Sermon – Behind Enemy Lines (1 Kings 18:1 – 18:15) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Life in The Land of False Idols

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Sermon 4 of 11

Behind Enemy Lines

Tom Sweatman, 1 Kings 18:1 - 18:15, 4 October 2020

Tom takes us through 1 Kings 18:1-15 in the next in our series 'Life in the Land of False Idols'. In this passage God calls Obidiah to serve him in his position as official to the idolatrous king Ahab. Tom shows us that we are also called to serve God where we find ourselves.

The modern use of the word ‘vocation’ puts it in the category of a ‘job’ or a ‘career’. Sadly, it has lost its original meaning of being a ‘calling’ i.e. God has called you to a certain life.

Tim Keller puts it this way:

“A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. And so, our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfilment and self-realization slowly crushes a person.”

For a Christian, the word vocation means that the Lord has deliberately placed us somewhere in order to serve him and our neighbours. It is no longer about self-fulfilment or self-interest.

In 1 Kings 18 we meet 2 prophets with very different ‘callings’, because God uses his servants in very different ways.

We shall begin by looking at the Prophet Elijah

The General

At this time in history there was a war waging for the heart of Israel. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were determined to destroy the prophets of Yahweh and to make Baal supreme. But Yahweh had other ideas.

Elijah was told by God, in verse 1: “Go and present yourself to Ahab and I will send rain on the land.”

It is important to remember that there had been three years of crippling drought since they had last met, and Ahab had been searching everywhere for Elijah, presumably to kill him.

But God had decided that the time had come for them to meet. And there would inevitably be a clash.

This was Elijah’s calling. He had been learning how to trust God as preparation for this next vocation. He was to present himself to Ahab, as the Lord’s spokesman.

But after verse 1 we move to another servant and to a very different calling.

The unassuming agent – his times

Now we meet a man who had an altogether different life. He was a man employed both by Yahweh and by Ahab, and his name was Obadiah.

Obadiah was Ahab’s ‘palace administrator’ equivalent to the Prime Minister in Ahab’s court, and he had been commissioned by Ahab to “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” [verse 5]

His concern about mules and horses was because he needed fighting animals to maintain his dominion. He had no interest in the lives of his people, and this shows that in the last three years of famine and drought, his evil heart had not changed at all.

Obadiah worked shoulder to shoulder with Ahab, but what was he like as a man?

The unassuming agent – his life.

In the Bible, names matter. Ethbaal in chapter 16 means Baal lives. Elijah means My God is Yahweh, and Obadiah means Servant of Yahweh.

Verse 3 tells us that Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. Moreover “I your servant have worshipped the Lord since my youth”

In verse 12 we learn that he had protected a hundred prophets in ten caves, so God had used him to take care of his people. He was not a servant of the Lord in name only. He had taken massive risks to keep the word of the Lord alive.

So how did he become Prime Minister to evil King Ahab?

He was a life-long servant of Yahweh, who in God’s providence had been called to this life in the palace. And we can think of others such as Joseph, Daniel and Esther.

God does not have one type of servant. For times such as this he needed his Elijahs, his Obadiahs and hundreds more who would not bow the knee to Baal.

The Callings Collide

In verse seven, as Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

Suddenly Elijah was in front of him. It must have been quite a shock to see him after 3 years of famine and hardship.

“Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

If seeing Elijah was a shock, that command was even more so.

In verse 9 we read: “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?”

If we remember last week’s sermon about the widow of Zarephath, she said to Elijah: ‘Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’

Whenever Elijah appeared, people thought that it spelt some kind of judgement on them, and Obadiah was no different.

He protested strongly. He feared death at the hands of Ahab if he told his master that Elijah was back, only to have Elijah disappear again.

Three times he cried the same complaint, and it wasn’t an unreasonable one. This shows yet another moment where God stretched the faith of his people. But the Lord never asks people to step out in faith without a promise to trust.

In verse 15 Elijah pronounced:

As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”

So, Obadiah in verse 16 ‘went to meet Ahab’

So here we witness two different men with two very different vocations, but they both have the same purpose.


God has called us to many different places, and situations but in some ways, we are all in Ahab’s house. We live in a world of physical crisis, with the world’s idols on every corner. But this passage says: Child of God, wherever we have been called let’s be faithful to Yahweh.

