There are times when God commands us to separate from people or activities. If you are not a fan of solitude, this can be an intimidating request. God’s purpose in separating us is not always revealed immediately but we can be certain that it is for our benefit. Spiritual growth is intricately linked to our obedience in heeding God’s instruction.
About 100 years after the reign of King David, the evil King Ahab ruled over Israel. He did more to anger God than all the kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:33). Wickedness had filled the land and God called the prophet Elijah to declare a drought. It would last over three years and caused a great famine. The purpose of the drought was to bring Israel to repentance. It is not easy to be the mouthpiece of God, especially when you are commanded to declare unpleasant judgments. By speaking the prophecies of God, Elijah made fierce enemies. But God was faithful to protect and provide for Elijah.
Immediately after he proclaimed the absence of any dew or rain, God directed Elijah to depart from the area and hide by the brook of Cherith. God revealed that He had commanded ravens to feed him at that location. Elijah did not argue or question the Lord. He obeyed. Therefore, his faith was rewarded with miraculous provisions. There are wonderful blessings given in the place of separation!
“And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:2-6 (NKJV)
The original language for the word Cherith means, Place of Separation. Additionally, the root word of Cherith is a verb and it means to cut off and eliminate. Elijah was sent to the Brook of Separation and was called to live as one cut off from all he knew. It was in this place of isolation where Elijah (and we) grew in his faith and sharpened his yearning to obey God, no matter the cost. Through times of total dependence on God and His resources mighty leaps of faith occur.
There are several Bible stories where saints have gone to a “Cherith.” Moses was forty years in the desert before God called him back to Egypt. Time was needed to prepare Moses for his part in the great exile. Joseph was in prison, falsely accused and isolated until God elevated him to a place of honor as the right hand of Pharaoh. Before David became King of Israel, he spent over 7 years in the desert avoiding King Saul’s attempts to murder him. After his conversion, the apostle Paul went to Arabia for three years before returning to Damascus.
Jesus went alone into the desert for 40 days before entering His time of public ministry (Matthew 4). He often withdrew to be alone with His Father. Do you remember the story of His disciples returning to Him after being sent out by twos to preach the Good News? They told him of what they had done and taught. Self-focus has a way of stealing God’s glory and Jesus may have sensed a need for His apostles to refocus their attention (Mark 6:30).
So now, back to Elijah. God provided a Cherith experience for this man of God in order to equip him for further ministry. When you are completely cut off from man’s provisions and totally dependent on God’s help, spiritual growth will occur. Elijah needed to grow stronger in the Lord before he could continue in his prophetic ministry.
After three years of drought, God commanded Elijah to once again present himself to King Ahab (1 King 18). Only after his time of separation was he able to face the king and his four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah had grown in his confidence and reliance on God and His power. When we have nothing but God, we realize (and rejoice in knowing) we have all that we need.
Sometimes, a Cherith experience is provided to get the world out of us. If the riches, attitudes, and opinions of this world are watering down your Christian walk, a time of separation may be just what you need. Is there something God has asked you to remove from your life, something that causes you to sin or to rely on instead of trusting in His provision? If we have too much of the world in our lives, we will be put into a position where we have to be cut off from things that control us.
These are challenging times for believers. Temptations are everywhere and our focus is easily distracted. We need to stand by faith, obediently following God’s design for our life. Are you called to step in a new direction, enter a ministry, lay down a dream/plan, or put an end to an old habit? You can do it with God’s power and equipping. Do not be afraid to spend time alone with God or fear what He might ask. He is faithful and merciful in His equipping.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV)