“And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. 15 And Elijah said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah” (1 Kings 18:1-16).
It had been a long time since the Lord first told Elijah to go and dwell by the brook Cherith and Elijah had been obedient to the heavenly voice. God had many things He wanted to teach His servants such as patience and dependency. Spiritual patience is a mark of an approved servant (2 Cor. 6:4, 12; James 1:3). By the brook of Cherith, Elijah learned patience. When the brook dried up, God told Elijah to go to Zarephath in Zidon. In Zarephath, Elijah taught what he had learned about depending upon God to a Gentile woman and her son.
The time spent in splendid isolation were not wasted years. Elijah became known as a man of God (1 Kings 17:24). A. W. Tozer reminds us that no moment is wasted when it is spent in conscious meditation and study of the Lord and the things of the Lord, for when God speaks the heart will recognize its Sovereign. Three times Elijah heard the Word of the Lord and three times he obeyed it. Elijah had been tested by God, tempted by man, and emerged triumphant, a trophy of redeeming, sanctifying grace.
His days of isolation from public ministry came to an end as he was commanded to return to King Ahab and tell him that God would send rain upon the Earth.
Like the previous commandments, this instruction from the Lord was not easy to obey. It was filled with personal, professional, and physical danger. Still, it was what God wanted. Elijah’s responsibility was to obey the heavenly commandment. So he arose and went out to find Ahab.
In the providence of the Lord, the contact point between Ahab and Elijah was to be a man named Obadiah. Several things are mentioned about him.
First, Obadiah held a responsible position in the kingdom. He was the governor of the place, which meant that he was a loyal and trusted servant of the king.
Second, he was a believer. He feared the Lord greatly (18:3). Obadiah did not merely make a profession of faith. He practiced his belief in the integrity of his heart. His fear of God, his holy respect for the Lord and the things of the Lord, translated into deeds of goodness and grace illustrated in the hiding place he provided for persecuted prophets. When the zealous Jezebel began to murder the prophets of the Lord, it was Obadiah who took one hundred men and hid them in caves. All he could provide for nourishment was bread and water, but it was enough to keep the men alive until the crisis passed.
Third, Obadiah was loyal to the king. Despite his personal religious convictions, Obadiah was a faithful servant without compromising the integrity of his heart. God has often given His people favor in the sight of ungodly masters illustrated elsewhere in the life of Joseph, Daniel, and those who served in Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22). The Elector of Saxony protected Martin Luther, and John Wycliffe found refuge with John Gaunt.
The faithfulness of Obadiah to the king is reflected in his obedience to the king’s commandment to help look for food for the livestock. That such a search had to be conducted in a source of shame upon the nation but a well-deserved judgment. The people of God in search of grass were not what the covenant promise had stipulated. Palestine was meant to be a land of milk and honey. It was to be a land of glorious prosperity.
But something happened. The covenant had been broken, not by God but by men. Ahab had married outside the faith.
The king had allowed apostasy to take over to the point that the Lord’s honor had been discredited,
the truth had been rejected, the land had been defiled with false prophets and priests. The altars of God had been replaced with the altars of Baal until people began to ask each other,
“What has happened to the glory of Israel?”
“What have we done with God’s grace?”
God never intended for His people to have to search for His provisions. God loved Israel, and wanted to give them so much. His heart was grieved over sin, but He had to use some means to bring His people back to Himself. Yet, even after a three-year drought, the heart of man was still hard, reflected in the actions of Ahab.
It is clear that even after three years of a scorched Earth policy, Ahab was not thinking of God (18:5). The king had no thoughts of sins, no thoughts of repentance, and no thoughts of calling upon God.
He wanted relief from the results of sin, but not from the source of sin. Such is the hardness of the heart of the reprobate all through Scripture. In Exodus we find Pharaoh pleading with Moses to pray that the curse be removed, only to hurt God’s people once it was removed. And in Revelation 16:10,11 we find men crying out for the mountains to fall upon them. But they are still in their sins! It is an astonishing thing that men refuse to see the hand of God in natural judgment (Jer. 5:3).
