1 Kings 18:12
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.
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(12) The Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee.—In this phrase there is perhaps a survival of the original physical sense of the word “Spirit”—the whirlwind which is “the breath of the Lord.” (Comp. 2Kings 2:16; Acts 8:39.) To Obadiah it seemed that only by such miraculous agency could Elijah have been removed from the persecution for so long a time, and that, having emerged for a moment, he will be swept away into his hidden refuge again.

1 Kings


To the Young

1 Kings 18:12

This Obadiah is one of the obscurer figures in the Old Testament. We never hear of him again, for there is no reason to accept the Jewish tradition which alleges that he was Obadiah the prophet. And yet how distinctly he stands out from the canvas, though he is only sketched with a few bold outlines! He is the ‘governor over Ahab’s house,’ a kind of mayor of the palace, and probably the second man in the kingdom. But though thus high in that idolatrous and self-willed court, he has bravely kept true to the ancient faith. Neither Jezebel’s flatteries nor her frowns have moved him. But there, amid apostasy and idolatry he stands, probably all alone in the court, a worshipper of Jehovah. His name is his character, for it means ‘servant of Jehovah.’ It was not a light thing to be a worshipper of the God of Israel in Ahab’s court. The feminine rage of the fierce Sidonian woman, whom Ahab obeyed in most things, burned hot against the enemies of her father’s gods, and hotter, perhaps, against any one who thwarted her imperious will. Obadiah did both, in that audacious piece of benevolence when he sheltered the Lord’s prophets-one hundred of them-and saved them from her cruel search. The writer of the book very rightly marks this brave antagonism to the outburst of the queen’s wrath as a signal proof of a more than ordinary devotion to the worship and fear of Jehovah. His firmness and his religion did not prevent his retaining his place of honour and dignity. That says something for Ahab, and more perhaps for Obadiah.

Most of you believe that you ought to ‘fear the Lord’: but you are apt to put off, and so I wish to urge on you that you should give your hearts to Jesus Christ at once.

I. The blessedness of youthful religion.

{a} It guards from many temptations, and keeps a character innocent of much transgression.

Think of the dangers that lie thick in the streets of every great city, and of a lad coming up from a country home of godliness, where he was surrounded by a mother’s love and an atmosphere of purity, and launched into some lonely lodging, or some factory or warehouse with many tempters. Nothing will be such a help to resistance and victory as to be able to say, ‘So did not I because of the fear of the Lord.’

{b} It will save from remorse. Even if a man ‘sobers down’ after ‘sowing his wild oats,’ which is a very problematical ‘if,’ what bitter memories of wasted days, what polluting memories of filthy ones, will haunt him! And if he does not sober down, what then?

It is folly to begin life on a wrong tack, in regard to which the best that you can say is that you do not mean to continue it. If you do not, then the wise thing is to get at once on to the road on which you do mean to continue, and to save the weary work of retracing steps and the painful consciousness of having made a false start. Are you so sure that you will wish, or that it will be possible, to face right about and get on to a new line? Fishermen catch lobsters and the like by means of baskets with one opening, the withes of which are so set that the entrance is easy, but that a ring of sharp points oppose all attempts at turning back and getting out. The world lays ‘pots’ of that sort, and many a young man and woman glides smoothly in, and finds it impossible to get out.

{c} It usually leads to a deeper and more peaceful and harmonious religion than is attained by those who have given the world the better part of their days, and have only the last fragment of them to give to God. Obadiah had feared God from his youth, and that had a good deal to do with his brave stand against Jezebel. It is a grand thing to enlist habit on the side of godliness.

II. The foes of youthful religion.

There are foes within . . .. the strong self-reliance and bounding life proper to youth, without which at the opening of the flower, the bloom would be poor and the fruit little, . . . the power of appeals to the unjaded and physically strong senses, . . . the difficulty at such a stage of life of looking forward and soberly regarding the end.

There are foes without . . ..the crowds of tempters of both sexes, men and women who take a devilish pleasure in polluting innocent minds, . . . the companions whose jeers are worse to face than a battery, . . . the inconsistencies of so-called Christians, the anti-Christian literature which is peculiarly fascinating to the young, with its brave show of breaking with mouldy tradition and enthroning reason and emancipating from rusty fetters.

