Summary: God stands at the end of our rabbit trails when we have exhausted all human options
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “going down a rabbit trail.” Wild rabbits don’t like to saunter down Main Street; they prefer bolting down trails leading deep into the woods. (By the way, jackrabbits are capable of speeds up to 40 mph to evade predators). To go down a “rabbit trail,” then, means to get off the main road, to be detoured, distracted, or diverted from your goals and plans.
Did you ever see the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life? George Bailey, as played by Jimmy Stewart, was a young man with big dreams. He was going to travel the world, go to college and become an engineer. But his father’s sudden death and the threat of an evil tycoon to shut down the family’s building and loan company forced him to stay in his hometown. There he settled down, married, and had children. The climax of the movie comes when George’s half-witted uncle loses a wad of deposit money and the bank examiner sends the sheriff to arrest George. George Bailey had tramped down a rabbit trail that led him to despair and darkness – until that fateful night when he prayed and God sent an angel named Clarence.
God is with us on the rabbit trails of life, and he stands at the end of the trail when we’ve exhausted our human options and we need more than fleshly wisdom. In our trials He sends angels to us—and sometimes even crows.
Elijah discovered this joyful truth.
Elijah was a prophet who lived almost 3000 years ago in the Northern Kingdom. He was an odd duck, wearing rough coats of camel hair, munching on grasshoppers topped with wild honey, making his home in caves. But he was a true prophet. He adored Yahweh, the God of Israel, and could not tolerate the idolatry of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. One day he confronted the king and declared that God would not send dew or rain for several years as punishment.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith (KEE-rith) Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there."
Elijah would have preferred to stay. He knew his work wasn’t finished. He needed to keep the pressure on Ahab and see his program of justice through. But God told him to go. The road leading to the Kerith Ravine must have looked like a rabbit trail. It was a wadi, a dry riverbed, located on the far side of the Jordan River, in the territory of Gilead, also called the Transjordan – a rugged, hilly region with canyons of alien beauty. There God ordered ravens to act as waiters for Elijah, bringing a daily meal of meat and bread. When the brook dried up, God took Elijah down another rabbit trail, to a Gentile town called Zarephath, where he met a widow with one son. She was using up her oil and flour to make a final loaf of bread, a last supper in the midst of the famine. Elijah asks her to make some bread for him. Now if you were down to your last slice of Wonder Bread – with no food at the grocery store and all the restaurants closed – would you feed a total stranger?
The widow did. She used up the oil and flour. She gave the freshly-baked bread to Elijah. She went back to see if anything remained in the jars—and they were full! She kept using up the flour and pouring out the oil to bake more bread. The jars could not be emptied. It was like bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon – God’s provisions just couldn’t be exhausted!
Some rabbit trail, huh?
God has lessons to teach us when we’ve been detoured. When we’ve lost our way. When we find ourselves camped in a dried-up country called “Despair” and we can’t figure out how we got there – or how to get out.
By the ravine, Elijah learned trust. With the arrival of the strange prophet, the widow learned dependence. God provided. God sustained. God came into a parched land like Living Water and the Bread of Life. In desolate circumstances, at the end of the road, he gave food, water. . .and hope.
Elijah’s longest rabbit trail came after his victory on Mt. Carmel. He had called down fire from heaven and dispatched 850 false prophets with the sword. But Jezebel had him in her sights. She was signing his execution order, readying the hit men. Elijah got wind of it and dashed into the desert, plodding on and on and on for 40 days and 40 nights. Finally he came to a sacred mountain, where he encountered God not in wind, fire or earthquake – but in a small, still voice; an awesome whisper; a murmuring so low that Elijah had to strain to hear it.