Elijah and Elisha 4.
Can you turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 18. We have been looking at the story of Elijah [P]. Elijah appears in times of transition, turning people to righteousness, preparing the way for the new dispensation. He comes at a time of crisis and impending judgment. He came at a significant turning point in the life of the nation of Israel. In the person of John the Baptist, he was there at the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant; and he will again come heralding the impending reign of Jesus at the Second coming. A big part of the motivation in doing this series is that Elijah comes in the in End times and I believe we are approaching those times. We need to be prepared for Elijah, know about him; so that we recognize him when he comes. End times are the times of Elijah. We looked at the man of God [P] who spoke God’s word, heard God’s word, lived God’s word – that is what we must be doing in these end time. Last time we looked at the widow: [P] the one to whom יהוה gives life when all around is judgment and death; the one living by faith, not religion. How are we to survive the trouble of the end times? Not by religion but by living by faith. The Gospel came to us heathen Gentiles. Now, today, we are going to look at the servant of God in the end times [P]. God has called us all to be servants and we are in the end times. How is the servant of God to act in the time of crises? What is required of him? [1 Corinthians 4:1-2 You should think of us as Christ’s servants, who have been put in charge of God’s secret truths. The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master] [GNB]. Before the well known contest on Mount Carmel we encounter, a story not so often told, you will see that I have n kiddies’ pictures this week. It is the story of a man called Obadiah – his name means “servant of יהוה” [P] and so he was; but like us there was the pull to serve others – and the pressure will come on us as the end comes nearer. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the servant of God in the end times. [P] [1 Kings 18:1-19 Now it happened after many days that the word of יהוה came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. (always, he simply does what יהוה tells him) Now the famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (that is the king’s household, he was chief servant of wicked king Ahab) (Now Obadiah feared יהוה greatly; for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of יהוה, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said 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.” So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself. Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is this you, Elijah my master?” He said to him, “It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’ ” He said, “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death? “As יהוה your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here.” ’ “It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of יהוה will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared יהוה from my youth. “Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of יהוה, that I hid a hundred prophets of יהוה by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here” ’; he will then kill me.” Elijah said, “As יהוה of armies lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of יהוה and you have followed the Baals. “Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”] Servant does what he is told [P] [1 Kings 18:1 Now it happened after many days that the word of יהוה came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”] This characteristic of a servant is seen in Elijah. Elijah remained with the widow many days – what did he do during that time? We aren’t told – maybe he prayed to withhold the rain (cf. James 5:17 says he prayed earnestly that it would rain). Whatever, Elijah did not act until the word of יהוה came. He did nothing unless יהוה told him to. We want to be so busy doing יהוה’s business for Him, sometimes the hardest thing is to do nothing; it is dry, people around are perishing and in desperate need we should be doing something! But we are to do nothing until יהוה speaks. Elijah always acted in response to יהוה’s word. When יהוה speaks it is always a command, never a suggestion: "Go!" (look at 17:2,3, 8,9). Every time the word of יהוה came to Elijah with instruction for him the word was go. Elijah had to wait and be patient a long time but when יהוה said "Go!"; he went. He obeyed. He did what he was told. יהוה told Elijah to appear before Ahab; the drought had gone on long enough, Ahab was at last desperate enough to take notice. יהוה’s promise is that He would send rain on the land. Elijah went to Ahab with the direction to announce the end of the drought – יהוה would make it rain. There is no mention of the intervening contest on Mount Carmel. יהוה promised to send rain, not fire – He had decided to have mercy on the land, it had suffered enough. Interestingly in