“And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.)”
1 Kings 18:3-4
It had been 67 years since Israel was divided after the death of Solomon into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, had established the worship of the golden calves as the new official religion of Israel.
In 57 years Israel had been ruled by 7 different kings, some for only a few weeks and others for years, but every one of them were evil. All of them continued to promote idolatry. As if Jeroboam’s golden calves weren’t enough, the most recent King, Ahab, had married Jezebel, a Sidonian princess and a religious fanatic dedicated to the worship of Baal, a fertility god, and Baal’s supposed “wife” Ashera. Jezebel was a witch.
As the Queen, she supported 850 false prophets of her horrible religion out of the royal treasury - which means she was using tax money to promote a false religion, in which the priests worshipped their god and goddess with perverted behavior, human blood offerings and even child sacrifice. And she actively attempted to eradicate the worship of the true God, persecuting the prophets, who had to go into hiding or be killed. After ten years of this persecution, she had almost succeeded.
This was Israel. These were the Chosen People of God, the nation that He had redeemed out of Egypt and created to be His own. In two generations they had gone from a people who knew the Lord, to this. The worshippers of God were a persecuted minority; the prophets who preached His Word were hiding in caves while a bloodthirsty witch ruled the country. Those were desperate times for God’s faithful remnant, while the majority of the people were half convinced that the golden calves had brought them out of Egypt and that Baal was the god they should worship now. After all, their own government officially said it was so!
We all know the story of how God answered Elijah’s prayer one afternoon and sent fire from heaven and then rain to end the three-year drought ( I Kings chapter 18). The people, who were afraid to say anything just a few hours before, broke out into a chant, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God.” (I Kings 18:39)
It was still an uphill battle. Jezebel was still the queen and she swore by all the demons she worshipped that she was going to kill Elijah. Elijah had to go into hiding again. But the power of the deception was broken on that day and the people once again knew that God is God and His Word is true - at least they knew it for one generation.
The struggle between truth and deception continues to this day. It’s renewed in every generation. For the first 200 years of our nation’s history, most people generally knew who God is and that His Word is true. Today they’re not so sure. False prophets abound, teaching lies. Perverted behavior is presented as normal and the claim is even made that it’s pleasing to God. The religion of today again demands blood; child sacrifice at government expense. Anyone who dares to speak out against the new religion and faithfully teach the Bible is warned to keep quiet or suffer the consequences. Half of the population is convinced that this new religion is the right one and anyone who opposes it deserves what they get.
We don’t know how far this deception will be allowed to go. Meanwhile we do know that come what may, God will take care of His faithful remnant until He raises up new Elijahs and exposes the deception. Through it all we are called to be faithful.
The Lord told us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5). And “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
No matter what comes we are safe. Nothing can snatch us out of His hand. We can trust Him, so we can be faithful.
Lord, keep me faithful in these times. Build Your Word into my heart. Strengthen my resolve and keep my eyes on You. And give us faithful preachers and teachers of Your Word. Build your church, in Jesus’ Name, amen.
Pastor Dan Giles