December 14, 2020
1 Kings 18:1-1518 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, his palace administrator. (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 recognized 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 worshiped 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!” 15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.” 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.
DevotionThis passage begins “After a long time…” The story of people of faith is built around hard times. Difficulties are part of life. In 1st Kings 18 the hard times are the result of no rain for many years. Along with that, the Hebrew king, Ahab, takes council from his wife, Jezebel, who worships the god Bail and seeks to persecute the servants of the one true God.
Obadiah, one of the king’s advisors, remains faithful to the Jewish God. He struggles but keeps the faith until Elijah came back to speak to Ahab.
At this moment Obadiah has a crisis of faith. The Prophet Elijah is asking him to do something that on the surface appears to be contrary to common sense and faithful living. I can relate to Obadiah. I too, question risky actions. In 2020, the year of COVID crisis, political and spiritual leaders contradict each other and leave us searching for the truth.
Elijah, too, has to face a difficult decision. Elijah had spent three years listening for the Lord’s directions. After that long time of waiting, God said go to King Ahab even if it is dangerous. Elijah, who is not perfect, is faithful and goes in spite of the risk.
Obadiah had waited on the Lord God to direct him but had made up his mind on what God wanted him to do. Obadiah chose to take a defensive stance when Elijah came to him. He had poured his life into protecting the faithful, the one hundred prophets of God he hidden in the caves. This was a worthy mission. The difference is that the scripture does not tell us that God instructed him to carry out this mission.
Elijah asked Obadiah to go and initiate a meeting with Ahab as God instructed. Obadiah responded, “Are you crazy? That is a death sentence for me! My mission is protecting the faithful, not confronting the problem.”
The temptation of this season in our faith journey is to barricade ourselves and just take care of “our” people and deal with all the rest of the world when the crises are all over. The truth of the matter is that the most crucial turning points of the Faith in Christian history have taken place in the middle of major crises. The Nicene and Apostles creeds were forged in the middle of spiritual and social conflict. They focused on the essentials of faith and the practice of that faith in a topsy-turvy world. The issue of the day for Elijah was monotheism, “You shall have no other Gods before me.” Exodus 20:4.
We must not forget that, in the midst of this year of quarantine, people outside of our circles need the grace and hope of a relationship with Jesus Christ. When Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and share the Good News, he said go even when times are hard. In fact, that is when non-believers need this truth the most. Be smart and safe but GO. Be creative in your mission. Ask God, “What can I do today to show the love of Christ?” Don’t hide in fear but step out in faith. GO!