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not to be restrained or checked, much less overpowered, by worldly circumstances.
One signal instance of Obadiah's substantial piety is here recorded. Jezebel had endeavoured to extirpate from the land every prophet of Jehovah, and had already caused many of them to be slain. On this perilous occasion Obadiah was not inactive, but his efforts were employed in the rescue of as many men of the Lord's prophets as possible, and he saved a hundred of them from the iron gripe of Jezebel. He "hid them by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water." The hazard or expense of his undertaking proved no obstacle with him; his love of the brethren constrained him. And does not our blessed Saviour say, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples?" Go, then, brethren, and do likewise, whenever it is necessary. The prince of this world, who was a murderer from the beginning, is still awake, and is exciting, in various places, rancorous opposition to the truth of the gospel. Spiritual wickedness is in many high places, as well as in many humble dwellings. Many a preacher may ere long be forced to resign his pulpit, many a teacher his chair, many a mechanic his employment, and many a servant his situation, because he is a true believer in Christ, and a sincere follower of his example. Therefore, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, ye children of God, for mutual edification and succour. Remember Obadiah. If God continues to spare us, whatever blessings of his goodness we enjoy, let them be shared by our distressed brethren, for they are fellow-heirs with us of our Redeemer's kingdom.
We return to the narrative. "And Ahab called Obadiah," and commissioned him upon a business to be executed in concert with himself. How extraordinary, that a man like Obadiah should be in such favour with a wicked man, and with an Ahab! for it could not have been unknown to the king, or to his court, that Obadiah "feared Jehovah greatly." And this Scripture testimony concerning him is utterly irreconcilable with the supposition that he could dissemble either with the tyrant himself, or with any one else. We can therefore only account for this by supposing that his integrity, activity, and firmness, were things Divinely overruled to restrain the most arrogant and rancorous foes and scoffers within the bounds of a certain respect and reverence. Ahab probably had discernment enough to perceive that, among all his courtiers, there was no other equal to Obadiah; and those courtiers too might have been conscious that there was no one of themselves in whom such confidence could be placed, as in this israelite of the ancient school; and though the king
might laugh at his religion, he felt that he could not do without him. And is there not something in every true christian that exhorts at least a tacit acknowledgment from the bitterest enemies ; a "light" to which, though it "doth make manifest" their darkness, they are unable to refuse a portion of their esteem and admiration? Yea, it has often happened that eminently pious men have been singularly honoured for their conduct by those who could not understand its principles, and whose own lives were often directly contrary to them.
"Go into the country," said Ahab to Obadiah, “unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks; peradventure, we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts." Lo, the only effect of this long-continued chastisement of the Almighty was an anxiety for the preservation of his stud! To such obduracy can the heart of man be brought. Neither afflictions, nor miracles, nor admonitions, nor temporal mercies, are sufficient of themselves to restore the spiritually dead to life. How often are we apt to think concerning persons under some peculiar visitation, that surely now they will be changed and softened, and brought to reflection! We make inquiries, we take pains to ascertain the result; and alas! where we hoped at length to find some serious thoughts about God and eternity, only cares similar to those of Ahab engage their minds; and, instead of the holy emotions for which we sought, instead of sighs, prayers, and serious thoughts of eternity, we see only a multitude of low desires and cares, bearing them down the stream of life into the boundless invisible ocean. "Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him," Prov. xxvii. 22 May Almighty grace have compassion upon us!
Obadiah readily enters upon the business to which his sovereign had commissioned him, and which he could do most conscientiously. Yet again the question recurs to our mind-how could Obadiah bear to continue in the service of such a ruler, and among the vile and wicked men of which the court was composed? He must have mourned many an hour in secret over the wicked, and must have often sighed in solitude, "Woe is me, that I am constrained to sojourn in Mesech, and to dwell in the tents of Kedar." "In the world ye shall have tribulation;" and Obadiah doubtless experienced this tribulation of God's children, resident as he was amongst those who were strangers to the true God of Israel. But Obadiah could not adopt the convenient maxim, which enjoins flight from our calling, when abiding in it is disagreeable. "My God," he would consider
"has placed me here for reasons best known to himself; and it is an easy thing for him to preserve me, though my soul be among lions." Here therefore he remained, for the Lord's sake. And what can be done better by you, who may find yourselves in a similar situation? However much evil you are obliged to be eye-witnesses of, whatever annoyance you may experience, and however you may be ridiculed or oppressed, let such be no reasons for removing of your own accord from the post which God's providence has assigned you. Endure for the Lord's sake, until he himself by his providence deliver you. If you are thrust out, or if circumstances and connexions necessarily produce a change in your situation, then remove with an easy conscience, for the Lord has called you. But, until then, endure, and flourish as a lily among the thorns; be as the salt of the earth to a corrupt mass, and as a lighthouse to benighted mariners; for, through Divine grace, you may thus serve to direct many passengers through the hidden rocks and quicksands of this troublesome world, to the haven of rest. And how much soever the raging waves of the sea may foam around you, "He that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep, and the angel of the Lord is about them that fear him. His faithfulness and truth is their shield and buckler. Blessed are those who put their trust under the shadow of his wings !"
