Do you notice how it seems that when we are in a place where something is taking a long time to happen or change, our fear and doubt grows?
Yeah, me too.
That also happened to Obadiah in the Bible. When I read his story recently, I was struck by the parallel to our current lives.
Here’s the basic run-down of the situation:
For a long time, a crazy lady, Jezebel, and her bad-guy husband, Ahab, had been running things like tyrants in Israel and all the surrounding areas. They had set out to kill all the godly prophets (the folks who spoke the messages of God to instruct and encourage his people), and many of them were dead.
Obadiah was actually in charge of the king’s palace, but he had been frantically working to save these prophets by hiding a hundred of them in caves and sneaking them provisions.
Like I said, it was a crazy, scary time.
To top it off, there hadn’t been any rain for three years so there was a severe famine in the land. Ahab called on Obadiah to find grazing land for the animals (clearly more important than the people it seems.)
But as always, God had a plan. And it was a great one. It seems like in the places of the greatest lack, God does the biggest work.
When Ahab and Obadiah split up to search for some grass, God sent the prophet Elijah to speak to Obadiah. I love that God waited until Obadiah wasn’t with Ahab. He often gets us alone, away from the distraction of the enemy, so he can speak to us.
You can imagine how stunned and excited Obadiah was to see Elijah. He was, after all, the prophet of all prophets. The main man, we might say. He evaded capture because of God’s protection and suddenly showed up to speak to Obie of all people. (You don’t mind of I call him that, right?)
This is where I started to notice some cool things.
- Obie was a “devout believer in the Lord.” Don’t some of us feel stuck in an evil situation for a long time even though we are steadfast in following the Lord? Following Jesus doesn’t always mean we won’t have trouble. In fact, we may have even more. (But always with a good ending.)
Elijah instructs Obie to go tell Ahab that Elijah is in the area. Say what? Yeah, Obie kind of freaks out about this because obviously Ahab is out to kill Elijah and anyone associated with him.
- Because of his past and current trauma (3 long years of drought, tyranny, and killings), Obie doubts this man who he absolutely knows is a good guy. Isn’t it easy for us to doubt what God is telling us when all we can see is our past and/or current trauma?
- Obie predicts that he will be killed IF Elijah doesn’t follow through with meeting Ahab, IF Obie tells Ahab that Elijah is “in the house,” or IF God decides to take Elijah away again. “If” and “what if” gets us in trouble every time we say or think it. When we start projecting possible problems, our fear increases and faith diminishes.
God is so faithful though. Elijah promises that he won’t bail on Obie, and in the end, Obie decides to trust God and Elijah. He goes to inform Ahab of the situation. All good, right?
But, not without trouble.
Immediately, when Ahab meets Elijah, he throws out false accusations at him saying that Elijah is the trouble-maker in Israel. In truth, it’s Ahab and Jezebel who are the trouble-makers, and Elijah makes it clear. Not only with words, but with actions.
- Whenever we are falsely accused, it is the enemy—Satan—who uses people to speak against us. He accuses us with the very same thing that HE is doing. So instead of getting all offended by the accusation, we can recognize it and calmly call it out with truth especially if it is the opposite of who we are and the same as what that other person is doing/saying. Sometimes it’s best to ignore it. Don’t defend ourselves because we don’t need to. Taking a stand in godly conviction is different than defending ourselves and our position. (Still learning this every day!)
This is where things get really good.
Elijah doesn’t just confront Ahab and argue with him, he calls all the people together and has a contest. Yep. Right then and there he tells them to make an altar and put some meat on it and call on their gods to catch it on fire and burn it up. He says he’ll do the same thing, and whichever god answers the challenge is the real God.
- The people wavered between the God of their ancestors and the gods of the evil tyrants, Ahab and Jezebel. In light of something new, they let go of the truth they knew from the past. God says that if we need wisdom, we should ask him and not doubt what he says or we’ll be double-minded, tossed back and forth. Do you ever feel tossed? I’ve learned that if I feel unsettled, it’s because I’m trying to hold onto two things. Usually, it’s that I know what God says, but I’m trying to make it fit something else that seems to make more logical sense. Just saying.
The people agree and build an altar, stack the meat on top, and spend all day calling, dancing, cutting themselves, and finally screaming at their gods, but nothing happens. (Why are we not surprised? If their god was real, why after 3 years of sacrifices, hadn’t it rained?)
- What type of plans, rituals, pleading, figuring, etc. do we often attempt in order to make something happen in our lives, but to no avail? Maybe we are looking at the wrong things and/or motives to secure what we want or need.
I’m sure you’ve guessed the rest of the story by now (unless you are a Bible reader and already know it).
Elijah built his altar, but he one-upped the deal by adding a trench and pouring three jars (we’re not talking mason jars, people) of water over the entire thing. Before he called on the Lord, he proclaimed that the people would know that God was the only God and turn their hearts back to him.
- This year, everywhere in scripture, I find that same theme. “So they will know that I am God.” What if we choose to believe that everything that happens in our lives, good or bad, is so that we or someone else will know that God is who he says he is?
Of course, God came through because he gave Elijah the plan to start with, and Elijah committed the altar building to the Lord, the only true God. The fire of the Lord consumed the entire altar as well as the soil and all the water. (I’m still wondering where they got the water in a drought…but God!) God never does things half-way!
In the end, the people came to their senses, got rid of all the false gods and the false prophets of Baal. Elijah prayed for rain, and after seven reports from his watchman, it rained—a lot! That’s a whole other story. And then, God made Elijah teleport to the city Ahab was running away to. True story. (And you thought teleporting was a new idea.)
The story doesn’t end there. Elijah has an exhaustion melt down—no wonder! That was some pretty intense work he did. But God shows up in a whisper.
- Sometimes we look for God to show up in the same way all the time, but God is far more creative than that. Where have we missed hearing God because we thought he would only speak a certain way?
The bad guys get theirs—in a bad way.
- The bad guy always loses. Think of when people watched their political hopeful, the Savior of the world be beaten and crucified. That was a dark day. But God brings life out of death. No matter how dark, he is always victorious. I’m learning to think and live from that reality of victory rather than the false reality of circumstances—even when they look more real. Truth is, we are actually spiritual beings in a physical world. Think about it.
You can read the entire story and more in I Kings. This came from chapter 18 and part of 19, but I recommend starting at the beginning. Actually, the beginning of the Bible will give you the entire story of it all.
Seriously, if you’ve never read it, it’s the best book ever written. Step aside soaps and reality TV. The Bible is where it’s at!