III. The too probable alternative to youthful religion.

It is but too likely that, if a man does not ‘fear the Lord’ from ‘his youth,’ he will never fear Him. Thank God, there is no time nor condition of life in which the wicked man cannot ‘forsake his way,’ or ‘the unrighteous man his thoughts,’ and ‘turn to the Lord’ with the assurance that ‘He will abundantly pardon.’ But it is sadly too plain to observation, and to the experience of some of us, that obstacles grow with years, that habits and associations grip with increasing power, that in all things our natures become less flexible, the supple sapling becoming gnarled and tough, that a middle-aged or old man is more inextricably ‘tied and bound by the cords of his sins,’ than a young one is.

Sin lies to us by first saying, ‘It is too soon to be religious,’ and then it lies to us by saying, ‘It is too late.’

The inclination diminishes.

The Gospel long heard and long put aside, loses power.

Contrast the beauty of a course of life, begun on the same lines as those on which it ends, and being like ‘the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the meridian of the day,’ with one which gave the greater part of its years to ‘the world, the flesh, and the devil,’ or at least to one’s godless self, and the dregs of it only to God.

1 Kings 18:12. The Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not — Shall snatch thee away from hence, so that thou shalt not be found; instances of such sudden transportations of the prophets, by an invisible power, to places far distant from those where they were, having undoubtedly occurred before this time, as we know they did after. See the margin. He shall slay me — Either as an impostor that has deluded him with vain hopes, or rather, because I did not seize upon thee forthwith, and bring thee to him. But I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth — He speaks not these or the following words in a way of boasting; but only for his own necessary vindication and preservation, that he might move the prophet to spare him, and not put him upon that hazardous action; which yet, it appears, he was resolved to perform, if Elijah peremptorily required it.

18:1-16 The severest judgments, of themselves, will not humble or change the hearts of sinners; nothing, except the blood of Jesus Christ, can atone for the guilt of sin; nothing, except the sanctifying Spirit of God, can purge away its pollution. The priests and the Levites were gone to Judah and Jerusalem, 2Ch 11:13,14, but instead of them God raised up prophets, who read and expounded the word. They probably were from the schools of the prophets, first set up by Samuel. They had not the spirit of prophecy as Elijah, but taught the people to keep close to the God of Israel. These Jezebel sought to destroy. The few that escaped death were forced to hide themselves. God has his remnant among all sorts, high and low; and that faith, fear, and love of his name, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, will be accepted through the Redeemer. See how wonderfully God raises up friends for his ministers and people, for their shelter in difficult times. Bread and water were now scarce, yet Obadiah will find enough for God's prophets, to keep them alive. Ahab's care was not to lose all the beasts; but he took no care about his soul, not to lose that. He took pains to seek grass, but none to seek the favour of God; fencing against the effect, but not inquiring how to remove the cause. But it bodes well with a people, when God calls his ministers to stand forth, and show themselves. And we may the better endure the bread of affliction, while our eyes see our teachers.There is no nation ... - This is expressed in the style of Oriental hyperbole. What Obadiah means is: "there is no nation nor kingdom, of those over which he has influence, whither the king has not sent." He could scarcely, for example, have exacted an oath from such countries as Egypt or Syria of Damascus. But Ahab may have been powerful enough to expect an oath from the neighboring Hittite, Moabite, and Edomite tribes, perhaps even from Ethbaal his father-in-law, and the kings of Hamath and Arpad. 7-16. Obadiah was in the way … Elijah met him—Deeming it imprudent to rush without previous intimation into Ahab's presence, the prophet solicited Obadiah to announce his return to Ahab. The commission, with a delicate allusion to the perils he had already encountered in securing others of God's servants, was, in very touching terms, declined, as unkind and peculiarly hazardous. But Elijah having dispelled all the apprehensions entertained about the Spirit's carrying him away, Obadiah undertook to convey the prophet's message to Ahab and solicit an interview. But Ahab, bent on revenge, or impatient for the appearance of rain, went himself to meet Elijah. The Spirit of the Lord; the Holy Ghost, to whom the inspiration and conduct of the prophets is commonly ascribed in Holy Scripture, as Isaiah 48:16 61:1 Matthew 4:1 Acts 16:6,7, who might do this either immediately by his own power, or by an angel, or by a strong wind.

Shall carry thee whither I know not; such transportations of the prophets having doubtless been usual before this time, as they were after it. See 2 Kings 2:16 Ezekiel 3:12,14 Mt 4:1 Acts 8:39.

He will slay me; either as a cursed impostor that hath deluded him with vain hopes; or rather, because I did not forthwith seize upon thee, and bring thee to him to receive punishment.

I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth: he speaks not these nor the following words in way of vain boasting, but only for his own necessary vindication and preservation, that he might move the prophet to pity and spare him, and not put him upon that hazardous action; which yet he was resolved to do, if the prophet peremptorily required it.

