The Faith of Obadiah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, July 1, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Irena Sendler, whose story can be found here, was a woman who risked everything to save the innocent and oppressed. She valued God’s standard of justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8) over the current laws of the land. Her “land” happened to be Nazi-occupied Warsaw, Poland during the time of the Holocaust. Irena actually did what many of us would like to think we’d do if we were in her situation. She used her position as a social worker to rescue some 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto, giving them fake identities, and arranging for them to receive the care and shelter they needed in safe places. She had an understanding, just like Queen Esther in the Bible, that God had probably given her the position she had for such a time as the one she faced. Irena is quoted as saying, “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory." She did not see it as something for which she could boast, but as the ONLY reasonable choice for a true follower of God to make in that situation. She risked everything to save those children and endured severe torture and imprisonment, but never gave up the names or locations of the children she rescued. Irena Sendler is a true, contemporary hero of the faith.

Her story reminds me of a man from the Old Testament, who will be the final specific hero of the faith I will address in this series. As we come toward the end of Hebrews 11, the writer tells us that “the world was not worthy” of the faithful heroes about whom he’s been writing (v. 38). In other words, the collective group of the despised, mistreated, and martyred servants of God were of greater worth than all the rest of humanity combined. The world did not see them as valuable and likely forgot about them after they were gone, but the writer reminds us that God will not forget about them and neither should we if we want to know what it’s like to live out our faith in the midst of the trials we face today. But then, after making what appears to be a concluding statement about the heroes of the faith, the writer surprisingly adds one more description of them: “They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground” (v. 38). We can’t be sure why the writer came back to this, but it’s worth noting that two of the most well-known heroes from the Old Testament, David and Elijah, would BOTH fit this statement. Both men followed the Lord and were forced to live as fugitives as the evil kings leading God’s people sought to kill them. Since we’ve already discussed those men in this series, I want to turn your attention to a lesser known faithful hero, but one who still played a major role in the history of faith and specifically in the story of Elijah.

The man’s name is Obadiah. Now, we know that someone named Obadiah wrote a book of prophecy in the Old Testament, but we can’t be sure which one it was because there are numerous “Obadiahs” mentioned other places in the Old Testament. The name means “servant of Yahweh” and that’s no surprise because the Obadiah of Elijah’s day certainly fits that moniker. You can find his role in the story in 1 Kings 18:2-16, which are the verses directly preceding Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. This is where I can begin to draw similarities between Obadiah and Irena Sendler. Obadiah was the palace administrator under the evil King Ahab. This means he was in a unique position to work for justice even as the maniacal king and his crazy wife Jezebel were slaughtering many of the Lord’s prophets. We might think that he should’ve stood up to them, but remember that even Jesus told his followers to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Sometimes, we’re too quick to leave bad situations. We see discomfort for ourselves or evil all around us and we conclude that God must want us to leave. But maybe God wants us to be the change agent, or maybe he just wants us to use the platform he has given us to do his work in some way. This is a perfect example of understanding what it means to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-16).

Obadiah was put in a position, within an administration where he clearly didn’t agree with the rulers, to do God’s work even at great personal risk. 1 Kings 18:3-4 tells us that he was a “devout believer in the Lord” who “had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water." I understand that all indications are that Obadiah himself did not have to go live in a cave, so the writer of Hebrews was likely talking about the great faith of the prophets who trusted him. There’s no doubt that they also are to be commended. But they faced a certain death had it not been for Obadiah risking his life for them.

Obadiah’s faith didn’t end there. As the story continues, he is commanded by Ahab to go look for grass to feed their mules and horses because they are nearing starvation during the major famine across the land. As he follows the command of his superior, he is out walking and stumbles across Elijah (v. 7). Elijah tells him to go and tell Ahab that he has found Elijah. Obadiah, knowing that Ahab has been searching all over God’s green earth looking for Elijah to kill him, understandably has a brief moment of trepidation. He is certain that the Spirit of God is leading Elijah and worries that if he goes and tells Ahab that Elijah is there and then Ahab cannot find him, he’ll be called to account with his life (vv. 9-14). Elijah simply gives him the assurance that he would present himself to Ahab later that day, because we all know that if you’re following the Lord wholeheartedly there really is nothing and no one to fear. After that, we see that Obadiah puts his faith in God and in the promise from Elijah and spills the beans to Ahab. He had already been willing to die if he got caught hiding the 100 prophets, so why not keep leaving his life up to God anyway?

Obadiah’s part of the story ends there. We know what took place between Elijah and Ahab after that, but we don’t know what part, if any, Obadiah continued to have. We don’t know how much longer he served Ahab, or whether he was alive or dead when Ahab finally got what was coming to him. What we do know about Obadiah is that he was faithful. God doesn’t call us to worry about the results. We can trust those to him. He just calls us to be faithful. Obadiah was faithful in smuggling prophets into caves just like Irena Sendler was faithful in smuggling children into homes. Both individuals didn’t stop there but continued to supply those they had rescued with their daily needs. Both of them put doing what was right in God’s eyes ahead of loyalty to an evil and wicked man. Are you willing to live like these individuals, or do you constantly seek whatever is most comfortable and then try to tell yourself and others that it’s what God wants? What he truly wants is obedience and faithfulness regardless of the comfort level. He has put you on this earth for a reason. You do not exist unto yourself alone, but you have a purpose and a responsibility to use whatever platform or position he has given you to bless, love, and serve others. What’s stopping you and why? Surrender it to the Lord this very day!

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