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1 Kings 18:1-14

1 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord.
4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” 6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognised him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’ ”

9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshipped the Lord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”


We are going to start our study at verse 7:

As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him.


Do you find anything remarkable here?


What is remarkable is the way God protects Elijah. What would have happened if Elijah had arrived at the Palace and, introducing himself, asked to speak to the King?


Elijah was a wanted man and would have been arrested on sight. Elijah had said ‘there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’ (1 Kings 17v1) so, as Ahab and Obadiah were both out,  he would then probably have been tortured to see if he could be made to say that word! Getting Elijah to end the drought would surely earn some reward when the king returned.


Suppose instead of meeting Obadiah, he had met Ahab. Would the outcome have been any different?

Surely Ahab’s bodyguards would have seized him and the initiative would then be all Ahab’s, and again, imprisonment and torture would surely be the King’s first thought.


Obadiah was the only senior member of Ahab’s staff who would have respected Elijah. By meeting Obadiah and sending him to get the king, Elijah was immediately cast in the role of an ambassador from a super-power. The king can now be summoned by Elijah and forced to adopt the role of an underling. And in that role, and in the presence of one who shows fearless authority, he has no option but to obey.


Well how convenient we say; what a coincidence! That Ahab should choose that moment to be away from the palace. That he should choose Obadiah to accompany him on his mission. That he should decide to send Obadiah in the direction that he did. That a God-fearer should be in that position of authority in a pagan palace in the first place. That Elijah should have been sent from Zarephath at just the right time. That he should choose to walk along that particular road.

No coincidence. While we exercise our complete free will, God is still in complete control!


What do we know about Obadiah? (v3)

According to his own testimony (v12), Obadiah had worshipped the Lord since his youth. Also we are told (v3) that Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. And (v13) while Jezebel was hunting down the prophets of the Lord and indiscriminately slaughtering them, he demonstrated his faith by rescuing a hundred of them by hiding them in caves and feeding them with food and water.


Is it surprising to find a man such as Obadiah occupying so influential a position in Ahab's court?


What’s wrong with a Christian holding a position of influence in society?

Surely it may enable him to give valuable service to the cause of God. As long as he can do it without loss of principle.


Unfortunately such people need a very strong faith, and a very strong moral personality to occupy such a position without some form of compromise. It is more likely that they would have to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to what is going on around them and keep quiet when their spirit is crying out for the honour of the Lord.


This does seem to have been Obadiah's weak point. He did not believe in taking things too far. Of course, he could not take part in some of the things that went on but there was no need for him to force his religious ideas on everyone else. He was often shocked by what he saw at court, and found it hard to keep quiet. However it was no business of his, and it would be silly to lose his job – or his head – which may well be the outcome if he were to speak out.


His heart must have been sad when he saw the sufferings of the prophets of the Lord, and he would have been half inclined to speak for them. But then one man couldn’t do much, and he could, perhaps, help them better in a quiet way by keeping where he was, although it might sometimes be a little strain on his principles.


Obadiah must often have had great difficulty reconciling his duty to God with his duty to his master Ahab. And Elijah shrewdly hinted at it, when he said in verse 8 "Go tell your master 'Elijah is here!'" The life of diplomacy and expediency is like tightrope walking - it needs considerable practice in the art of balancing.


Is it possible that sometimes we can be like Obadiah? We know what is right, and are trying to do it; but there are times when we feel it would be inappropriate to talk about our faith. Perhaps we don’t rebuke sin, fail to confess our true colours, and find excuses to satisfy our uneasy conscience.


Unfortunately, once we fail to make a stand it becomes more difficult to admit to being on God’s side. We are sorry for those who suffer for what is right, and secretly admire their courage; but it is difficult for us to stand by their side. Perhaps we might give to some impersonal relief organisation, mirroring the actions of Obadiah with the persecuted prophets. Besides, It is very difficult to give up our comfortable lifestyle in order to make a stand, while we are being so well provided for within the palace walls.


But, while we hide our actions from the world, we are happy to admit them to the very people we admire in order to claim recognition and protection: again, like Obadiah. V13: Haven't you heard, my lord, what I did?


What a contrast between Obadiah and Elijah! But before we move on we need to look at the arguments for witnessing inside or outside the enemy's camp.

 

Is there anything wrong with the advice that Christians should stay in the world - joining in its activities; going to its places of amusement; taking the lead in fashion and its direction, hoping that by our example we can influence it for good?

It is a lovely dream and we find it very attractive. But there are some problems in accepting this theory of changing the world from within:

The safest and strongest position is outside the camp. Archimedes said that he could move the world, if only he was given a fixed point outside the world from which he could apply a lever.

 

Let’s look at Genesis 13:10-18

10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.


