1 Kings 18:7-15

Sermon preached on June 10, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Sir Henry Richards, tells of an occasion when he and Sir Wilfred Grenfell had gone out in a small sailing boat to visit some of the North Sea fishing vessels. A few miles off shore they encountered a terrific wind and huge waves. Richards became alarmed and suggested they turn back, but Grenfell replied,

"What are you scared of? The Lord will look after us." Richards replied, "He may look after you, Wilf, but how do you know he will look after me?"

That's the great question for us isn't it? I think sometimes we think that some of the people in the Bible were different from us—that God cared more for them than He does for us and that although He took care of them, we're not sure He'll take care of us. So we don't have the same kind of great faith that they had.

I remember the time I did a
triathlon we got on a bus to be driven to the race start. I was one of the first on the bus and I sat down by the window as some of the other participants were getting on. When one lady saw me she said to her friends,

"I'm going to sit next to Larry, he's close to God."

She thought that I was closer to God than she was. She was hoping that some of it would rub off on her.

Obadiah felt like that about Elijah—but he wasn't sure that any of it would rub off on him. He knew that God would take care of Elijah. But he wasn't sure that God would take care of him. It's obvious from his words. In his reply to Elijah after the prophet told him to go and tell King Ahab that he was there—Obadiah stated
three times that King Ahab would kill him. To state it three times shows that it was a great concern to him.

No doubt this was because
he was very familiar with Jezebel's killing of the prophets of the Lord. We're not sure if he saw any of it with his own eyes but it was very clear that he was very close to it for he himself hid 100 prophets of the Lord to prevent them from being killed. Obadiah knew that God did not protect all of his prophets. Elijah would certainly be safe, but many of the lesser prophets had perished. Obadiah was under no illusions—he knew that if he did what Elijah said he might be killed.

Part of his fear was also because what Elijah said didn't make sense to him. Obadiah knew that King Ahab and the Israelites had not repented. So why would Elijah show himself to King Ahab? Obadiah didn't understand it. He really didn't think it would happen. He thought that the Spirit would spirit Elijah out of the land before Elijah could find him.

Not only that, but God seemed to be condemning Obadiah to certain death in spite of the fact that he had saved 100 of the Lord's prophets from certain death. Didn't God care about how he had risked his life to save the prophets? Instead of rewarding him for it—it seemed that God was going to punish him. Why? None of this made any sense to Obadiah.

All these questions make Elijah's answer to Obadiah of great importance. What was he going to say to him to him? How was he going to allay his fears and get him to do his duty? This morning we're going to study his answer. Elijah said,

"As the LORD Almighty lives,
whom I serve,
I will surely present myself to Ahab today."

There are three parts to His answer.

The first part has to do with Elijah's description of God to Obadiah.

He referred to God as 'the Lord of hosts'.

We don't see this in the NIV. It reads, (verse 15)

"As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve,
I will surely present myself to Ahab today."

But a more literal translation of Elijah's words would be,

"As the Lord of Hosts lives…"

Elijah referred to God as the 'Lord of Hosts'. Obadiah was afraid and Elijah was drawing his attention to a characteristic of God that would strengthen his faith and help him go to King Ahab without fear.

So what does this name mean? What was Elijah pointing out to Obadiah?
'Host' refers to a great number. But a great number of what?

Some believe it refers to
the armies of Israel, and that it designates the Lord as a God of war. But that doesn't make sense in the context here because at this time there was a disconnect between the armies of Israel and God's power because the armies of Israel were against Elijah and God's prophets. Wicked King Ahab controlled the armies of Israel. He was no friend of God. So that doesn't fit.

Others think that the word 'hosts' refers to the stars.
The idea is that God created the stars and determines their courses. He is very great. He controls the stars.

Still others see a primary reference to the angels of heaven.
This name is often used in connection with the angels. For example, in 1 Samuel 4:4 we read that the people,

"brought back the ark of the covenant
of the Lord of Hosts,
who is enthroned between the cherubim."

The Old Testament also presents the angels as a host that surrounds the throne of God. In Isaiah 6 we read that Isaiah saw the Lord,

"seated on a throne,
high and exalted,
and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Above him were seraphs, each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet,
and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another:
Holy, holy, holy
is the LORD Almighty [of Hosts];
the whole earth is full of his glory."

