For those who are familiar with the Old Testament, the name Obadiah automatically reminds us of the single-chapter book associated with the prophet of the same name that declared the downfall of the Edomites. However, there is another Obadiah mentioned in the Old Testament that is worthy of our acknowledgement.
In First Kings 18, we are introduced to Israel during the days of Elijah. The Northern Kingdom is ruled by that “wonderful” duo of Ahab and Jezebel; and the ungodly queen has done everything she can to stamp out the worship of God from among the people. She has even gone to the extent of making the prophets of God outlaws and has them put to death wherever they are found. It is under these conditions that God sends Elijah back to Samaria from his exile in Sidon to come before Ahab and, eventually, have the contest with the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
When Elijah comes back into the land he finds a man named Obadiah. The Biblical record states: And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.
And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. And Obadiah recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.'” And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here.”‘ And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where. And so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water? And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here”‘; and he will kill me.” And Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah. (1 Kin. 18:3-16 ESV)
Obadiah is the servant over Ahab’s household, but of greater importance he is a servant of God. Obadiah shows his courage by saving 100 prophets of God from certain death. Not only does he hide them, he sees to it they have food, water, and shelter. He watches over them, indications are, for a long period of time; keeping them safe from the wrath of the queen.
But Obadiah is also fearful. When Elijah tells him to go and relay the message of his return to the king, Obadiah wonders what he has done to deserve such a death sentence. Elijah will promise Obadiah that God will take care of him and protect him from Ahab, but Obadiah is still fearful of the repercussions of being the messenger proclaiming the return of a prophet so highly disdained before the king. Nevertheless, Obadiah does what is asked of him, and God does as Elijah said he would in protecting him.
Obadiah is an excellent example of courage and conviction. He was willing to help and protect God’s people even though it put his own life at risk. He was faithful to God, even while serving a king that had no concern for God’s laws or his people. Though fearful at what he was asked to do, Obadiah fulfilled his mission and announced Elijah’s return to the king. As Bible students we should remember in our own lives, and instruct others as the opportunity arises, the courage and virtues of “the other Obadiah.”