Remember that it didn’t take long for Lot, having pitched his tents near Sodom, to actually go to live inside it. Then when Sodom was overrun and Lot was taken captive, it was Abraham who was able to rescue him. Note too that when Abraham pleaded for the Lord not to destroy Sodom, no other righteous people could be found there besides Lot’s family – his presence there seems to have had had no effect. (Genesis 13-19).


The same principle applies today.  (Use the next paragraphs sensitively)


If Christians marry unbelievers in clear violation of scripture: what is easier – to be led away from their Christian faith, or for them to lead their partner to Christ?


Or if a Christian enters into partnership with a man of the world – is it not likely that he will find his business standards starting to drift?


The church that admits the world into its practices will find that it will get worldly quicker than the world will become Christian.

But does that mean then that we simply walk away from evil? Should we not try to take some sort of stand against it?

What’s the difference between those who choose to live amongst evil – and those who are directed there by God, against their natural desire?


Obadiah's aim was simply to prevent harm being done. He shielded the prophets from the evil of Jezebel, and from the effect of the famine; and what he did was good.

There are many charities working in the world today to bring just such relief to hungry, thirsty, persecuted and threatened people. But they have to leave the solution of the underlying problem to someone else.


Who is that then? Who is the ‘They’ who aught to do something about it?


Who is prepared to come out from the shelter of ‘Charitable Status’ and take a stand against the evil that is often behind the national tragedies?


There is always a desperate shortage of men like Elijah and John the Baptist, who dare to oppose wicked men, accusing them openly of the evil they have committed and demanding that they bow before the offended majesty of God.


But you can’t just decide to have a go yourself. For this there is needed an outpouring of God's power. Power that does not seem to be available to the half-hearted, but which is given freely to those who, without reservation, are servants of God. Obadiah had no power of this kind. How could he have? On the other hand, Elijah was full of it; and it was only because of this that he succeeded in standing against the tides of sin when they were in full flood.


It was not enough to shelter the prophets; someone had to go and confront Ahab. We must be sweet like sugar; but we must also be like salt, that halts the spread of corruption. Preventative medicine is good, but if Gangrene has already become established, drastic measures are required to cut it out. We need more people who are prepared, like Elijah, to meet Ahab face to face, and to confront him with his sin. So we come to the final contrast: between the caution of expedience and the fearlessness of faith.


When Elijah suggested that Obadiah should effectively bring the king to him, the astonished man was incredulous. He knew how incensed Ahab had been, and it seemed madness for the prophet to expose himself to the king's fury. Actually, he thought either that the prophet didn’t know the way in which the king had searched for him; or that the Spirit of the Lord would carry him off before they could meet. It never occurred to him that Elijah would actually dare to meet the king if he really knew how things were. Even supposing that he was foolish enough to do it, surely God would prevent him from stepping into the lion's den.


In any case, Obadiah really wanted to have nothing to do with it. Obadiah also had another problem. He was literally afraid for his life: (V8-9) 'Go tell your master, "Elijah is here."' "What have I done wrong," asked Obadiah, "that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?'  He was afraid that all the years of service he had given to Ahab would count for nothing and Ahab would have him dispatched as a nuisance.


More than this - he was afraid that all the good works he had done for the Lord would also count for nothing and he wouldn’t be missed: (V12-14) I don't know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshipped the LORD since my youth.  Haven't you heard, my lord, what  did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD's prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' He will kill me!"


Obadiah's name literally means 'servant of Yah(weh)' (Write on board) and at enormous personal risk he had done more than most to live up to his name. Yet he was also servant of Ahab and as Jesus said 'No servant can serve two masters' (Luke 18v3).


Now he was acutely aware that there was a very real danger that half-hearted allegiance to two masters was no substitute for whole hearted allegiance to one. It was possible that neither of his masters would lose much sleep over him. Look at the last phrase of v14: 'Ahab will kill me'. This also implies 'and God won't save me'.

 

How could Elijah demonstrate an attitude so different to that of Obadiah? Elijah too would say he was a servant of God. Elijah's name means 'Yah(weh) is my God' (Write on board). What is the difference?

A servant treats his master with respect. We should treat God with reverence and awe.

Masters can tell us what to do, God is the one supreme being in total control.


What was the sin of Jeroboam and the specific command which he had disobeyed? Look at Deuteronomy 5v6,7: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.' This was also Ahab's sin and to a lesser degree it was Obadiah's sin.

Is it our sin too?


Now look at Deuteronomy 6v5: ' Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.'  This, confirmed Jesus, is the first and greatest of all commandments.

Have we broken that one as well?

 

Perhaps we need to return to the Lord and give him whole-hearted allegiance and place our faith and trust in him and him alone.


Elijah believed that the Lord was his God, and there was nothing and no-one that could possibly stand in the way of God’s purposes.





1 Kings Elijah 91 Kings Elijah 7








ELIJAH 8  1 Kings 18:1-14  
Servant of Yahweh : Yahweh is my God

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