It might not be easy. We are at great risk of serious opposition, but there is comfort because Obadiah, like us, was scared. That’s normal.

Whatever our situation, we are to step out in faith on the word of God and He will prove himself to be faithful.

We may not be able to say much; it may be unwise to do so; but let’s ask ourselves how we can use our vocation to seek first the kingdom of God?

This is not only a question but also the challenge of this story.

How can we use our vocation to seek first the kingdom of God?

If we’re struggling, where do we look? The Lord Jesus said, in John 6, ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.’

He came as a servant.

In Mark 10 he says, “The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Like Obadiah he found himself behind enemy lines. He went into the heart of darkness, into death, to demonstrate the love of God and the faithfulness of God to his people.

Every Obadiah points us to that servant of Yahweh. And every day, as you and I look to him, we will find the grace and the help, to serve in our vocations.

1 Kings 18:1 - 18:15

18:1 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So 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.

And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. And Obadiah recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’” And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. 11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here.”’ 12 And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where. And so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water? 14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here”’; and he will kill me.” 15 And Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

We're gonna read the scriptures now, and it's following on our series in the life of Elijah, and we're taking up the next episode and it's 1 kings chapter 18 and verse 1. 1 kings chapter 18 and verse 1. And Tom's gonna come and not talk about geology as he often just I mean, we all have to sit through his waffle on that. Constantly. And there he is talking again.

I mean, that will – yes, anyway. So 1 kings 18 and verse 1. After a long time, in the third year, the Word of the Lord came to Elijah Go and present yourself to ahab and I will send reign on the land. So Elijah went to present himself to AHAB. Now the famine was severe in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator.

Obadiah was a devout believer in the lord. While Jezebel was killing off the lord's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in 2 caves, 50 in each, and had supplied them with food and water. AHAB had said to Obadiah, go through the land to all the springs and valleys, maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and the mules alive. So we will not have to kill any of our animals. So they divided the land that they would cover.

Ahab going in 1 direction and Obadaiyah and another. As Obadaiyah was walking along, Elijah Mezzam Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground and said, is it really you, my lord, Elijah, Yes, he said. Go until your master, Elijah is here. What have I done wrong? Ask OIBDAIA, that you are handing your servant over to AHAB to be put to death.

As surely as the lord your god lives, there is not a nation or a kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or a kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. But now, you tell me to go to my master and say Elijah is here. I don't know where the spirit of the lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go until Ahab, And he doesn't find you.

He will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. Haven't you heard my haven't you heard my Lord what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord's prophets in 2 caves, 50 in each and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say Elijah is here.

He will kill me. Elijah said, as the lord almighty lives whom I serve, I will surely present myself to ahab today. So this is the this is the next part of our installment in this series. It's been a terrific series that we've been learning all about Elijah. And his ministry and the kind of broader context of the war that is going on between between Yahweh and Bail and the House of Ahab and Elijah and we've been learning really exciting things together from God's words.

And now we're gonna learn about a different type of character, but who was who was equally passionate. For the true God of Israel. So as we begin, let's let's bow our heads and ask for the Lord's help. I certainly need it after my catastrophe in coming up here. And we all need God's help to to apply his word.

So let's pray. Father, as we were reading at the beginning of the service, we Thank you that your word is our life. Thank you for this psalmist who said, I delighting your degrees. I will not neglect your word, and we know that it is true that we do not neglect the things that we delight in. And so we pray that you would help us to delight in your truth this morning because it reveals to us you the delightful God.

We pray that you would help us to rejoice in following your statutes that we wouldn't see these things merely as laws to over us or morals. Forcing us into a life that we don't want to live, but that we would rejoice in the hearing and the following of your statues. And we pray all of this in Jesus' name knowing that it's only through him that we can do this. Oh, man. Oh, man.

Well, I want to begin by talking about vocation. And the the word vocation was was more common in a previous generation but has now been replaced by other words like our work or the job that we do or the careers that we have. Or if you've ever been at a gathering and someone has said to you, what do you do? They mean what do you do as a job. You know, the word vocation has been replaced by that.

That other other language, which I think is a shame because the the idea of vocation puts it Killeley for followers of Jesus is really important. It comes from a Latin word meaning to call. I guess it might be related to vot vocals, that kind of thing, to to call. And that was the original sense of it, not that you were were given a job but that God had called you at a particular time to a particular kind of life. In his book on work, Tim Keller, an American pastor, says says this.

