Water makes a lot of people tense. In a region of the country that ebbs and flows with cattle and corn prices, water makes people nervous. In the paper today, an article caught my eye about the state of the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground reservoir that lays under 8 states including the western part of Kansas. To summarize: It’s drying up and it has been for years.
Early Explorers called western Kansas the Great American Desert. Now that desert is covered in corn, beans, milo, and other crops. These crops needed water that the desert couldn’t provide. Wells were sunk into the largest reservoir in the nation and the crops thrived. Now it’s depleting, which is making farmers and ranchers in western Kansas nervous.
A long time has passed, three years without rain or dew in the land of Israel. The word of the Lord says to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain.” (1 Kings 18.1)
The lack of rain was taking its toll on the land and its King. The King is not happy that a severe famine gripped Samaria (another name for the Northern Kingdom). Crops were a total loss. Animals were dying. Grass was scare. The King, inorder to preserve his herds, had to find some forage. He took his second in command, Obadiah, out to search for pasture. They came to a crossroads and went opposite directions through Israel looking for feed in every field, spring, and valley.
As Obadiah is searching, he runs into Elijah. Obadiah recognizes Elijah from years back and asks if it’s really him. Three years is a long time to be gone. Ahab has been searching high and low for the one guy who can end this drought. Now he shows up in front of Obadiah and he doesn’t really know how to respond.
Obadiah thinks Elijah’s trying to get him killed.
“What have I done wrong, that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?” (18.9)
Ahab has been desperately searching for Elijah like that dude in Moby Dick was searching for his whale. If Obadiah shows up and claims he found him, Ahab will not be happy. Then if Ahab goes to get him and he isn’t there (Elijah is prone to being swept up and away), he will be killed for that too (18.11-12). The outlook doesn’t look good for Obadiah.
The faithfulness of Obadiah is on display throughout this story. Twice it mentions him saving God’s prophets from the destructive hand of Jezebel. The story depicts him as a devout believer, a trusted servant to Ahab, and faithful servant of God. His life is now on the line because of one of the Lord’s prophets.
Elijah’s answer changes his mind.
“As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.” (18.15)
Elijah isn’t off the hook. Ahab is a little bit upset with him as well. But Elijah and Obadiah understood one thing very well: The word of the Lord is to be followed and obeyed. Despite the danger involved, the people against it, or the counter-cultural bent of it, the word of the Lord is meant to be followed. This whole interaction, and its subsequent life threatening outcome for both, started with the command in 1 Kings 18.1: “Present yourself to Ahab…” Ahab’s frustration at the drought and by proxy Elijah, darkens this command from the Lord. If I’m in Elijah’s shoes, I wouldn’t be real happy to see Ahab’s face.
When it comes to the difficult commands of the Word of God, I strive to be more like Elijah. Following despite the repercussions. Bill Hybles once said, “Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but obedience in spite of consequence.” Elijah and Obadiah’s faith in this interaction is what is put on display. Where my faith fails is where theirs shines brightest.