There are a number of ‘Obadiahs’ in the Bible, including the one whose prophecies fit between Amos & Jonah in the Old Testament. The Obadiah we are considering came much earlier than that – back in the bad old days when Ahab and Jezebel held power, waging war against God’s faithful; and Elijah, the mighty prophet, came and went, prophesying judgement on them for it.
This story starts as 3 years of drought has led to utter desperation on King Ahab’s part and Jezebel’s reign of terror against has left those faithful to the LORD in desperation too. Elijah has been missing for all that time, sheltered in faraway places but now he’s back...
Read 1 Kings 18. 1-16
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Application to your circumstances
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After a long explanation to Elijah about why he doesn’t want to obey him, Obadiah finally does as he’s asked.
I have a lot of sympathy for Obadiah. A secret follower of God, described as someone who ‘revered the Lord greatly’ (V3) in a time when that could cost you your life. Obadiah has used his position of authority to save 100 prophets,
However, there was more - Obadiah met the man Ahab had been searching for, for 3 years – the ‘troubler of Israel’, God’s prophet Elijah. It’s interesting to note that Obadiah recognised Elijah immediately, and fell on his face. (V7) Was it relief that he was back? Was it hope – that God was about to sort the mess out? Was it guilt – that he was working for Ahab and alive when so many other believers had been executed? The phrase ‘Is it really you my lord Elijah?’ smacks of a mixture of emotions to me. Hope that the drought might be over; relief that God has sent the cavalry; hope that a friendly face might be here to back him up.
He’s been as brave as he can, taken as many risks as he dare – now he’s terrified that Ahab will shoot the messenger (so to speak). Obadiah is a mixture of courage and cowardice. Prepared to take risks in secret – but scared for his own neck when push comes to shove.
Isn’t that like most of us? Brave sometimes but scared to speak about God in certain places, anxious to take a stand in case people think badly of us or it has consequences?
What if Elijah went AWOL again and left Obadiah to face Ahab’s fury alone?
How often are we like that with God? When he asks us to do something we are scared of – is our reluctance that we are unsure whether he will come good on his part of the deal, or will he drop us and leave us in the lurch?
It’s a fair enough question from a human perspective, people often DO leave us in the lurch – but God NEVER does. The Bible is full of stories of God honouring those who obey him and take risks. Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Peter, Paul... there isn’t a single story in the entire Bible where God is not faithful – and if you stop and think about it, he has been faithful to you – hasn’t he? Even in dark times he has never left, even when we don’t understand at the time so often we can look back and see him keeping the promise that,
In all things God works for the good of those who love him
The Cross is the ultimate proof that God can be trusted – but if he was prepared to die for us, what are we prepared to do for him?
This story isn’t really about Obadiah, it’s about the consequences of his actions – he was a little cog in a much bigger plan. But God used him, and despite his protestations Obadiah did come good, he did obey, he took a deep breath and did what was asked of him – never realising what that would mean.
As Jesus asked – is it better to say you’ll obey and not do it, or to refuse and yet later do what you were asked? I’m encouraged that even if I throw all my toys out of the cot from time to time, tell God his demands on my life are too big, that it’s the deep breath we take, the quick “ahhh help God!” prayer that goes up and then the act of obedience that blesses God and other people. We never know what it might mean – that act of courage, of who it might bless, of how God might use it.
Let’s follow Obadiah’s example, take a deep breath and be brave – even if we’re afraid; God IS bigger!
© Ruth Perrin 2010. Last revised on 11 February 2010
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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