and Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah greatly feared the LORD,
Mr. Jackson Wray finely compares Obadiah to a scene he once saw on the west coast of Africa. Crossing a barren tract of country, he beheld a fair and stately palm tree springing up from the desert sand. Its graceful shaft rose to a height of near a hundred feet, crested with a coronet of leafy splendour, rich with clusters of ripening fruit. All around it was stunted brushwood and dwarfish thorn. It stood alone in solitary magnificence. Even so was Obadiah in King Ahab's palace."A great city spoils everything within its circle, and you say it has the same effect upon character, and that a low type of character is excusable when you consider a city environment. No. That won't do for us. I rejoice to think that the grace of God makes a man triumph over the worst circumstances. Scientists say it is impossible for anything to exist and come to perfection except it has proper conditions. If you are to have the rose you must have the sun, and if you are to have the fern you must have the shade, and for the willow the watercourse. Suitable conditions, or life and perfection are impossibilities! Well, I suppose it is so, but I rejoice to say that breaks down when you come to character. This very day I can show you lovely roses growing in cellars; I can show you the purest of lilies in the miriest of places; I can show you the palms of the East growing in Lapland; in other words, to drop the imagery, I can show you the purest and noblest of men and women under circumstances that seem altogether unsuitable to a pure and noble life. Don't say that because your environment is this or that, therefore you must be a this or that mean creature. The Kingdom of God is within you, and can set circumstances at defiance.
For three years and six months the heavens were as brass. Throughout the summers the sun glared and flamed in a cloudless sky, and the temperature, even at night, never sank to the dew-point. Throughout the winters, if the temperature reached that point, the elements were so boisterous that no dew could settle upon the herbage, and the winds carried the aqueous vapour away to other lands. In the absence of dew and rain, vegetation, excepting only that near rivers or fringing streams fed from the deepest springs, was scorched and blasted. The mortality, therefore, amongst animals was frightful, and men suffered incredible things. The agony of distress had now risen to such a pitch that throughout the land there was one earnest, plaintive cry for life.
I. SOME CRIED FOR LIFE TO NATURE.
1. Such was the case with Ahab.
(1) He had worshipped Baal, the fire of nature. But Baal was now punishing his votaries. Such is the manner in which the "god of this world" repays his dupes.
(2) Yet did not Ahab repent of his folly. For, instead of seeking the living God, who was proving Himself the superior of Baal, he divides the land between himself and the governor of his house, to search for herbage.
(3) Note also the heartlessness of the idolater. He is more concerned for his stud than for his people. "Peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.'
2. He was a specimen of a class
(1) His queen was of the same way of thinking. She had been brought up to worship Baal. She had a masculine temper and swayed the mind of her husband.
(2) The courtiers and the majority of the nation, who thought more of court fashion than of the holy service of Jehovah, bowed the knee to Baal.
II. OTHERS CRIED FOR LIFE TO GOD.
1. Of this number was Elijah.
(1) He recognized God as above nature, when he announced that there would be a departure from the ordinary course of nature in the withholding of dew and rain for successive years. Still he recognizes this when he shows himself to Ahab, believing that God would now give rain (1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1, 2).
(2) He recognized God as above nature before these assurances, for he received them in answer to faithful prayer (see James 5:17, 18). This is not mentioned in the history, but implied in his character as a man of God. Note: A man of God is a man of prayer.
2. Obadiah also was of this number.
(1) He "feared the Lord greatly." This arose from the strength of his faith. We cannot fear that in which we do not believe.
(2) His faith was fruitful in good works. He screened one hundred of the Lord's prophets from the violence of Jezebel, and sustained them. "Bread and water," like "daily bread" in the Lord's prayer, is an expression for things needful for the body. And in thus sheltering and nourishing the servants of God, Obadiah hazarded not only the loss of his situation, but also of his head.
(3) One who feared the Lord greatly after this fashion would pray to Him. Piety would move him to it. Patriotism also would move him at this juncture.
3. There were many more who cried to God.
(1) There were the "prophets of the Lord" preserved by Obadiah, and doubtless others also who escaped the vigilance of Jezebel. These would cry to God for life.
(2) And if there were so many prophets, or sons of the prophets, there would be a considerable number of devout persons in Israel notwithstanding the abounding apostasy (see 1 Kings 19:18). There is a great deal of goodness where men little expect to find it. God is the source of life, not only to the body, but also to the soul. Let us seek to Him for life. - J.A.M.
Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house.
There are men in sacred story, and in every history, who play a secondary place in the strange stirring drama of human progress — lieutenants to the great leaders — men with firm wills, stalwart hearts, gifts of energy, wisdom, and restraint. And behind these a great number who have no name in "storied page," prophets who have no prophet renown, kings uncrowned, victors without honour, martyrs without a martyr's fame, saints uncanonised, wise men who have no enrolment among the world's sages! The glory of the firmament on a clear and radiant night is not fashioned of those few chief stars which flash with distinguished brightness, and catch the glance and win the admiration of the careless observer; but in the multitude of stars which are not chief — which wear not the most dazzling splendour — these bring their brightness, and those far off nebulous mists bring theirs. Were these to fail, how tame the heavens would grow! So in the Bible story — the glory is not concentrated in the chief men. All the interest of that history is not in those few who stand like giants among their fellows. There are men of less distinguished greatness who are worthy of observation, and will repay our study. The less known, and in some respects the less gifted men of Bible story have this interest for us: they are nearer to us — they are not set apart from us and hedged in by specialities of gifts or office, moving in a sphere in which we can have no place. Elijah stands like a mountain apart — lonely, grand, terrible — and though an apostle tells us "he is a man of like passions with ourselves," yet the glamour of supernatural gifts separates him from us. But when we look at Obadiah, we see one who stands upon our level, who moves in our sphere. We do not stand in awe of him. Contact with him is contact of man with man, and no dazzle of the supernatural comes between us. We have only a feeble, broken outline of the man's character. The sketch which the sacred narrative gives is very brief. He is Ahab's servant, governor of his house. He is Jehovah's servant, and in the palace where Jezebel is queen and Baal and Ashtaroth are the worshipped gods. The hints which this brief narrative affords us are suggestive of a noble type of man, fearing God, defending the weak, rendering all lawful service.
1. He was the honoured servant of an impious king, "governor of his house." This was an office of great dignity and influence; that he reached it and held it is a witness alike to his integrity and efficiency. He was a careful, faithful, diligent servant to King Ahab. How came he to this high place? He did not purchase it by an unworthy deference; the fawning of the flatterer did not win it; the pliancy of an easy conscience did not secure it; "for he feared the Lord greatly: feared Him from his youth up." Such a fear, if it does not secure steadfast principle in life and character, is a mere profession — an utter sham. Obadiah has reached this place in the straight lines of integrity, not by the crooked, wriggling line of policy. The lines of principle do sometimes land a man in the high places. He was an honoured servant, because he was efficient; he did not do his work with a slack hand because Ahab was an apostate king and Jezebel a heathen queen. His religion was the inspiration of his work — the condition of his efficiency. What he did, he did with his might. Religion is no excuse for inefficiency in any honest work to which men set their hands. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." That injunction concerns our work in the world as well as in the Church-U-concerns the keeping of accounts as much as keeping the Sabbath; the discharge of business obligations as truly as the fulfilment of religious duties. The irresolute, indifferent, and inefficient servant cannot be excused, because he has a gift in prayer. Idleness at the counter, at the desk, the bench, the anvil, is not to be excused because the transgressor is a zealous teacher in his class. Inability may be an excuse for inefficiency, but religion cannot be; it is the enrichment and endowment of a man's nature; it should stir all gifts that are in him to a quicker energy, a finer power. What is the witness of this to you and me? That we who are servants of the Lord, in fulfilling our earthly duties and obligations, should be diligent and faithful. It is a commendation of Christ's religion which has been overlooked.
2. Obadiah was faithfully God's witness in a degenerate court. As far as it was possible, he served his king; but there are no indications that he trifled with conscience, no signs in the narrative that he was unfaithful to the claims of God. He feared the Lord greatly — this is the witness of no shallow religiousness. In that unhallowed court he was a leaven of purity. In that degenerate age he was a witness for God. In those high places, where pleasure and passion held wild carnival, he exercised self-control, and strove to live a life true to God. He feared the Lord greatly. He who fails in this allegiance, though he stands amid the splendour that beats upon a throne, is yet a child of darkness. Understand it well. Obadiah had no gifts of prophet power — no unique spiritual gift. He was for the most part a man just like ourselves. Yet in the court of Ahab, where influences of evil must have gathered the force and fierceness of a stormy sea, he was steadfast and immovable. Little faith would have been shattered and swept away; a faint heart, a feeble zeal, could not have borne the strain. It is only in the possession of a full, rich, spiritual power we shall bear in life and character clear witness for God and for His Christ. If we are to thwart in any way such powers of darkness as are figured to us in this imperious Queen Jezebel, we must fear the Lord greatly; our love of Him must glow like the morning; our faith in Him must be steadfast as the stars; our zeal for Him burn like a concentrated fire. It is this thoroughness in Christian life which is the condition of resolute faithfulness — the root of working power and widening usefulness.