A job is a vocation. Only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. And so work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self fulfillment and self realization slowly crushes a person. And I think that should really change how we think about what we've been called to do.

Words like job and career and work do have a do have a purpose. But they lack the sense of calling, being called to something, which the word vocation captures. And to a Christian, the word Vocation doesn't just speak of work, but of providence and purpose. That the lord has arranged your life in a certain way and called you to a certain thing in order to both serve him and to serve your neighbors. Without that, work can become just about self fulfillment, self realization, self interest.

So vocation, I think, is a word that we ought to recapture. Next time you meet you meet someone and you say, what do you do? What do you work at? You could say just to see the surprise on their face. What is your vocation?

What is your calling? Now, what on Earth is that got to do with this passage right in the heart of the Old Testament, 1 kings 18. Well, here we have and we've been introduced to 2 very different profits. And They are similar in the sense that they're united by the love of the 1 true god. They are united by faith in his word and confidence in his provision.

They they are united in those things, but they are very very different in terms of their calling. They have been called to very different lives. And that is because we'll spend time on this at the end. God has more than 1 type of servant. He doesn't want just replicas, the same person doing the same thing, in the same place, in the same way, he wants hundreds of different workers, in different kinds of places, at all levels in society, who are united by their faith in yahweh and by their desire to live lives that are faithful to him.

And this morning, I want us to look at these 2 prophets and to think about that subject subject of vocation as it's taught through the lives of Elijah and Obadai. Why had Yahweh called them to such different lives? At such different in such different places. So we'll begin with Elijah. This is a shorter point.

Some of it we've already covered in our previous sermons, but It doesn't do any harm to go over that. So the first calling is this, the general. Elijah is called to be a kind of general. And as I was saying in the introduction, if you're new to this series in 1 Kings, you haven't been following along. It's worth knowing that we are in the middle of a war.

There is currently a battle going on for the very heart of Israel. It is a battle that is playing out between King Ahab and his wife, the murderous Jezebel, and between Yay and his people, his faithful people. So this is actually a a bigger conflict, and we've been seeing this in our sermons. About who is the 1 true god? Is it bail the false god of fertility?

Or is it yahweh the faithful covenant god? Who made the world. There is a clash of war going on. And the lords, as we've seen in this series, is willing and wants to call Elijah into the front of that battle, to the front lines, to the trenches. And that is how chapter 18 begins.

So if you want to look back at it with me, chapter 18 verse 1. It says after a long time in the third year, the word of the lord came to Elijah, go and present yourself to ahab, and I will send reign upon the lands. And we know that this idea of Elijah meeting AHAB is important to the author because it comes right at the end of this intersection in verse 15. As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will present myself to AHAB today. So we're at a time where it has now been 3 years since these characters met.

There has been 3 years of of painful, hard, drought. There has been 3 years of famine. Ahab has been searching everywhere for Elijah Presumably in order to kill him. I mean, I don't know what Ahab was thinking, but perhaps he had the idea that Bale wasn't sending the reign because Elijah was still alive. And then Bale was really angry with Elijah.

And so if AHAP could find Elijah and kill him, well, maybe Bale would be happy again send the rain. Maybe he was thinking along those kind of lines. But now God is saying Elijah, the time has come, you and ahab, me and bail, there is going to be a clash. And in this part of chapter 18, we are on the eve of that showdown. Start the night before the battle of the Somme or some great conflict in history.

It's the eve of the great conflict, which we're going to see and enjoy together. Next week. So verse 1 Elijah has called back into the trenches to meet his enemy face to face. So here we have an insight into Elijah's vocation. In chapter 17, he had been learning how to trust in God.

He was called to go and spend time by the Brook and to trust in the lord to provide for him. He was then called to go and meet the widow and he learnt there again how to trust God in difficult times and he learned how to pray. And all of that was a kind of preparation for this next vocation, this next calling, which will test him yet again, present yourself to AHAB. He's gonna move from the training barracks back to the front line. So that's the first calling.

