YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BESIDES ME
SERIES: ELIJAH: AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD'S GRACE
by Ron Ritchie
The more I study the Scriptures, the more I am amazed at three spiritual
truths that challenge my life. First, I am overwhelmed by the loving heart
of God for the redemption of a humanity which in his sight is "dead
in [its] trespasses and sin" (Ephesians 2:1). Humanity is not even
aware that it is dead in its trespasses and sin, and we have to realize
that it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we ourselves are now
sons of God, knowing that we were once where they are now.
God fulfills his gracious plan of redemption and reveals his life to sinful
humanity through nature, his Spirit, his Son, and as we will see in particular
today, his people. That is the second amazing spiritual truth. He places
a holy people on earth in each generation as salt to arrest decay and to
add flavor to humanity. "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus
reminded his Jewish disciples in Matthew 5:13. And in order for his saints
to become effective as the salt of the earth, they were called upon in Israel
and are called upon in the church of Jesus Christ to "love the LORD
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might"
(Deuteronomy 6:5) and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus
19:18). And along with that calling, God has commanded his holy people,
his spiritual children, "You shall have no other gods before Me"
The third spiritual truth is that we are placed all around the earth. When
God called his saints, first in the nation of Israel and now in the church,
to be the salt of the earth, he really meant "of the earth." He
puts his saints in all kinds of places in every country of the earth-from
the slave markets of Egypt to the palaces of Babylon, from the high business
towers of great corporations in San Francisco to the slums of Calcutta.
He also places us in all kinds of circumstances which we would never choose
for ourselves, but in which by faith we are willing to trust God to use
us as the salt that transmits the loving character of Jesus Christ. As the
salt of the earth we have been called to be in the world but not of the
world (see 1 John 2:15-17).
These wonderful truths are going to be demonstrated in the lives of two
salty saints in 1 Kings 18:1-19, but before we look at them I want to share
with you a wonderful story as told by Doug Goins about one of Jesus Christ's
salty saints from our own body, Bunny Blake Grey, who loved the Lord God
with all her heart.
It is a privilege to tell you about this sister of ours who was part of
our church family for close to twenty years. Bunny Blake Grey went home
to be with the Lord about three weeks ago at age fifty-four. She died of
cancer. Of the two hundred or so gathered for her memorial service, the
Christians were probably a distinct minority. As a matter of fact, the predominant
group in attendance was the homosexual and lesbian community of the peninsula.
You see, for the last several years of her life, Bunny had given herself
as a counselor with the Aris Project on the mid-Peninsula. She had been
a grief counselor with men and women dying of AIDS. And so in the hour that
we spent together, most of the folks who spoke about Bunny's life were nonbelievers.
Several believers including Steve Zeisler got the chance to speak about
Bunny's relationship to God, her love of our church family, and her faithfulness
in ministry here.
Most of the people who spoke didn't know the Lord, the fact that Bunny did
know Jesus Christ and had him at the center of her life was very clear to
them. A homosexual ex-priest spoke profoundly of how secure she was in God's
love and in her relationship with him through Jesus Christ. He said that
was the reason Bunny could love people unconditionally and pour her life
out for little children and people dying of AIDS.
Bunny was a woman who really was the salt of the earth. Every place she
went she made a difference, whether it was the work place or the homes of
the families she was invited into as they faced the realities of death from
AIDS. She really illustrated the calling we have to be salt wherever God
Now let's review the context in which the life of the salty saint Elijah
takes place. God had informed his people through his prophet Moses, as we
saw earlier, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might...You shall fear only the
LORD your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His name. You shall
not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you,
for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God...." (Deuteronomy
However, in the days of the divided kingdom, 1 Kings 16:30f tells us that
(beginning in 869 BC) Ahab, the seventh king of the northern tribes "...did
evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him...he married
Jezebel...and went to serve Baal and worshiped him....and...also made the
Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the
kings of Israel who were before Him." So God sent his prophet Elijah
to confront King Ahab. He was a man of prayer and moved and ministered in
the power of the Holy Spirit.
