Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Confrontation and Compromise

Chapel Service for Concordia Publishing House

June 18, 2008

1 Kings 18:1-16 And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth." 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria. 3 And Ahab had called Obadiah, who was in charge of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly. 4 For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.) 5 And Ahab had said to Obadiah, "Go into the land to all the springs of water and to all the brooks; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, so that we will not have to kill any livestock. 6 So they divided the land between them to explore it; Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. 7 ¶ Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, "Is that you, my lord Elijah?" 8 And he answered him, "It is I. Go, tell your master, 'Elijah is here.' " 9 So he said, "How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 "As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, 'He is not here,' he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. 11 "And now you say, 'Go, tell your master, "Elijah is here" '! 12 "And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 13 "Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD's prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 14 "And now you say, 'Go, tell your master, "Elijah is here." ' He will kill me!" 15 Then Elijah said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today." 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

This is one of the topics that I would include in a book: “Bible Stories You Didn’t Get in Sunday School.” But there are many Biblical insights and blessings to be found in these “minor” stories.

“Obadiah” means “servant of the LORD.” There are twelve men by this name in the Bible. This is not the prophet who wrote the one chapter book that is between Amos and Jonah. He came along later.

This Obadiah was the right hand man of the most wicked king that had ever ruled Israel.

1 Kings 16:30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.

Ahab was influenced by his wife Jezebel to bring Baal worship to Israel. Eventually this led to outright conflict with Jezebel killing as many true prophets of the LORD as she could get her hands on. But Obadiah secretly worked to save at least 100 of these prophets, risking his own life. Ahab was so evil that as the three year drought wore on he cared only about his horses and began looking for the last bits of pasture so they could stay alive. He sent Obadiah looking in one direction while he searched in another. Obadiah encountered Elijah.

These two men were very similar. Both feared and served the LORD, but in different ways. Elijah was a “confronter.” He was called by God to preserve the faith of God’s people by taking Ahab on directly. Obadiah, on the other hand, was a “compromiser.” He compromised in a good sense. He served wicked Ahab, but used his service to help God’s people. He could have refused. He could have given his neck to Jezebel and perished with all the prophets of Israel. But instead he used his position to work for a greater good. No doubt it must have grieved him that some of his labors helped to prop up and support Ahab. But his goal was always to work for the greater good of God’s people.

We are also sometimes put in the position of being and Elijah or an Obadiah. Sometimes we must take our stand and be prepared to die: The accountant realizes that his or her employer is using unethical business practices. It is time to turn matters over to the IRS. The parent whose child has chosen a homosexual lifestyle refuses to allow them to bring their partner home and to stay over night at their house. At risk is their entire relationship, and there is a real possibility that they will never see them again. Heart-breaking decisions. Hills that we must sometimes die on. This is the Elijah approach.

At other times God places us in situations that call for the Obadiah approach. Jesus prayed for His disciples…

John 17:15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

Obadiah realized that he could use his position to save some of the prophets. Sometimes we are caught in difficult situations and decide to stay because we believe that we can work for a greater good. A pastor is called to a church that decides to use “Standard Publishing” for its VBS program. The pastor provides “Gospel” helps for all the lessons and eventually persuades the church to purchase their VBS materials from CPH. The teenage son or daughter we love starts to run with some sin-loving friends. Do we forbid them to be together? Or do we talk with our child and explain our concerns and say, “I just want you to rub off more on them that they on you.” Difficult decisions – when to be an Elijah, when to be an Obadiah. God can and does call us to use both approaches.

Here the words of James are encouraging…

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

So many important things to pray about… Such a great God who listens and answers with wisdom in Jesus. Jesus came to go beyond confrontation and compromise. Jesus came to crush evil and to make all that it does temporary. There are different ways to work against it, but in Jesus we know that all will turn out for the good. Amen.

Hymn: My God, My Father, Make Me Strong TLH 424

1 My God, my Father, make me strong,

When tasks of life seem hard and long,

To greet them with this triumph song:

Thy will be done.

2 Draw from my timid eyes the veil

To show, where earthly forces fail,

Thy pow’r and love must still prevail

Thy will be done.

3 With confident and humble mind

Freedom is service I would find,

Praying thro’ ev’ry toil assigned:

Thy will be done.

4 Things deemed impossible I dare,

Thine is the call and Thine the care;

Thy wisdom shall the way prepare

Thy will be done.

5 All pow’r is here and round me now;

Faithful I stand in rule and vow,

While ’tis not I, but ever Thou:

Thy will be done.

6 Heav’n’s music chimes the glad days in;

Hope soars beyond death, pain, and sin;

Faith shouts in triumph, Love must win

Thy will be done!

Text: Frederick Mann, 1846–1928 ES IST KEIN TAG

Tune: Johann D. Meyer, 17th century 8 8 8 4

Text and tune: Public domain Ps. 143:8

My Background

I grew up in a Christian family. My parents were Lutheran school teachers in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. I studied chemistry in college. My college part-time job was as a United States Marine Reservist. I am married to Carol, and God has blessed us with five children. I graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1984. I received an STM degree from the same institution in 1998. I have served in three places: St. John's Lutheran Church, Beemer, Nebraska; Kearney State College Lutheran Campus Ministry, Kearney, Nebraska; and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Illinois. I've been a part-time instructor at Concordia Seminary beginning in 2006. I love God, His Word, and the opportunity to serve His people. One of my goals in life is to be able to read the New Testament in Greek and the Book of Psalms in Hebrew. I am committed to the theology of the Christian church as it is explained in the Book of Concord (1580). I follow much of the wisdom of Dr. CFW Walther in my ministry, although I am not one of his descendents (except by baptism). When I have time I love to read (mostly audio), exercise, work around the house, hang out with my kids, play bluegrass music, and fly airplanes (for real or on the computer).