In mid-March, a group of celebrities posted an online video singing their rendition of John Lennon’s classic song Imagine. The stated purpose was to “raise morale” as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe. (Their effort was not well-received.)
In the midst of this situation, imagination isn’t our primary aim. Reality reminds us daily we’re smack-dab in a real-life global pandemic. Things changed overnight. People died and countless others have been hastily quarantined. We don’t have to imagine grocery shelves picked clean nor the bewilderingly low supply of items like toilet paper and paper towels.
With amazing prescience, Netflix released (on January 22, 2020) a 6-episode docu-series titled, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak. Though I haven’t watched it yet (too soon), I’ll probably do so eventually. One reviewer called it “visually stunning” and “a great piece of storytelling.” The series features caregivers who work the front lines when crisis occurs.
Since the dawn of time, mankind has faced disasters, some caused by disease, famine or flood. However, if there’s anyone with personal experience in dire circumstances, the biblical record of God’s prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, lays it out perfectly in I Kings 17.
Imagine, if you will, this scenario. Elijah has just proclaimed (to Israel and its evil, rebellious King Ahab) a drought … neither dew nor rain in the next few years. Having pronounced this judgment, God instructs Elijah to make himself scarce. The Almighty directs Elijah to a hidden area near a brook. God instructs him to stay there, with bread and meat sustenance provided for him – twice a day – by ravens!
Now, try to imagine Elijah’s situation! This place, an isolated area where (it seems) his only companions (if you want to call them that) are a flock of ravens, this is where and how Elijah lived for 6 months. I think we can agree that’s an impressive model of social distancing!
Starting at I Kings 17 and into the chapters that follow, I urge you to read the story yourself. My purpose here isn’t to delve into the details of Elijah’s life and God’s amazing provision, though those aspects are truly fascinating.
However, if you’re anything like me, you may be picturing Elijah’s experience through a 21st century lens. When I read the passage, I’m asking myself, how clean was that brook from which he drank everyday during his 6 month sojourn? I wonder if he heeded the advice of Will Rogers to “always drink upstream from the herd.”
And let’s not forget the ravens! How sanitary could that be? I’m going to take a wild guess and say far too unsanitary for my comfort level. I’m not the cleanest freak in town, but hand-washing and sanitizing everything are crucial practices, especially in these times. Accepting daily meat and bread from the beaks (or talons) of ravens? Just the thought makes me queasy.
And yet … God intervened with such miraculous provision! Ravens obeyed Him. Elijah trusted Him. Imagine if we were to trust God with faith as firm as Elijah’s.