Elijah: The Prophet Of Courage And Confrontation
1 Kings 18:1-16
THE HIRELING AND THE SERVANT
Intro: After a three year period of being hidden away
from public view, first by the Brook Cherith and then at
Zarephath, Elijah is brought back into the spotlight.
When he first appeared before the throne of king Ahab
and announced the drought, he was a man of faith.
However, as he passed through the trials of the dried
brook, the empty meal barrel and the dead son, Elijah
was transformed into a man of God.
He is a man wholly dedicated to the Lord God! As
he reenters the public eye, Elijah's first encounter is
with a fellow believer by the name of Obadiah. While
both are believers, the contrast between these men is
striking! Elijah is seen to be a faithful servant of God,
while Obadiah is pictured as a mere hireling, that is, one
who gives lip service to God, but by his life he denies
the God he claims to serve.
Sadly, there are many people like Obadiah in the
modern church. People who talk about being saved
and who claim to love the Lord, but who by the lives
they live deny Him, His power and His presence in their
lives. Of course, this is as Paul said it would be in the
last days, "Having a form of godliness, but denying
the power thereof: from such turn away.", 2 Tim.
3:5. However, it does not have to remain that way!
I would like for us to listen in on this encounter
between Elijah and Obadiah. In this passage, we will
meet a hireling and a servant. In fact, we may even
meet ourselves this morning. If we find that we are
more like Obadiah than we are like Elijah, may God give
us grace to change today. Let's notice The Hireling
And The Servant.
I. V. 1-2 ELIJAH'S SURRENDERED SERVICE
A. The Commander - After all this time, Elijah is
still serving the Lord! All the trials and difficulties
he has had to endure have not dulled his sense
of service to God Almighty. They have not made
him feel as though God has let him down. Just
the opposite is true! Elijah has been honed by
his afflictions into an instrument of power and
ability. He is still serving God and is more than
ready for the task which lies ahead. This is a
man committed to serving God with his whole
(Ill. Surely we have learned by now that God
allows the trials that come into our lives so that
He might help us to grow into His image, Rom.
8:28; Eph. 4:13. Of course, when the trials of
life come, we can respond in one of two ways.
We can allow the trials to bring us closer to God,
or we can allow the trials to drive us away from
God! May the Lord help us to be like Elijah, who
walked through the valley and came out the
other side still praising the name of the Lord!)
(Ill. Some folks just need to get it settled in their
hearts who they really serve anyway! Sadly,
many are in live with self more so than they are
with the Savior! Friend, who is the Lord of your
life? Can you honestly say this morning that
God is on control? Or, would you have to admit
that, for the most part, you call the shots in your
life? Who is your commander today?)
B. The Command - The command from God is for
Elijah to come out of hiding and present himself
to his arch enemy Ahab. For Elijah, this may
have been a more difficult command than the
one to hide himself, 17:3. After all, the nation of
Israel has been in a drought for over three years!
Thousands have died as a result! Starvation is
rampant, poverty is all around, people are angry
and Elijah is the man who God used to
announce the drought, 17:1. The call to "hide
thyself" came at a time when the flesh wanted to
show itself. The command to "shew thyself"
came when there was every reason not to want
to. If I were Elijah, I would want to stay in
seclusion for a little while longer! Yet, God's
command is to show yourself.
(Ill. It has already been stated in previous
sermons, but it bears repeating this morning,
there are times when God's commands just don't
make sense from a human perspective. Let me
just remind you that God's ways are not our
ways, Isa. 55:8-9. If we were in a position to
figure God out, He wouldn't be much of a God!
I have learned over the years that when you
can't trace God, just trust Him, He knows what
He is doing!)
C. The Comfort - Elijah may not know all the
details, but he is reminded that God is still in
control. God promises Elijah that if he will
present himself to Ahab, that rain will come
again. Basically, God is telling Elijah, "Things
are going to work out!"
(Ill. Again, I will say that we do not always know
what God is doing. However, when God gives a
command, He is ready with whatever provisions
are necessary to see that you are able to carry it
out. God's commands are always accompanied
by God's provisions! Regardless of how large or
impossible the task may seem, God is always
there and He is ready with His promise of victory
and provision. Notice:
1. Abraham - Genesis 12:1-2
2. Moses - Exodus 3-4 (Ex. 4:12)
3. His Disciples - Matthew 28:19-20
Where God leads, He always promises His
provision and His presence. He will not leave us
out there alone.)
D. The Compliance - Elijah's response reveals his
heart for God. He didn't need all the details, he
just needed God to give him a command and he
was ready to obey! Elijah's obedience to the
Father sets the standard that all of God's
children should strive to reach! This is why I say
that Elijah is surrendered to the Lord. When
God speaks, he moves! Elijah does not object,
point out the difficulties or try to reason with
God. When God speaks, he moves. What
a lesson that is for us! God's call is enough to
spur the prophet into action.