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,.... This he supposed might possibly, and very probably, be the case, since small raptures might have been already, and known to Obadiah, as there were afterwards, see 2 Kings 2:16, and then he should not know where he was, nor be able to direct his master where to find him:

and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me; for telling him a lie, and deceiving and mocking him; or for not seizing on Elijah, and bringing him, when he knew he was so desirous of getting him into his hands:

but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth; and therefore did not deserve to be treated after this manner, having been an early and conscientious worshipper of the true God.

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 {d} fear the LORD from my youth.

(d) I am not of the wicked persecutors that you should procure to me such displeasure, but serve God and favour his children.

12. And it shall come to pass] Clearly Obadiah regards Elijah’s concealment as only possible, amid such a thorough inquiry, by reason of divine aid. This may be exercised again, and he be taken away and concealed, before Ahab can be brought to him.

the spirit of the Lord shall carry thee] So Acts 8:39, of the supernatural removal of Philip. Cf. likewise 2 Kings 2:16.

fear the Lord from my youth] The true worshippers of Jehovah had not all perished out of Israel through Jeroboam’s sin. Not only in special bodies, as the sons of the prophets, but also in positions of secular employment, we find some who still hold to the pure religion of Jehovah, and teach their children the same. The Hebrew, literally is ‘but thy servant feareth the Lord from my youth,’ which accounts for the italic ‘I’ of A.V.

Verse 12. - And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that [Heb. I shall go from thee, and] the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not [These words, which literally translated are "shall lift thee up upon where," etc., are to be explained by 2 Kings 2:16, "lest the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up" (same word) "and cast him upon some mountain," etc. Seb. Schmidt, Wordsworth, al. think that such a transportation must have already occurred in the history of Elijah, but the sudden, mysterious disappearance and the long concealment of the prophet is quite sufficient to account for Obadiah's fear. Compare Acts 8:39. The words do suggest, however, that it had been believed by some that the Lord had hid Elijah, and it is not improbable that during his long absence rumours had often gained credence that he had been seen and had suddenly disappeared, just as later Jews have held that he "has appeared again and again as an Arabian merchant to wise and good Rabbis at their prayers or in their journeys" (Stanley)]; and so when I come and tell [Heb. and I come to tell] Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me [This is just what a prince like Ahab, or any prince who was under the guidance of a Jezebel, would do, out of sheer vexation at losing his prey when so nearly in his grasp]: but [Heb. and] I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. [Obadiah's meaning clearly is not that he, "as a God-fearing man and a protector of the prophets, cannot have any special favour to expect from Ahab" (Keil; similarly Ewald), but that it was hard that one who was a steadfast worshipper of Elijah's God should be slain for his sake. It is extremely unlikely that Ahab knew of Obadiah's having protected the prophets. He could hardly have maintained him in his post had he known that the steward of the palace had thwarted the designs of his queen.] 1 Kings 18:12"And if it comes to pass (that) I go away from thee, and the Spirit of Jehovah carries thee away whither I know not, and I come to tell Ahab (sc., that thou art here) and he findeth thee not, he will slay me, and thy servant feareth the Lord from his youth," etc.; i.e., since I as a God-fearing man and a protector of the prophets cannot boast of any special favour from Ahab. מנּערי, from my youth up: "thy servant" being equivalent to "I myself." From the fear expressed by Obadiah that the Spirit of Jehovah might suddenly carry the prophet to some unknown place, Seb. Schmidt and others have inferred that in the earlier history of Elijah there had occurred some cases of this kind of sudden transportation, though they have not been handed down; but the anxiety expressed by Obadiah might very well have sprung from the fact, that after Elijah had announced the coming drought to Ahab, he disappeared, and, notwithstanding all the inquiries instituted by the king, was nowhere to be found. And since he was not carried off miraculously then (compare the לך and ויּלך, "get thee hence" and "he went," in 1 Kings 17:3, 1 Kings 17:5), there is all the less ground for imagining cases of this kind in the intermediate time, when he was hidden from his enemies. The subsequent translation of Elijah to heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), and the miraculous carrying away of Philip from the chamberlain of Mauritania (Acts 8:39), do not warrant any such assumption; and still less the passage which Clericus quotes from Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:14), because the carrying of Ezekiel through the air, which is mentioned here, only happened in vision and not in external reality. If Obadiah had known of any actual occurrence of this kind, he would certainly have stated it more clearly as a more striking vindication of his fear.
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