1 Kings 18:1-18 – Faith at Work

Obadiah Takes the Prophets to a Cave by Dutch engraver, Caspar Luyken (1672-1708)

For three years no rain fell in Samaria, and there was almost nothing to eat anywhere. The Lord said to Elijah, “Go and meet with King Ahab. I will soon make it rain.” So, Elijah went to see Ahab.

At that time Obadiah oversaw Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the Lord. In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.

Ahab sent for Obadiah and said, “We have to find something for our horses and mules to eat. If we don’t, we will have to kill them. Let’s look around every creek and spring in the country for some grass. You go one way, and I’ll go the other.” Then they left in separate directions.

As Obadiah was walking along, he met Elijah. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down, and asked, “Elijah, is it really you?”

“Yes. Go tell Ahab I’m here.”

Obadiah replied:King Ahab would kill me if I told him that. And I haven’t even done anything wrong. I swear to you in the name of the living Lord your God that the king has looked everywhere for you. He sent people to look in every country, and when they couldn’t find you, he made the leader of each country swear that you were not in that country. Do you really want me to tell him you’re here?

What if the Lord’s Spirit takes you away as soon as I leave? When Ahab comes to get you, he won’t find you. Then he will surely kill me.

I have worshiped the Lord since I was a boy. I even hid one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in caves when Jezebel was trying to kill them. I also gave them food and water. Do you really want me to tell Ahab you’re here? He will kill me!

Elijah said, “I’m a servant of the living Lord All-Powerful, and I swear in his name that I will meet with Ahab today.”

Obadiah left and told Ahab where to find Elijah.

Ahab went to meet Elijah, and when he saw him, Ahab shouted, “There you are, the biggest troublemaker in Israel!”

Elijah answered:You’re the troublemaker—not me! You and your family have disobeyed the Lord’s commands by worshiping Baal.” (CEV)

Obadiah was the overseer in charge of King Ahab’s palace in Samaria of ancient Israel. To put it mildly, Ahab was a rascal. Old Testament stories frequently and purposefully contrast characters so that we will easily discern ethical differences between good and evil. Here we have a clear contrast between the godly and faithful Obadiah and the downright wicked royal couple of Ahab and Jezebel.

Whereas Obadiah was trying to preserve life and went to great lengths to do so, Ahab and Jezebel were doing everything in their sinister power to destroy life. The entire drama plays out like an episode of House of Cards. Ahab and Jezebel were a real king and queen who were thoroughly selfish and evil in all their dealings. Ahab, enabled and emboldened by his pagan wife, did away with the true worship of God and established the worship of Baal in the land of Israel. 

This did not mean, however, that God was absent or inactive. Rather, the Lord was working behind the scenes to undermine the systemic evil in the kingdom through his servant, Obadiah, who was devoted to God. Obadiah was neither a prophet nor a priest. He was simply a man working in an ungodly kingdom, doing the best he could to serve the Lord. 

Elijah may have had the prophetic voice and power, but Obadiah was the backstage administrator, daily cobbling together a living for hundreds of people without any support from the royal pain-in-the-butts.

Our ordinary everyday vocations and jobs have been ordained by God to use us where we are. Instead of lamenting our limitations or wishing the situation were different, we all have an opportunity for God to work through us in our current positions and stations in life. 

Every one of us has the daily opportunity to integrate our faith and our work through connecting biblical ethics to concrete applications at our jobs; seeing our workplaces as mission fields; interpreting our work through a Christian worldview; discerning our vocation as a calling from God; and, knowing our work is a means for God to transform and sanctify us.

So, how do you view your job?  How might you connect your faith and your work?  How does what you do reflect the nature and character of God?  In what ways do you think God wants to use you in your workplace?

Sovereign God, you cause nations and institutions to rise and fall; you set up leaders to rule and put them down.  Take my life and my work and use it in redemptive ways that glorify the name of Jesus and exemplify the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Kings 18:1-19

            “Obadiah was in charge of Ahab’s palace, but he faithfully worshiped the LORD.  In fact, when Jezebel was trying to kill the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah hid one hundred of them in two caves and gave them food and water.”  Ahab and Jezebel could have starred in the series House of Cardsby just being themselves.  They were a real king and queen who were thoroughly selfish and evil in all of their dealings.  Ahab, enabled and encouraged by his pagan wife, did away with the true worship of God and established the worship of Baal in the land of Israel. 
 
            But this did not mean that God was not active.  In fact, the Lord was working behind the scenes to undermine the systemic evil in the kingdom through a person, Obadiah, who was devoted to God.  Obadiah was not a prophet, a seer, or a priest.  He was a man working in an ungodly world, doing the best he could to serve the Lord.  Just because he was not Elijah did not mean that God couldn’t use Obadiah in the scheme of his will.
 
            Our ordinary everyday jobs and work have been ordained by God to use us where we are.  Rather than lamenting our limitations or wishing the situation were different, we all have an opportunity for God to work through us in our current positions and stations in life.  Every one of us has the opportunity every day to integrate our faith and our work through connecting biblical ethics to concrete applications at our jobs; working evangelistically and seeing our workplaces as mission fields; interpreting our work through a Christian worldview, and discerning that our vocation is a calling from God; and, knowing that our work is a means of God transforming and sanctifying us.
 
            How do you view your job?  How might you connect your faith and your work?  How does your job reflect the nature and character of God?  In what ways do you think God wants to use you at your workplace?
 

 

            Sovereign God, you cause nations to rise and to fall, leaders to rule and be brought down.  Take my life and my work and use it in redemptive ways that glorify the name of Jesus and exemplify the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalm 127


            When my wife was growing up her family had a prominent portrait of John Wayne in the living room above the television.  It spoke volumes about the family ethos.  They had horses and loved to ride and enjoy the outdoors.  Hard work was a daily reality of life, as well as a rugged individualism that often suppressed all else in order to engage in work.  Doing your best, striving for excellence, and learning responsibility are good things that mature people do every day.  But there is a fine line between hard work that provides and enriches, and lonely work that is frenetic and fueled by anxiety about the future.
             Today’s psalm gives us a wake-up call that all our work is useless, in vain, unless it is connected to the God who gives strength and sweet sleep.  “It is in vain that your rise up early and late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for God gives to his beloved sleep.”  The motives that lie behind why we burn the candle at both ends are just as important to the Lord as the work itself.  If we independently believe that our life is in our own hands and we work with worry animating our every job, then we have lost touch with the understanding that it is God who ultimately provides us with every good thing in life.  But if we begin to relax and let go of our stubborn independent streak, then we work hard with strength God gives and let him watch over us.
             This trust and connection with God is why work is connected to children being a heritage from the Lord.  Children worked with their parents in the ancient world.  Dad and Mom did not go it alone – it was a family affair, and a community endeavor.  Whenever we slip into the groove of worshiping individualism rather than simply taking personal responsibility, then we must come back to the inter-dependence that we were designed for as people.  The ethos that the psalmist is looking for is trust in God, reliance on others, and working together for the common good of all.  So, who do you need to help you today?  Will you ask for it?  How is God in your plans and your work?

Sovereign God, you created all things and in you everything holds together.  Preserve me with your mighty power that I may not fall into disconnection with you and others, nor be overcome by anxiety.  In all I do direct to the fulfilling of your purposes, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.