When Elijah met King Ahab, he told him that because of Ahab's idolatry God
would cause the heavens to become as brass as he had promised Israel through
Moses some five hundred years earlier, just before they entered the Promised
Land (see Deuteronomy 28:23-24). The Lord then moved his prophet out of
harm's way by sending him south into the desert, and then up to "Baal
Country" where his faith was strengthened as he watched God meet his
daily needs through a brook and a flock of ravens and a gentile widow.
Meanwhile, the Jews in Israel who were seeking to worship both Jehovah and
Baal, as well as the pure Baal worshippers, were having a difficult time
getting Baal himself to release any rain in Israel or to raise any of the
Now as we open 1 Kings 18:1-19, finally God speaks to his prophet Elijah
and tells him to appear before King Ahab again. We are going to find in
the midst of Israel's spiritual and physical drought a small "remnant"
of God's men and women who, regardless of the religious, political, social,
or physical pressure, refused to bow their knee to Baal or to run away because
of the deaths of the prophets by the hand of Jezebel. One of the first godly
people we are going to meet is a man named Obadiah.
Obadiah: Servant of King Ahab
1 Kings 18:1-6
Now it came about after many days, that the word of the LORD
came to Elijah in the third year, saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab,
and I will send rain on the face of the earth." So Elijah went to show
himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah
who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; for it
came about, when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah
took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided
them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through
the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we
will find grass and keep the horses and mules alive, and not have to kill
some of the cattle." So they divided the land between them to survey
it; Ahab went one way by himself and Obadiah went another way by himself.
As the curtain opens, three years and six months have gone by since God's
prophet Elijah has spoken to the king. King Ahab knew that there would be
no rain until Elijah spoke again. First Kings 17:1 told us that Elijah had
said to King Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom
I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except
by my word." The one and only living God had given those three years
and six months of physical drought to the northern kingdom to discipline
them because of their disobedience in following after other gods, but also
with the hope that once the discipline was over, the king and the people
of God would repent of their sin of idolatry and come back into a loving
relationship with him. This is a wonderful picture of the grace and mercy
This spiritual principle is clearly seen in the words of Proverbs 3:11 as
commented on by the writer to the Hebrews in 12:5-11:
"'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the LORD,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the LORD loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives."
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for
what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without
discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate
children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline
us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father
of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed
best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His
holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful;
yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful
fruit of righteousness."
Right in the midst of this corrupt society and evil court was the man of
God Obadiah, whose Hebrew name means The Servant (or Worshiper) of Jehovah.
He was Ahab's chief of staff and a God-fearing servant of Jehovah at the
After three years and six months all the crops had failed and all the brooks
had dried up. The famine was so severe that King Ahab was forced to personally
look for water for his livestock and especially his horses, which were essential
to pull the thousands of chariots he had in his military arsenal. So he
left the palace with his trusted official Obadiah. And typically of a man
in sin, Ahab still thought he could solve the water problem on his own,
and probably the last word one might have heard as he and Obadiah left the
palace was, "If you want something done right you have to do it yourself."
Then the king told Obadiah to go one way and he would go the other way looking
for some source of water in the valleys and hills of Samaria. The sin of
idolatry caused the king to have both spiritual blindness and intellectual
blindness, forcing him to look for water in all the wrong places. He was
looking horizontally---but we are called to look vertically into the face
of the living God Jehovah.
The word of God is filled with wonderful stories of men and women who held
on to their faith in the midst of a society that almost to a man had sold
out to idolatry and evil. These are men and women whom God placed in a variety
of evil circumstances in order to pour out salt into the "soup"
of society, as well as into the community of believers. Very few were able
to leave those evil circumstances, and yet they remained faithful to God
all their lives.
I am deeply concerned that many Christians have not learned how to live
in the world while not becoming part of it. In a spirit of fear they keep
pulling back into a fortress mentality---changing jobs, neighborhoods, and
schools and surrounding themselves only with Christians, hoping to save
themselves and their children from the current corruption. As well, I find
them critical of other Christians who are seeking to salt down their communities
with the hope that some will come to salvation in Christ Jesus. But even
though we have never seen as much evil come forth in a single generation
as in this one, this is a time God has provided for Christians to come together
not in fear but in prayer, like Elijah.