Elijah is a type of generalist spokesman. But after verse 1, we moved to another servant and to a very different life and to a very different kind of man. And his name will call him for now the unassuming agent. The unassuming agent and will break this into both his times and his life. We are about to meet a man who had an altogether different life.

This is a man who was not on the front lines. He was behind enemy lines. The lord had not called him to wage warfare in the trenches, but to serve on the other side of no man's land. He was gonna be serving in the enemy territory. This is a man who strangely had been called and employed by Huawei and by Huawei's enemy number 1, AHAP.

He worked in a sense for both of them. So this has got an interesting calling, isn't it? Imagine yourself as a faithful servant of the Lord being employed by the 1 who hates your lord the most. What an interesting life he has? So what was life like for him?

Well, let's have a look in verse 2 and 3. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. That's that's his life. You know, severe famine. And AHAB had summoned Obradiah, his palace administrator, which literally means he was over the house.

Obadiah was over the house, and some people think that Obadiah was so senior in AHAB's government, that he was like the prime minister. And so if we were trying to think of useful comparisons, you might think of ahab and obadire, a bit like the Queen and Boris Johnson. Okay? That's the sort of relationship that they have. And, you know, that that comparison does have its limits.

In lots of ways. But that in terms of their kind of in in terms of their status, that seems to be what their relationship was like. King and Prime Minister. And as you can see, we find OIBDA in the middle of this strange job with AHAB, which doesn't seem like something such senior men should be doing, but it is what they're doing. Verse 5, AHAB said to Obadiah, Go through the land to all the springs and valleys.

Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive. So we will not have to kill any of our animals. Now in in more proper language, what AHAB should be saying here is Obadiah, let's go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some food to keep our people alive. That's the kind of thing that a king should say, isn't it?

Not wears the grass to look after our donkeys. But over Dyer, we need to employ all of our resources. We need to find food for our people. Why doesn't he do that? Well, because he doesn't give us stuff about his people.

That's the truth. He's not interested in how his people are getting on. But secondly, this is important to him because his power depends upon his fighting animals. So if he's gonna be a success on the world stage, if he's gonna be a a military man, then his fighting animals are crucial to keeping up his status in the air in the in in the world. He needs to protect these mules and these animals for his for his own sake, really.

Now why do we need to know this? Because it is a strange detail here, but I think the point of it is to say, in the last 3 years, AHAB has not changed at all. In verse 4, we're told that Jezebel is killing the prophets and the word literally means to cut them off. She's been going through the land trying to cut off the prophets and the Word of God. And then in verse 5, there's an interesting play on words.

AHAB says, let's go and find some grass so that we won't have to kill but the word is the same that's used at Jezebel so that we won't have to cut off our animals. And so do you see, this is ahab. In the last 3 years, he hasn't shifted an inch towards true faith. He is in a position now where he really would rather have dead profits on his hands than dead donkeys. The last 3 years have done nothing for him.

You would think that during a national crisis, as he sees the people around him perishing that he might step back and ask some bigger questions. How can I save my people? How can I stop as many as them as possible from dying? And is bail all that he's cracked up to be? I mean, where is he?

Is he the true god? And Elijah, was he telling the truth? There is none of that soul searching. There is no evidence that this crisis has humbled him. Horse's and chariots and grass.

Those are the things that he cares about. And throughout this series, We've been thinking about that as a comparison with the age that we're in, although it is a very different time. It is a shame, isn't it? That very few people, very few senior people have been asking questions like that. As we go through our national crisis.

So here is OIBDAa. His shoulder to shoulder with AHAB, It is a strange vocation, but this is his vocation. This is his calling. This is the world in which he finds himself. But what about Obadiah the man?

We've looked at the what of his vocation, what he was called to, But what about the who? Who has the lord called to this particular place? And that's the next point if you are if you are taking notes. It's the unassuming agent his times. We've seen that the unassuming agent his life.

Now in the bible generally, and and I would say particularly in this series, we've been learning that people's names are really significant. So in chapter 16, we met the king of the Sidonians, E. Bail, and his name meant bail lives. It's a fairly unapologetic statement about what he thinks. Then in 1 king 17, Elijah appears on the scene and his name is my God is Yah!

My God is Yahweh. And then we come to chapter 18 and we meet Obadiah, which was quite a common name at the time, and it simply means the servant of Yahweh. Servant of Yahweh, servant of ahab, in 1 sense, servant of yahweh is his name. Verse 3. Obadiah was a devout believer in the lord.