Obadiah "feared the Lord." That is to say, he was loyal to the Lord; the law of God was the rule of his life. He feared to sin; kept watch over his heart, held guard on his lips, and followed the commandments of the Most High. Obadiah "feared the Lord" from his youth. That is to say, this tree of righteousness, called Obadiah, was strong, widespread, and beautiful, bending with the fruits of goodness, because he was planted in the garden of grace when he was a sapling, a tender plant, whose childhood was given to the love and service of his God.
1. Obadiah's goodness makes us wonder. He lived in an age and in a country when and where" goodness was sadly scarce. The wonder is that King Ahab would have this man by him, much more that he should commit the highest office and the most important trust into his hands. Obadiah's presence must have been a standing rebuke to the selfish and sensual king. If I wonder that Ahab would have him about him, I wonder more that Obadiah was willing to stay. The corrupt atmosphere of Ahab's shameless court must have been a rank offence to him. Then why did he not go? The Prophet Elijah, wandering alone among the glens of Thisbe, or the rocks of Horeb, or by the waters of Cherith, or the coasts of Zidon, would be glad, poor outlaw, of a little congenial company. Why doesn't Obadiah join him? Because "he feared the Lord greatly"; and both patriotism and religion, loyalty to the interests of his country and the honour of his God, bound him to his post.
2. I find still further cause for wonder, in that the goodness of Obadiah had been maintained during his residence in the court of King Ahab. I marvel at it. I know what comes to a statue of white marble exposed to the corrosive fogs of London. I know what happens to the rippling music and the silver beauty of the summer brook when it falls into the turbid river rolling its dull waters in sullen silence to the sea. I know the fate of May flowers when the blast of the cast winds blow a malison on their beauty. I know, too, by sad experience, what comes to human hearts and consciences when fierce and fiery, or subtle and winsome temptations ply their evil power. This man, this one man Obadiah, "feared the Lord." He shone like a solitary star in a murky midnight sky. He bloomed like a lily in a bed of thorns.
3. The goodness of Obadiah gives me further cause for wonder in that it grew and ripened under unfavourable treatment. It is said of him, that he "feared the Lord from his youth." The guiding principle of his whole career was the fear of God. There is no doubt that his religion met with some shrewd blows and sore bruises as his beard grew; and that as he advanced to mature manhood, the world, the flesh, and the devil, hit both hard and often at the man who would be good in spite of them. "Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly." Instead of descending a valley, he has been climbing the hill. Instead of lapsing into silence with broken strings, his life-harp vibrates with richer melody and a holier psalm. The way of duty is not only the way of safety, but it is the way to more perfect goodness and increasing strength.
4. I find further cause for wonder in Obadiah's simple faith in the supernatural, the miracle-working power of God. "Go, tell the king," said the stalwart and hairy Tishbite, "Behold, Elijah is here." "Nay," said Obadiah, "Ahab has hunted for thee high and low to kill thee, that at the ebbing of thy blood the wells and rivers may flow again. If I send him here, the Spirit of the Lord will carry thee away, and the king will slay me." Poor superstitious, old-fashioned, simplehearted Obadiah! And yet the simple soul, palace governor though he be, thinks that Elijah can be suddenly spirited away; that the laws of nature can be tampered with, gravitation suspended, and a miracle can be wrought by a fancied Deity whom every one regards as an exploded myth!
5. I find still another wonder, still another lesson in the piety of Obadiah: his noble deeds of kindness to others at great cost and danger to himself.
