After many days, the Lord tells Elijah to go show himself unto Ahab and he’ll make it rain again. This chapter I feel like is going to be pretty intense. The chapter heading is pretty boss. All this is happening in the 3rd year of the famine in Samaria. So that means we have 6 months left of the famine. Does that mean this chapter takes place over a period of six months? If Elijah is still in Zarephath at the beginning of this chapter, making the journey back to Samaria would take some time.
Elijah Returns to Samaria
As usual, once Elijah receives the direction from the Lord, he gets up and sets off to show himself to Ahab. What a diligent guy! 1 Nephi 3:7. I know Elijah has done this before but do you think that he gets nervous going to visit Ahab? He is the most wicked and powerful king of Israel at the time. I bet he doesn’t. Do you know why I think that? Because he read the “Missionary Commission” by Bruce R McConkie. Actually, God probably told him it. I’m going to copy it here and talk about it.
“I am called of God. My authority is above that of kings of the Earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of Jesus Christ. He is my master and he has chosen me to represent him. To stand in his place, to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering to the very people to whom he has sent me. My voice is his voice and my acts are his acts; my words are his words and my doctrine is his doctrine. My commission is to do what he wants done. To say what he wants said. To be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work.”
Pumps you up quite a bit doesn’t it? Every time I read this, I feel like I am better enabled to do missionary work. A prophet’s job is exactly this commission. This puts the job of being a missionary in perspective for me. It shifts all the focus and glory on Jesus Christ. We are here to be his personal representatives. To what extent we fulfill this commission will determine how satisfied we are with our mission. Did you do all the things you were called to do? While this is a high commission, God qualifies you for the work (see Clayton Christiansen’s talk, “My ways are not your ways.”). When you have faith, realizing that God in a very real sense will melt your weaknesses away, the more understanding and faith you have, missionary work becomes natural and easy because you can’t fail! Even failures become triumphs. Now, tying this back to Elijah. As I said earlier, prophets have a similar if not the same commission. I think Elijah understood this very well. As demonstrated, when the Lord commanded him to go somewhere, he simply went. He had that complete trust in the Lord that allowed him the knowledge of overcoming all obstacles set up by man. He was on the Lord’s mission and if that was the case, the Lord would prepare a way for him to accomplish his duty. And nothing could stop him from finishing it. Faith and hope are the absence of fear. I have already talked about this extensively in my notebook on faith. I shared a story of an experience in which I tried to have greater faith for one day. I found I was confident, which was unusual because I didn’t know Malay that well. But I realized that I was on the Lord’s errand and if I needed to communicate or teach, I would be able to sufficiently communicate my thoughts. It was pretty cool. I can see Elijah being confident, not in a cocky way, but in a quiet dignity sort of way. I be that’s what he was like. I’d like to meet him.
The Search for Elijah
Ahab calls Obadiah, the governor of his house. Who was Obadiah? Bible dictionary time! He was a steward of Ahab who protected the prophets from Jezebel. Cross Reference D&C 76:5. God delights in those who fear him (like Obadiah) not in a bad way, but in a way that he can bless them when they serve him in righteousness. Just doing a little reading ahead, Obadiah isn’t called because Elijah arrived, this is just one of those random times he is called.
Oh, forgot, Obadiah fears God because he saves 100 prophets from Jezebel. She sought to kill them (scripture says cut them off of the Lord…wait, is that what it means?) Anyway, Obadiah hides 50 in one cave and 50 in another. He fed them both by bread and water. Good guy! I wonder if he was ever caught? If so, he probably was looked after a lot more, kept a better eye out.
Anyway, Obadiah is called. Ahab wants his help to see if they can obtain enough grass to save the horses and other beasts. Remember, a great famine is still going. I think when it talks about grass, it doesn’t mean the little green stuff we find on our front lawns in America. I think what it is meant is like hay, straw, and barley. The solution they come up with is divide the land between themselves, and Ahab go one way and Obadiah go one way. Original plan. And why did Ahab go himself? Why did he go to the head of his house? In essence, the ruler of the land and his vice president? Maybe they both just headed the project and had their servants go out, occasionally going themselves.