And that seems to have been the case for as long as he could remember. Some of you here will have testimonies about becoming a Christian when you were 4, 5, 6 years old. And they're always wonderful to hear those stories, aren't they about how the lord has been faithful to you, through your youth, and then on into later life. It seems that Obadiah would have had that sort of testimony because we're told in verse 12, I your servant have worshiped the lord since my youth. And for Obadiah, this was not just a creed or something he said like a piece of litigy.

He lived in the fear of the lord. He lived in the fear of the lord. Have a look at verse 4. While Jezebel was killing off the lord's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in 2 caves, 50 in each, and had supplied them with food and water. And although my reference to geology earlier was was labeled waffle, by by Pete.

In fact, it is quite interesting. There is a there is a geological element to this sentence because you wonder Whereabouts did Obadiah hide them? Well, in the Carmel region, limestone is the bedrock. And over the years, the the water had eroded hundreds and there's about 2000 caves. 2000 caves have been eroded out of the bedrock.

And so that's where he would have been hiding them in the limestone caves. And I was saying even in the previous service that for our tenth wedding anniversary in a few years, I think we might go there. To that geological mecca in order to sample the caves of Carmel. Wouldn't that be exciting love? Don't you think she's shaking it?

Just for those who are watching, she's shaking her head. Okay? But there we are. You can imagine the situation. Obadiah is slipping out of the palace at night, hooded robe over his head, torch in his hand, food and water in his cape, and he's going to supply the prophets of the lord.

He is not the only 1 who has not yet bowed the need to bail. There are others, and god is caring for them. Just like he did in chapter 17 with the ravens for Elijah, just like he did with the flower and the oil for the widow, the lord is taking the initiative he is providing for his secret agents behind enemy lines. So you see, this man was not a servant of the lord in name only. He took massive personal risks to keep the word of god alive.

And given that this is the kind of man he was, You might be sat there thinking how on Earth did this man become the prime minister of AHAB's government? I mean, think of the situation. The queen is murdering the prophets of Yahweh. She's going out to kill the prophets. The king has been searching the known world for Elijah.

They are both platinum members of the Bale Club. They love Bale. And yet their prime minister is a servant of the very god that they're trying to eradicate from their land. That is a strange situation, isn't it? How did that happen?

1 of my favorite characters from Church History, who I who who is is based on a real character but has become a bit of a myth in his own in his own right. Is a or a legend rather, is is called the vicar of Bray. And he was a vicar in in Bray, Barbour, during the reign of Henry the eighth and some other some other kings. And at that time in Church history, the allegiance of the royal house to Catholicism and to Protestantism was wavering all the time and swinging back and forth. And the vicar of Bray found himself in this life.

And he was willing to do anything necessary to keep that job. So here's a quote from him from from 1 church history book. The vivacious vicar, living under King Henry the VIII, King Edward King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, was first a rapist, then a prodotus Catholic, then a protestant, then a rapist, then a protestant again. The vicar being attacked by 1 for being a turncoat said not so. I always kept my principle, which is this, to live and to die as the vicar of Bray.

Which morally, you know, is pretty disastrous, isn't it? But there's a certain sort of, you know, you know, prudence and logic about isn't there? His loyalty was not to any gods, but to this job, the Vigorate and therefore he would do whatever it took and he would be whatever he needed to be in order to keep his job. How are you doing, king? Feeling Catholic today?

Do you know so am I? You know, how are you doing, Queen? I think we should get rid of the the candles and the robes. You know, I've been thinking the same thing myself. You know, that was what he was like.

He would do anything to try to keep his job. Was Obadiah like that? Was he that sort of man? Serving bail when it suited him. Serving yarnway when he could, not really loyal to anyone.

Is that how he rose so high through compromise? I don't think there's any suggestion that he was like that. It would have been very silly to tell Jezebel why he kept going down to the caves. That would have been a foolish, unwise thing to do. But just look how he's described.

This is how the author wants us to take him. He is a lifelong servant of yahweh who in god's providence was called to this most peculiar life and situation. And I call it peculiar, but actually when you think about church history and even bible history, that's the kind of thing the lord does do, isn't it? You might remember Joseph in a famine with pharaoh. Or Daniel, chief adviser in Babylon or Esther who even was the queen of Persia.

