I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:3-4
Over the years, I have developed a chronic condition known as fascination of the life and ministry of the prophet, Elijah. Lately, the Lord has been speaking to me through his story in the books of first and second Kings.
The Bible gives a narrow window through which we glimpse the life of this Man of God. He lived in Israel. Although Elijah was such an influential voice during this era of Israel’s history, only a brief span of his life is exposed to us through the stories in the books of Kings. The king of Israel, Ahab, had led the nation so far away from the worship of God that now the time had come to begin reaping the consequences. We all know who God chose to deliver the bad news–Elijah. Lucky man.
Elijah became the enemy. The king placed high priority on getting rid of him. The word of God came to Elijah again. This time is was meant for Elijah’s comfort and not for the rebuke of a wayward king. “Leave here. Turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there” (I Kings 17:2-4).
First Kings goes on to tell us that Elijah did what the Lord told him. Elijah lived there for a long time–at least three years. In a nation that had forsaken God, Elijah continued to enjoy God’s presence. During an extended season of extreme drought, Elijah feasted on God’s unending provisions. In the face of a king’s wrath–a king with the entire military at his disposal–Elijah found a place to hide away, safe and protected under God’s watchful care.
Over the span of those three years, the king looked everywhere for Elijah, but never found him. Why? Because God covered him. Psalm 91 mentions the safety found in the shade. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).
Danger couldn’t find him. the king’s anger couldn’t touch him. Hunger couldn’t weaken him.
Song of Songs 2:4 refers to a banner of love. The Student Bible says a banner was a large military flag that held a fighting unit together in battle. In the noise and dust of a fight, soldiers needed a visible sign to keep them oriented (p. 600). God spread his banner over Elijah. This orienting symbol wasn’t made of cloth with a royal crest. Rather, it was love and it came complete with God’s presence. “Fear not, I have redeemed you,” God says to Israel through Isaiah, “I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. For I am the Lord your God. You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you” (Isaiah 43:1-4).
Elijah lived in the ravine–a crevice running deep between two rocks. It became the place where he enjoyed God’s care, his provision, and his love.