JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE
A terrible three-year drought came to the land of the Bible because of waywardness and sins of that day. So King Ahab, the husband of evil Jezebel, said to Obadiah, the governor of the king’s house, we must now do something! Scripture says the king suggested to Obadiah, “We must check every stream and brook to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules. You go one way and I’ll go the other, and we will search the entire land.” (I Kings 18:5, TLB) They were just trying to survive.
So, Obadiah went looking in a spirit of desperation. In doing this, he becomes a perfect picture by example, of contemporary Christianity seeking for something to survive. Like he, we do this instead of seeking the real solution for the problem. Yet, what an endless futility to be scouring the land looking for a little grass by a dried-up stream rather than asking God for the drought to end. And we can, in our own way, be guilty of doing the same. Trying to survive instead of seeking to address the real reason for the troubles we are in. Cannot we see the reality? The real problem was totally ignored—the blind leading the blind!
The real problem was the drought, and that was because of rebellion against God. But the king skirted that issue and said, “[Let’s] check every stream and brook to see if we can find enough grass …” What vain and pitiful effort, but it’s us too, we end up trying a new program and a new promotion to save the day. Looking for a few patches of grass was inherently flawed for it did not deal with solving the real problem.
And churches lacking true spiritual power have resorted to anything—most notably dance and drama, pop-psychology, and self-help, positive thought lectures. And more, some comedy nights and other forms of entertainment, even a random drawing for a holiday cruise, to get a crowd. These “patches of grass” are supposedly more effective, for it may fill the house at best! We are so desperate in some places that whatever attracts the most people, whatever works and “gets us by” is declared good. Whatever! Yes, “whatever!”
So, today it’s methodology instead of theology. A new church started with a drama stage and a multipurpose sports hall thought of first and with multimedia facilities instead of a room for prayer and Bible studies. The thinking was, the church will grow faster by first amusing people or giving them success tips and a good offering of pop-psychology. And, oh yes, once they feel comfortable, then they will be ready to receive Biblical truth in very small, diluted doses, but, “not too much too soon.”
And sometimes we have limited success. We find a little patch here or there, enough to survive. And it’s enough just to “get us by,” but it does not end the spiritual drought. Yet, today’s Obadiahs keep looking for it. The man who has lost contact with God ends up on the same project with a king like Ahab who, in his heart, hates God!
Finding a little patch of grass is not in any way to be compared to the land with lush fields after a season of rainfall. Spurgeon recognized something of this in his day long ago and he pointed out, “When the old faith is gone, and enthusiasm for the gospel is extinct, it is no wonder that people seek something else in the way of delight. Lacking bread, they feed on ashes …”
And in Elijah’s day, lacking rain because of widespread sin, they had to devise some way of getting by and something for the horses to feed upon. They went grass hunting and that took the place of repenting. And so we see the result of someone getting his orders for the day from a secular source instead of a holy God. If we don’t listen to God’s prophet, we end up listening to the devil’s puppet!
Someday, we all can pray that we will get disgusted with grass hunting expeditions and start seeking divine solutions. Let us conclude we will not have to search for a little patch of grass if God opens heaven and sends rain—and a time of refreshing comes from the presence of God. (Isaiah 28:12, Acts 3:19)
Cannot we see that today, marketing methods and fresh “patches of grass” found in new techniques for church growth are the focus? Frankly, Martyn Lloyd-Jones may have analyzed it correctly by pointing out, “These proposals that we should preach less, and do various other things more, are of course not new at all. People seem to think that all this is quite new, and that it is a hallmark of modernity … the simple answer to that is that there is nothing new about it. The actual form may be new, but the principle is certainly not a new one at all.” We might add, it was the exact emphasis of King Ahab as far back as the time of Elijah! When will we learn?
When Elijah told Obadiah, tell the king the prophet of God has come, and later when Ahab exclaimed when he saw him, “the man who brought this disaster” has appeared, and the reply was, “You’re talking about yourself”! (read verses 15-18)—“put the shoe on the right foot,” he was saying. May God bring us to the place that we honor those who challenge wicked rulers and point out the real problem calling for a return to paths of righteousness. So, God’s man of the hour replied to the taunting of the king declaring, “You are the problem; forsaking the Lord has created this disaster and extended drought,” and, yes, that was the truth told! We recall Nathan’s statement to David, “Thou art the man!”
Thank God for men like a Michael Green, who point that today’s preachers have “lost their nerve.” As a result, “… everything is relative, nothing absolute; when nothing is black and white, everything is different shades of grey.” Biblical Christianity makes for a bitter pill in many churches. The word is out—look for patches of grass!
And the old-time preacher Vance Havner, over fifty years ago was saying, “Too long have we dwelt in spiritual half-truths, ethical fogs and moral twilights … until being a Christian means nothing.” What we need, as Elijah called for, is a showdown on Mount Carmel! (note verse 19) Are we to keep hunting for sparse green patches? There are a few patches and there are tricks in the religious world that attract a little green here and there. Foolishly, we can keep looking and, if we are clever enough, find some and end as foolishly blind as Ahab.
Yet, God has never been impressed with grass hunters—stained glass windows, majestic anthems sung by robed choirs, acting out dramas, and eloquence in the pulpit—if they are “a God substitute,” we prove ourselves foolish! What God is waiting for is repentance and truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). Until then the drought does continue and the showers will be withheld! (see Jeremiah 3:3) Obadiah will keep looking for patches of grass instead of the presence of God. The drought will continue as a result, with no end in sight!
But the great and dramatic showdown came and God displayed His glory and the people fell in unison and said, “The Lord, He is the God! The Lord, He is the God!” And our generation needs that, but sadly and alas, churches today afflicted with spiritual impotence will never see people fall on their faces before God and seek a visitation from heaven. If that happened, God could do more in just one day of revival than what it has taken Satan to do in a hundred years! If such times come, and they can, we would need to say nothing in debate to convince the unbelieving world that “The Lord, He is God!”
As the climactic drama came to an end, Elijah said to King Ahab, “I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” (read verse 41), and soon the sky was black with clouds and a strong wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and at long last the drought was over, praise God! Oh, how we need that now for our generation!
Showers of blessing we need; Mercy-drops round us are falling, But for the showers we plead.