A Serendipitous Meeting
While Obadiah is out and about guess who he meets? Elijah! Obadiah asks if he is Elijah. He answers that it is and to go tell Ahab he has arrived. I wonder if Obadiah knew Elijah well. Probably, since Elijah had visited Ahab before. Oh, do you think Elijah was one of the 100 prophets Obadiah hid? That would be interesting to know. I feel like he was. What Obadiah is told to inform Elijah, causes him to become scared that Ahab will kill Elijah. Ahab’s forces have scoured the land, leaving no rock unturned, looking for Elijah. They went to other nations and kingdoms even to look for him! This was no ordinary search. This famine in the land has been going on for 3 years! They looked everywhere for the guy who closed the heavens. It makes me wonder how he escaped them. He is just one person. He is probably only traveling by foot. I know how he did it! God directed him! He told Elijah where to go and what to do! God probably softened the hearts of the people who found him or distracted the ones looking for him. Like a Jedi! Plus, he probably travelled mostly through Gilead when coming back from Zarephath. Maybe the soldiers of Samaria didn’t know the area well. This would make a cool movie.
Obadiah tells Elijah that as soon as he (Obadiah) leaves to go tell Ahab, the spirit is going to carry him away. Insomuch that Ahab won’t be able to find him. And, as a result, Ahab will slay Obadiah. Oh man, I love this story. This must have been a great conversation! Obadiah seems like a great guy. He’s like, “ No, I ain’t going to get Ahab, you’re just going to run away again. I ain’t going to get myself killed. I ain’t stupid.” I imagine Elijah that old, super wise prophet with a beard standing there patiently listening to Obadiah. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people who have control over their emotions and tongue feel wise. Kind of how I imagine Elijah right now. Patient. When you don’t lose your temper and think before you speak, you have a wise (or seemingly wise) air about you. Couple that with righteousness and it just awes you. It feels like to me that they know some secret, perhaps of the universe, that you don’t. I also fee like their testimony is intensely personal. Maybe they aren’t eloquent in speaking but because of how their genuineness, you can look past the insufficient words and ability to express and feel that their fire is strong. I don’t think Elijah was shy but I brought that up because some people are.
Elijah tells Obadiah, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him to day.” I hadn’t noticed this language before but now I do. He is giving his word and making a promise. I heard that the phrase, “As the Lord liveth.” is pretty much like saying, “Does the Lord live? Yeah! Well ok then, we will do this or this will come to pass just as sure as the Lord lives.” He is also at the point where his word is literally God’s word. The saying goes you are only as good as your word. I think that is true. If you can get to a point with people where you follow through on everything you say it is a very honorable place to be. The more righteous you become, the more enabled you are to follow through not only on promises among man, but also covenants made with God. Especially with covenants. The more righteous you become, the more you understand those promises and the more important they are.
Elijah Confronts Ahab
Obadiah runs to fetch Ahab. He meets Elijah and the first thing he asks him is, “Are you the one troubling Israel?” As if he didn’t believe Obadiah! Honestly though, If I had looked every place, every kingdom, and hadn’t found Elijah and then one day turns up and turns himself in, I would have a hard time believing also! Especially if you are a super wicked king and your wife is consistently trying to destroy worship of Jehovah. Mind boggling why this guy you think doesn’t like you just shows up. Elijah’s answer is quite forceful. He replies to Ahab’s question by saying that he has not been troubling Israel but Ahab himself has. For he forsook the commandments of God.
Here’s the thing about wickedness, you usually don’t realize it. You have rationalized the baby steps away from the path so much that by the time you are REALLY off course, you think it is ok. Rationalization is the anesthesia to repentance. When you overdose on rationalization, you don’t repent. All because you think you don’t need to. The cool thing though is the more righteous you are, the more in-tune you are with your weaknesses and the bigger desire you have to repent. This whole paragraph thus far has been paraphrased from “The Infinite Atonement” by Tad R. Callister. On a more serious note, I know this principle is true. I have struggled with prayers. Remembering to say them and say good ones. I decided to focus on repenting. I decided to let repentance drive me to my knees at night instead of a checklist item. It has worked out for me. Like I said, you become aware of your weaknesses and sins as you are willing to acknowledge them and ask the Lord for forgiveness. When you are willing to repent and are trying to do good with obedience, the Lord will bring to your mind things you need to repent of. Both sins of commission and sins of omission. It’s quite cool and I have a new found appreciation of repentance.