************ Sermon on 1 Kings 18:1-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 17, 2003
1 Kings 18:1-6
"The Evildoer and the Righteous"
"Now the famine was severe in Samaria" (1Ki 18:2). The land flowing with milk and honey was turned into a barren wilderness. The land and people of God were being ravaged by the famine.
If you remember, Elijah had announced this famine to Ahab. Because Israel's king and Israel's people had sinned a curse was put upon the land. They chased after other gods and made idol gods and worshiped Baal. So, the heat of the sun's rays was experienced by Israel as the heat of God's wrath. As punishment, Israel and her king had to live under a burning sun in the midst of parched fields and dried-out streams and rivers. As punishment, the people lacked food and faced hunger.
If the people of Israel would have turned to Scripture, to the books of Moses, to Deuteronomy, they clearly would have seen the reason for the drought and famine – their wickedness! Moses had announced that if the people were faithful to the Lord their God then they would be blessed. But if they were not faithful then they and their land and their cattle and their slaves would be cursed. He told them:
(Deut 28:1-4,12) If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. (2) All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: (3) You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. (4) The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks ... (12) The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.These are the blessings of God for covenant obedience and faithfulness. But, said Moses, the opposite was also true:
(Deut 28:15-16,18,22-24) However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: (16) You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country ... (18) The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks ... (22) The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. (23) The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. (24) The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.These are the curses of God for covenant disobedience and unfaithfulness.
Thanks to God's special revelation in the Bible, in Scripture, no one in Israel had an excuse for thinking of the drought and famine as a "natural event" determined by the laws and forces of nature. This was a drought and a famine determined and ordained by God in response to the sin of His people and their king. The laws of nature are servants of the Most High God and are obedient to His will and command.
"Now the famine was severe in Samaria" (vs 2). Everyone in Israel knew the reason for the famine and drought. Everyone in Israel should have been on their knees before the Lord begging for forgiveness and asking for grace.
I Ahab: A Wicked Man
A In this light, the attitude and actions of King Ahab only confirm his wicked heart.
Ahab did the exact opposite of King David in similar circumstances. During David's reign there was also a famine in the land. For three years in a row hunger stalked the land (2 Sam 21).
Because of those verses I read from Deuteronomy 28, David knew that the famine represented a "message from the Lord," a message of judgment and punishment. When there was famine in the land of the Lord, it had to be regarded as God's covenant wrath, as punishment for sins that had been committed.
David knew perfectly well that this famine was not a "natural event." If God's blessing has been withdrawn, there must have been a curse resting on the land because of some sin. And, if no atonement was made for the sin, the curse would not be removed.
So David did the only thing which could be done: "David sought the face of the LORD" (2 Sam 21:1). He wrestled with God in prayer. He asked God the reason for the famine. The Lord's answer: "It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death" (2Sam 21:1).
King Saul had broken the oaths given to the Gibeonites by Joshua and the leaders of Israel. If you remember, the Gibeonites pretended to be from a far off country and asked for a treaty. Without asking of the Lord, Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath in the name of God (Josh 9). But Saul did not take the oath seriously and proceeded to kill some of the Gibeonites.
Breaking an oath sworn in the name of God does damage to the name of God. And, it brands Israel as being untrustworthy. So God took action to uphold the honor of His name and the name of His people.
When David discovered the reason for the famine he made atonement for Israel. He led Israel in an act of repentance.
B Contrast this with what Ahab did, and it quickly becomes obvious that Ahab's heart continued to be hard against the Lord. Sure, there were differences between David's situation and Ahab's. The biggest difference was that David did not know which sin caused the Lord's wrath to rest upon the land. Ahab, on the other hand, knew perfectly well the sin that caused the drought and famine during his reign. Ahab did not even have to ask the Lord like David did because he had been told ahead of time by Elijah.
Ahab knew the cause of the famine. The Word of the Lord has been spoken so clearly to him. But he refused to seek the face of the Lord; he refused to humble himself and recognize his sin. Unlike David, he refused to recognize the famine as the Lord's punishment for covenant breaking. He refused to recognize the famine as an expression of covenant wrath. He refused to repent of his sin even though the Word of the Lord to him had been so clear.
C So much for what Ahab did not do. What did he do during the famine which showed the wicked nature of his heart? We are told that he called in Obadiah to talk over the crisis with him. The decision made at this special meeting was that Obadiah and Ahab would go in opposite directions searching through the land for food and water.
I want you to take note of four things here. First, we notice that Ahab finally swung into action only when his own animals were endangered by the drought. Did you catch what he said to Obadiah? He said,
(1Ki 18:5) "Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals."Ahab swung into action only when his own property and wealth were being jeopardized. When Ahab went out to seek grass, it was only for his own animals.
Second, Ahab went looking for grass. Ahab knew perfectly well what he needed to do if he wanted grass and water for his animals. He knew he had to fall down before the Lord in confession and repentance for his sins. He knew that rain would fall from the skies and the pastures would be covered with green growth on only one condition: that he humble himself before the Lord and lead the people in repentance.
