Obadiah and Elijah

reflections on 1 Kings 18:1-16

When we last left our hero...

Elijah had just raised a kid from the dead. Standard everyday hero fare. One really major moment in a three-year time slot accompanied by daily miracles. Chances are good that by this time, Elijah was totally soaked in an awareness that God will provide what is needed - he'd seen it, hadn't he? From the time the rain stopped, daily for three years Elijah was provided everything he needed to survive. And given a little extra dispensation for things like the widow's son needing to be well so the widow would understand God's ability and desire to provide as well. Elijah has been in a good place.

But then, "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." So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab." (1 Kings 18:1-2)

I wonder what Elijah thought about that? He was human, so I'm betting he was maybe at least the littlest bit scared. Maybe. Or maybe he recognized that fear as a lack of trust, and told it to shut up. Whatever his emotional state - Elijah had heard from the Lord, so he went and did as he'd been told to do - he went looking for Ahab (who, incidentally, has been looking for Elijah anyway!).

So Elijah goes home, and he runs into Obadiah.

Obadiah, the Word tells us, is in charge of the palace. Working for people like Ahab and Jezebel, this is probably a man of no small courage. Verse 3 tells us that Obadiah was "a devout believer in the Lord", and that he had, while Jezebel was murdering all of the Lord's prophets, saved the lives of 100 prophets by hiding them in caves and providing them food and water. This guy has some serious guts, he's trustworthy, and his heart is totally in right place before the Lord to boot.

Today Obadiah is out and about because the drought is so severe at this point that there isn't enough grass left to feed the animals. The king himself is out looking for grass (does this strike anyone else as odd? i mean, doesn't he have peasants who could do that?), and he and Obadiah have split up. And this is what happens:

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

"Yes," he replied. "Go tell your master, 'Elijah is here.'" (1 Kings 18:7-8)

Obadiah bowed down... a sign of deep respect. This is the prophet of God he's just run into. The prophet through whom God spoke to Ahab, and whom Ahab blames for the drought. The prophet who God said would pray and send the rain. This is a man who ought to be respected, and Obadiah, as a follower of the Lord, respects him. And is possibly fairly glad to see him, because it has been three years... maybe today will be the day it rains.

"Go tell Ahab I'm back."

And Obadiah freaks out.

"What have I done wrong...that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 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. But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' 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 worshiped the LORD since my youth. 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. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' He will kill me!"

So much for respect...lol.

Translation: ARE YOU FREAKING NUTS?!?!

Watch the progression:

1.) Obadiah immediately assumes that this is some sort of punishment... "what have I done wrong...?"

2.) He doesn't identify himself personally with the Lord (did he ever?): "as surely as the Lord your God lives..." Not "my God," not "our God"... "your God." Hm.

3.) He fills Elijah in on the brief history of the past three years - summary: he hates your guts and has threatened the lives of others in attempt to get to you. (an analysis of the situation as it stands)

4.) This is interesting: "I don't know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you." What does this say? Obadiah is experiencing a severe lack of trust in both God and His prophet... (he has projected a potential story line for "what comes next" - without asking if it will all go down this way or not...)

5.) Defensiveness: "I have worshiped the Lord since my youth." "I hid all those prophets." unspoken: "and this is how you reward me?!" (Obadiah has accepted his own potential storyline as fact and is experiencing the emotions that will come with those events, should they, in fact, occur...)

6.) Fear: "He will kill me!"

and (this is the best part):

7.) It is all met.

Elijah cuts straight through Obadiah's freak-out session to the heart of what's really bothering him.... this whole lack of trust thing... with one short sentence: "As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today." (v. 15)

Dude, chill. I'm here, I'm not going anywhere. This is not about you, by the way. It's not punishment. The simple facts are these: you have the king's ear, I'm back now and I need him to know it, and you can go tell him. It's just a job; get it done. That story-line you just composed in your head - it isn't real. That's not going to happen. Trust me. Trust God. There's a point to this. It's bigger than what you can see right now. You don't need to know all that yet. I don't even know all that yet. Just go do what you have been asked to do. You've been faithful; God's seen that. And He thinks you are the man for this particular task. So would you just go do it, already.... (now who's projecting.... sorry... lol) :)

"So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah." (v. 16.)

This will be interesting... :)

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