the N.T. Elijah is noted for his association with withholding rain and making it rain, not the more dramatic falling of fire which stands out in human memories. God was going to send rain – yet there is no mention of repentance or turning to God on the part of Israel – this was pure undeserved mercy. [1 Kings 18:2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.] – יהוה said, "Go show yourself to Ahab." So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Precisely what יהוה said, that’s what he did. Oh that we were the same! We no longer have servants – but we know the deal: if you ask a servant to prepare a meal, they do not say: “I’ll think about it”, “I don’t want to”, “I don’t feel led”! A servant does what they are told. If they don’t serve, obey, they are not a servant; and they are given the boot. This characteristic of a servant is seen in Elijah as opposed to Obadiah but he was a servant of God also. By now the famine was really biting in Samaria, its effects were sorely felt, the situation was getting desperate and Ahab was getting worried. The true servant fears יהוה [P] [1 Kings 18:3 Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared יהוה greatly)] So Elijah was on his way to see the king, meanwhile, back in the palace, Ahab called the overseer of his household, his most trusted servant Obadiah. Obadiah feared יהוה greatly – Oh that we were the same. If you fear יהוה, you will obey Him. He is great, mighty! He is Lord, Master, He has the authority to judge. A right concept of His supremacy and greatness causes a response of fear. Many are the blessings in Scripture that result from the fear of יהוה. Obadiah was over the royal household – יהוה has His people strategically placed – His players are in the right place at the right time, ready for the role that יהוה has for them to play in His unfolding drama of human history through which He is revealing Himself. None of His servants are in the position they are by accident or for no purpose. It may not be easy, you may seem alone, "futilely" holding your position against universal opposition, nothing that you can do about the overwhelming tide of evil, but maintain your faithful service to יהוה there and you will be ready for the role He has for you to play at the critical moment of His workings. It cannot have been easy to remain God fearing in the idolatrous environment of the royal house. Even when evil pervades, יהוה has His faithful ones in key positions as salt and light. He never leaves Himself without a witness. Places God’s interests above his own [P] [1 Kings 18:4 for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of יהוה, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.] If you fear יהוה you place His interest before your own. Obadiah’s fear of יהוה was shown in action. He feared יהוה more than Ahab. He put his position, not to say his life, on the line in order to preserve the lives of those who were men of יהוה. The opposition to יהוה grew intense indeed. Jezebel decided to exterminate the prophets of יהוה! The drought did not make her repentant or acknowledge the superiority of יהוה; rather she sought to defeat the opposition to Baal so that he would again have supremacy and then he could bring rain again. She was helping her god out! If your god needs your help he is not much of a god! Yet this same dualistic concept of spiritual warfare pervades in evangelical churches. She pictured the gods at war, in competition to each other and יהוה was giving Baal a beating so it was necessary to wipe out His supporters. There is no competition! יהוה is omnipotent! But Obadiah did not compromise because of his high position; he put himself at risk in order to save these prophets (cf. 1 Kings 18:12-14). He opposed the official policy of his employer. It was known that Obadiah had done this – if you want to get on you don’t do this (Paul Clements). Just as יהוה had looked after Elijah, so He looked after His other prophets; just as He commanded the ravens and widow to provide (כול) for Elijah so too He had commanded Obadiah (His servant) to provide (כול) for these 100 prophets (cf. 1 Kings 17:4, 9). יהוה had His man in the right place to do the task – Obadiah being over the royal household had the most secure access to food of anyone in the land and from the royal household provided for יהוה’s own. How ironic when the queen was seeking to destroy them, her food was actually the source of their provision! Obadiah would receive a reward for his courageous action (Matt 10:40-42). For Obadiah fearing and serving יהוה took precedence over all other considerations of self interest – oh that we were the same. His fear of יהוה prompted him into righteous deeds. It should do the same for us. The true servant can be trusted [P] [1 Kings 18:5 Then Ahab said 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.”] Just the king and Obadiah went. Even although Ahab knew that Obadiah feared יהוה, he still entrusted him with the most vital of tasks – he knew that Obadiah could be trusted. Things had