Let me just remind you of some men and women whom God placed as salt and
light within the courts of idolatrous kings and queens. They were placed
in those positions not just to save the nation but to bring the light of
salvation to many men and women in those nations.
Joseph the son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and
ended up in Egypt as a servant in the household of the captain of Pharaoh's
bodyguard, where he was falsely accused of making a move on the captain's
wife. He was jailed but became an administrator and interpreter of dreams.
This gift moved him into the house of Pharaoh, who in time said to Joseph,
"'You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my
people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you'....And
he set him over all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:41-43.)
Pharaoh's daughter found Moses in a basket in the weeds of the Nile river,
raised him, and had him educated in all the learning of the Egyptians. "...He
was a man of power in words and deeds...." (Acts 7:22.) However, "By
faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's
daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God,
than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin...." (Hebrews 11:24-25).
Esther was a humble Jewish girl who by the power and protection of the living
God of Israel was raised up to become the queen of Persia, and within that
evil society she was able to save the Jewish community from death and destruction
at the hand of their enemies.
Daniel as a young man was taken as a Jewish slave into the Babylonian captivity,
only to be raised by God as a prophet and an interpreter of dreams for the
king. He was placed by God in positions of power and influence in both the
Babylonian and the Persian Empires. He lived long enough to see his people
return to Israel after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity.
We don't have time to do more than mention a few of all the men and women
from every walk of life in God's hall of fame, those he placed in a variety
of locations, trades, and positions to salt down a decaying society in their
generation. Philip, the Jewish waiter with a Greek accent, was sent by God
to the hated Samaritans as well as to the Ethiopian eunuch. Paul, the converted
Jew, was sent with the gospel of Jesus Christ to a gentile seller of purple
in Philippi named Lydia as well as to the jailer and his family. And then
there were all the new Christians in the household of Caesar Nero. And there
were many more who, coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,
had to stay where they were the rest of their lives (or even lose their
lives for the sake of Christ), but salted down their part of society to
the glory of God as long as they were allowed to live on this earth. Such
was our sister Bunny Blake Grey.
President Jorge Serrano of Guatemala was the first Protestant Christian
in history to be democratically elected to the presidency of a Latin American
country. Serrano holds degrees from Stanford, the ACE University of Texas,
and the University of Stockholm. But like politicians everywhere he has
his critics, some of the most outspoken his fellow evangelical Christians.
"My life was complicated by people who insisted that I ought to leave
politics...but every time I was subjected to this type of pressure I became
conscious of a clear conviction that...being a Christian and being a politician
were two perfectly compatible activities." (News Network International,
Paul told the Athenians, "...[God] made from one, every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed
times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God,
if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from
each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist...." (Acts 16:26-28).
And then God uses people like you and me in every generation to salt down
our generation so that humanity can come into a personal relationship with
Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
I'm sure many of the faithful remnant had a problem with Obadiah's serving
in the court of King Ahab and Jezebel. But God certainly doesn't express
that view; what is recorded in his word is that Obadiah never bowed his
knee to Baal because he was a servant of the one and only living God of
Obadiah: Servant of the living God
1 Kings 18:7-19
Now as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him, and he
recognized him and fell on his face and said, "Is this you, Elijah
my master?" And he said to him, "It is I. Go, say to your master,
'Behold, Elijah is here.'" And he said, "What sin have I committed,
that you are giving your servant into the hand of Ahab, to put me to death?
As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master
has not sent to search for you; and when they said, 'He is not here', he
made the kingdom or nation swear that they could not find you. And now you
are saying, 'Go, say to your master, "Behold, Elijah is here."'
And it will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will
carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot
find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD
from my youth. Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel
killed the prophets of the LORD, that I hid a hundred prophets of the LORD
by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water? And now you
are saying, 'Go, say to your master, "Behold, Elijah is here"';
he will then kill me." And Elijah said, "As the LORD of hosts
lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today."
