Elijah Series: Steps Towards Revival Pt. 1 (1 Kgs 18:1-15)
Steps Towards Revival Pt. 1
Some time later, in the third year of the famine, the LORD told Elijah, “Go, make an appearance before Ahab, so I may send rain on the surface of the ground.” So Elijah went to make an appearance before Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who supervised the palace. (Now Obadiah was a very loyal follower of the LORD. When Jezebel was killing the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah took one hundred prophets and hid them in two caves in two groups of fifty. He also brought them food and water.) Ahab told Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grazing areas so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to kill some of the animals.” They divided up the land between them; Ahab went one way and Obadiah went the other. As Obadiah was traveling along, Elijah met him. When he recognized him, he fell facedown to the ground and said, “Is it really you, my master, Elijah?” He replied, “Yes, go and say to your master, ‘Elijah is back.’” Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed that you are ready to hand your servant over to Ahab for execution? As certainly as the LORD your God lives, my master has sent to every nation and kingdom in an effort to find you. When they say, ‘He’s not here,’ he makes them swear an oath that they could not find you. Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back.”’ But when I leave you, the LORD’s spirit will carry you away so I can’t find you. If I go tell Ahab I’ve seen you, he won’t be able to find you and he will kill me. That would not be fair, because your servant has been a loyal follower of the LORD from my youth. Certainly my master is aware of what I did when Jezebel was killing the LORD’s prophets. I hid one hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves in two groups of fifty and I brought them food and water. Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back,”’ but he will kill me.” But Elijah said, “As certainly as the LORD who rules over all lives (whom I serve), I will make an appearance before him today.”
1 Kings 18:1-15
What are necessary steps for revival—revival in our lives, churches, communities, and nations? Some people would say there is nothing we can do to experience revival. Revival is something simply in the sovereignty of God—something that he does alone, in his timing, apart from our participation. Certainly, God is in control of all things, but he has chosen to work through humans to get his will done on the earth. In talking about ministering to others in 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul called believers “co-workers” with God. We plant and water, but God brings the increase (1 Cor 3:6-7). Therefore, we do have a role in bringing revival both in our lives and others.
In the context of 1 Kings 17-18, Israel has been in rebellion against God, and consequently, God sent Elijah to pray for a drought—it would not rain for three and a half years. God did this in part because Israel, inspired by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, were worshiping Baal—the god of fertility and rain. Now, at the end of the three and a half years, Elijah returned to confront Israel and bring a revival. At the end of 1 Kings 18, he challenges the Israelites about their doublemindedness. He says, “How long are you going to be paralyzed by indecision? If the LORD is the true God, then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” (v. 21). Then, he displays the power of God by praying for God to bring fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice, when the prophets of Baal could not. In response, Israel falls on their faces in verse 39 and says, “The LORD is the true God! The LORD is the true God!” Elijah participates in the process of God bringing repentance and revival in Israel.
Therefore, as we study 1 Kings 18, we can discern common steps in the revival process—how God turns people back to himself and revitalizes their spiritual lives. These steps will help us participate, as God’s co-workers, in bringing revival in our spiritual lives, our church, community, and nation. Lord, bring your fire from heaven. Turn us back to yourself!
Big Question: What are common steps in the revival process as discerned from 1 Kings 18:1-15?
When Bringing Revival, God Often Allows Desperate Circumstances to Help People Recognize Their Weakness and Depend More on Him
So Elijah went to make an appearance before Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria … Ahab told Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grazing areas so we can keep the horses and mules alive and not have to kill some of the animals.”
1 Kings 18:2, 5
Early in this text, King Ahab tells the supervisor of his palace, Obadiah, to go search for grazing areas to feed the king’s livestock. The king would take a group to survey one area, while Obadiah led a group to survey another area. The hope was to get enough food so they would not have to start killing animals. This shows how desperate Israel’s situation was. If the king does not have grass and food for his livestock, then the drought has completely decimated the poor and middle class. Through the three-and-a-half-year drought and subsequent famine, God had created a dire situation in Israel. No doubt, the desperation was helping people learn that they could not rely on their strength, education, wealth, family, government, or even the false god, Baal. All these things left them deficient, and that was part of what God was doing through the desperate situation.
