And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.
1 Kings 18:3-4
I. All we know of Obadiah is contained in this chapter, and yet he was a great man in his day. He was, it seems, king Ahab's vizier, or prime minister, the first man in the country after the king. Of all his wealth and glory the Bible does not say one word. His wealth and power did not follow him to the grave, but by his good deed he lives in the pages of the Bible; he lives in our minds and memories; and, more than all, by that good deed he lives for ever in God's sight. In the day when Elijah met him, Obadiah found that his prayers and alms had gone up before God, and were safe with God, and not to be forgotten for ever.
II. The lesson for us is to persevere in welldoing, for in due time we shall reap if we faint not. Cast, therefore, thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days. Do thy diligence to give of what thou hast, for so gatherest thou to thyself in the day of necessity, in which with what measure we have measured to others God will measure to us again.
III. A doubt comes in here—what are our works at best? What have we that is fit to offer to God? Bad in quality our good works are, and bad in quantity, too. How shall we have courage to carry them in our hand to that God who charges His very angels with folly, and the heavens are not clean in His sight? Too true if we had to offer our own works to God. But there is One who offers them for us—Jesus Christ the Lord. He cleanses our works from sin by the merit of His death and suffering, so that nothing may be left in them but what is the fruit of God's own Spirit, and that God may see in them only the good which He Himself put into them.
C Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 243.
1 Kings 18:6I. There are but two ways; you must choose the one or the other. You must follow Ahab, or you must go with Obadiah. No man can serve two masters. Even the old Latins had a proverb, "Duos qui sequitur lepores, neutrum capit." Don't imagine for a moment that you are standing between right and wrong, like the embarrassed ass in Aesop's fable between two equal bundles of hay, as though the bias towards each side were equal. We all incline to the evil rather than the good. If a strong moral force does not govern the will, it is not difficult to tell which side will be chosen.
II. Choose for your associates those with whom you would wish to company all through life. Try and look below the surface, and read the character; and do not give your friendship to any one whom, in your deepest soul, you do not respect. It was an excellent advice which a father gave his son, "Make companions of few; be intimate with one; deal justly with all; speak evil of none."
III. Should your intimate associate prove to be of evil principles, part company with him at once. Pull up the instant you find you are off the road, and take the shortest way back you can find. If the call of duty places you for a time, as it did Obadiah, in bad company, God is able to protect you from the moral taint, as He kept Daniel pure in the midst of Babylon; but not a moment longer than is needful should you tarry in the place of danger, for St. Paul truly says, "Be not deceived; evil company doth corrupt good manners."
J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned—Forearmed, p. 205.
Reference: 1 Kings 18:7-22.—J. R. Macduff, The Prophet of Fire p. 97.
1 Kings 18:12It is not a little remarkable that while idolatry and wickedness reigned at the court of Ahab, Obadiah, a pious man and a devout worshipper of God, should have possessed such influence with the king as to be able to retain his high position and office as lord chamberlain, or mayor of the palace. No doubt it was in spite of his religion, and because, like Daniel at the royal court of Babylon, he was found to be thoroughly trustworthy and conscientious.
From the words of the text we may learn two valuable lessons:—
I. The importance of early decision for God. Obadiah was not a particularly young man at this time; that is plain from his language; but his religious earnestness had dated from early life. His piety took the complexion of an awe-inspiring sense of a personal God. This is the most wholesome force by which a man's life can be guided. When we are on the verge of moral suicide, it is the felt presence of a personal God that holds us back from the pit of pollution. When men abandon this ground, and think of the Deity only as the great presiding force in nature, there is no longer any sound basis of morality or virtue.
II. The second lesson is the importance of courage in openly avowing our religious decision. The first thing is to have sound principles, and the second thing is not to be ashamed of them. Obadiah's piety must often have put his life in danger; but, for all that, he did not disavow his faith in Israel's God. The fear of the Lord took away every other fear.
It is a great help to us, if our faith is genuine, to meet with a little opposition at times. A man is none the worse a Christian for having occasionally to stand up for his principles. It makes our religion more real, and gives us greater confidence in its power.
J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 97.
References: 1 Kings 18:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1804; J. C. Harrison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 209. 1 Kings 18:17, 1 Kings 18:18.—R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 104. 1 Kings 18:17-40.—Parker, Fountain, Feb. 8th, 1877, and vol. viii., p. 32. 1 Kings 18:20.—A. Mursell, Lights and Landmarks, p. 126.
1 Kings 18:21Most of us are so conscious of some lurking weakness, and so fearful of ourselves, that we are reluctant to pledge ourselves to any definite course of action. The fact is plain, we do not like to make up our minds. And yet there is this awful law working itself out in the case of every one of us, that, whether we like it or not, our minds are being made up day by day.
The Jews in the time of Ahab found it most convenient to go with the fashion of the time and worship Baal; and when the really critical moment came, there was not a man who was prepared to make his choice between truth and falsehood. "The people answered him not a word."
