1 KINGS 18:1-19
1After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” 2So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. 3Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the LORD greatly; 4when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) 5Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” 6So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.
7As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” 8He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” 9And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? 10As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. 11But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ 12As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the LORD from my youth. 13Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water?14Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.” 15Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” 16So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 19Now therefore have all Israel assemble for me at Mount Carmel, with the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Everyone wants to be Elijah. Everyone wants to be the hero. The star athlete. The Nobel Prize winner. The gold medalist. The valedictorian.
Very few of us want to be just good enough. Above average. Reminds me of Garrison Keillor's closing monologue, "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."
But in some situations "above average" is good enough. Obadiah, meaning "servant of the Lord," is such a one. Above average in courage. He certainly feared for his life, especially seeing first hand what Ahab and Jezebel could do with people perceived as enemies.
Jezebel ordered the killing of many prophets of the Lord, perhaps to appease Baal so that Baal would send down rain. Ahab and Jezebel were a fearsome couple. Not the sort of people you mess with.
Because of this fearsome and cruel reputation of Ahab and Jezebel, Obadiah is afraid to identify publicly with Elijah, especially if Elijah disappears after Obadiah tells Ahab that Elijah's been found. An angry Ahab means a dead Obadiah.
So Obadiah's fear is well grounded. But there's something else at work in Obadiah that buffets against this fear -- his reverence for the Lord. A fear of the Lord that moves Obadiah to risk his own life to save many servants of the Lord. Obadiah steps out in courage to save the lives of 100 prophets by sending them 50 to a cave and providing them with bread and water. Obadiah could have done nothing. Obadiah could have focused entirely on his own well being and forgotten about others.
No one would have faulted him. Most people in Obadiah's position would have kept to themselves and not jeopardized their own welfare and life. You gotta look after yourself, right?
Most people, yes, would not have taken such great risks. Most people, that is, who do not have what Obadiah had: the fear or reverence for God. Remove this element from Obadiah's heart, 100 prophets hidden in caves would have been numbered among the dead.
That deep reverence for the Lord turned a regular palace administrator into an "above average" courageous man of faith.
That's not bad.
Let's pray: O God, give us a deep reverence for you. A fear that is so deep that whatever decision we face we always consider your perspective and what you would say to us. Give us the courage to live out our convictions and the courage to follow your voice and guidance. Today and for the days ahead. In Jesus' name, amen.