It should be known this is normal for God when he is bringing revival in a person’s life or community. Scripture says God is a jealous God, and he will not share his glory with another. Therefore, God often demonstrates to us through trials that nothing else will meet our needs or satisfy us. Most times, he does this through small personal trials, but at other times, he does it through grand trials, which may affect entire nations or even the entire world.
How do we see this throughout Scripture?
Certainly, we see this with Jonah. When Jonah rebelled against God’s will for his life, God brought a literal storm that almost killed Jonah and a crew of sailors who were traveling by ship at sea. To save their own lives, the sailors threw Jonah off the boat into the sea since they discerned God had brought the storm because of his rebellion. While Jonah was sinking to the bottom of the sea, he began to pray to God in his heart and God saved him through a large fish. Jonah 2:1-10 describes this as Jonah prays to God from within the fish’s belly. It says,
Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish and said, “I called out to the LORD from my distress, and he answered me; from the belly of Sheol I cried out for help, and you heard my prayer. You threw me into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea; the ocean current engulfed me; all the mighty waves you sent swept over me. I thought I had been banished from your sight, that I would never again see your holy temple! Water engulfed me up to my neck; the deep ocean surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. I went down to the very bottoms of the mountains; the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever; but you brought me up from the Pit, O LORD, my God. When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the LORD, and my prayer came to your holy temple. Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs. But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration of praise; I will surely do what I have promised. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” Then the LORD commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land.
When Jonah was in rebellion, God brought a storm which almost led to his death, as he sank to the bottom of the ocean, but when Jonah prayed while sinking, God delivered him. Then, while on the land after being spit up by the fish, Jonah 3:1-2 says, “The LORD said to Jonah a second time, ‘Go immediately to Nineveh, that large city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, as the LORD had said.”
After rebelling initially, the trial prepared Jonah to “immediately” respond affirmatively to God’s will. In order to bring revival in Jonah’s life, God brought a trial.
Likewise, David said this about the trials he experienced in his life in Psalm 119:71-72: “It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes. The law you have revealed is more important to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver.” No doubt, while going through the trial, David thought it was a horrible experience and maybe even got mad at God, but after going through it, David could look back and say, “It was good for me to suffer, so I could learn God’s Word. Now, God’s Word is more important to me than all the wealth in the world.”
Often before the trial, we are apathetic in our relationship with God. We disobey God’s Word, skip reading it, read it barely, or when we read it, we get almost nothing from it. However, when going through the trial, God’s Word becomes like our daily bread. It becomes the great treasure that we seek day and night. Through the trial, God prepares the ground of our hearts to love and obey God’s Word.
Likewise, God was doing this with Israel. It was not an easy or quick process. God worked on Israel’s heart through a major trial for three and a half years. No doubt, the hardness of their hearts needed a constant and extensive season of breaking. The hearts in Israel had become ingrained with the world. They loved God, but they loved the false gods and the wealth of the world as well. They wanted it all. But, by going through the trial, God loosened the grip of the world and self on their lives, so they would eventually submit to him.
As mentioned, this is not only common with trials individually but nationally. Revivals often happen out of extreme difficulty, including persecution. The early church in Acts grew out of great suffering. In fact, in Hebrews 12:7 and 11, the writer of Hebrews said this to Christians who were suffering for the faith:
Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? … Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.
When describing suffering, he says we should see it as in the hand of God, since discipline to make us holy. The writer of Hebrews does not qualify the suffering in saying some suffering comes from Satan, some from our sins, and some from God. He just says suffering. Also, the author of Hebrews does not minimize the suffering, he says it is “painful” not “joyful.” However, “later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.” Revival—renewal in our spiritual lives—often comes out of times of pain. In fact, in 1 Peter 5:10, Peter said this to Christians suffering persecution and being scattered throughout the Roman empire: “And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” God allows our suffering for a specific time period to make us stronger and develop our character, as we submit to him during it.