As Ahab was not thinking about God, neither was he thinking about his people. The search Ahab was on was not for provisions for people, but for animals. He was thinking of horses and mules. It is a rare thing to find a ruler who really cares for the people.
History demonstrates that many men and women who rise to natural power soon forget the common people especially if the type of government is that of a dictatorship or a monarchy.
There are exceptions to the trend reflected in David, who had the best interest of his subjects in mind (2 Sam. 14:17). But David was no dictator. He was a man after God’s own heart. Though Ahab was not thinking about God or His people, he was thinking about the situation in general and decided that Elijah was to blame for all the trouble that had come to Israel.
Without Elijah there would have been no drought.
Without Elijah there would have been no suffering.
If Elijah were dead, perhaps the gods of Baal would smile and give rain to the thirsty land.
Of course, the king’s bitter thoughts against Elijah were unfair, and untrue, but that is the nature of spiritual warfare. The ministers of God are often ignored when things go right, and blamed when things go wrong. That is why the Lord’s prophets were hunted down like wild animals. And that is why Elijah was hated.
The stage was now set for the second dramatic encounter between King Ahab and Elijah. A lot had changed in the two men since last they met three years earlier. Both had grown, but in different directions.
Elijah had grown in grace and knowledge of the Lord. Ahab had grown harder in his heart.
Elijah had been purified; Ahab had become more putrid.
Elijah had been recognized as a man of God, Ahab still knows no God.
Elijah was heavenly minded and able to hear the Divine voice,
Ahab is earthly, seeking only the things of the flesh.
Elijah came carrying the message of life on his lips.
Ahab promised to kill God’s prophets.
The comparison and contrast between Ahab and Elijah offers a startling choice for all to consider in life. The questions are raised:
“Who will follow Elijah?”
“Who will follow Ahab?”
Joshua once asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
To follow Elijah is to follow the way of life, and peace, and hope for the future. To follow Ahab is to pursue a path that will lead to a dry, desert of despair and death. Those who follow the way of Ahab will never be able to say the thrilling words, “Behold, Elijah is here!”
What do these words mean? To Obadiah, they are fearful words (18:9-11; 18:12-14). But there is no reason to fear the man of God unless there is some great sin. Sin makes cowards of all God’s people especially when the time comes to talk, and to give an account of what has been said and done. When truth and righteousness is united in a life, there is nothing to fear. The righteous can, and should be as bold as a lion.
But the heart has to be careful. There is a false righteousness. There is a self-righteousness born of the flesh that is not clothed in humility or kindness, but is characterized by anger and hostility. Perhaps Obadiah was trying to discern in which spirit Elijah was now appearing. If the old Elijah was present, ready to bring forth more pronouncements of judgment, then Obadiah did not want to be around the prophet. But if the new Elijah, the dross free, refined Elijah was present with words of comfort for the people of God, then Obadiah would obey. He would return to Ahab and arrange for a place to rest.
In the end, Obadiah perceived that the new Elijah was present. Several things now characterized Elijah.
First, he was a man who was sensitive to the fears of others (18:15). Obadiah was afraid. Though he had risked his life to save others, he feared the wrath of Ahab if the king thought he was being made a fool of.
Second, Elijah was a man who could be trusted. His word was his honor. What he promised to do would be done.
Third, Elijah was a spiritual man, for only a man of faith, and the Spirit, will carry prayer from one place to another.
Fourth, Elijah was a man of action once more. “Behold, Elijah is here!” However, the action of Elijah was not meaningless, mindless, frenzy activity. He was focused upon a specific, God ordained task. If we cannot do anything for the Lord, let us ask God to let us do one thing well.
Finally, Elijah is a man that would not be moved. “Behold, Elijah is here!” “I have come and I will not leave until the task is completed,” he seems to say.
Our Christian experience would be well done if we could be like Elijah, sensitive, trustworthy, faithful, powerful in prayer, full of spiritual action, while stable in the faith.
With these characteristics being manifested, it is possible that some day, someone will say with gratitude and joy, “Behold, I am glad, YOU are here!”