Study 7 OBADIAH: SERVANT OF JEHOVAH
(Scripture Portion: 1 Kings 18: 1 – 16)
There are no less than thirteen Obadiahs mentioned in the Old Testament, but the man we have chosen for the subject of this study is mentioned in 1 Kings 18: 1 – 16, and he was governor, or lord chamberlain, in the palace of King Ahab. Some have written most disparagingly about this servant of the Lord, but we read of him not only that he “feared the Lord”, but that from his youth he had “feared the Lord greatly” – verses 3 and 12. This man had his failures, and he was certainly not an Elijah, but we see in him many noble qualities. He feared the Lord in a day of apostasy, idolatry and immorality. When Elijah asked him to seek audience with the wicked King Ahab then Obadiah was very frightened, but he overcame his fear and “went to meet Ahab”, to whom he delivered the message (verse 16). Here are some main lessons to consider:
1. Obadiah came to know the Lord when he was quite young.
We get this, as we have noticed, in verses 3 and 12. What lies behind these words? Did Obadiah have godly parents? for it is significant that his name means “a servant of the Lord”. What a heritage! – look up 2 Timothy 3: 15. What a blessing it is when children come to know the Lord! None are too young to come to Jesus – and none too old – look up John 3: 4. But the percentage of those who are saved in later life is very small indeed. An evangelist tested his audience of 4,500, and asked for various age groups to signify when they came to Christ. The result was:- 400 of those present were saved under 10 years of age; 600 were saved between 10 and 14; 1,000 were saved between 16 and 20; 24 only were saved after the age of 36. The remainder in the audience were unsaved. How important it is to seek to reach the boys and girls and young people with the gospel message with a view to leading them to Christ! Look up and read Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, and compare Proverbs 22: 6.
2. Obadiah not only knew the Lord, but he feared Him greatly
He reverenced God with an intense zeal and enthusiasm and a true dedication. This is God’s desire for all His people – look up Deuteronomy 5: 29, and compare Proverbs 1: 7; 8: 13; 10: 27; 14: 26; 15: 16 and 19: 23. To fear the Lord does not mean to be possessed with a slavish fear; it means to love Him, to have a strong desire to please Him and to be “afraid” of grieving Him. Fear is an emotion which grips us, and to fear the Lord means to be gripped by a disposition to resist everything which would displease and dishonour Him.
3. Obadiah had continued as a faithful follower of the Lord over many years.
Notice the word “since” in verse 12. Obadiah trusted God and began to serve Him when he was a mere boy, but he had continued to do so over many years – look up Acts 26: 22 and compare Luke 9: 62. It is a great thing to start, but it is greater to start and to go on! – look up Psalm 36: 3, and compare John 8: 31; 15: 9; Acts 13: 43; 14: 22; Colossians 1:23; 1 Timothy 2: 15 and 2 Timothy 3: 14. “It’s not the fellow who starts who succeeds, but the fellow who starts and sticks”.
4. Obadiah lived for the Lord and served Him in a very difficult sphere and under the most trying conditions.
This God-fearing man was chief steward in Ahab’s household, and he was immediately responsible to King Ahab and to his wicked, scheming wife, Jezebel. Would it not have been better for Obadiah to seek other employment? Not necessarily – see what we are told about Joseph (Genesis 41: 41); Daniel (Daniel 2: 48); Mordecai (Esther 2: 19), and the saints in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4: 22). We are to honour the king, or the ruler whoever he is – Ahab or Nero – look up 1 Peter 2: 17.
5. Obadiah was well known among the Lord’s people for an act which showed deep compassion and great courage.
Obadiah was quite naturally fearful – look at verses 4 and 13. He actually showed very great concern for the welfare of the sons of the prophets by hiding them and by feeding them. This was a brave thing to do, and his daring act saved many lives from suffering, starvation and death. Let us remember in our prayers the many who today are showing great courage and compassion as they live for and serve the Lord in a completely alien situation.
6. Obadiah, although he loved and served the Lord, was very human!
We learn this from verses 5 – 16. But although Elijah was a man of iron, a strong, brave servant of God, he also was very human – look up 1 Kings 19: 1-3, and compare James 5: 17 – he was “a man just like ourselves.” There is encouragement here for all of us, for when we read in the Bible of those whom God raised up and used in His service we are apt to think that they were men and women of special qualities. They were, when God fashioned them, but in themselves, and apart from what the Lord was to them and made of them, they were just like ourselves. Two good verses to look up and relate to this emphasis are found in 2 Corinthians 3: 5-6, and to compare with these look up 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31.
7. Obadiah, by his faithfulness, made an unconscious contribution to the great and mighty victory of the Lord.
Verses 15 and 16 make great reading! and they remind us that Obadiah’s service for the Lord was a valuable link in the chain of God’s working. At the end of the day he was able to pray with the psalmist – look up Psalm 71: 17-18.