In the third year — the year of judgment and resurrection — God told Elijah to show himself to Ahab. So, Elijah set out from Zarapheth in Sidon (he’d been hiding in Jezebel’s home territory!) and came toward Samaria.
He met Obadiah, Ahab’s Prime Minister, and told him to find Ahab. Here is how the conversation might have gone:
Elijah: “Well, behold the compromiser! Hey, puppy, tell your master I want to see him.”
Obadiah: “Listen, you fanatic! Because of you a lot of good people have been tortured and killed. Don’t call me a compromiser; I managed to keep a hundred of your fellow prophets alive after you left town! It’s extremists like you who make it harder for all the rest of us.”
Elijah: “Look, if all you softies would come out on the front lines and be counted, maybe we could accomplish something. But no, not you! You’ve got a cushy job with Jezebel. You want that nice retirement. As long as people like you stay in your liberal churches and try to `work in the system,’ we’re never going to get anywhere. Naked confrontation is the only way.”
Obadiah: “Oh, yeah? Well, let me just tell you something, Mr. Hero. Last month Ahab was about to put to death about five hundred of your people, and I talked him out of it. These people were under suspicion because of you and your activities. It was I who saved them. You’re needlessly stirring things up.”
Wait, wait! That’s not how it went, is it? Sadly, though, I imagine if a modern Elijah and a modern Obadiah met, that is probably how it would go.
You see, Elijah knew that he was only part of the solution, and so did Obadiah. God needed both the insider and the outsider. He needed both the prophet and the chamberlain. Is there something here for us, today?
I think there is something here for us. In fact, I think Jesus believed there was something in it for him.
We here many times about following Jesus in the Gospels–not as a term for faith and conversion but for literally following Jesus around the countryside:
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him (Mark 1:16-20 ESV).
We find out from the first chapter of John’s Gospel that Jesus already had a relationship with Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They had been prepared for the day Jesus would tell them it was time to go “full time.” Still, as written, this scene reminds us of Elijah again. While he had no argument against Obadiah, when he called Elisha to be his disciple, Elijah expected him to leave all other jobs behind.
So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him (1 Kings 19:19-21 ESV).
But if Elijah did not demand the same response he got from Elijah, perhaps Jesus had Obadiah’s in his own campaign in Israel.
It seems he did. As Obadiah served Ahab while remaining faithful, so in Jesus’ campaign there were others who helped him but remained embedded in ‘the establishment.”
TO BE CONTINUED