(Ill. Did you know that nothing reveals the truth of
our love for God any more clearly than our
obedience to Him? We can say anything we
wish to say, but we prove we love the Lord when
we cheerfully obey the commands He has given
us, John 14:15. In fact, obedience to the Lord's
commands carries with ti a special promise,
John 14:21. What do your actions reveal about
your heart? What does you obedience say
about your love for the Lord God this morning?
Elijah was a man totally surrendered to God.
When God's command came, he responded by
faith. When he didn't understand, he simply
obeyed. This is the kind of heart and attitude
God is seeking. This is the kind of life God can
and will bless!)
I. Elijah's Surrendered Service
II. V. 3-6 OBADIAH'S SECRET SERVICE
(Ill. In these verses we are introduced to a man
named Obadiah. He is a man of great
contradictions. On the one hand, the Bible tells us
that he "feared the Lord greatly". On the other
hand, we find him challenging God and the prophet.
He is a man who cannot be totally exonerated nor
can he be totally condemned. He is a mixture of
good and evil. He is a glaring example of a selfish,
self-centered believer. He can teach us much about
how we should not be. Sometimes a negative
example can be very powerful!)
A. V. 3 His Sovereign - While we have already
seen that Elijah is sold out to the Lord God,
Obadiah is sold out to Ahab. This verse tells us
that he is "governor" of Ahab's house. This
means that Obadiah was the man who ran things
around the palace. Some historians believe that
he was second in command to Ahab. Obadiah
occupied a high position in the court of Israel.
When he is met by the prophet Elijah, notice
what Elijah says to Obadiah in verse 8, "Go tell
thy lord..." While Elijah is clearly a servant of
God, Obadiah is identified as a servant of Ahab.
Remember, Obadiah is a believer living a life
of compromise. He is one who knows the Lord,
but because of power, prosperity or position he
has chosen to keep his faith a secret. He has
sold out for personal gain!
(Ill. Friend, if all the pretense and all the window-dressing were taken away this morning, can you
honestly say that Jesus is your Lord? Maybe
you wonder how you can know such a thing.
The answer lies in how you live your life!
- 標ho's will is more important to you, God's or
- 肘s it more important to you that you please God
- 匹an you honestly say that you consistently place
God before everything and everyone in your life?
- 標hen you make a decision do you consult with
God in prayer and search His Word for an
answer, or do you base your decisions on what
- 標hat is your first consideration in any matter
your desires or the clear Word of God?
- 標here are your priorities? Do sports come
before church? Does TV come before prayer
and Bible study? Does your desire for rest and
recreation outweigh your desire for worship?
- 標ho gets the first of your money?
- 標ho gets the best of your time and talent?
- 標ho is the main one you want to please?
- 標ho really occupies the throne of your life?
God? You? Work? Family? Things?
- 百o, who is your Lord today?
These are hard questions, but if they are answered
honestly, they will reveal who is the Lord of our
B. V. 4 His Secret - Obadiah holds a high position
in the court of Ahab. He is in a position that
requires trust and faithfulness, but Obadiah has
a secret. Actually he has two secrets, that if
Ahab knew, would have meant death for
Obadiah. Let's find out what those secrets are.
1. His Devotion - The Bible tells us that
Obadiah is a closet believer! Now, he
believes in God and fears Jehovah, but he
isn't about to tell anyone. After all, Jezebel is
actively engaged in eliminating the prophets
of God, v. 4. If he were to stand up and
declare his faith in God, he would be killed on
the spot. While he did not let his true faith be
come known, it also appears the Obadiah did
not bow to Baal either.
2. His Deeds - v. 4 tells us that when Jezebel
began to exterminate the prophets of God,
Obadiah took 100 of them and hid them in
caves. This was a deed that required great
courage, effort and expense on the part of
Obadiah. For this he is to be commended! If
Jezebel had gotten wind of what he had
done, he would have surely been killed!
(Ill. So it is clear that Obadiah has a few positive
marks on his record. However, it is sad when
people serve God in secret! It is a shame when
those who know the Lord sell out to the world,
the flesh and the devil. How many in this very
room are guilty of the very same things?
Because of a desire to fit in with the crowd,
because of a job, or to keep a friend, we have
chosen to keep silent about what we really
believe. Far too often, God's children join the
secret service. They conceal their faith in God
to save face with men. That is a tragedy of the
highest magnitude! When we consider what
Jesus suffered to redeem our souls from Hell,
how could we be ashamed to be identified with
Him, Rom. 10:11? Notice Mark 8:38,
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of
me and of my words in this adulterous and
sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of
man be ashamed, when he cometh in the
glory of his Father with the holy angels."