Hermann Bavinck writes, (The Doctrine of God, p. 108)

"Throughout Scripture the name Yhwh Cbhaoth ['the Lord of Hosts'] expresses the glory of God as King, full of splendor and majesty.… the King in the fullness of His glory, surrounded by organized hosts of angels, governing the entire universe as the Omnipotent One, and in his temple receiving the honor and adoration of all his creatures."

E. J. Young tells us that it designates the Lord as the God of all hosts, being equivalent to, 'the all-powerful God'. That's why the NIV translates it as the "Lord Almighty'. Eduard Riehm suggests, (Quoted from M.B. Van't Veer, p. 173) that the idea that goes with this name is,

"that the hosts of the heavenly world are at the disposal of Yahweh for His royal purposes, which involves especially the conquest of the enemies of His Kingdom so that His people will be protected—all those to whom He shows grace…"

Although the incident with the prophet Elisha at Dothan was still in the future, I think it shows us to some extent what was meant by Elijah using the name 'the Lord of hosts'. You'll remember in 2 Kings 6 that the Syrian army came during the night and surrounded the city because they knew that Elisha was there. When Elisha's servant got up in the morning and saw them, he was afraid and came to Elisha perplexed. Elisha told him not to be afraid because,

"Those who are with us
are more than those who are with them."

Then Elisha prayed that his servants eyes would be opened and when they were, he saw, (1 Kings 6:17)

"the hills full of horses and chariots of fire
all around Elisha."

The Lord of Hosts was protecting Elisha. He had hosts of angels to send to protect him.

You'll also recall that when they arrested Jesus, He told Peter to put away his sword, saying, (Matthew 26:53)

"Do you think I cannot call on my Father,
and he will at once put at my disposal
more than twelve legions of angels?"

There were 6000 in a legion so Jesus is telling Peter that in an instant God could give him more than 72,000 angels.

Thus it seems that by using the name, 'the Lord of Hosts', Elijah was drawing Obadiah's attention to the fact that God is the sovereign ruler of heaven and the heavenly host. He is the one who commands the angels and they carry out His bidding. Such is His might and majesty that all the hosts of heaven are at His command. He is the one who commands the horses and chariots of fire. So what Elijah was pointing Obadiah to was that God's power was very great and that he didn't need to fear King Ahab. The God who watched over them was the 'Lord of Hosts'—the all powerful One, the Almighty—the King of Glory who sits enthroned in heaven with all the heavenly host at His command. By implication, if the heavenly host are at His command—everything, even things on earth, are under His control. Obadiah has no need to be afraid.

The second thing we see about Elijah's reply to Obadiah was that Elijah declared that

the Lord of Hosts was worthy of his service and trust.

What God was doing didn't make sense to Obadiah. He couldn't see a reason for Elijah to appear before King Ahab. Neither Ahab nor the people of Israel had repented. Obadiah didn't believe that Elijah would really appear before King Ahab. He thought the Spirit would whisk him away.

So Elijah said to Obadiah,

"As the LORD of Hosts lives,
whom I serve"

Elijah told Obadiah that he served this great Lord of Hosts. The implication was that Obadiah should also serve Him without hesitation.

This is a point that we should not miss. Why are you here on this earth? Whom do you serve?
You are called to serve the great Lord of Hosts. The One who gives you orders and commands to us in the Bible is the same One who gives orders to the archangels. The Lord of Hosts gives orders to the great archangel Michael and he obeys. The Lord of Hosts gives orders to the great archangel Gabriel and he obeys. He gives orders to all the heavenly host and they obey. They obey with joy, with praise, with reverence.

That's what we should do too.
You Christians are all called to serve the great Lord of Hosts. But our problem is that we sometimes forget who we are serving. We somehow think that we have to understand what this great Lord of Hosts is doing before we trust and obey. We forget that God's ways are very much higher than our ways. God said in Isaiah 55:9,

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

We forget that and we sometimes hesitate in our duty.

We also sometimes forget about the great cause in which He has enlisted us and we focus on the wrong things. Consider Obadiah here. He lost sight of the big picture. He became afraid when he got his assignment. All he could think of was King Ahab's anger.