()The poor man must often have been in a great strait to reconcile his duty to Jehovah with his duty to his other master, Ahab. And Elijah shrewdly hinted at it when he said: "Go, tell thy lord, behold, Elijah is here!" Imagine a courtier of Oliver Cromwell trying to be true to the Commonwealth and to the cause of the exiled Stuarts! The life of policy and expediency is a species of rope-walking — it needs considerable practice in the art of balancing. There are scores of Obadiahs everywhere around us, and in the professing Church. They know the right, and are secretly trying to do it, but they say as little about religion as they can. They never rebuke sin. They never confess their true colours. They find pretexts and excuses to satisfy the remonstrances of an uneasy conscience. They are as nervous of being identified by declared Christians as Obadiah was when Elijah sent him to Ahab. They are sorry for those who suffer for righteousness' sake, but it never occurs to them to stand in the pillory by their side. They content themselves with administering some little relief to them, as Obadiah did to the harried prophets, and whilst they conceal that relief from the world, they put it in as a claim to the people of God for recognition and protection, as Obadiah did (ver. 13). They sometimes are on the point of throwing up all to take up an uncompromising attitude, but they find it hard to go forth to suffer affliction with the people of God so long as they are well provided for within the palace walls.
PeopleAhab, Elijah, Isaac, Jacob, Jezebel, Jezreel, Obadiah
PlacesJezreel, Kishon River, Mount Carmel, Samaria, Zarephath
TopicsAhab, Believer, Calleth, Charge, Controller, Devout, Fear, Feared, Fearing, Governor, Greatly, Household, King's, Obadiah, Obadi'ah, Palace, Revered, Steward, Summoned
Outline1. In the extremity of famine Elijah, sent to Ahab, meets good Obadiah
9. Obadiah brings Ahab to Elijah
17. Elijah, reproving Ahab, by fire from heaven convinces Baal's prophets
41. Elijah, by prayer obtaining rain, follows Ahab to Jezreel
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 18:3
8026 faith, growth in
1 Kings 18:1-4
4816 drought, physical
1 Kings 18:1-5
4823 famine, physical
1 Kings 18:1-6
1 Kings 18:3-4
To the Young '... I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.--1 KINGS xviii.12. This Obadiah is one of the obscurer figures in the Old Testament. We never hear of him again, for there is no reason to accept the Jewish tradition which alleges that he was Obadiah the prophet. And yet how distinctly he stands out from the canvas, though he is only sketched with a few bold outlines! He is the 'governor over Ahab's house,' a kind of mayor of the palace, and probably the second man in the kingdom. But …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Trial by Fire
'And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose yon one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. 26. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Elijah's Appeal to the Undecided
Now, we have these three classes here this morning. We have, I hope, a very large number who are on Jehovah's side, who fear God and serve him; we have a number who are on the side of the evil one, who make no profession of religion, and do not observe even the outward symptoms of it; because they are both inwardly and outwardly the servants of the evil one. But the great mass of my hearers belong to the third class--the waverers. Like empty clouds they are driven hither and thither by the wind; …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857
Obadiah; Or, Early Piety Eminent Piety
The Lord does not love that his servants, however great they are, should think lightly of their lesser comrades, and it occurs to me that he so arranged matters that Obadiah became important to Elijah when he had to face the wrathful king of Israel. The prophet is bidden to go and show himself to Ahab, and he does so; but he judges it better to begin by showing himself to the governor of his palace, that he may break the news to his master, and prepare him for the interview. Ahab was exasperated …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 30: 1884
The Prophet Hosea.
GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS. That the kingdom of Israel was the object of the prophet's ministry is so evident, that upon this point all are, and cannot but be, agreed. But there is a difference of opinion as to whether the prophet was a fellow-countryman of those to whom he preached, or was called by God out of the kingdom of Judah. The latter has been asserted with great confidence by Maurer, among others, in his Observ. in Hos., in the Commentat. Theol. ii. i. p. 293. But the arguments …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
But Some one Will Say, Does He not Know Without a Monitor Both what Our...
But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our voice?  Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging that all which …
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith
Selfishness and Prayer. A Contrast.
"So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees."--1 KINGS xviii. 42. WHAT A CONTRAST! And yet, both men were perfectly consistent. It is in each case what you would expect, and yet how differently it might have been. What a different story it would have been if only Ahab had listened to the teaching of God! How often we see men having chances of turning round and beginning a new …
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread
The West Coast of Galilee-Carmel.