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
And it came about, when Ahab saw Elijah that Ahab said to him, "Is
this you, you troubler of Israel? And he said, "I have not troubled
Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken
the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed the Baals. Now then
send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets
of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
Elijah the prophet of Jehovah was moving south from the town of Zarephath
toward the capital city of Samaria as ordered by the Lord, while Obadiah
the servant of Ahab was moving north looking for water, when these two godly
men (whose names meant, respectively, "My God is Jehovah" and
"The Servant of Jehovah") met on a main road. Not only was Obadiah
a servant of Jehovah and a servant of Ahab, but he also looked up to Elijah
as his master. Now Elijah asked him to turn back from looking for water
and tell King Ahab that Elijah was back in town and wanted to speak to him.
Once again we see the discipline of God as well as the grace of God extended
toward his son Israel. The drought could have lasted years longer and driven
the people into the ground. But God apparently allowed it to last just long
enough to get the attention of the king and the people who were trying to
worship Jehovah and "The Storm God," Baal, at the same time and
discovering that praying to Baal was a bust.
Obadiah cried out to Elijah and confronted him over three issues: First,
he asked him what sin he had committed against Elijah that Elijah would
now turn him over to the lions by making him go back and tell the king he
was in town. Second, he told Elijah that for the last three and a half years
King Ahab had had an APB (all points bulletin) on the prophet and that anyone
who saw him should arrest him on sight. Ahab had even had his men go to
the surrounding nations and kingdoms to find the prophet, and when they
could not find him they had that nation or kingdom swear by these gods that
they could not find him. And finally, Obadiah told Elijah that he knew of
the character of the Spirit of God, and he was sure that if he went back
to Ahab and told him he had found the prophet, Ahab would come out to meet
his enemy only to discover that the Spirit of God had taken the prophet
somewhere else, and Obadiah would be standing before the king holding an
empty bag, his life forfeit. (see II Kings 2:16, Ezekiel 3:12-14, Acts 8:39-40)
Obadiah then reminded Elijah of who he was: "I...your servant have
feared the LORD from my youth." This dear servant of God had probably
given his life to the Lord in his teens, then had been hired by the court
of King Ahab, and had worked his way up the ladder to a position of honor
and authority, never once in all those years bowing his knee to Baal. He
continued, "May I please remind you that I am the one who hid a hundred
prophets of the Lord in some caves and fed them all during the time Jezebel
was killing every godly prophet she could find?" It was at great risk
to his own life from the hand of Queen Jezebel that he did this. He was
of the same character as Corrie Ten Boom of Holland, who during the second
world war had to make a decision to offer refuge to the Jews in the hiding
place on the top floor of her father's watch shop rather than listen to
the orders of the Nazis or her church to turn them out.
Obadiah then tried to show Elijah that what the prophet was asking him to
do was paramount to suicide. But Elijah responded, "As the LORD of
hosts [or the LORD Almighty] lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show
myself to him today." And so, based on Elijah's promise, Obadiah went
and found the king and told him that he had met the long-lost prophet and
that he wanted to speak to the king that day.
When Ahab saw him he was angry: "Is this you, you troubler of Israel
[you who have put a hex on Israel]?" Neither Obadiah nor Ahab had seen
Elijah for three years and six months, and apparently he had changed physically
so that he was not easy to recognize. But the first words out of Ahab's
mouth were to call the prophet of God a "troubler of Israel."
"So, Elijah, it's you," he said. "Well, I want to tell you
something. We have had nothing but trouble since the last time I saw you.
This kingdom has really suffered greatly because of you. We have lost our
export trade. We have lost our lawns and flower beds. Our forests have dried
up. Our livestock has been dying. Our people are getting very angry at our
priests; they are frustrated because Baal is not answering their prayers
for rain. And Jezebel and I are not getting along that well-all because
of this drought you caused!"
