flood. God continued to give the people time to change their evil, rebellious ways and turn to Him. There could have been many more than just the members of Noah’s family in the safety of the ark, but the people continued to refuse the offer from a loving and merciful God—only to die in the rising waters.

When the Israelites arrived, they did not just set up camp until God gave them the land as their inheritance and then wait for the enemy’s arrival to see if they were as evil as described. No, they went forward in battle in the name (or unfailing nature) of God, with Joshua as the captain of the host leading the way.

But while they may have fought and defeated their enemies, they were not the ones who actually drove the occupants out. The real victor was God. And He did it in ways not known to the Israelites.

“And I sent the hornet before you, which [drove] them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow” (Joshua 24:12). One insect sent a whole army to flight! Although some scholars believe this may not have been a literal hornet, it still shows that God uses a simple means that is not conventional to us to accomplish His task. Now look at verse thirteen: “…I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat” (emphasis added). Notice that the land was given to them, cities were already built, and crops were already growing—and were ready to eat. Even the very enemy they came against was brought out before them to be eliminated. And all of this was carried out without any work of their own. God, in His faithfulness, did it all Himself. Why? Because they trusted in Him, obeyed His commandments, and because of His immense love for them.

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).

This was the key for their victory. As we read throughout much of the Old Testament, whenever the Israelites forsook God and His Word, they were defeated in battle against their enemies. Yet when they cried out to God and repented of their rebellious ways, He would come in and deliver them. If they did not overcome and destroy their enemies, then their enemies would overcome them, due to the Israelites’ compromise and worship of their enemies’ gods. As long as the Israelites turned away from God and followed idolatry, they would walk in defeat, and ultimately in bondage to their enemies.

These verses apply in our own life spiritually as the children of God. We must remember that our success comes from trusting in God and obeying His Word, the Bible. Then God will drive out our enemies by means not seen, and He will provide for our needs through no part of our own doing. All He wants is for us to love and serve Him, and Him alone. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). We may never know how many ‘hornets’ have gone before us and driven out our enemies, but we do know that when we truly and wholeheartedly follow Him in trust and obedience, He will always go before us and bring victory.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

The Key That Unlocks Our Heartfelt Desires

Jewelry case

Walk into any jewelry store and you will find that all items of real value are kept in locked display cases. Look at them all you desire, but if you want to actually hold or purchase them, you must ask the jeweler to unlock the case and hand you the item. But no reputable jeweler will give access to these items to just anybody who walks in simply because he asks. First he will ascertain just how serious and credible the request is. For many, the ‘desire’ was only an impulsive lust, a brief fancy, or they were not interested in buying anything in the first place. In return, the jeweler will generally give little to no attention to any such interests.

How often it seems that the things we desire the most in our heart are locked away and unobtainable, like the high-ticket items in the jewelry store. Since we really want these things and are willing to make enough of our own effort to get them, we think that we can readily obtain them. But, even though we know they are there, we don’t see any physical means to reach them readily available. So we give up in frustration and disappointment, yet they still remain locked up and out of our reach in the end.

Thankfully, God, the Master Jeweler, knows our situation. Are our desires actually just an occasional whim? Do they align with His plan for our life and His will for us? Will they bring Him honor and glory? Or do they just gratify our carnal self and actually work toward our detriment?

He has given us the key to unlock that which we desire—which is prayer.

He often keeps what we want so much locked away for our own good. He wants to see just how serious we are about possessing what we value so greatly.

Therefore, persist in asking Him to give you what you desire. “…Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity [persistence] he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:8-10). The more we press through as we petition and exercise faith in our heavenly Father, the more He will show forth His faithfulness. But, at the same time, we should not just spout off our requests to God repeatedly, like a machine gun. Jesus warned about such attempts: “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).

On the other hand, fulfillment of our desires is in God’s timing. He knows when and if we are able and mature enough to receive them and He will act accordingly. Think of a little boy asking his parent to take him to the store to buy an engagement ring. The parent will ask him just who he wants to buy it for (and incredulously just how he got that much money). He replies that there is no one yet. He just wants it available for the future when he meets the right person to give it to. But even if the boy did buy a ring, he could not take care of this kind of valuable item responsibly for such an extended time. Therefore, a wise parent would not fulfill the request, knowing his child is not yet mature enough to handle it. This does not mean that the boy will never get a ring—just that he will not be allowed to acquire it at this time. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

 

This is one reason that God made prayer the key and not some other means. Come before Him in genuine, passionate, heart-felt prayer and changes will occur—not in Him, but in us. Our understanding of who He is will change, while self-centered motives also come to light. His faithfulness makes access possible. If we could fulfill the desires of our heart by our own efforts, our relationship with the Lord would be worth little. Not the actual act of prayer, but the One we have faith in through our praying, brings fulfillment of our requests.

God wants us to have what we greatly long for that is locked away in our heart. But He wants us to come to Him to gain access, and not try to fulfill these desires by our own strength and effort or selfish ambition. Jesus said,your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8b). God is fully aware of our desires long before we ever seek Him, but He wants to align all our wants, motives and plans with His own. This is only possible through genuine prayer and faith in Him—the real key which unlocks our heartfelt desires.