The books of 1 and 2 Kings, in the Hebrew Bible, are part of a section referred to as the Former Prophets. And its not that difficult to see why. As we hop quickly from the reign of one king to another, the narrative slows down whenever a man of God comes on the scene.
Between the tales of the prophets, we just get straightforward recitation. Dry statements of fact. This king lived and reigned this many years. And then he died. And then this king lived and reigned this many years. And then he died. And on and on.
Most of the details are glossed over, even though there are certainly some great tales of intrigue and succession to pull from. But they get almost no time to shine.
Instead, over and over, it is the rote retelling of death. In Romans 5:14, Pauls tells us that ever since Adam, death has reigned, and that point is hammered home in the accounts of the kings of Israel. It can seem dull. It can seem tedious. And such is life without the living, breathing word of God, represented here by the prophets who speak for Him.
And there is no greater example of this than the stories surrounding the prophet Elijah. Elijah is the prototypical prophet, the one all others will be compared to after him. A bold man of God, mighty in both deed and speech. He appears out of nowhere, with almost no introduction, and announces a famine and then takes off as soon as he lays down the judgement. On his journeys, he raises the dead, he defeats 450 prophets of Baal in a grand, dramatic demonstration of God’s power, he brings the rains back, he outruns a chariot, and at the end of his life is himself taken up to heaven in a whirlwind air and fire. A bit dramatic.
And, perhaps the most impressive of all, he actually gets evil king Ahab to finally repent with sackcloth and fasting. The most wicked king Israel had seen to that point, and he finally humbles himself after Elijah confronts him for what will turn out to be the last time.
As soon as Elijah steps onto the scene, everyone is forced to react to him and his declarations from the Lord. No one can ignore him.
One such person who cannot ignore him is a man named Obadiah. He too is caught in the blast radius of Elijah’s footsteps. That’s where we will be focusing our attention.
Text: 1 Kings 18:1-6
Here we are first introduced to Obadiah, and we are immediately told two very important facts about him.
The first: he is head over the household of Ahab. He is an important official in the Ahab administration. To have this job means he is trusted with many things, including the king’s very life. This is someone very close to the king and his family, possibly even the king’s close confidant and friend. He is most likely wealthy, and he commands many resources on his own, as we will see.
And yet, immediately after we learn about his employment, we learn of another fact. The text tells us that Obadiah feared the LORD greatly.