got to a desperate state. Even the animals of the king were in danger of starvation. With no war horses or pack mules for provisions the army would be ham-strung. The country was becoming very vulnerable. The cattle that provided food were in danger of being cut off. This task of finding fodder for these animals was no longer an insignificant task assigned to lowly servants, it was the most vital and important task; the king himself and his highest, most trusted servant carried out the search for any remaining grass. They searched all known springs, valleys and rivers; not that they expected to find water, that had long since dried up; but where there once was water abounded there may be that remnant of moisture, enough to sustain grass growth. This job could not be trusted to anyone else because they were likely to keep their find secret and hog what they found to themselves – in times of shortage it becomes dog eat dog. This was not a task given to a lowly slave but to someone who could be trusted. Can you be trusted, entrusted with a task by God? There is a verse in Proverbs: [Proverbs 20:6 Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?] God’s servant is above reproach [P] [1 Kings 18:6 So they divided the land between them to survey it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.] So just the two of them went throughout the whole land. They divided it in two and each searched half by himself. Interesting when things got desperate the only man Ahab knew he could trust was a servant of יהוה. He could search the land unsupervised and not exploit the information of where food was to be found. When things were really desperate the only man Ahab knew he could trust not to exploit a find for his own self interest was a man who feared יהוה. Despite his own rejection of יהוה he knew that a man who feared יהוה was above reproach. What reputation do you have at work? Do you cut corners, turn up late? Are you known as one who pulls your weight, whose work is of a high standard? Paul said: [Acts 24:16 “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.] Peter said: [1 Peter 3:16 keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ will be put to shame.] There they are trying to malign you but your behaviour is so beyond reproach that they are the ones that end up ashamed. The servant of יהוה is above reproach. The true servant gives undivided service [P] This principle comes out in the dialogue of the next few verses. [1 Kings 18:7 Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is this you, Elijah my master?”] Obadiah "just happened" to meet up with Elijah – God is in total control of circumstances, directing the whole drama. Obadiah did not find a patch of grass, a temporary solution to stave off the inevitable for a day or two; but he found what no one else had been able to find (cf. 1 Kings 18:10): the man who held the key to the permanent solution to the problem of drought, the man who was in touch with the Water Supplier. Note the great respect and reverence with which Obadiah held Elijah: he fell on his face and called him "my master" – but was he?! Obadiah couldn’t believe his eyes – was this really Elijah? Ahab had ransacked not only Israel but surrounding nations trying to find him – rumours abounded and legends formed but no one had been able to find him because יהוה had concealed His servant until it was the right time for him to be revealed (cf. 1 Kings 18:10-12; Isaiah 49:2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; and He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, “You are My Servant). The servant of God often kept in the background until the appropriate time. [1 Kings 18:8 He said to him, “It is I. Go, say to your master, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’ ”] Responding to Obadiah’s query, Elijah confirms his identity and tells Obadiah to announce his arrival to Ahab. Is there a hint of rebuke? Obadiah called Elijah "his master", Elijah tells him to tell "his master" i.e. Ahab, that he is here – he is implying that he is not Obadiah’s master but that Ahab is? WHO ARE YOU SERVING?! Obadiah served יהוה by providing for his prophets but he was also Ahab’s servant – he has compromised by giving himself in service to an idolater. Jesus said [Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”] Obadiah, was well versed in the subtleties of diplomatic language, seems to have picked up this message, for he is very keen to defend his case and proclaim his loyalty to יהוה ) (cf. 1 Kings 18:13). Can you be Obadiah and Obadahab? Look closely at the text you will see this subtle dialogue underneath. Like יהוה, Elijah’s commands are simple and direct, short and to the point: "Go!" "Say to Ahab, "Behold Elijah."