Consider what God said to Israel through Jeremiah when he disciplined them through captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the LORD. ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the LORD. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’
While being disciplined in Babylon away from their home in Israel, if they began to seek the Lord with their whole heart, God would be present with them, reverse their fortunes, fulfill his good plans for them, and bring them back to their land. The trial, the desperate situation was meant to draw them back to God wholeheartedly.
Are we seeing our desperate situations and those of others as opportunities for revival? Are we allowing our desperate situations to make us turn from sin, compromise, apathy, and worldliness, to turn to God with our entire hearts? Jeremiah says, when we come after him, not half-heartedly, but with our whole hearts, we’ll find God and he will fulfill his good plans for us.
Problem with Trials
With that said, consider this. Often desperate situations instead of drawing us to God can have the opposite effect. Instead of focusing on becoming holy before God and running after him, we can start to focus on secondary causes. Here in this text, instead of considering and repenting of his own sin and that of Israel, Ahab became angry at Elijah, as though it was his fault. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, even started to kill all the prophets while also seeking to kill Elijah.
Likewise, in times of trial, we commonly start to focus on secondary and tertiary causes. We get mad at roommates, friends, family, our church. Certainly, they may have contributed to our pain in some way, even as Elijah did with Ahab; however, God is the one ultimately in control using the trial for a greater purpose. Ahab saw Elijah (a secondary cause) and missed God and what God wanted to do in his life. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons” (12:7). Again, he does not qualify the suffering, whether it be persecution from Rome, conflict at work, church, or within in family. The author of Hebrews says we must see God as in control. This does not mean we do not at times seek justice or reconciliation, we do. However, we must make our main focus God and what he wants to do in our hearts through the situation. Unfortunately, like Ahab, most don’t do this, and therefore, they never grow from their trial. They may in fact just get worse—becoming more bitter, angry, and rebellious, instead of becoming more peaceful and righteous (Heb 12:11).
Do our trials make us more desperate after God or simply more desperate? Often without trials, we will never seek God with all our hearts and as Jeremiah said, that is when we will find God, be delivered, and begin to walk in his plan (Jer 29:11-14).
Application Question: How should we respond to the fact that God often uses desperate situations to bring revival?
1. Because God uses desperate situations to bring revival in our lives and others, we must train ourselves to view them positively.
James said it this way: “My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials” (Jam 1:2). And in Romans 5:4, Paul said, “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” It’s a discipline to rejoice in trials and consider them pure joy, but we must do this in faith. We do it by giving God thanks for his purpose in the trial and praising him despite our circumstances. We also must help others rejoice and give thanks in their trials by seeing them from God’s perspective just as James and Paul did.
2. Because God uses desperate situations to bring revival in our lives and others, we must persevere through them, so God can complete his work in us.
Again, in James 1:4, James said in the context of trials, “And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.” We must persevere instead of quitting, getting mad at God or others, or turning to sin. As we do so, God continues his work of perfecting us—strengthening our character and preparing us for greater works.
3. Because God uses desperate situations to bring revival in our lives and others, we must be careful of being distracted by secondary causes, which keep us from focusing on God and being conformed to his image.
Again, Ahab spent years blaming and persecuting Elijah and the other prophets because of the famine that was happening in the land, when God was trying to transform Ahab and Israel through the famine. Ahab’s distraction on secondary causes and the famine itself kept him focusing his attention on God—drawing near him and away from sin. Likewise, while in a trial, many focus their attention on a difficult co-worker (or co-workers), their spouse, the church, the government, or some other entity instead of where God wants their attention. For years, they miss out on God’s sanctification process in their trials because of a misplaced focus.
When God is going to bring revival, he often does it through desperate situations. How are we responding to our desperate situations?
