THE HIRELING AND THE SERVANT | The Book of 1 Kings 18:1-16

Elijah a Surrendered Servant
Elijah a Surrendered Servant

In our series Elijah: The Prophet of Courage and Confrontation we find that after a three year period of being hidden away from public view, first by the Brook Cherith and then at Zarephath, Elijah is brought back into the spotlight. When he first appeared before the throne of King Ahab and announced the drought, he was a man of faith. However, as he passed through the trials of the dried brook, the empty meal barrel and the dead son, Elijah was transformed into a man of God.

He is a man wholly dedicated to the Lord God! As he reenters the public eye, Elijah’s first encounter is with a fellow believer by the name of Obadiah. While both are believers, the contrast between these men is striking! Elijah is seen to be a faithful servant of God, while Obadiah is pictured as a mere hireling, that is, a gatekeeper. He is caught between two worlds.

Sadly, there are many people like Obadiah in the modern church. People who have straddled the fence.

I would like for us to listen in on this encounter between Elijah and Obadiah. In this passage, we will meet a hireling and a servant. In fact, we may even meet ourselves this morning.


 Is Based on The Commander – After all this time, Elijah is still serving the Lord! All the trials and difficulties he has had to endure have not dulled his sense of service to God Almighty.

 (Ill. Some folks just need to get it settled in their hearts who they really serve anyway! Friend, who is the Lord of your life? Can you honestly say this morning that God is in control? Or, would you have to admit that, for the most part, you call the shots in your life? Who is your commander today?)

 Is Based on The Command – “Go, shew thyself unto Ahab;” For Elijah, this may have been a more difficult command than the one to hide himself, 17:3.

    • the call to “hide thyself” came at a time when the flesh wanted to show itself.
    • The command to “shew thyself” came when there was every reason not to want to.

 Is Based on The Comfort – Elijah may not know all the details, but he is reminded that God is still in control. God promises Elijah that if he will present himself to Ahab that rain will come again. “and I will send rain upon the earth.” Basically, God is telling Elijah, “Things are going to work out!

(Ill. Again, I will say that we do not always know what God is doing. God’s commands are always accompanied by God’s provisions!

    1.  Abraham – Genesis 12:1-2 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:”
    2.  Moses – Exodus 3-4 (Ex. 4:12) Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
    3.  His Disciples – Matthew 28:19-20      

Where God leads, He always promises His provision and His presence. He will not leave us out there alone.)

    1.  Is Based on The Compliance – Elijah’s response reveals his heart for God. He didn’t need all the details, he just needed God to give him a command and he was ready to obey! “And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.”
      • This is why I say that Elijah is surrendered to the Lord. When God speaks, he moves!
      • Elijah does not object, point out the difficulties or try to reason with God. When God speaks, he moves. What a lesson that is for us! God’s call is enough to spur the prophet into action.
      • Did you know that nothing reveals the truth of our love for God any more clearly than our obedience to Him? We can say anything we wish to say, but we prove we love the Lord when we cheerfully obey the commands He has given us, 
      • John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments”
      • What does you obedience say about your love for the Lord God this morning?


      • In these verses we are introduced to a man named Obadiah. He is a man of caught between two worlds.
      • On the one hand, the Bible tells us that he “feared the Lord greatly“. On the other hand, we find him living a life undercover. He is a man who cannot be totally exonerated nor can he be totally condemned.

V. 3 Is Based on His Situation – “And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly:”

      • While we have already seen that Elijah is sold out to the Lord God, Obadiah is sold out to Ahab.
      • This verse tells us that he is “governor” of Ahab’s house. This means that Obadiah was the man who ran things around the palace.
      • When he is met by the prophet Elijah, notice what Elijah says to Obadiah in verse 8, “And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.”
      • While Elijah is clearly a servant of God, Obadiah is identified as a servant of Ahab.
      • Remember, Obadiah is a believer living a life of compromise. He is one who knows the Lord, but because of power, prosperity or position he has chosen to keep his faith a secret. He has sold out for personal gain!

Friend, if all the pretense and all the window-dressing were taken away this morning, can you honestly say that Jesus is your Lord? The answer lies in how you live your life!

      • Who’s will is more important to you, God’s or yours?
      • Is it more important to you that you please God or yourself?
      • Can you honestly say that you consistently place God before everything and everyone in your life?
      • When you make a decision do you consult with God in prayer and search His Word for an answer, or do you base your decisions on what you want?
      • What is your first consideration in any matter your desires or the clear Word of God?
      • Where are your priorities? Do sports come before church? Does TV come before prayer and Bible study? Does your desire for rest and recreation outweigh your desire for worship?
      • Who gets the first of your money?
      • Who gets the best of your time and talent?
      • Who is the main one you want to please?
      • Who really occupies the throne of your life? God? You? Work? Family? Things?

These are hard questions, but if they are answered honestly, they will reveal who is the Lord of our lives!)

V. 4 Is Based on His Secret – Obadiah holds a high position in the court of Ahab. He is in a position that requires trust and faithfulness, but Obadiah has a secret. Actually he has two secrets that if Ahab knew, would have meant death for Obadiah. Let’s find out what those secrets are.

      • His Devotion – The Bible tells us that Obadiah is a closet believer! Now, he believes in God and fears Jehovah, but he isn’t about to tell anyone. After all, Jezebel is actively engaged in eliminating the prophets of God, v. 4. If he were to stand up and declare his faith in God, he would be killed on the spot. While he did not let his true faith become known, it also appears the Obadiah did not bow to Baal either.
      • His Deeds – v. 4 tells us that when Jezebel began to exterminate the prophets of God, Obadiah took 100 of them and hid them in caves. This was a deed that required great courage, effort and expense on the part of Obadiah. For this he is to be commended! If Jezebel had gotten wind of what he had done, he would have surely been killed!