." [1 Kings 18:9 He said, “What sin have I committed, that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab to put me to death?] Obadiah maintains that Elijah is indeed his master, he is “your servant”. But he was in service to Ahab and Jezebel. They were militantly opposed to יהוה; if you feared יהוה and were in their service you would have to be very careful and wary. Obadiah was obviously well used to reading the implications of actions, and knowing the effect certain things would have on the king. His life, in his position, was a precarious one and he thought carefully before he spoke or acted. He could see that the consequence of announcing Elijah to Ahab would be death for him if Elijah failed to turn up. Ahab was desperate to meet with the cause of this trouble and to promise him and then fail to deliver would be to incur a wrath that showed no mercy. Obadiah subtly replies to Elijah’s subtle rebuke, calling himself "your servant" – implying that he was really Elijah’s servant, not Ahab’s. Ahab was the enemy into whose hand Elijah was now delivering him. Like the widow woman (cf. 1 Kings 17:18), Obadiah immediately tied the prospect of death with punishment of his personal sin. Interesting how, without saying a word about sin, Elijah’s presence immediately convicted people of sin – this is the Holy Spirit at work: [John 16:8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;] Although he said nothing about it, people were convinced that he had come to execute judgment. This is the public’s concept of the one preparing the way of the LORD. Suddenly righteousness has become an issue, when previously it was a non-issue. That’s how it was with John the Baptist: [Luke 1:15-17 he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; Luke 3:3-14 he came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; ….. So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, …. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?”). [1 Kings 18:10 “As יהוה your God lives, (not “my God”)there is no nation or kingdom where my master (he admits Ahab is his master after all) has not sent to search for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you.] Ahab is desperate to find the man of God – he alone has the answers in the time of crisis. [1 Kings 18:11 “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here.” ’] Now Elijah was telling Obadiah to say that Elijah was here. To say this and then for him not to appear meant certain death when Ahab was so anxious to meet him. And Obadiah strongly suspected that Elijah would not appear before the king because the way he had remained hidden despite such extensive searches smacked of the supernatural – God was hiding him, preventing such a meeting. [1 Kings 18:12 “It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of יהוה will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared יהוה from my youth.] Obadiah feared יהוה but he also feared for his own life. He begins self-justifying, perhaps with a little self pity - "I have served יהוה faithfully, why do I deserve death?" If he truly feared יהוה and served Him, he would do, without question, what He said through His prophet. [1 Kings 18:13 “Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of יהוה, that I hid a hundred prophets of יהוה by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? ] Obadiah goes on to proclaim his own righteousness and faithfulness - "I deserve a better fate" [Proverbs 20:6 Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?] He had indeed done this courageous and good thing, but real loyalty would have implicitly obeyed Elijah’s command as being from יהוה. Indeed Obadiah did fear יהוה but he still feared for his own life as well – much like us! We serve יהוה, but do we also serve another? Is our loyalty undivided? Obadiah is defensive because he’s serving two masters – he has divided loyalty. Many of us are working in the world, there may be not conflict of interest now, but our loyalty could be tested. We must have undivided loyalty. Are we seeking to preserve our own life, position as well as serve God? Loves not his life unto death [P] [1 Kings 18:14 “And now you are saying, ‘Go, say to your master, “Behold, Elijah is here” ’; he will then kill me.”] Obadiah was scared. Afraid of death. This command stuck in his mind, he just couldn’t bring himself to carry it out (three times he says Ahab will kill him 1 Kings 18:9, 12, 14). It was an incredible demand (cf. 1 Kings 18:8, 11, 14) he couldn’t get over it. Why? Because he placed a higher value on his own skin than on obeying what יהוה said. Do I? Obedience unto death! [Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.] Obadiah’s loyalty was divided because he placed too higher value on his own skin. The true servant of יהוה loves not his life unto death. [1 Kings 18:15 Elijah said, “As יהוה of armies lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”] Elijah swears by יהוה Himself, the Living God, the God of Armies, whom he stands before in His heavenly council that he would appear before Ahab. That was enough for Obadiah (1 Kings 18:16) he had heard Elijah say such before (cf. 1 Kings 17:1) and what he said happened: it hadn’t rained for three and a half years – he was certain that Elijah would appear before Ahab this very day! [1 Kings 