Let us take the warning of the story. If it be true that life's great matters are not settled by a single act of choice, but by the habit of choosing rightly; if it be true that one grand critical moment comes to but very few, and that that moment is only the last moment of a chain of other moments, each one of which is as important as its successor, then those who make the choice rightly are the men who look upon the two paths of principle and convenience, of interest and duty, as distinct as honour and shame, as good and evil. The Lord, He is the God, and Him they will serve.
Let us remember that every hour we must look upon as the deciding hour which we will serve, good or evil, Christ or Belial.
A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 87
I. Elijah's message was limited to his age. He was not a seer of the future; no prophecies, properly so called, have come to us through him. What strikes us specially in him is the remarkable unity of his aim. His one message was the assertion of the to us simple truth of the unity of the true God, and His sole absolute claim on His creatures. It was the union of a grand revelation with the intensest inward fire which formed the force that bore Elijah on.
II. We may learn from the history of Elijah: (1) that the rest we need is to be acquired only by secret communing with God Himself; (2) that strength sufficient to support us when we stand alone is to be found in that simple hold upon God which seemed to be the one truth of Elijah's teaching.
T. T. Carter, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1869, p. 125.
Strange is it, if we think who God is, what Baal was, that such a choice should have ever had to be put to man; stranger yet that it should have had to be put to a people to whom God had declared His love for them, His individual care of them and of each soul among them.
Human nature remains the same now as then; God's claim on the sole allegiance of the creatures He has made remains the same; the temptingness of things out of God or contrary to God remains still the same; God's word speaks to our souls in histories: unlike in form, in their essence they are our very selves.
I. The world is still full of compromises. One might say, the world of this day is one great compromise. It hates nothing so much as Elijah's choice. The world is lax; it must hate strictness: the world is lawless; it must hate absolute, unyielding law, which presses it: the world would be sovereign, keeping religion in its own place, to minister to its well-being, to correct excesses, to soothe it, when wanted. But a kingdom which, though not of the world, demands the absolute submission of the world, must of course provoke the world's opposition.
II. Satan's temptations still begin by compromise. He repeats what was so miserably successful in Paradise: "Hath God indeed said?" He would take us on our weak side. He sees how essential to love and faith in God are humility and purity, and he is wise enough to begin his attacks on either from afar off: on purity by something not felt to be sin; on humility by thoughts of not being behind the age. You hear of the "reign of law" in all the physical creation; but of a reign of law over yourselves, to infringe which is to violate nature itself, of this modern philosophy teaches nothing.
III. Choose Him who alone is to be yours; choose to be henceforth wholly His. Other lords may have had dominion over you. Say this day, with His converted people, "The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God."
E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 369.
The "halting between two opinions" is one of the evils of the times, to some extent of all times. The world is singularly fond of compromises, and the same spirit finds its way into the Church. The appeal of the text has to do both with principles and practice.
I. It calls for decision as to the truth itself. "If the Lord be God"—that was the first point on which the people were to satisfy themselves. The question which every hearer of the Gospel has to settle for himself is whether he will trust in Christ as his Saviour and serve Him as his Lord. The one condition laid down by Christ Himself, and, indeed, growing out of the nature of the requirement, is that the decision should be clear and absolute.
II. This decision should lead to entire consecration. "If the Lord be God, follow Him." The following of Christ means the consecration of the entire nature—that is, the service of every separate part of the being, and the whole of each.
J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 41.
References: 1 Kings 18:21.—Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 63; W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 1st series, p. 185; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race, and Other Sermons, p. 87; A. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 234; W. Anderson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 309; W. Meller, Village Homilies, p. 219; Gresley, Practical Sermons, p. 319; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, 1st series, p. 77; R. Twigg, Sermons, p. 136; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 134; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 155; New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 126; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 73; Congregationalist, vol. viii., p. 138; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 119, and vol. iv., p. 330; C. Wordsworth, Occasional Sermons, 7th series, p. 131; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 64; W. M. Taylor, Elijah the Prophet, p. 96. 1 Kings 18:21-40.—J. R. Macduff, The Prophet of Fire, p. 113.
1 Kings 18:22I. The lesson of Elijah's history is the blessing and the glory of a constant will. It was this which made Elijah so great; it is this only which can make us great, for this is at the root of all true greatness. All actions of a seeming greatness which do not spring from this are nothing better than delusions and hypocrisy. Just so far as the will is truly purified by God's Holy Spirit and rules over all within us, just so far do we, as renewed men, rise up to the greatness of our redemption and answer to our own trial.
