JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE!
Because of open rebellion and disobedience that was encouraged and allowed under Ahab and Jezebel, the prophet announced God’s judgment—three years straight without any rain—a terrible drought would come, and it did. Israel was stressed under judgment from God.
During this time the wicked woman Jezebel set up the worship of Baal in Israel, and she also persecuted the prophets of the Lord, killing many—so it was open and bold rebellion fully evident.
God told Elijah the prophet to have a showdown with Ahab, and on the way to confront him, the prophet of God met Obadiah. This Obadiah was a good man but a weak man who compromised enough that he did not upset Ahab or Jezebel. He coexisted with them.
In I Kings 18 the drought is pictured at its height and Ahab calls in Obadiah. And in verse 5 he says to him, “‘Let us go throughout the land to every spring and wadi; if we can find enough grass we may keep the horses and mules alive and not lose any of our animals.’ They divided the land between them for their survey, Ahab himself going one way and Obadiah going the other.” (verse 5 and 6)
So, what is the point? It is exactly what many are doing today—just trying to somehow survive. Now, of course, what should have been done was totally different—the question should have been asked, “What is the real reason for this three years without rain? Why is this happening to us?” And the answer would have been, “We need to turn back wholeheartedly to God! Then, there will be showers of blessings which we need desperately!” They should have said, “We desperately need a spiritual awakening and we must seek God’s face.” Let me quote II Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV) So, God can “heal their land”! The message was repent and return—anything less than this was a waste of time and energy! Yet, instead they went looking for a little grass.
Here is the important focus: if Israel had turned to God, it would not have been necessary to have this searching of the land for just enough grass to feed the animals and survive. There is no need to have such a search if God sends rain—the land will be covered with it, “The desert will bloom like a garden,” the Bible says. (read Isaiah 35:1)
The real solution was turning to God—a revival, then the drought would be ended and the shortage alleviated—for rains would come.
There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.
Send them upon us, O Lord!
Grant to us now a refreshing;
Come, and now honor Thy Word.
O that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!
Daniel Whittle, 1883
And we, I fear, are like Obadiah; instead of joining with Elijah, we are on a grass hunting expedition. But never is it necessary to look for grass when God sends refreshing, reviving showers on the land, which would solve that problem completely.
I can quickly think of one controversial illustration. In Sweden and Finland the Baptist churches are filled with women pastors, for lack of men. I have been in some of them, yet I believe, if they sought for revival and it came, God would raise up a generation of young men—a whole new crop—to fill the pulpits. Instead of going on a woman hunting expedition for pastors—ask God to send an awakening!
The Book of Acts reveals that the outpouring of the Spirit had an immediate effect—it depicts the emergence of very powerful evangelists. And they spread the gospel with extraordinary results. They were unleashed on the Greek/Roman world. We will never know how many, but within a very short time those on fire for Christ were fervently taking the gospel to the people, “all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) Persecution came in time. “Those who had been scattered preached the word of God wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) Rain on the land, that is typical of God’s solution to their problem.
There is spiritual famine today, and we are constantly looking for ways to survive. In Scotland, the solution is to combine small, dwindling congregations and then sell the church to anyone, to the highest bidder. In one city there was a large church put up for sale for 1£! But you had to take down the high stone steeple which threatened to fall (costing thousands) and then to repair the roof, for water was seeping in the stone walls weakening the whole building, costing (thousands and thousands) more, and then remodel it for a house or apartment; maybe the cost was a million dollars! Now, the church was empty and derelict—why? People stopped going to church—that’s the problem! Revival in Scotland would solve that problem!
I was in a very small, weak church that needed finances. So they went on a “grass hunting” program. On Fridays they rented the fellowship hall to a man that taught square dancing. On Saturday they rented the worship center to a Seventh-day Adventist congregation. On Sunday afternoon from three until five, to an art class where senior citizens came to paint. When I asked, “Isn’t that strange?” the part-time assistant pastor said, “Well, you just have to do what you have to do to get by!” But I can promise you that a spiritual harvest in that church would have solved all their problems!
In our day we have an oversupply of Obadiahs but almost no Elijahs! So the logical solution is go hunting for a little grass to get us by—maybe some here and some there! All are stopgap measures. But that’s a poor substitute, and it’s not God’s way of ending the drought!
We have no business looking for solutions outside the Bible. Glorified programs are not the solution—running a Weight Watchers program in the fellowship hall is not the solution. A child care program is not going to build the attendance. All these are grass-hunting programs purposed to just get us by and to tide us over. They are wild acts of desperation. We don’t need to team up with Ahab. We have no permission to get actively entangled with such people. And if you will think, you can suggest other glorified programs all run under the banner of the church to try to make ends meet.
Teaming up with Ahab may be a real temptation, but it is never the ultimate solution to the spiritual drought. We need to get back to doing the work of God using the ways of God. “He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of a fool will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20, RSV) Jeremiah said, “seek the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Francis Schaffer said distinctly, “Accommodation leads to accommodation—which leads to accommodation …” We should know, anything that is a substitute to God’s solution to solve the problem has its roots in the world system. So we must be like Elijah and refuse to accommodate, showing consistent defiance to easy solutions for solving the problem, which really solves nothing. Look around; when the Spirit of God is not freely flowing, we are looking for grass hunting programs. Some of these human solutions are almost unbelievable. We should be thinking only of visitation from heaven and then God’s shower of blessings from heaven to soon follow.
We immediately see the difference between an Elijah and an Obadiah. Certainly, there must have been some skillful compromise by Obadiah to have a place in the administration of Ahab. We can only imagine! It is the lines of least resistance that make people as crooked as some rivers! Vance Havner has a word of value to add, “A soft and sheltered Christianity, afraid to be lean and lone, unwilling to face the storms and brave the heights, will end up fat and foul in the cages of conformity.” Cannot we see how often the ways of the world and those of God are antithetical? We must see it—one is set over against the other—and never hide that fact.
We need not Obadiahs but Elijahs. A. W. Tozer points out how God’s great leaders were “drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord.” They were God-dependent and motivated to defend His honor and extend His fame—that was the very description of Elijah! For Elijah, then and now, compromise and grass hunting exercises are impossible to join, especially when Biblical principles are being violated. No doubt, Elijah’s standards would be considered, in today’s world, severe, non-negotiable, narrow, and combative. He would be frightening in the atmosphere of today. Where do we see truly great men of God who were skillful in working within the system? — Never! They had Biblical standards; so must we!
We need a showdown on Mount Carmel! Let’s stop searching for grass and start praying for rain and let God take over!