18:16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.] Obadiah was an obedient servant, telling the message he had been given to relay. Ahab’s anxiety over the state of his kingdom is seen in his anxiousness to meet Elijah – he didn’t wait for Elijah to meet him as he said he would, he himself went to meet Elijah. [1 Kings 18:17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?”] When Ahab sees Elijah, he accuses him of being the one who brought trouble on Israel. The prophet always gets accused of being the cause of the trouble. The accusation was totally misplaced – Ahab had failed to perceive the cause of the trouble, despite the severity and endurance of the drought he had not thought through its implications. In the events that surround us we should be asking what is the LORD saying through this? As if Elijah could himself stop the rain! No, Ahab had to look further than Elijah – if he was going to blame anyone he ought to blame יהוה. And if יהוה did it, the next question is: "Why?" Why is He displeased and withholding rain? That points the cause back to Ahab and the nation of Israel. יהוה withheld the rain because of their sin, their unfaithfulness, their idolatry. Ahab himself was the cause of the trouble (we always seek to blame someone else – but when we point the finger, three are pointing back at us!) and this is where Elijah points to the origin of the trouble being. [1 Kings 18:18 He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you! and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of יהוה and you have followed the Baals.] Elijah doesn’t defer or come subtly with diplomatic language. He puts the blame squarely where it belongs, in no uncertain terms. He was not the cause of the trouble but "You are! and your father’s house" (because his father’s house had arranged the marriage with Jezebel and made the choice to follow Baalism – Ahab was of the Dynasty of Omri, his father). The cause of the calamity was: their forsaking the commandment of יהוה (who strictly prohibited idolatry, serving gods other than Himself, and joining with and practising the customs of surrounding nations). Their calamity was directly due to their idolatry, to their going after the Baals, their worshipping and relying on the same power and values of the nations that surrounded them. Just as we have followed the values of the world, esteem the things they esteem, pursue the possessions and pleasures they pursue, use the methods and power and management and authority structures they employ. THIS SHOULD NOT BE SO! Why does the rain still fall?! The rain of the Holy Spirit has long since dried up and people are perishing – only those that are planted by the river of God’s Word maintain life (Psalm 1:2,3; Jer 17:7,8). [1 Kings 18:19 “Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”] Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, was the source of this pagan, idolatrous religion, this fertility cult. Eight hundred and fifty state subsidized prophets were maintained; this, presumably, apart from priests, priestesses and temple attendants and cult prostitutes. This religion had made inroads and was officially sanctioned, supported and promulgated. Elijah calls for the whole nation to gather at Mount Carmel with him. There was going to be a show down! יהוה’s intention for Elijah was to return rain to the land (1 Kings 18:1) but Elijah, after three and a half years of drought and terrible hardship, still did not find the people broken, did not find repentant hearts. So instead of sending rain from heaven, יהוה would send fire! If we are not repentant, instead of receiving mercy and grace we will receive judgment (that is what fire speaks of - cf. Matthew 3:10-12 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”). That is speaking of destruction! Still Ahab and the nation did not acknowledge יהוה despite all they had gone through. Despite the lean times the church is going through, still we too do not lay it to heart! Still we are not repentant; still we do not acknowledge יהוה but continue to follow the idols of worldly ways, things, methods, and values. Still we are man centred (humanistic) rather than God centred. If we continue this way, fire will fall, not the rain we long for. The nation was set for a show down. On one side there was Elijah, the man of God, devoted wholly to יהוה; then on the other there were the majority who’d forsaken God, abandoned Him for Baal. But then there are the Obadiahs, the servants of God but their loyalty is divided and they find themselves serving the world. The interesting this is that Elijah alone was left on mount Carmel: [1 Kings 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, (Elijah alone on one side, all the people on the other) “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If יהוה is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.] In the end, at crunch time, where was Obadiah or the 100 prophets he hid? Nowhere to be seen! Judgment is coming, we are near the end; we need to know where our loyalty is. Who is truly our master?