Application Question: Why does God often use trials to help bring a revival in people’s lives? How have you seen or experienced this? What steps should we take to help us focus more on God instead of secondary causes or objectives during difficult seasons?
When Bringing Revival, God Often Raises Up the Righteous to Faithfully, Boldly, and Sacrificially Serve Others
So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who supervised the palace. (Now Obadiah was a very loyal follower of the LORD. When Jezebel was killing the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah took one hundred prophets and hid them in two caves in two groups of fifty. He also brought them food and water.) … As Obadiah was traveling along, Elijah met him. When he recognized him, he fell facedown to the ground and said, “Is it really you, my master, Elijah?” He replied, “Yes, go and say to your master, ‘Elijah is back.’” Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed that you are ready to hand your servant over to Ahab for execution? … But Elijah said, “As certainly as the LORD who rules over all lives (whom I serve), I will make an appearance before him today.” When Obadiah went and informed Ahab, the king went to meet Elijah.
1 Kings 18:3-4, 7-9, 15-16
In this narrative, two righteous men are mentioned—Elijah and Obadiah. God uses both of them in rather different ways, but they are both important to God’s work in Israel. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah boldly confronted Ahab and declared it would not rain except at his word. Then, God hid Elijah away from Ahab and Israel during the drought. However, while God hid Elijah, God was working through a righteous believer named Obadiah who served under Ahab. Obadiah was the supervisor or governor of the palace.
Obadiah is an interesting character. After looking at Elijah who condemned Ahab and Israel for their sin, we might be inclined to think that Obadiah was a compromiser. While Elijah was a bold believer, some might think Obadiah was a silent one—one that never ruffled feathers or said anything that might get him in trouble or “canceled” in that culture. In fact, some commentators have painted Obadiah like this. They say he was probably a compromiser who would not take up his cross and stand up for God, and certainly, we have Christians like that all over the world. However, God never says that about Obadiah in this text. Verses 3-4 are the only commentary we have about his character. It says,
So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who supervised the palace. (Now Obadiah was a very loyal follower of the LORD. When Jezebel was killing the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah took one hundred prophets and hid them in two caves in two groups of fifty. He also brought them food and water.)
1 Kings 18:3-4
Scripture calls him a “loyal follower of the Lord.” When Jezebel was killing the Lord’s prophets, he hid 100 of them in two caves—fifty each. Obadiah put his life on the line for others. No doubt, the outer workings of his relationship with Ahab are puzzling. How could he work for a man who was so ungodly? How could he faithfully serve a tyrant and serve God at the same time? Certainly, it must have been challenging, but somehow, he remained faithful.
With that said, we must understand this is a common thing God does, especially when bringing revival. He often puts his brightest lights in the darkest places. When God was seeking to bring revival in Israel not only was he strengthening and growing Elijah in seclusion away from evil, he also was preparing another man by leaving him right in the midst of the evil. We should not be surprised at Obadiah; for this is what God has always done—he places his lights in dark places to bring revival. Did he not do this with David? When Israel was falling away from God because of its rebellious king named Saul, he made a righteous young boy the armor-bearer of Saul. Eventually, he became a general in Saul’s army. He would be a godly example in the midst of corruption. Certainly, God did the same with Daniel. God placed Daniel and three other godly Hebrew boys right in the midst of pagan mythology and demon worship in Babylon. In fact, these four boys probably had to study sorcery and astrology while being trained in Babylon; however, they did not compromise. In fact, God even did this with Caesar. In Philippians 4:22, Paul said that there were believers in “Caesar’s household”—the same Caesar who claimed to be a god and was persecuting Christians. God often puts his lights in dark places to help bring revival amongst those who are the most hopeless.
Certainly, like Daniel, there were probably times when Obadiah had to say, “I will not eat the king’s meat and I will not worship his idols.” There were probably times when his co-workers tried to get him in trouble, but he remained faithful to God and the king saw him as tremendously valuable because of his integrity, skills, and hard work.
