Today we will meet a new character – Obadiah whose name means: “Servant of Yahweh”. This Obadiah (one of 14 in the OT) is not to be confused with the minor prophet of the same name. He is a servant in the King Ahab’s house. Actually he is in charge of the king’s house. Obadiah was a man caught between a rock and hard place. He was a man who served Yahweh, the One True God, while also serving in the house of an idolatrous master.
His master’s wife, Jezebel, sought to purge the land of God’s prophets while Obadiah secreted away 100 hundred of God’s prophets and fed them as well at risk to his own life. Obadiah was stuck trying to balance his loyalties while fearing that his faith will be discovered.
This is the condition of things as we enter the 18th chapter of I Kings, but I want to jump ahead to the end of our story to begin with:
Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the LORD is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!” The people did not say a word. I Kings 18:21
Our story will end today with the people being silent.
That is also reflective of our condition. The church today is filled with people living in silence as a result of fear. We have become fearful of even talking about our faith. The reality is that we talk “euphemistically” about our faith while remaining truly fearful, or at the least totally uncomfortable, of even speaking the name of “Jesus” in or outside the walls of the Church.
Church has become the home of living dead. It is no wonder that we have difficulty getting people to respond to our invitation to come to church when we walk around like the place sucked the very life out of us.
We don’t talk about our faith in part because we don’t understand it or because we fear that everyone else knows more. For some of us we go to church out of fear. As if, if I don’t go something bad will happen or we go believing that I have to go in order to get to heaven.
Let’s face it when it comes to our faith – we are more apt to be living in silence and fear than we are to be living out loud with joy. As we enter today’s story in the life of Elijah he is at a turning point. In our lives of faith we are at a turning point – Will we live by our faith or fear?
1-2 For three years no rain fell in Samaria, and there was almost nothing to eat anywhere. The LORD said to Elijah, “Go and meet with King Ahab. I will soon make it rain.” So Elijah went to see Ahab.
The Lord tells Elijah to go back to Ahab and announce the drought will end soon. Have you taken note that through all of these 3+ years God has kept his Elijah safe and provided for?
3-4 At that time Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the LORD. In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.
Obadiah and Ahab are on a quest to find green grass. In order to cover the most ground Ahab goes in one direction and Ahab the other. Ahab has a great deal of trust for Obadiah.
5-6 Ahab sent for Obadiah and said, “We have to find something for our horses and mules to eat. If we don’t, we will have to kill them. Let’s look around every creek and spring in the country for some grass. You go one way, and I’ll go the other.” Then they left in separate directions.
Ahab says to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill some of the cattle.”
It is so bad that they are struggling to find any grass to feed the animals. And if they don’t find some soon, the king has made the choice that the cattle will go first.”
Note there is not one bit of acceptance of responsibility, and no repentance. So blind is the king that he has no concern for the people. The people are starving in the midst of a great famine and yet his concern is for his army.
Fear is leading Ahab to spend all of his resources seeking safety and security in the things of this world while God has been providing safety and security for Elijah and the prophets.
Do not let it escape your notice, that Obadiah – “Servant of Yahweh”, has been made insignificant in this story of faith by his own decisions as well. He could have said, “But King Ahab, what about the people? How can we work to preserve the beasts of your army while ignoring the plight of your people?” Perhaps he feared retribution for presuming to correct the vision of his leader?
People, we are in the world and must function in the world, but we are not to be of the world. When man’s (government, corporation, or personal) goals and aspirations oppose Godly living and conscience, we must stand against them, or be dragged down with them. Fear should not keep us silent.
7 As Obadiah was walking along, he met Elijah. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down, and asked, “Elijah, is it really you?”
As Obadiah was walking along, he saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and fell to the ground before him. Is it really you, my Lord Elijah?” Obadiah was stunned. You have to believe that over the last three years Elijah had become a legend among the believers. They had certainly heard of Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab and the numerous quests to find Elijah that always ended in failure. Perhaps for the believers, Elijah was a bit like Robin Hood or the Lone Ranger – always around but never caught.
8 “Yes. Go tell Ahab I’m here.”
Elijah replies, “Now go and tell your master I am here.” Elijah wastes no words. He is ready for Ahab.