God has more than 1 type of servant. He needs his eligest, and he needs his overdiers and he needs hundreds of others who have not bowed the knee to bail for such a time as this. And when we come towards the end of the sermon, that's where we're going to spend time rubbing the application's home. But for now, it's enough to see this is overdized vocation. His times and his life.

It's a strange calling, but he's faithful in his calling. And so here's the fourth point. We've seen the 2 callings, and now we're going to look at the moment when the callings collided. Have a look at verse 7 with me. As Obedai was walking along, Elijah met him.

Obedai recognized him bowed to the ground and said, is it really you, my lord Elijah. And this must have been very surprising for him. Because they had been searching the known world for Elijah and there was neither high nor heroine. I couldn't find him. And now, Here he is.

And I don't know what he would have looked like, but I guess he would have been fairly frail. He can't have had a particularly good diet over the past 3 years. I guess his beard was incredibly long and scraggly. I guess his clothes had holes in them. Elijah has returned.

Verse 8, yes, he replied. Go. Tell your master. Elijah is here. And for Obadiah, If the sight of Elijah was a shock, the words that are about to come from his mouth were even more so.

Have a look at what he says in verse 9. 0, sorry. That that that was the shock of going going to going to AHAP. And you can see how shocking it was in verse 9. He says, what have I done wrong?

Ask OIBDAIA, that you are handing your servant over to AHAB to be put to death. That's a shocking word for him, isn't it? And you might remember last week when Elijah appeared to the widow for that second time. She said something very similar seems to be something about Elijah. What do you have against me man of God?

She said, did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son? So you see what's happening. When Elijah turns up, it's like the ghost of Christmas future, you know, it's like your death is coming. You know, when he appears, it's bad news. That's what they think.

Is this kind of some kind of judgment upon me? Why are you here? Is this a punishment? Ophadiah is saying, what is this? My lord.

I have been serving Yahweh for years. Have you not heard my lord of how I cared for the prophets at great personal cost I am a servant of yahweh. My name is Obadiah. Why are you telling me this Elijah? Because look, I know what's gonna happen.

I'm gonna go to ahab. I'm gonna tell him you're back in town. Together, we're gonna come and try to find you. The spirit will have taken you somewhere, who knows where? And then in a fit of rage, Ahab's gonna lock my head off with the nearest sword.

Is gonna kill me. That's what's gonna happen in Elijah. Why are you telling me to do this? And to be fair on him, That is not unreasonable because if those turn of events does come to pass, that is probably what will happen to him. Ahab is the type of character who would do something like that.

So you see, the lord Said this to OIBDA, he's nervous, he's anxious, he's scared about what might happen. And what we have here then is another moment where God is stretching the faith of his people. We saw that with Elijah in verse 1 present yourself to AHAB. It was true at the window last week, and now it's true for OIBDAia. God is calling them to step out in faith.

And the wonderful thing about the lord is that he never gives us a command like that. Without a promise to depend on. There is always both command to obey and promise to trust. You can see how it comes in verse 15. As the lord almighty lives.

The old translations have that, the lord of hosts, means the lord of armies, the lord of authorities, the lord of power. That's who I'm talking about Obadiah, as the lords of authorities lives whom I serve. I will surely present myself to AHAB today. Trust me, OIBDAIA. This is our lord.

What I have said to you will happen before sunset. Promise, to help him obey the command. And so verse 16, Obedai went to meet AHAB, and I'm afraid we can't binge watch this particular series. We're gonna have to or you can, you just read it actually. But we're gonna have to wait the next week to see what happened.

So Those are the callings. Okay? 2 very different men, 2 different vocations, 1 purpose to serve the lord. And for us today, that is a really important application, isn't it? Because as you look around you in this room, God has called us the members of Cornerstone Church to many many different places.

He's called some of us to be moms working at home to raise a family. Some to be teachers or midwives or financial advisers or property developers. Some have been called to a hard season because of redundancy to a job hunt, which is a type of job, to be a pastor. Or to a life on Zoom where every meeting is conducted virtually. We have been called to be neighbors, Some of us have been called to the university campus.