But did the Lord of hosts know what He was doing? Absolutely. He is the Lord of Hosts and if He knows how to rule the heavenly realm (which He certainly does) He also knows how to rule the earthly realm. After all, the earth is merely His footstool. (Isaiah 66:1)

Trust God. He is the Lord of Hosts. He knows what He is doing on earth.

The third thing we see in Elijah's reply to Obadiah was that

Elijah told him that God wasn't going to let him down.

Elijah said to Obadiah,

"As the LORD Almighty lives,
whom I serve,
I will surely present myself to Ahab today."

Elijah was assuring Obadiah that he had nothing to fear. God was going to look after him. Obadiah should have obeyed without this assurance but God stooped to give it to him to help his lack of faith.

What Elijah was doing was showing for Obadiah that God was concerned about him.

The great truth that all Christians should grasp is that God loves them and is concerned about them. Back then God was not just concerned about Elijah. The wrong way to look at it would be to think that God was concerned about Elijah—but not about Obadiah. The wrong way to look at it would be to think that God was concerned about Elijah and not about the prophets of the Lord that Jezebel killed.

Or consider the New Testament. Tradition has it that all the apostles except
John died martyr's deaths. We know that Jesus predicted that Peter would die by crucifixion. Did that mean that God loved John more than Peter? No. Stephen was martyred. Did that mean that God loved him less that the other deacons? No.

What we must remember is that
we are all precious in God's sight. Christian, how much does Jesus love you? He loves you so much that He died for you. Psalm 116:15 tells us that the death of his people is precious in God's sight. Psalm 56:8 tells us that God notes all of our tears and marks them in His scroll. Our troubles are of concern to Him. In Zechariah 2:8 the prophet said to God's people,

"whoever touches you
touches the apple of his eye"

We are all precious in God's sight. But the Lord of Hosts, in His great wisdom, has given us different jobs. For Elijah it was to confront King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. For Obadiah, it was to protect the prophets of the Lord and then to tell King Ahab that Elijah had returned. For you it's a different job.

The point is that God loves His people and will protect them in the ultimate sense. In John 10 Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. What does the Good Shepherd do? Does he care for some of the sheep and not all of them? No. Does he save some of the sheep and not all of them? No. Jesus said about His sheep and His care of them, (John 10:28-30)

"I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them
out of my Father's hand.
I and the Father are one."

That promise applies to all Christians. We all have the same promises. They don't apply to Christian leaders any more than they do to you. The promise that if you give a cup of cold water to a little one who believes in Jesus you will not lose your reward is not just for Christian leaders—it's for all of us.

What Obadiah needed to realize was that the Lord of Hosts was working, not against him, but for him!

Obadiah thought that God was working against him. Obadiah didn't think that God would reward him for all the faithful service that he had rendered to God when he hid the 100 prophets from Jezebel and saved their lives. Obadiah was afraid. He thought that God was casting him to the wolves.

But God was concerned about and cared for Obadiah. But what we must also understand is that God was concerned about all of His people. He was concerned about the 7000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal and their suffering in the famine. He was also concerned about the people in Israel who were under Baal's sway, who were unrepentant. He was concerned about calling the unrepentant in Israel back to Himself. That's what He was doing in sending Elijah to King Ahab.

We must always keep this in mind. Because of Jesus and His great work God has great and glorious plans for the universe. He has great and glorious plans for His church. The wisdom, knowledge and power and might of the Lord of hosts are brought to bear on this earth through and for the church. As the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 1:17-23,

"I keep asking that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power
for us who believe.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything
for the church, which is his body,
the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."

Jesus is ruling 'for the church'. He is ruling for you, for other Christians, for those He is yet to call. Trust Him. Serve Him. Praise Him.

Now for those of you who are not Christians, this means that

you should be serving the Lord of hosts.

Who is like the God of Israel? No one. He is exalted. He is majestic. There is no one like Him. The angels surround Him, praising Him, adoring Him, serving Him. It is their greatest delight and joy. It's the best and greatest thing in the world to do.

Right now, if you're not serving Him. You're serving the devil. The devil hates you. He wants nothing better than to cast you into hell forever and ever. And you're serving Him.

Serve God. He loves sinners. He sent His Son to die for them. Jesus died so that sinners might live in glory with Him forever and ever. Serve Him. If you don't, it'll be the greatest tragedy for you that could ever be. Serve Him.