By Em Sumaway
First, following God’s will may at times mean going against our own. This means that God should have the veto power in all aspects of our life. This truth applies not just to Elijah but to the ravens, too. Let me elaborate.
Ravens are selfish animals. It will hunt to feed itself or its young—or maybe not even its young (Ps. 147:9). The sure thing is that it will not hunt food for its bird-friend or bird-neighbor (if there are such terms). There’s no such thing as compassion for this bird. “Each to his own” is its motto.
Can you imagine how agonizing and difficult it is for a raven to not swallow the meat that’s on its mouth because God wants to reserve it for somebody they don’t even know—not even their kind! But when God commanded these self-centered birds to feed Elijah, they obeyed. This shows the transcendence and sovereignty of God—overriding the natural instinct of the ravens for His own glory. This is not the first time God did this in relation to the animal kingdom. Who has not heard of the classic story of Noah and the ark where the animals, even the wild ones, entered the big boat without causing any trouble? What happened to Daniel in the lion’s den? The story of the ravens is as simple as it is perplexing—God sent them to Elijah’s aid, and they obeyed.
Now the case of Elijah may be a little more problematic than that with the ravens. I’m sure God did not ask Elijah’s permission before sending the ravens because I think Elijah would have proposed a “better” alternative. One can easily imagine Elijah saying, “Lord, I have a better idea.” Who could blame him if he did?
Please remember that ravens are scavengers whose diet is composed of decaying flesh of dead animals. They are basically flying garbage disposals. No respectable Jew would eat a raven (or eat anything that comes from its mouth); and neither would you, I’m sure. How would you respond to an invitation to a dinner where the main course is fried raven or raven stew? I’m sure you will find a reason to be somewhere else that night.
The good news for Elijah is that God will feed him. The bad news (for him) is that God will do so through these unclean animals. We would have been less surprised (or less shocked) if God had used a turtle dove or a robin to bring the food. If given a chance, I’m sure Elijah could have come up with a long list of “nobler” birds to take the raven’s place.
There are times when we think we have a better idea than God’s idea. When was the last time that you made a decision that’s in direct contradiction to God’s will? How did you justify that decision? No matter what type of reasoning you assumed, it boils down to believing that you know better—that God somehow made a mistake in telling you otherwise. The adage appropriately sums it up—“Pride is a common human vice.” Pride tells us that just because it pleases us, it must please God, too.
Ah yes, pride. We are all prone to it in some areas. We have arrogant opinions of ourselves and very high expectations of what we can do. We are conceited and a lot of times we speak our opinions with great confidence, certain that we are correct.
Do you know what the Bible says about how wise man is? Let’s take a look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:25: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” God Himself said so in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Who is the wisest or most intelligent person you know? Einstein? Newton? Solomon of the Bible? It doesn’t matter who he is. The wisest of all men is still no match for God’s wisdom—not even qualified enough to spar with God’s foolishness! That’s how wise man is. If you think you are wiser than God, think again, my friend. Perhaps the moment you do that will be the beginning of true wisdom.
God’s ways are immeasurably higher than ours. “We’re like children learning basic addition and subtraction, compared to a college professor teaching advanced formulas that fill entire blackboards. Yet we insist that all life should be as simple as 1 + 1 = 2.” We can’t possibly fathom the magnitude of God’s intelligence and wisdom or the pretext of His actions. We’re way out of our league. We just have to place our trust in Him, confident that He knows full well what He’s doing, and obey Him at all cost.