There are for every person in this room. There is a different calling. And in 1 sense, we are all living in ahab's house, aren't we? We all live in a world, which is not only in a physical crisis, but in a spiritual crisis. Where various idols are shoved down our throats, from the moment we are born, where the words and the prophets of Yahweh are ignored and cut off from public conversation.

Where to stand from stand for Huawei in public places might bring great personal cost. But this passage says to us, child of God, wherever you have been called, be faithful to your way. What you have is a job. What you do is work but what you are is called. You have a vocation to serve the lord.

And I know for some of us that is easier said than done. You might be in a school or a hospital or an office where it's just hard. It feels hard to do that. And there doesn't seem to be much opportunity. And if you do try to say something, you might end up like that other nurse who was dragged before an equivalities committee and then fired for taking her stand.

That is Those are not easy places. And actually, that is 1 of the reasons I love this passage because it doesn't say that it will be. Obadiah was scared. He was nervous. He was anxious about his calling.

And that seems to be a normal part of Christian life. But whatever our situation, we are to step out in faith on the word of God. Because here's the thing. With Elijah and with Obadiah and with the widow, when we trust in his word and allow his faith stretching word to push us, he will prove himself to be faithful. We may not be able to say much.

It may be unwise to say much. But we ought to see ourselves as called as a people of vocation who seek first the kingdom of god where we are. A couple of illustrations that might help rub this in. I met a girl this week at Refill. She's a student and a new student.

She's studying journalism. And 1 of her job is to write for the university paper, which is called the River. And I don't think she would be allowed to just publish the gospel week after week after week in her column. But what she has decided to do is to do an article about refuel and Cornerstone Church and to ask us how we're trying to get the good news out in difficult times. She's got a vocation and she's trying to use it to serve the lord.

I spoke to another person in our congregation just this week and this happened this week. He works for a Catholic school. He's a teacher. But to avoid offending other colleagues in the staff prayer meeting because there are people of other faiths, The the leader of that has said, look, we're still gonna have a staff prayer time, but I don't want us to use any personal names for god. So we must just talk of god general, a general god rather than praying to personal gods.

And he, from what I understand very graciously said that that was a step too far for him and that he wanted to keep using the name Jesus particularly when he prayed. And later that same day, the colleague who that law was put in for came to him and asked him about his reasons for that. How can we use our vocation to seek first the kingdom of god. That is both the challenge and the encouragement of this story. And look, it might be, that you're thinking I'm persuaded by that, but I don't know how to do that.

And I fail at that. And I don't know where the strength is gonna come from tomorrow morning in order to do that. And the answer is, in the grace and the help, of the lord Jesus Christ. The lord Jesus said, I have come down from heaven, not to do my will. But to do the will of him who sent me.

That servant of Yahweh language, isn't it? I came as a servant In mark 10, he says the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, like Obadiah, Jesus Christ went behind the enemy lines, into the heart of darkness through a cross for our sin and into the grave, into the very pit of hell itself in 1 sense. And he did that to demonstrate god's affection for you and me and his faithfulness to you and me. And it's as we look to him every day that we find both grace and help to serve him. For others here, It may be that you wouldn't yet call yourself a believer and that you don't know the lord Jesus and you don't have a vocation in that sense.

But then the first job this morning is to hear the vocational call to believe in him. To trust in him is your savior. Your first call is not to think about how I can serve him, but I'm gonna let him serve me. In his death and resurrection so that then I can go on to tell others about him. Let's take a moment just to pray, and you can turn any of those words into prayers.

Father, we thank you for Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve. He was the suffering servant, the 1 who came to do your will. He was the great and true and final Obadiah. The perfect servant of Yahweh. And we thank you that that even led him to the cross for our sins.

And Lord, we thank you that as we look to Jesus, we are transformed that we begin to see the things that we do, not merely as time filling work, but as vocational callings. As opportunities not to realize ourselves or to find ourselves, but to be part of the great mission to make disciples of all nations. We pray that although this may be convincing to us today that tomorrow morning when we wake up and the alarm goes and it's hard to remember this. We pray that your spirit might prompt us to remember that we are called and that even this week in our congregation, there might be countless opportunities to serve you faithfully throughout the week. And we ask it in Jesus' name.


Preached by Tom Sweatman
Tom Sweatman photo

Tom is an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone and lives in Kingston with his wife Laura and their two children.

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