As we consider both Elijah and Obadiah, we must realize that God is still placing servants like these throughout the world to affect change. Some are like Elijah. They will work in Christian organizations, churches, schools, and mission agencies. They will keep themselves largely separated from the world—speaking primarily to God’s people and strategically reaching out to the world. Most will be like Obadiah, they will be put right in the lion’s den—where evil abounds around them including dishonesty, drunkenness, greed, and sexual immorality. And while there, they must not compromise. They must be wise as serpents in their conversations and actions and gentle as doves.
When placed in those environments, we must realize that it is not by accident. It is by God’s sovereign and gracious design. It may be difficult for us, but it is a special mercy to those around us. Though the world persecutes believers, the believers are salt and light to the world. They help stave off decay in business, education, art, media, and government sectors of the world. They are important, and God has put them there to pray, serve, and seek revival. Obadiah was a witness by his righteous life, but he also was willing to sacrifice his career and life to protect prophets throughout Israel’s kingdom. Likewise, God often puts Christians in dark areas for similar purposes to save the lost, protect believers, and pursue righteousness.
When God looks to bring a revival, he starts to prepare and raise up the righteous. He may do it in different ways and place them in different places, but he does it all so that his name may be exalted amongst his people and the world.
Application Question: How should we respond to the fact that when God brings revival, he typically raises up the righteous to help lead it?
1. Because God raises up the righteous to help bring revival, we should constantly pray for God to raise up these types of laborers.
In talking about God bringing a harvest of souls in Luke 10:2, Christ said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Likewise, there are fields in every nation and city that are simply waiting for righteous servants. In Acts 16:9, Paul received a vision of “a Macedonian man was standing there urging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us!’” In response to those prayers and his vision, Paul went. Likewise, God uses our prayers to raise up and send righteous pastors, missionaries, businessmen, educators, professors, and parents into various fields throughout the world. We need to be offering these prayers all the time—our churches, schools, and governments need these prayers. In response, God sends an Abraham, a Moses, a Joseph, a David, or an Elijah.
2. Because God raises up the righteous to help lead revivals, we must prepare ourselves to be used by God.
How do we do this? (1) We must give great attention to studying and obeying God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul said this:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
The more we know and obey God’s Word, the more God can use us for every good work. The less we know it and live it, the less he can use us. (2) In addition, we prepare ourselves to be used by being faithful with what God has given us. In Luke 16:10, Christ said this in the context of how we use our money: “The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” If we are faithful stewards of our money, God can trust us with greater riches including the shepherding of souls. If God can trust us with our current job, he can trust us with greater responsibility in the same place or somewhere else. In God can trust us with faithfully shepherding and caring for our family, he can trust us with caring for other families. If God can trust us with our time, he can give us more opportunities to serve with our time. If we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much. God looks for the small shepherd boy faithfully caring for sheep, even risking his life against a bear and a lion to save them, and God calls him to lead an army, then one day a kingdom.
Are we being faithful with our little?
3. Because God raises us the righteous to help bring revival, we should volunteer while recognizing our service may include suffering.
When God was looking to do a special work in Israel, Isaiah said, “Here I am, send me!” (Is 6:8). We must be willing to volunteer, even if we know it will be difficult and thankless. Elijah had to hide for three and half years—not seeing his family or having a public ministry. Obadiah had to have a difficult boss who might have killed him because of his beliefs. We must be willing to volunteer while recognizing that being used by God often comes with a cross. Paul faithfully served God, but it came with a thorn in the flesh that never went away as well as continual trials (2 Cor 11 and 12:7-9). As Romans 12:1 (ESV) says, we must offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” to God. To offer ourselves as living sacrifices, that means we must be willing to say to God, “I’ll go wherever you want, do whatever you want, and I’m willing to suffer while doing it.” Because God is raising up leaders to help bring renewal in people’s lives and that of communities, we must be willing to volunteer and bear the cross that comes with it.
Application Question: Why is it important to pray for God to raise up leaders and laborers to help bring revival? Why does suffering often come with service? How have you experienced this? What do you think of when considering Paul’s challenge to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1)?
