1 Kings 18:1-17
Not the prophet, but the palace administrator of king Ahab. A man of power and influence, in charge of his master’s house. A man involved in the affairs of the world and in the well being of a kingdom. A man who knew how to follow orders and lead people too, who had the trust of the king.
Moreover, Obadiah was also a man who believed in God and feared Him. A man who had proved his faithfulness to the Lord in the past, who had taken risks in order to do what’s right. He saved and protected 100 prophets from the devilish rampage queen Jezebel was on to destroy them all. Then he secretly took care of them for months, feeding them with his own resources. He knew that only the grace of God kept him from being discovered and annihilated along with the spared servants of God.
What a great story! What an example! Why then is the above title urging us NOT to be like him?
Because there was something in Obadiah’s heart still not surrendered to God. The fears, doubts and issues he harbored got the better of him when a new challenge arose (it always happens).
In the course of doing his job, God gave him another risky mission. But that step of faith, Obadiah was not willing to take. Hesitant, frightened, he stated all the “good” reasons why he did not want to do it. He answered Elijah’s simple command with a long speech, a heart spill of fear and excuses. All the while though, he kept repeating God’s word to him. So, his problem wasn’t hearing or understanding; it was obeying!
Obeying meant trusting that what God said would happen for real; that he would not be deceived, disappointed or left hanging after sharing the message entrusted to him.
God had chosen him to be His vessel, His instrument, but he didn’t believe he would succeed. Why? Because he didn’t believe God would be faithful: what if God took Elijah away as it had already happened several times? He knew history but failed to recognize the new work God was about to do. He relied on past stories and experiences to imagine the outcome of the present situation; but instead of helping him, this knowledge crippled and blinded him. A lesson for us all.
He also magnified the power of evil. He knew his master was cruel and dangerous, as was his wife. He had seen firsthand what horrible things they could do. He had seen other nations comply to the wishes of wicked Ahab and how far the king was willing to go against his enemies. He knew death would sanction his report on Elijah if the prophet didn’t show up.
He had to trust God and His prophet. He had to risk his life and his family’s fate on one statement from God heard at a random moment. It could have been easier if God had spoken during a Spirit-filled, faith-boosting retreat, where even the feeblest saint believes all things are possible. But no! He did it during a tough day at work, in the middle of the routine. He did it as Obadiah was crossing desert places, seeing all evidence of the famine that had dried up the land and caused so many losses and heartaches to people, himself included. And now the public enemy responsible for all this mess wants to be trusted?
It reminds me of the New Testament story of Ananias in Acts 9. When ordered by God to go meet the infamous Saul of Tarsus, the disciple is skeptic and worried:
“Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name”
~ Acts 9:13-14
Afterward though, he lets God reassure him, give him a new vision and heart and he obeys swiftly, his life in peril if Saul isn’t really a changed man. He walked by faith and not by sight, embracing God’s view to the point of calling Saul “BROTHER”! The end of the account is wonderful:
“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized”
Aren’t we glad Ananias stepped out and contributed to usher in the extraordinary missionary life of Paul? Will someone in our time and beyond be grateful as well for our obedience to God?
We will wrap up Obadiah’s story in the next post. Let’s stop here for the moment with two thoughts: first, faith is lived only in the present; our past successes, our old acts of faithfulness are no guarantee for today; we must choose DAILY and ANEW to trust God and to obey Him. Second, hesitation, fear and doubt attack us all; but amid these mind struggles, we adopt this mindset, which was Christ’s: whatever God says, I’ll trust, say and do, and I’ll do it wholeheartedly, focused on the Lord’s glory.