Many Days and Spiritual Leadership

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – May 13, 2012

And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah...” I Kings 18:1

We ended our class last week with Elijah living in Zarephath with a widow and her son. At the close of the lesson, the widow dramatically pronounced her trust in the prophet (and G_d) following the miracle of her son being restored to life.

Chapter 18 begins with the phrase “after many days”. Later in the very same verse, the writer tells us that it was “‘in the third year” when the next events recorded in this chapter occurred. This may seem like a redundant description of time-measurement to us as we study this chapter, but I believe that every word in the Bible, every phrase, every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18) is important. If you used a newer, more modern version of the Bible, you probably would not see this redundancy—yet it is very important. In Elijah’s life (as in ours) we may measure the time we spend in our lives by the passing of years, but our true desire and focus should remain on walking with G_d in a daily fashion. You see, that is the way He deals with us and desires for us to deal with Him. (Matthew 6:34) Furthermore, through what we have studied so far, isn’t it obvious that Elijah truly entertained a daily walk with G_d throughout his life? After many days, indeed!

The story of Elijah certainly has its high and low points, and flows throughout a span of several chapters. We can easily see the miracles and the power of G_d recorded within the narrative of Elijah’s life, but if you pay close attention, there are smaller details not as readily apparent to the casual observer as they should be. This week we will ponder on one of those scenarios as recorded in this chapter. I’ll warn you, it will not seem like very much when we read it for the first time. If anything, it appears to be nothing more than a prequel to the penultimate show down on Mount Carmel—which will take place by the end of the chapter. I’m specifically talking about Elijah’s meeting with Obadiah, and what we can garner from this meeting that just might help us out in our modern, twenty-first century daily walk with G_d.

One note here before we start: there is no evidence that this Obadiah is the prophet that penned the small book later on in the Old Testament. What we do know is that he was the governor (or overseer) of Ahab’s house. As a testimony, the writer tells us that he “feared the Lord greatly”. Obviously, he was a righteous man of faith, and an example is given of his taking the initiative of hiding one hundred prophets of G_d from Jezebel during one of her political purges, while also taking care of them.

A comparison of Elijah and Obadiah would be a good place for us to start. Elijah has been safely tucked away in Zarephath for the last three years. G_d has taken care of him and performed many fascinating miracles in his life. Obadiah, meanwhile, has been on the front lines in the Spiritual battle of his life! He’s witnessed the drought that has utterly destroyed Israel’s agrarian society. He’s watched from inside the King’s house as Jezebel and Ahab, instead of turning to G_d, relentlessly pursue the false god of “rain and thunder” (Baal) are actively persecuting the Lord’s prophets—at a time when those prophets have the very truths their nation needs to hear the most. Man, that sounds familiar!

It is easy for us to feel close to G_d on Sunday mornings when we visit His house; the prayers and worship songs, the preaching from His Word, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit. We can get comfortable sitting in our padded pews and air conditioning during those times. But it is a different story when we are out in the world the rest of the week—a world that seems to merely become exponentially more wicked as each day passes by. We are called to be separate from the world, (I John 2:15) and yet we have also been chosen to ‘go out into the world’ (Matt: 28:19) at the same time. It can get confusing to us, and Satan will take advantage of it at every opportunity when we allow our Spiritual guard to slip.

Take Obadiah as an example here. He’s working—doing what Ahab the King commanded him to do and fulfilling his job requirements out in the world on a day just like any other day. Then he meets the man of G_d alongside the road. Immediately he begins pleading his case and making excuses, although Elijah only asked him to do a simple thing. Apparently, in Obadiah’s mind, the appearance of Elijah somehow meant he was going to get into trouble by the time the dust settled. Check out his words as they are recorded here: “What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?” And: “and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.” Finally: “Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD”

I’m a good person. I’ve always done what I was supposed to do. Why is this happening to me? Have you ever felt this way in your own life? Have you ever questioned G_d? Wrapping up our study for this week, isn’t Obadiah’s questions closely related to the widow’s questions from the previous chapter? Again, throughout the Bible, when someone has a question for G_d, He always provides an answer.

Elijah does not get angry and chide Obadiah for his lack of faith. Instead, notice how he answers him:

1. Elijah affirms his credentials: "As the LORD of hosts liveth...

2. Elijah affirms his calling: ...before whom I stand...

3. Elijah affirms his mission: ...I will surely shew myself unto him to day."

Finally, notice Obadiah’s response: “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him:” Or, if you need a Shannonism to make it easier to understand, Obadiah said, “Gee, now I understand, I’ll go do what you asked me to do in the first place!”

Obadiah’s earlier attitude could have been because he was not sure of God’s will for his life, or possibly he was so busy with his daily responsibilities he could not see what was going on at this moment. Elijah changed his heart through his Spiritual leadership and by his example.

Whether we know it or not, we all have leadership roles to fulfill in the lives of others, and we should use both our testimony and our influence to help others in their daily Spiritual walks. Jesus reminds us that we are to function as salt and light, therefore we should be an encouragement to our Christian brothers and sisters. As we see in this week’s study, God wants us be sensitive to the needs of others and to set an example by demonstrating the reality of Christ by living an authentic Christian life in everything we do. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (1 Thess. 5:11).

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