Elijah and Obadiah
Who is Your Master?
- Elijah appears in times of transition, turning people to righteousness, preparing the way - time of crisis and impending judgment.
-End times are the times of Elijah.
- We looked at the man of God who spoke God’s word, heard God’s word, lived God’s word - that is what we must be doing in these end time. We looked at the one to who the LORD gives life when all around is judgment and death - the one living by faith, not the religious. How are we to survive the trouble of the end times, not by religion but by living by faith. The Gospel to the heathen Gentile.
- Now look at the servant of God in the end times. 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). Before the contest on Mount Carmel we encounter a man called Obadiah - means “servant of יהוה “ 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.
Read: 1 Kings 18:1-19 [OHP] - Servant does what he is told
1 Kings 18:1 - Elijah remained with the widow many days - what did he do during that time? We aren’t told - ? he prayed to withhold the rain (cf. James 5:17 - 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 but we are to do nothing until יהוה speaks. Elijah always acted in response to יהוה’s word. When יהוה spoke it was always a command, never a suggestion: "Go!" (cf. 1 Kings 17:2,3, 8,9). Everytime 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. 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 - despite there being no repentance 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 (cf. James 5:17,18). 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 - יהוה said, "Go show yourself to Ahab." So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab - just as יהוה said, so he did. Oh that we were the same. 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.
1 Kings 18:3 The true servant fears the Lord- 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 (servant of the Lord). Obadiah feared יהוה greatly - Oh that we were the same. יהוה has His people strategically placed - His players are in the right place at the right time, ready for the role 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.
1 Kings 18:4 Places God’s interests above his 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 - in true dualistic mentality she sought to defeat the opposition to Baal so that he would again have supremacy (helping her god out! yet this same concept of spiritual warfare pervades in evangelical churches) and then he could bring rain again. 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. 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) - 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 (לכלכלה) for Elijah so too He had commanded Obadiah (His servant) to provide (לכלכלה) 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 יהוהprompted him into righteous deeds. It should do the same for us.
1 Kings 18:5 The true servant can 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 finde water, that had long since dried up - but where water once 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.
1 Kings 18:6 God’s servant is above reproach - 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.
1 Kings 18:7 The true servant gives undivided service [OHP] - 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 lord". 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 created 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).1 Kings 18:8 - In response to Obadiah’s incredulous query, Elijah confirms his identity and tells Obadiah to announce his arrival to Ahab. Is there a hint of rebuke? - Obadiah called Elijah "his lord", Elijah tells him to tell "his lord" i.e. Ahab, that he is here - is he implying that he is not Obadiah’s master but that Ahab is? He has not served him but Ahab, has compromised by giving himself in service to an idolater. Perhaps Obadiah, well versed in the subtleties of diplomatic language, picked up this message, for he is very keen to defend his case (1 Kings 18:13) and proclaim his loyalty to יהוה . Can you be Obadiah and Obadahab? [OHP]- 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 - For a יהוה fearer to survive in the service of idolatrous Ahab and Jezebel who were militantly opposed to יהוה, one 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 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 cf. John 16:8). 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 (cf. 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, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord ; Luke 3:3-14 he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. ‘Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’ ” 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, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 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?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”).
1 Kings 18:11 - Now Elijah was telling Obadiah to say that Elijah was here. To say thus 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 - Obadiah feared יהוה but he also feared for his 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 18:10 - Ahab is desperate to find the man of God - he alone has the answers in the time of crisis. 1 Kings 18:13 - Obadiah goes on to proclaim his own righteousness and faithfulness - "I deserve a better fate" (cf. Prov 20:6). 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. Obadiah defensive because he’s serving two masters - divided loyalty. Many of us are working in the world, may be not conflict of interest now, but loyalty could be tested. We must have undivided loyalty. Are we seeking to preserve our own life, position as well as serve God?
1 Kings 18:14 Loves not his life unto death - 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 says. Do I? Obedience unto death!
1 Kings 18:15 - Elijah swears by יהוה Himself, the Living God, the God of Armies, whom he stands before in His heavenly council (cf. 1 Kings 17:1) 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 - 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 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 that - 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) and this is where Elijah points to the origin of the trouble being.1 Kings 18:18 - Elijah doesn’t defer or come subtly with diplomatic language. He puts the blame squrely 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 - their going after the Baals - 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 - Jezebel was the source of this pagan, idolatrous religion, this fertility cult. Nine 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.”). 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 too, we 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. Nation set for a show down.
There was the man of God - devoted wholly to Him, then there were the majority who’d forsaken God - then there are the Obadiahs, the servants of God but their loyalty is divided and they find themselves serving the world - Elijah alone was left on mount Carmel (cf. 1 Kings 18:21). In the end where was Obadiah or the 100 prophets he hid? Judgment is coming, we are near the end, we need to know where our loyalty is. Who is truly our master?