Monday, September 2, 2013

Being a "Lesser-Known" in a Fame-Frenzied World

Living beside a brook while being fed from the ravens' mouths, challenging the prophets of Baal to see whose god would light the altar of sacrifice with heavenly fire, running at super-human speed ahead of Ahab's chariot down Mt. Carmel to beat the coming rain--these are the stories of Elijah that I cut my teeth on.  Next week, I'll begin passing down these same stories to my four-year-old Sunday School class as I've done for over a decade.

Yet, somehow, in all those times of listening, reading, and teaching the books of 1 & 2 Kings, I've continuously skipped over an almost invisible character named Obadiah.  The problem is that Elijah's character has such a commanding stage presence, the supporting "cast" members, like Obadiah, just aren't memorable.

Even the prophet Elijah discounted Obadiah's dedication and service to the Lord as not being worth remembering.  He complained, "I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left" (1 Kin. 18:22).

Last week, we examined Obadiah's position within Ahab's palace and how he remained silent about his commitment to the Lord, all while placing his life in danger as he hid/fed/watered 100 prophets from the evil king and his equally wicked bride.

There's something more, though, that we can learn from Obadiah, and it has everything to do with our passing right over him, with our not remembering his name or even that he even participated in the storyline.

Obadiah is an example of the many lesser-known persons in Scripture.  He shows up in only six verses of one chapter and only then as the reluctant liaison between Elijah and King Ahab. 

At first, he is introduced as: "a devout believer in the Lord. While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water" (1 Kin. 18:3-4).

Then, he plays his part in the plot.  As Obadiah and King Ahab are out looking for grass for their livestock, "Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, 'Is it really you, my lord Elijah?'” (1 Kin. 18:7).  Here he is, just walking along the hillside, and there he meets Israel's most wanted fugitive who calmly asks him to go announce his presence to Ahab.

Knowing Elijah's supernatural ability to elude King Ahab's troops for several years, Obadiah is more than a little reluctant.  In fact, he accuses Elijah of sending him on a suicide mission before adding, " I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water" (1 Kin. 18:12-13).

In the end, Obadiah goes, finds, and tells Ahab who then comes to Elijah.

These few verses provide everything we know of Obadiah's character and activities.  

First, he is a "devout believer."  Verse 12 defines this characteristic further, explaining that Obadiah's devotion to the Lord was life-long, "since his youth."  This devotion was obviously tested and found to be true, as twice we are told Obadiah valued his life less than that of the hundred prophets he was protecting in caves. 

Next, verse 7 shows that Obadiah bowed when he met Elijah, an action that shows his reverence for a man of God, which, in turn, demonstrates his own true reverence for God.  

And that's it.  If you're a journalist, you're probably disappointed at this point.  That's all!?

Well, of course not.  Obadiah's life was surely full of more acts of service to the Lord...just maybe nothing big enough to be front page news like "Obadiah Brings In Troubler of Israel!" or "Hiding a Hundred in the Hills."

But I think that's the point of including him and other equally obscure characters in scripture.  No, it's not to make games like Bible Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy a challenge.  It's to show us how even the lesser-known persons are important to God's God knows even us lesser-known persons by name.

Perhaps you once had a vision of all the magnificent things you could do for the Lord.  Maybe you envisioned yourself as a famous missionary living life halfway around the globe; as an oft-published Christian author whose words brought many to saving faith in Jesus; or an uber-successful speaker teaching standing-room-only Bible studies.  

As the years have passed, none of those dreams has become reality.  Instead, you're still living on obscurity, devoutly serving Jesus.  Perhaps you're the silent partner working in the shadows of some larger than life personality...and no one knows your name.

I understand the feeling.  Yet, I also know HE knows our names and that when we feel we're not making a big difference, we must reconcile in our hearts the truth of our significance in the kingdom of God.   

Big to God might only look like little to us. 

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