When I think of Obadiah, one word comes to
mind: Compromise! Obadiah has chosen to live
his life somewhere between God and the world.
He has chosen a position that forces him to
conceal who he really is. He has chosen to hide
his faith in God to protect his life, satisfy his
greed, exalt his own name and secure his
position. He has done what millions are doing
today. That is, many are wilfully hiding their faith
in God and the biblical convictions to please a
world that does not know God. They do this for
the same reason that Obadiah did it. They do
not want to stand out from the crowd and be
labeled different! Even when Christians aren't
guilty of committing sins with their bodies,
they sin by not abstaining from the very
appearance of evil, 1 Thes. 5:22. This sin is a
wicked as any that can be committed by the
believer! Give this world no reason to doubt your
faith in God!
May God help us all to realize that we are
different, 2 Cor. 5:17! We are peculiar, Titus
2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9! We are not supposed to fit in
because this is not our world! We are merely
pilgrims and strangers passing through on our
way to Heaven, 1 Pet. 2:11! Let us never,
never, never be guilty of concealing our faith in
God! Let us boldly stand beneath the blood
stained banner of the Lord Jesus Christ and
boldly declare our faith in and allegiance to Him,
without fear and without compromise! Not
everyone will appreciate you if you take a stand
for God, but God will honor your obedience to
Him! After all, who would you rather please; a
few people that you spend a few years with, or
God with whom you will spend eternity?
Remember what Jesus said, "No man can
serve two masters: for either he will hate the
one, and love the other; or else he will hold to
the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot
serve God and mammon.", Matt. 6:24. This
thought was echoed by the Apostle John, "Love
not the world, neither the things that are in
the world. If any man love the world, the love
of the Father is not in him. For all that is in
the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of
the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the
Father, but is of the world. And the world
passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he
that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.", 1
C. V. 5-6 His Service - In these two verses, we find
Obadiah actively involved in service to Ahab.
Basically, Obadiah is guilty of two great errors.
First, he is employed by the wrong people. He is
in a job that requires him to compromise his
beliefs so that he can keep it. Secondly, he is
engaged in the wrong activity. Notice that Ahab
and Obadiah seem to have no concern for the
starving people of the land. They are out looking
for grass to feed some horses. That shows a
lack of compassion! Besides that, Obadiah is
helping Ahab do something that was forbidden
by the Law of God. The kings of Israel were not
allowed to keep horses, Deut. 17:16. Of course,
Obadiah's actions stand in marked contrast to
those of Elijah. You see, Obadiah was busy
looking for grass to save a bunch of nags,
Elijah was looking for God to save a nation!
(Ill. This whole point of these verses is this:
God's command to His people is crystal clear.
He demands that we separate from the world,
and from all things that are evil, 2 Cor. 6:17.
Surely Obadiah thought that he was doing the
right thing. I would imagine that he thought he
could serve God in that position. However, what
ended up happening is that Obadiah found
himself pulled into a life of compromise and
powerlessness before God. That is always the
case! You might think you can lift the world
around you by being involved in it. The opposite
is true! You will not improve the world, but the
world will eventually drag you down to its level, 1
Cor. 15:33. Remember the lesson of Lot, 2 Pet.
2:7-8. He did not improve Sodom, but he was
sucked into its web and he lost his family as a
result, Gen. 13-19. Obadiah found himself in a
position where he was in direct disobedience to
the Lord. He was guilty of helping sinners
commit sin against God and he was reduced to
the place of a hireling. He may have known
God, but he knew nothing of the power of God!
I. Elijah's Surrendered Service
II. Obadiah's Secret Service
III. V. 7-16 OBADIAH'S SELFISH SERVICE
(Ill. These verses tell of the meeting between the
hireling and the servant. Here Ahab's boy meets
God's man and what a contrast there is between the
two. Let's look for a few moments at Obadiah's
A. V. 7 Obadiah's Identification Of Elijah - By his
dress and by the fact that he had probably seen
Elijah before, Obadiah recognizes the man of
God when they meet in the way. Obadiah is
quick to show reverence to the man of God, but
of course, no one else is around to see it! That
is always the way of the compromiser!
B. V. 8-9 Obadiah's Indictment Of Elijah - Elijah
sends Obadiah to tell Ahab that he has returned.