III. Ahab and Obadiah had now "divided the land between them to pass throughout it ;" and "Ahab went one way by himself," while" Obadiah went another way by himself.' It was of the Lord's peculiar providence that the king thus went in person, as he was thus made to witness something of the extent of misery and horror which the country at that time presented, if peradventure it might lead his unfeeling heart to feel some salutary emotions. But we know that it quite failed of producing this effect, and instead of returning as a subdued and humbled sinner, we find him only as a wild bull in a net, an infuriated being, whose rage is turned against him that smiteth him, a man fighting against God.
But let us turn our attention to his pious servant Obadiah. Behold him on the solitary and deserted road, bearing the woes of Israel on his compassionate heart; meeting every where with desolations and miseries, which he cannot remedy! The country around him, wherever he advances, once a fruitful field, now changed to a parched desert; and its whole appearance seemed to say, "Who can stand before thee, when thou art angry ?" But that which must have affected him most, and pierced his
heart the most deeply, must have been the thought of apostate Israel, who could yet as with a forehead of brass stand insensible to the lightning of Jehovah's power, and the thunder of his judgments; for he sees them continuing to live as before, in the most unpardonable obduracy. How must it have afflicted him! How could he possibly refrain from holy indignation! God's children are in this, as well as in other respects, conformed to the image of their Saviour. They bear in a sense the sins of the world upon their hearts, and like him they have to become repairers of the breach which the ungodly have made; restorers of paths which others have destroyed. But happy are such persons, they are numbered among those to whom the man clothed in linen, with an inkhorn at his side, was directed, in the prophecy of Ezekiel, to "go through the city of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sighed and cried for all the abominations that were done in the midst thereof."
While Obadiah is thus on his way, absorbed in melancholy reflections, he is met by a solitary and venerable personage girded as a traveller, and covered with a mantle, whom he immediately recognises as Elijah, and prostrates himself in profound respect before him. "Art thou that my lord Elijah?" he asks. Is it possible? Nothing having for a long time been seen or heard of him, he, with many others, might have supposed that the Lord had secretly taken him to his rest. The prophet replies briefly in his own manner, "I am go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here!" This reply, however, was too brief for the worthy Obadiah, and, indeed, was like an arrow to his heart. He felt that he was now but a poor, weak, desponding child of man. And all the children of God must have their trying seasons of personal danger for the trial and increase of their faith. What "treasure we have" is in earthen vessels," (easily broken,)" that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." This lesson Obadiah had now more perfectly to learn by the instrumentality of Elijah. And it evidently cost him considerable conflict with himself. "What have I sinned," says he, "that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here! And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me." These many
words are not the language of tranquil faith, but of human fear and despondency. His imagination pictures to him dreadful forebodings; that, while he is gone to carry to Ahab Elijah's message, the latter might be caught away by the Spirit of the Lord to some unknown region; as had happened, perhaps, heretofore to other saints of God. In the Acts of the Apostles, we have such an event related, concerning Philip the evangelist. Hence Obadiah apprehended Ahab's sorest displeasure at his disappointment in losing the prophet Elijah. Ahab would consider himself mocked by Obadiah; or, at least, would be enraged that Obadiah had not secured the detention of the prophet; thus Obadiah would lose both his office and his life. Such were his fearful apprehensions. Natural however as they were, still they were only thoughts of flesh and blood. He looked, as Peter afterwards did, at the wind and the waves, but had lost sight of his Lord.
But, further; he begins to speak of his piety. "I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid an hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me.' "I am a pious man," he means to say; "thou must not be misled by my court dress, and the office I fill; I am none of the rebellious children;' I have continued faithful to the Lord. Canst thou find in thy heart to expose a believing brother to the most dreadful danger?" And truly Obadiah was a pious man, notwithstanding all his weakness. Who could be offended with him for speaking of his piety, and recounting his good deeds, on such an occasion! For it was neither presumption nor vainglory that led him to do so, but simply fear and dread. Here, however, let us be reminded that our salvation is built not upon works of righteousness that we have done, but upon God's mercy; not upon what we are to him, but upon what he is to
All our works of righteousness together are but a poor foundation to rest upon.
It was salutary then for Obadiah, and it is salutary also for us, to be thus taught by providential experience our own weakness, that we may habitually learn to build more exclusively on that only sure foundation, Jesus Christ, the foundation which alone can stand for ever. Our only refuge and consolation, in life and in death, are the blood and righteousness of the Lamb of God; and, that we may depend upon him and abide in him alone, our gracious God suffers us continually to feel in one way