When Bringing Revival, God Often Unifies Believers So They Can More Effectively Complete God’s Work
As Obadiah was traveling along, Elijah met him. When he recognized him, he fell facedown to the ground and said, “Is it really you, my master, Elijah?” He replied, “Yes, go and say to your master, ‘Elijah is back.’” Obadiah said, “What sin have I committed that you are ready to hand your servant over to Ahab for execution? As certainly as the LORD your God lives, my master has sent to every nation and kingdom in an effort to find you. When they say, ‘He’s not here,’ he makes them swear an oath that they could not find you. Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back.”’ But when I leave you, the LORD’s spirit will carry you away so I can’t find you. If I go tell Ahab I’ve seen you, he won’t be able to find you and he will kill me. That would not be fair, because your servant has been a loyal follower of the LORD from my youth. Certainly my master is aware of what I did when Jezebel was killing the LORD’s prophets. I hid one hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves in two groups of fifty and I brought them food and water. Now you say, ‘Go and say to your master, “Elijah is back,”’ but he will kill me.” But Elijah said, “As certainly as the LORD who rules over all lives (whom I serve), I will make an appearance before him today.”
1 Kings 18:7-15
Another thing we must notice about God’s process of bringing a revival in Israel is how God brought Obadiah and Elijah together. God called Elijah to go and meet with Ahab (1 Kgs 18:1), but while doing so, Elijah runs into Obadiah (v. 7). Certainly, this was not by accident. God brought Elijah to Obadiah so he could prepare a meeting with Ahab.
The discussion between Elijah and Obadiah is interesting because it appears that Elijah is not a fan of Obadiah. Charles Spurgeon said this about their meeting:
I suspect that Elijah did not think very much of Obadiah. He does not treat him with any great consideration, but addresses him more sharply than one would expect from a fellow-believer. Elijah was the man of action— bold, always to the front, with nothing to conceal; Obadiah was a quiet believer, true and steadfast, but in a very difficult position, and therefore driven to perform his duty in a less open manner. His faith in the Lord swayed his life, but did not drive him out of the court.
When Elijah and Obadiah first met, Obadiah bows as a sign of respect (v. 7), but, as mentioned, Elijah does not greet him as a dear brother. He simply commands Obadiah to go tell his master, Ahab, that Elijah was back (v. 8). Elijah’s comment offends Obadiah. He asked, “What sin did he commit?” because if Ahab came to look for Elijah and he was gone, Obadiah would be killed. Therefore, Obadiah declares his merits before Elijah—that he was a loyal follower of God since his youth and that he had been hiding prophets in caves to protect them from Ahab (v. 12-13). In response, Elijah does not affirm Obadiah. He simply promises to appear before Ahab (v. 15). This interaction alone does not prove that Elijah thought negatively of Obadiah; but in 1 Kings 19:10 and 14 when Elijah was hiding from Jezebel in a cave, he told God that he was the only prophet left. Apparently, he did not trust Obadiah’s testimony of hiding the prophets. Elijah probably viewed him as a compromised believer who worked for the enemy. Never-the-less, they both were God’s servants, and they both had a role helping bring revival in Israel.
Ray Pritchard tried to explain their differences this way, in placing them in the categories of prophet and priest. He said:
Many years ago I heard it explained this way. In the Lord's army there are prophets and there are priests. The prophets are called by God to speak boldly, rebuking sin and calling people to righteousness. The priests are called by God to see the hurting people all around them and to minister healing in Jesus' name. We see the dichotomy often in dealing with moral issues like abortion and gay rights. There are those who are called to denounce these sins, and there are those who are called to minister to those hurt and ruined by these sins. I have observed that the prophets rarely understand the priests, and the priests don't appreciate the prophets. Prophets often look at the priests as soft and weak, while the priests see the prophets as harsh and uncaring. But both are called by the Lord, and both have important jobs to do. Someone has to speak out and take the heat. Someone has to bind up the wounded. Someone has to declare God's Word boldly. Someone has to help the hurting. Someone has to stand and fight. Someone has to take care of the casualties. The army can't be all fighters and no healers. And it can't be all healers and no fighters. You need both, and you need both at the same time even when they don't always see eye to eye… For every Elijah, there are a dozen Obadiahs. And the prophet needed Obadiah whether he knew it or not. For it was Obadiah who paved the way for the prophet to meet the king again.