Third, Ahab swung into action only when he heard the sounds of his starving horses and mules. Yet, all around Ahab were the sounds of people, his people, starving to death. As king, the people should have come first. The cries of the starving people, the moans of the poor, the sighs of the widows, the weeping of the sorrowful should have been his special concern. But Ahab heard his animals before he heard his people.
Fourth, we need to ask why Ahab was so concerned about horses and mules. You need to realize that horses and mules formed an essential part of Ahab's military might. You see, when it came to security for his land and kingdom, Ahab put his faith and trust not in God but in walled cities and in the might of his armies. He continued with the same policies that led to the rebuilding of Jericho as a fortress city; Ahab preferred a strengthened, walled Jericho to the might and protection of the Lord (cf 1Ki 16:34).
To sum up, we have to say that the words of our text from Revelation 22:11 apply so very well to Ahab:
(Rev 22:11) "Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile ..."Ahab was a wicked, evil, vile, and unrepentant man.
D When God punishes His people for their sin, there is only one way to escape the judgment and be restored to the favor of God. What is this way? It is the path of conversion. We need to be born again by the Spirit and blood of Christ. That is the only way of escape. We need to be born again. We need to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus in faith and obedience.
In Ahab we see a man who refused to do this. In Ahab we see a man who would rather perish than live in obedience before the Lord. Anyone who insists on living the way of sin, anyone who refuses to repent, will perish. This was true for Ahab and it is true for us as well.
My brothers and sisters, is there unconfessed sin in your life? Have you failed to repent of your sin? Don't harden your heart the way Ahab did. Confess your sin to the Lord. Repent of it. Turn to Christ in faith and obedience. Listen to God's Word when it confronts you about your sin.
II Obadiah: A Righteous Man
A The Word of God not only tells us about wicked Ahab but it also tells us about righteous Obadiah. When we look at Obadiah we see that the other half of our text applies to him:
(Rev 22:11) "Let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."
B What a contrast between Obadiah and Ahab. Ahab refused to serve the Lord. He refused to listen to the Word of the Lord. He put his trust and faith in armies and walled cities and not in God.
Obadiah, by way of contrast, "was a devout believer in the Lord" (1Ki 18:3). Later, in verse 12, we hear that from his youth on he "worshiped the Lord." He had a great love and reverence for the Lord. God was obviously the Lord of his life.
Through the Lord's providence, Obadiah received a name that suited him, a name that expressed the truth about him and revealed his inner nature. The name "Obadiah" means "servant of God." That was exactly what he turned out to be. The Lord saw to it that Obadiah's name did not turn into a lie.
That amazing thing about Obadiah is that he had a reputation for serving the Lord while he served Ahab and Jezebel. He was Ahab's right hand man, his prime minister. Ahab and Jezebel were hostile to God. They persecuted the prophets and the true worshipers of God. And yet, Obadiah, who greatly revered the Lord, found favor in Ahab's sight and was given a position of power and influence.
C Obadiah, we are told, took a hundred prophets of God and hid them by fifties in two caves and fed them with bread and water. In a time of famine it was no small matter to feed 100 prophets! We know from Scripture that Jezebel was on a blood hunt. She was trying to kill all the prophets of the Lord. If Obadiah was caught, Jezebel would surely have killed him. So at great personal risk and expense to himself Obadiah hid and fed these prophets.
We see that Obadiah submitted to God's Word. He took steps to protect and preserve the Word of the Lord – by hiding and feeding the 100 prophets.
Obadiah is an example of faith and godliness. He is a righteous man.
D Obadiah became the Lord's chosen instrument to preserve and protect the Word of God. God has a habit of using whatever is available. He used the ravens at the brook Cherith. He used the widow of Zarephath. In today's passage we see that He also used Obadiah.
E Today, my brothers and sisters, the Lord still looks for instruments of righteousness to carry out His will and purposes. God looks for righteous men and women and children of faith who will let themselves be used of the Lord.
God looks for people of faith to boldly proclaim the Gospel. There is always a need for pastors and missionaries. Amazing, isn't it – that God uses human instruments to spread the Gospel and to tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
God looks for people of faith to step in and speak against the injustices of our land. He wants people of faith to speak out against abortion and homosexual practice. He wants people of faith to fight the secular humanist thought that prevails in many of our public institutions. He wants people of faith to protest against the misuse of resources and the extinction of species and the pollution of the earth and the environment while being examples of stewardship in all of these areas.
Our portion of Scripture shows us two different ways of living. The way of Ahab means we refuse to repent of sin, it means we put our trust in things outside of God, it means we refuse to listen to God's Word and submit to it. It means,
(Rev 22:11) "Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile ..."
There is another way of living as well: the way of Obadiah which is the way of faith. This way means that we love and serve the Lord, it means that we submit to His Word, it means that we allow ourselves to be used by God as a weapon or instrument of righteousness. It means,
(Rev 22:11) "Let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."
I hope and pray that, by the grace of God, we all go the way of Obadiah and not the way of Ahab.
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