Obadiah knows where Ahab is, he is his servant
and so he should go to find him. However, he
responds by pointing his finger at Elijah and
accuses Elijah of trying to get him killed! You
see, his reverence to the prophet in verse 7
meant nothing! His accusation in verse 9
revealed the true character of his heart! He had
no respect for the man of God, his mission of the
word of God at all! The same is true for those
who place themselves and the world before the
Lord. They have no respect for the things of
God, regardless of what they may say! Those
who love the Lord will honor Him actively
obeying Him and responding in faith and not
doubt. When a person responds to the
command of God with doubt, accusation and
resistence, it reveals that they are not in love
with the God they claim to serve. It proves that
there is a problem in their heart!
C. V. 9-14 Obadiah's Indifference Toward Elijah -
In these verses, Obadiah begins to offer up one
excuse after another as to why he cannot do
what Elijah is telling him to do. These excuses
reveal the hypocrisy that is hiding in his heart.
We must remember that no matter how hard we
may try to hide it, what is on the inside of us will
eventually make its way to the surface of our
lives, Luke 6:45; Matt. 15:17-20. Let's dissect
this man's excuses and see if they hold water!
1. V. 9, 12, 14 His Personal Fears - His first
objection is that if he does this thing, he will
be put to death for it. Apparently, he does
not believe that God has the ability to protect
him from Ahab.
(Ill. If you ever come to the place where you
start to believe that God cannot take care of
you, you need to check up! It may be that
you have stopped trusting God and have
started looking to other sources to meet your
needs. This is always an indication of sin in
2. V. 10-12 His Pathetic Faithlessness - Here,
he tells Elijah that Ahab has looked for him in
every country around Israel. He has made
the kings of those lands take and oath that
they do not know where he is. He even
questions the faithfulness of God in verse
12. He has been so indoctrinated into
baalism that he has come to believe that God
is no better than Baal. He doesn't even
believe that God will honor His own Word.
He has no faith in God, God's Word or God's
man! He has been brought to a place where
his faith is shattered!
(Ill. When we reach this place in our spiritual
lives, we are in serious trouble! When adopt
the idea that God is unable to do what He
has promised and we lose faith in Him and
His Word, that is a sure sign that we are out
of God's will and need to repent and seek His
3. V. 13 His Past Fruit - In this verse, he takes
the position that he is too good for the job
Elijah is suggesting. After all, why would God
or the prophet risk losing a man with his
connections? Doesn't God think that Obadiah
has done enough already? Obadiah seems
to be living on his past works. Maybe he feels
that being right with God and serving God in
the past is enough to make up for being
(Ill. When you come to the place in your
spiritual life where you have to pint back at
what you used to do, instead of being able to
see what you are currently doing, you are in
deep spiritual trouble. Sadly, many believers
are right there this morning! You hear things
like, "I worked in Bible School for years, now
it's time for someone else to do it!" Or, "I
taught that class for a long time, I need a
break!" Or, "I used to go to church!; I used to
serve God!; I used to be faithful!" What
about today? What are you doing for God
this morning? Don't fall into the trap that
claimed Obadiah! Serve God in the here
and now, not the then and when! Paul's
fear is that he would become a "castaway",
1 Cor. 9:27, some of you have and do not
D. V. 15-16 Obadiah's Indulgence Of Elijah - At
Elijah's insistence, Obadiah reluctantly agrees to
go find Ahab and tell him the news. As Obadiah
walks away, he is never heard from again. Did
Ahab kill him as he feared? Probably not! Most
likely, he simply faded back into the woodwork
and continued to live his live of compromise and
disobedience. His is a life that could have been
greatly used of the Lord, but because of his
reluctance, his lack of faith and his compromise
with the world, he was a man who never
amounted to much for the glory of God. Think
about this: later in this same chapter, Elijah is all
alone when he confronts Ahab and the prophets
of Baal on Mount Carmel. If Obadiah had been
all he claimed to be, he would have been right
there with the man of God!
(Ill. Just this final observation from the life of
Obadiah. Friend, you had better watch those
people who have to tell you that they love the
Lord! If they have to tell you it is usually
because they cannot show you! Usually those
who boast the loudest about their love for God,
His church and His work are those who do the
least! You know what I'm talking about! People
say they love their church and don't come on
Sunday night or Wednesday. You watch them!
If they love the church, they won't have to tell
you, you will see it in their attendance! If they
love the Lord, they won't have to tell you, they'll
show you by the life they live! I wonder if your
walk matches your talk?)
Conc: Are you a hireling, or are you a servant of God?
Do you talk a good game, or are you really living out
what you claim to be with your lips? If you were really
honest, would you have to say that you are more like
Elijah, who did the will of God obediently, or that you
are more like Obadiah, who made excuses and lived a
life of compromise? Who describes you best? If you
need to work on your relationship with God, there is no
better place than in this altar to get it fixed up. If God is
dealing with your heart about salvation, service or total
surrender, the place to get it settled is right here! Will
you mind the Lord as He speaks to your heart today?