II. We may learn here further how this strength of character is gained. One has, as we say, naturally a far stronger character than another; but a constant will, that inner bond of humanity, is within the reach of all. Only let us strive after it aright. (1) We must remember that its right exercise is most properly a habit. All life is full of opportunities of choice, and as we choose in them and abide by our choice, such are we. (2) We should do common actions with an aim at great objects. Habitual converse with such objects is a testimony against the lower life within us, and strengthens mightily the sceptre of the will. He who acts for great objects is great indeed. (3) We must seek earnestly from God the strengthening and the purifying of our will by the renewing of His Holy Spirit. Every other strength of will than that which God gives is itself an evil; it has trodden out affection and fire, and the kindlings of the heart, instead of lifting all up with the glory of its own concentred energy.
S. Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 221.
Reference: 1 Kings 18:25-29.—S. Cox, Expository Essays and Discourses, p. 298.
1 Kings 18:26The conduct of the priests of Baal is in many respects well fitted to put to shame the disciples of Christ.
I. Notice first their zeal. They were willing to suffer and cut themselves with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out. The zeal and self-devotion with which idolaters will act on their mistakes ought to put us to the blush for the lukewarmness and cowardice which we often display in acting on our truths. The men who cheerfully acted on the precepts of a sanguinary religion are confronted with those among us who will not submit to the precepts of a mild one.
II. Notice how the idolatrous priests persevered, in spite of the keen ridicule of Elijah. In the matter of religion there is nothing which men find it so difficult to bear as ridicule. It can never be said that the priests of Baal had better reasons for being staunch in their adherence to their idol than the servants of God for confidence in His power and protection. They may be brought up as witnesses against us at the last if we show deficiency either in zeal or courage.
III. These priests furnish us with another lesson by their importunity. They persisted in praying, though no answer was vouchsafed. The silence of their deity appears to have been with them nothing but a reason for greater importunity; they were all the more earnest because they had obtained as yet no answer. Thus they seem to have held fast the principle that the Divine unchangeableness is not an argument against, but for, the possible utility of importunate prayer. We must bring the supremacy of our God to the test to which the idolaters were ready to submit that of Baal. "The God that answereth by fire, let him be God." There are those amongst us who have other gods than Jehovah. But can they answer by fire? It is the promise, the characteristic, of the dispensation under which we live, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1514.
References: 1 Kings 18:28.—J. T. Jeffcock, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 56. 1 Kings 18:30-40.—Parker, vol. viii., p. 36. 1 Kings 18:36.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1832. 1 Kings 18:38.—A. J. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 259. 1 Kings 18:38, 1 Kings 18:39.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 40. 1 Kings 18:39.—G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 257; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 34. 1 Kings 18:40.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1058; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 200; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit: Sermons, 10th series, p. 473. 1 Kings 18:40-46.—W. M. Taylor, Elijah the Prophet, p. 112. 1 Kings 18:41-46.—J. R. Macduff, The Prophet of Fire, p. 129; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 78. 1 Kings 18:42-44.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 99.
1 Kings 18:43This is one of the parables of nature which we may apply in many directions. It expresses the truth that often out of seeming nothingness there arises the very blessing most desired.
(1) "There is nothing." So the disciples thought when, from the top of Olivet, they gazed into heaven after their departed Master. But was there indeed nothing to come? Yes, there was everything. That little cloud which had shrouded Him from their sight was full of blessings. Christ was gone, but Christendom and Christianity were coming. (2) "There is nothing." So we think as we look into the wide world and see no visible trace of its eternal Maker and Ruler. But the absence of any especial presence is itself an expressive indication of the spiritual nature of things Divine. Let us hold on, "knowing, fearing nothing; trusting, hoping all." (3) "There is nothing." So we say to ourselves as, in the blank desolation of sorrow, we look on the lonely work that lies before us. The voice that cheered us is silent, and the hand that upheld us is cold in the grave. But out of that tender memory comes at last a cloud of blessings. (4) "There is nothing." So it would seem as we look at the small materials with which we have to carry on the conflict against the great powers of nature. (5) "There is nothing." So we sometimes think as we look on the barren fields of theological and metaphysical controversy. (6) "There is nothing." So we think as we look on many a human spirit and think how little there is of good within it, how hard is the ground that has to be broken, how slight is the response that is to be elicited. (7) "There is nothing." So we think of the small effects which any effort after good can accomplish. Yet here also out of that nothingness often rises that little cloud not bigger than a man's hand, yet the very hand that relieves us, that grasps us, that saves us from perishing. "Be not weary in welldoing." "Patience worketh experience, and experience hope."
A. P. Stanley, Addresses and Sermons in America, p. 172.
References: 1 Kings 18:43.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 274; A. K. H. B., Towards the Sunset, p. 167. 1Ki 18—J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 206. 1 Kings 19:1-3.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. iii., p. 47. 1 Kings 19:1-4.—J. R. Macduff, The Prophet of Fire, p. 143. 1 Kings 19:1-18.—Parker, Fountain, Feb. 22nd, 1877; W. M. Taylor, Elijah the Prophet, p. 129.
And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.
And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.
So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?
And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?
As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.
And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; 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.
Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?
And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.
And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.
So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.