Strange title, and for almost the greatest prophet that ever lived! (1 Kings 17:1-16). But let us examine the account in 1 Kings. He was hiding from Ahab, the wicked king of Israel. We learn in the next chapter that Ahab tried to find him in all the cities of Israel and in the surrounding nations, in order to kill him.
But the big question for the present meditation is, “What was he doing there by the Brook Cherith?” The answer is, “NOTHING!” God commanded the ravens to feed him. They brought him bread and meat for breakfast and the same for supper. He had nothing to do but sit there beside the brook, eat, and sleep! And for how long? Until the brook dried up. It was likely about 6 months. The whole period was 3 years according to James 5:17 and Luke 4:19. So apparently, the last 3 years or so were spent with the widow of Sarepta. There he had a room and she fed him from the miraculous supply of meal and oil. But what was he doing? Not much of anything, it would seem. What could he do? He was still in hiding!
But Elijah was just as much in the will of God during that whole period of seeming idleness as when he later confronted the mighty Ahab on Mt. Carmel!
How he must have chafed under his inactivity! But there is no hint that he did! Why not? Because the God who miraculously supplied his temporal needs was also able to provide for His servant’s moral and spiritual needs as well. He made us in His image tripartite beings. And so, He faithfully supplied Elijah’s temporal, moral, and spiritual needs during that long period of hiding and inactivity.
What has all this to do with us today? What about the forced inactivity of advancing age and infirmity? Do we not chafe under it, not being able to do what we once used to do? Does it not also mean much time, wondering how to fill it in? And what about many elderly saints in special care homes and nursing homes? The earlier period of their Christian lives was spent so fruitfully, in many ways, for Him. But now powers of body and mind are failing. Must they then forfeit precious communion with the Lord? Oh, no! They too, like Elijah, are just as much in the will of God as they ever were the objects of His tender love and care. Elijah was waiting for the end of the divinely determined period of famine. These saints (we!) are WAITING for the Coming of the Lord, or for Him to call them into His presence.
To have called Elijah the “Idle Prophet” seems demeaning, but the simple truth is that there are great lessons for us all in that period of his prophetic ministry. May we learn the lessons well, for God’s glory and our comfort!