Elijah was called the troubler of Israel by Ahab because he had been instructed
by God to blow the cover off of Ahab's idolatry and show the nation that
while in their sight what the king was doing was fine, in the sight of God
what he was doing was evil. And salty followers of Christ will be called
the same thing in our day among those in the church who are living in sin
as well as others in their communities. Notice that Ahab never saw that
he himself "did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the
kings of Israel who were before him" (1 Kings 16:33). He was blinded
by his sin of idolatry to the fact that the drought was a fulfillment of
the curses that God had promised Israel if they walked in disobedience against
him. So Ahab picked out a scapegoat named Elijah and told all his people
that Elijah was the one who had put the hex on the nation.
But Elijah reminded Ahab, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and
your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of
the LORD, and you have followed the Baals." There were two things he
was telling Ahab: (1) "The drought is here because of your father's
sin." (2) "The drought is here because of your sin. And the sin
is that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord; followed the Baals;
and led the nation of Israel into idolatry, sexual immorality, and demon
Last week I had a pastor from another city as a house guest. He told me
that recently a Christian man in his church had begun to tell him that he
did not like his style of preaching and teaching and that he was not a "warm"
pastor. Then a few weeks later the man had approached this pastor again
and admitted that the real issue was not the pastor's style or warmth but
that his preaching was laying open the man's idolatrous lifestyle. My friend
in a real sense was a "troubler" of the church, especially for
this struggling Christian who was trying to worship both Jesus and Baal.
"Now, speaking of the god of rain," Elijah continued, "send
and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel together with 450 prophets of
Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
All Israel was to meet with Elijah at the top of Mount Carmel because many
of them were trying to worship both the living God of Israel and Baal. They
were to meet at the top of Mount Carmel because they had replaced the altar
to Jehovah and built an altar to Baal, "The Storm God," and Asherah,
"The Lady of the Sea." The prophet wanted to give them the advantage
of the field. And since Mount Carmel was some 1,732 feet above sea level
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the coast of Israel and Lebanon, they
would be closer to "The Storm God" so that they could call down
rain on the earth that was now as hard as iron.
As they prepared to approach the field, an audience of vacillating Jews
saw that the teams were made up of 850 priests of Baal and Asherah defending
the eastern goal, and God's prophet Elijah defending the western goal. This
could have been very scary for Elijah if he had not had the full confidence
that God would work in and through him. Elijah also had the history of how
God not only dealt with Israel in their sin but also graciously protected
them in times of crisis from their enemies. He had the history of Moses
and how God had defeated all the gods of Egypt as well as its army at the
parting of the Red Sea. He had the history of Joshua and how God had defeated
the Canaanite city of Jericho with a shout and the sound of trumpets. He
had the history of Gideon and how God had defeated 135,000 Midianites with
300 men, some vessels and candles, and a trumpet. And he had the history
of David and how God had used him to defeat Goliath and the Philistines.
Most of all, although Elijah was a natural man, he had the security that
he was serving the living God, and as God's prophet he could go to him in
prayer and expect God to answer his prayers.
God has called us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to the
kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness
of sins (see Colossians 1:13). We have been called to love the Lord God
with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might and to follow no other
gods besides him.
Our Lord Jesus has told us that we are "the salt of the earth"
and that our task is to choose by the power of the Holy Spirit to seek to
penetrate all levels of society to arrest corruption and to add flavor both
to the church of Jesus Christ and to a fallen humanity
God is sovereign and has placed us in this community as little grains of
salt, and each day we need to be encouraged to be thankful and mindful of
why he has placed us in these positions so that we will not be tempted to
run away each time we experience a little pressure or corruption. We are
to pray for and rejoice with fellow Christians in positions we may not always
like or agree with, who are seeking to serve the living God according to
their lights in the same way we are seeking to serve him. But wherever we
have been placed on this earth as salt in our generation, may our lives
reflect the very life of our risen Lord who lives within us and who desires
that we remain a holy people and faithful to him as we wait for his return
to this earth as King of kings.
Catalog No. 4368
1 Kings 18:1-19
July 25, 1993
Copyright © 1993 Discovery
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