9-13 Obadiah replied: “King Ahab would kill me if I told him that. And I haven’t even done anything wrong. 10 I swear to you in the name of the living LORD your God that the king has looked everywhere for you. He sent people to look in every country, and when they couldn’t find you, he made the leader of each country swear that you were not in that country. 11 Do you really want me to tell him you’re here?12 What if the LORD’s Spirit takes you away as soon as I leave? When Ahab comes to get you, he won’t find you. Then he will surely kill me.I have worshiped the LORD since I was a boy. 13 I even hid one hundred of the LORD’s prophets in caves when Jezebel was trying to kill them. I also gave them food and water.
Obadiah protests and make excuses — “Look don’t you know all that I have been doing in your absence. Why would you ask me to do this?” I read this and wonder what is going on with Obadiah. This is same man who hid 100 prophets and risked his own life to feed them. Why such a response to such a simple request?
Perhaps he had experienced the temper of Ahab and Jezebel. How often had reports of Elijah that didn’t “pan out” result in punishment or death? Maybe he was fearful to be discovered as having split loyalties. Would they ask, “How do you know Elijah?” and “Why would Elijah show himself to you – Obadiah?” Perhaps an already paranoid Ahab might put two and two together.
Maybe there is a bit of jealousy of Elijah? You came three years ago command a drought left us to suffer and now you want to fix it? Who made you the hero? I have been working hard here. This is my mission field and it seems you are about to disrupt everything. Who are you to come in from the outside and tell us what we should do. I have been here and you have not.
Maybe too it was the jealousy of an ordinary man – Obadiah – of the extraordinary prophet – Elijah. Why can’t I be like Him? Why can’t I be recognized for being an extraordinary man of God?
14-17 Do you really want me to tell Ahab you’re here? He will kill me!”
15 Elijah said, “I’m a servant of the living LORD All-Powerful, and I swear in his name that I will meet with Ahab today.” 16 Obadiah left and told Ahab where to find Elijah.Ahab went to meet Elijah, 17 and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, “There you are, the biggest troublemaker in Israel!”
Elijah pleads once more … Go and tell your master that Elijah is here! He also swears that he will present myself to Ahab that day. So Obadiah tells Ahab that Elijah has come and Ahab goes out to meet him.
Elijah comes out of the wilderness and confronts the very one who had been seeking to take his life. Elijah is emboldened by God’s provision and protection. Elijah has learned to trust God even in the face of absurdity.
Elijah has no fear . . . Elijah, who had so completely given himself over to the care of God in a barren and hostile land, walked boldly back into the presence of the enemy at God’s beckoning, because he was in the center of God’s will.
People, when we dwell in that place then our heart fully understands Paul’s question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
18-21 Elijah answered:”You’re the troublemaker—not me! You and your family have disobeyed the LORD’s commands by worshiping Baal.19 Call together everyone from Israel and have them meet me on Mount Carmel. Be sure to bring along the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 20 Ahab got everyone together, then they went to meet Elijah on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the LORD is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!” The people did not say a word.
At this point there is a reckoning as it were . . . Ahab, Jezebel, Obadiah, the nation of Israel, all the false prophets must make a decision:
“How much longer will you try to have things both ways? If the LORD is God, worship him! But if Baal is God, worship him!” The people did not say a word.
But, what will YOU say in this our day?
Are you still living with fear, doubt, unsure what to do with your faith?
Take a stand for your faith. They may call you a trouble-maker, as Ahab called Elijah. But if like Elijah, you have dwelt in the secret places of the Most High; if you have been fed at God’s table and not at Jezebel’s; if you have learned at the Master’s feet, you will go discover His strength and His wisdom.
Then you can overcome your fears and take a stand for your faith.
When you are secure in the things of God and not need the security of worldly things – When you believe that God is still in control and seated firmly on the throne of the universe – When you reach the point that you can declare like the Psalmist: “God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore I will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). Then you are ready to overcome your fears and take a stand for your faith.
When you discover like Elijah that your security is in your faith, not in your safety – for security is not about safety. It is about faith and courage. When we discover that, then we can overcome our fears and take a stand for our faith. When we learn like Elijah that even we fear tells us we are alone – God is there.
We know that God is everywhere, for Jesus has promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It is this faith that gives us the courage to take a stand. You can overcome your fears and take a stand for your faith.
Elijah steps out of the past and is still asking us today, “How much longer will you try to have things both ways?”
Do not remain silent.
You can’t have it both ways.
Pick a side – take a stand for your faith.