The people of Issachar had "Carmel and the river for their bounds in length": the people of Zabulon, "Carmel and the sea." Carmel was not so much one mountain as a mountainous country, containing almost the whole breadth of the land of Issachar, and a great part of that of Zabulon. It was, as it seems, a certain famous peak among many other mountain tops, known by the same name, lifted up and advanced above the rest. The promontory Carmel, in Pliny, and in the mountain a town of the same name, heretofore …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Ninth Sunday after Trinity. How Long Halt Ye Between Two Opinions? if the Lord be God, Follow Him; but if Baal, Then Follow Him.
How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. Was kinket ihr betrognen Seelen Lehr. 1733. trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1855 Why halt thus, O deluded heart, Why waver longer in thy choice? Is it so hard to choose the part Offered by Heaven's entreating voice? Oh look with clearer eyes again, Nor strive to enter in, in vain. Press on! Remember, 'tis not Caesar's throne, Nor earthly honour, wealth or might Whereby God's favour shall be …
Catherine Winkworth—Lyra Germanica: The Christian Year
Fall of the Western Empire (Ad 451-476)
The empire of the West was now fast sinking. One weak prince was at the head of it after another, and the spirit of the old Romans, who had conquered the world, had quite died out. Immense hosts of barbarous nations poured in from the North. The Goths, under Alaric, who took Rome by siege, in the reign of Honorius, have been already mentioned (p 93). Forty years later, Attila, king of the Huns, who was called "The scourge of God," kept both the East and the West in terror. In the year 451, he advanced …
J. C. Roberston—Sketches of Church History, from AD 33 to the Reformation
Will the Knowledge that Some of Our Own are Lost, Mar Our Happiness in Heaven?
This is a difficult question to answer satisfactorily, on account of our instinctive feelings of natural affection, which arise, and, like a mist, obscure our judgment. Nevertheless, the difficulty is much lessened, and even entirely removed from some minds, at hast, by the following considerations. 1. Our happiness, even in this world, does not depend on the happiness of those who are bound to us by the ties of kindred or of friendship. This is especially the case when their unhappiness proceeds …
F. J. Boudreaux—The Happiness of Heaven
Of Prayer --A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It.
1. A general summary of what is contained in the previous part of the work. A transition to the doctrine of prayer. Its connection with the subject of faith. 2. Prayer defined. Its necessity and use. 3. Objection, that prayer seems useless, because God already knows our wants. Answer, from the institution and end of prayer. Confirmation by example. Its necessity and propriety. Perpetually reminds us of our duty, and leads to meditation on divine providence. Conclusion. Prayer a most useful exercise. …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
This was Antony's First Struggle against the Devil...
7. This was Antony's first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour's work in Antony  , Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered cease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
Upon Our Lord's SermonOn the Mount
Discourse 7 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:16-18. 1. It has been the endeavour of Satan, from the beginning of the world, …
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions
Subterraneous Places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal mines, the caves, and the places of burial. This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy 8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and misery; being frequently condemned hither by …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
The First Commandment
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Exod 20: 3. Why is the commandment in the second person singular, Thou? Why does not God say, You shall have no other gods? Because the commandment concerns every one, and God would have each one take it as spoken to him by name. Though we are forward to take privileges to ourselves, yet we are apt to shift off duties from ourselves to others; therefore the commandment is in the second person, Thou and Thou, that every one may know that it is spoken to him, …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
But I give myself unto prayer.' Psa 109: 4. I shall not here expatiate upon prayer, as it will be considered more fully in the Lord's prayer. It is one thing to pray, and another thing to be given to prayer: he who prays frequently, is said to be given to prayer; as he who often distributes alms, is said to be given to charity. Prayer is a glorious ordinance, it is the soul's trading with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit, and we go up to him by prayer. What is prayer? It is an offering …
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments
Of Passages from the Holy Scriptures, and from the Apocrypha, which are Quoted, or Incidentally Illustrated, in the Institutes.
TO THE AUTHORS QUOTED IN THE INSTITUTES PREFATORY ADDRESS TO HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY, THE MOST MIGHTY AND ILLUSTRIOUS MONARCH, FRANCIS, KING OF THE FRENCH, HIS SOVEREIGN;  JOHN CALVIN PRAYS PEACE AND SALVATION IN CHRIST.  Sire,--When I first engaged in this work, nothing was farther from my thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to …
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion
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