1 Kings 18:7-16
And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Are you that my lord Elijah?…
It is a proof of the extremity of distress to which the land had been reduced by famine that the king himself with one of his highest officers, the governor of his household, should have gone forth on this expedition in search of water and pasturage. The reverence the person of Elijah inspired is seen in the behaviour of Obadiah towards him when they met. The brief notice we have of this man is highly instructive.
I. HIS FIDELITY. His name, Obadiah, "servant of Jehovah," is suggestive of the strength of his religious character. And it was probably no vain boast that he had always sustained it (ver. 12). It may seem strange that so good a man should have been willing to remain in the service of such a king, and of a state so demoralized and disorganized by the spirit of idolatry. But note -
1. Religious fidelity wins respect even from those whose own life is most at variance with it. Ahab must have known that his servant remained true to the God of his fathers, and his being continued in such a post was a testimony to his moral and practical worth. Like Joseph in the court of Pharaoh, and Daniel in Babylon, "the Spirit of God was in him," and the king could find none more worthy of his trust. The fear of God is after all one of the highest qualifications for the secular businesses and responsibilities of life, and "when a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).
2. It is often a noble thing to stand at the post of duty, however uncongenial the moral atmosphere may be. We have no reason to believe that Obadiah retained his position by any kind of moral laxity. He did not violate his conscience in maintaining his secular allegiance. Naaman the Syrian, in the zeal of his new devotion to the God of Israel, asked a dispensation of forgiveness if he should bow with his master in the house of Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18), but we have no evidence even of such a compromise as this in the case of Obadiah. There are times when religious principle itself dictates that men should refuse to relinquish positions of peculiar danger and difficulty; but when fidelity to an earthly master is absolutely incompatible with fidelity to God, an upright spirit will not long hesitate.
3. God may have some great purpose for His servant in such a case to fulfil. Obadiah's mission may have been to mitigate as far as possible the horrors of the famine, to save as he did the lives of the sons of the prophets (ver. 13); to exert, perhaps, some kind of restraining influence over the conduct of the king. At all events the presence of such a man in one of the high places of the land would be a standing proof that God had not utterly abandoned His people. Every situation in life has its grand opportunities; when there is no possible way of turning it to good account we may well forsake it.
II. HIS FEAR. "What have I sinned?" etc. Faithful as Obadiah was, there was an element of timidity in his nature. He shrank from the risk the commission of the prophet imposed on him. His timidity has two aspects.
1. So far as it meant distrust of Ahab it was natural. He knew only too well his capricious and despotic temper, and could not rely either on his justice or his clemency. "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). "Let me not fall into the hands of man," etc. (2 Samuel 24:14).
2. So far as it meant distrust of Elijah or of the protective providence of God it was wrong. Could he think that the prophet would abuse his confidence, or that God would be unmindful of him, and after allowing him, for no fault of his own, to be involved in danger, would leave him to his fate? This shows weakness, and was unworthy of the character he bore. The best of men have their seasons of weakness, and fail sometimes under the pressure of unwonted circumstances to maintain the very virtues for which they are most distinguished. The meek spirited Moses is impetuous; the saintly David fails a prey to grovelling passion; the brave Peter proves a coward.
III. THE TRIUMPH OF HIS FIDELITY OVER HIS FEAR. The solemn asseveration of Elijah (ver. 15) rouses the braver spirit in him, and he responds to the call and goes to meet Ahab. When there is true nobility of character in a man, a word, a flash of light upon the realities of the situation, will often be enough to move him to put forth all his strength and shake off the spell of meaner feeling that may for a while have fallen upon him. - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?