So it is clear that Obadiah has a few positive marks on his record. However, it is sad when people serve God in secret! It is a shame when those who know the Lord sell out to the world, the flesh and the devil. How many in this very room are guilty of the very same things? Because of a desire to fit in with the crowd, because of a job, or to keep a friend, we have chosen to keep silent about what we really believe.

      • When I think of Obadiah, one word comes to mind: Compromise!
      • Obadiah has chosen to live his life somewhere between God and the world.
      • He has chosen a position that forces him to conceal who he really is.
      • He has chosen to hide his faith in God to protect his life, exalt his own name and secure his position. He has done what millions are doing today.
      • That is, many are willfully hiding their faith in God and the biblical convictions to please a world that does not know God.

V. 5-6 Is Based on His Service – In these two verses, we find Obadiah actively involved in service to Ahab. Basically, Obadiah is guilty of two great errors.

      • First, he is employed by the wrong people. He is in a job that requires him to compromise his beliefs so that he can keep it.
      • Secondly, he is engaged in the wrong activity. Notice that Ahab and Obadiah seem to have no concern for the starving people of the land. They are out looking for grass to feed some horses.
      • You see, Obadiah was busy looking for grass to save some horses and mules, Elijah was looking for God to save a nation!
      • I would imagine that he thought he could serve God in that position. However, what ended up happening is that Obadiah found himself pulled into a life of compromise and powerlessness before God. That is always the case!
      • You might think you can lift the world around you by being involved in it. The opposite is true! You will not improve the world, but the world will eventually drag you down to its level
  1.  Elijah’s Surrendered Service
  2.  Obadiah’s Secret Service


(Ill. These verses tell of the meeting between the hireling and the servant. Here Ahab’s boy meets God’s man and what a contrast there is between the two. Let’s look for a few moments at Obadiah’s selfish service.)

A. V. 7 Obadiah’s Identification of Elijah – Obadiah recognizes the man of God when they meet in the way. Obadiah is quick to show reverence to the man of God, but of course, no one else is around to see it!

B. V. 8-9 Obadiah’s Indictment of Elijah – Elijah sends Obadiah to tell Ahab that he has returned.

      • Obadiah knows where Ahab is, he is his servant and so he should go to find him.
      • However, he responds by pointing his finger at Elijah and accuses Elijah of trying to get him killed!
      • You see, his reverence to the prophet in verse 7 meant nothing! His accusation in verse 9 revealed the true character of his heart!
      • When a person responds to the command of God with doubt, accusation and resistance, it reveals the true character of his heart.

C. V. 9-14 Obadiah’s Indifference toward Elijah – In these verses, Obadiah begins to offer up one excuse after another as to why he cannot do what Elijah is telling him to do. Let’s dissect this man’s excuses and see if they hold water!

V. 9, 12, 14 His Personal Fears – His first objection is that if he does this thing, he will be put to death for it. Apparently, he does not believe that God has the ability to protect him from Ahab.

(Ill. If you ever come to the place where you start to believe that God cannot take care of you, you need a checkup! It may be that you have stopped trusting God and have started looking to other sources to meet your needs.

      • V. 10-12 His Pathetic Faithlessness – Here, he tells Elijah that Ahab has looked for him in every country around Israel. He has made the kings of those lands take an oath that they do not know where he is. He even questions the faithfulness of God in verse 12. He has been so indoctrinated into Baalism that he has come to believe that God is no better than Baal. He doesn’t even believe that God will honor His own Word. He has no faith in God, God’s Word or God’s man! He has been brought to a place where his faith is shattered!
      • V. 13 His Past Fruit – In this verse, he takes the position that he is too good for the job Elijah is suggesting. After all, why would God or the prophet risk losing a man with his connections? Doesn’t God think that Obadiah has done enough already? Obadiah seems to be living on his past works. Maybe he feels that being right with God and serving God in the past is enough to make up for being backslidden today!

(Ill. When you come to the place in your spiritual life where you have to point back at what you used to do, instead of being able to see what you are currently doing, you are in deep spiritual trouble. Sadly, many believers are right there this morning! You hear things like, “I worked in Bible School for years, now it’s time for someone else to do it!” Or, “I taught that class for a long time, I need a break!” Or, “I used to go to church; I used to serve God; I used to be faithful!” What about today? What are you doing for God this morning? Don’t fall into the trap that claimed Obadiah! Serve God in the here and now, not the then and when!

D. V. 15-16 Obadiah’s Indulgence of Elijah – At Elijah’s insistence, Obadiah reluctantly agrees to go find Ahab and tell him the news. As Obadiah walks away, he is never heard from again. Did Ahab kill him as he feared? Probably not! Most likely, he simply faded back into the woodwork and continued to live his life of compromise and disobedience. His is a life that could have been greatly used of the Lord, but because of his reluctance, his lack of faith and his compromise with the world, he was a man who never amounted to much for the glory of God. Think about this: later in this same chapter, Elijah is all alone when he confronts Ahab and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. If Obadiah had been all he claimed to be, he would have been right there with the man of God!

(Ill. Just this final observation from the life of Obadiah. Friend, you had better watch those people who have to tell you that they love the Lord! If they have to tell you it is usually because they cannot show you! Usually those who boast the loudest about their love for God, His church and His work are those who do the least! You know what I’m talking about! People say they love their church and don’t come on Sunday night or Wednesday. You watch them! If they love the church, they won’t have to tell you, you will see it in their attendance! If they love the Lord, they won’t have to tell you, they’ll show you by the life they live!

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