Certainly, these difficulties don’t just happen between those who fulfill the roles of prophet and priest but are common amongst believers with differing views and ways of serving in general. They commonly have different spiritual gifts, temperaments, doctrines, and philosophies of ministry (how to disciple the believers and reach the world). And these differences, at times, separate them into different denominations, churches, and/or ministries. Unfortunately, these faithful but not perfect believers commonly look down upon one another.
We probably see something of this in the disciples who were angry another other believer who was also casting out demons but was not part of their group. In Luke 9:49-50, the disciples share about this and Christ responds:
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he is not a disciple along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
When they complain about this other disciple, Christ simply says, “whoever is not against you is for you.” He challenges them against this divisive, sectarian spirit. Certainly, we have tendencies towards this as well with those from different denominations or those with different ministerial practices. Yes, we are different, but we are not against one another. This divisiveness within the body of Christ robs the power from Christ’s church and hinders revival.
In Psalm 133:1-3, David described the power of believers walking in unity. He said,
Look! How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together! It is like fine oil poured on the head which flows down the beard— Aaron’s beard, and then flows down his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, which flows down upon the hills of Zion. Indeed that is where the LORD has decreed a blessing will be available—eternal life.
David compared unity amongst believers to the anointing oil on the priest. When the priest was anointed, the Spirit of God fell on him to empower him to serve God and others. He also compares it to dew on the hills of Zion which brings fruitfulness. Wherever there is unity amongst God’s people, there is empowerment, fruitfulness, and God’s blessing.
Likewise, when God brings revival, he often connects his differing people so they can work together to complete God’s work. This happens as churches start to gather to pray for their city. They start to work together to evangelize and care for the poor. Certainly, this was one of the strengths of the early church and why there was such a great move of God. The Macedonian and Corinthian churches were supporting the church in Jerusalem financially when they were suffering from a famine (2 Cor 8). When there was doctrinal disunity, the early church held a church council in Jerusalem to discuss. In response, the church of Jerusalem sent ministers to Antioch to comfort and encourage them (Acts 15). The early church was very interconnected and therefore was a powerful witness.
Certainly, that is one of the reasons revival often tarries in our personal lives, cities, and nations. Believers and churches are too disconnected and divided. How can a body function properly if the parts are not working together? In John 17:21, Christ prayed that his followers would be one so that the world would believe that God sent the Son. Our unity affects revival either negatively or positively.
No doubt, this was part of the reason God united these two servants who had different giftings, temperaments, and who were working in different parts of the field. Elijah may have looked down upon Obadiah like the disciples looked down on others doing ministry outside of their group; however, they needed one another. God’s field has room for many types of workers. We need each other.
When there is unity amongst God’s people, they focus less on their differences and instead on what unifies them so they can work together. Often from that, revival follows. It’s like anointing oil on the priest’s beard and the dew on the mountain. God’s blessing is there (Ps 133).
Application Question: How should we respond to the fact that God often brings revival when there is unity amongst his people?
1. Because God brings revival when there is unity, we must reconcile any relationships that the enemy has divided.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul said, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.” When we are in discord with others, it gives the devil a door to attack us and others, which robs us of God’s power and his fruit. We cannot change people’s hearts, but as much as depends on us, we must seek to live at peace with others (Rom 12:18). This includes forgiving one another as Christ forgave us (Col 3:13). It also means helping others reconcile. In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul calls his companion to help two women who were arguing in the church of Philippi to agree in the Lord. They had to put their differences behind them because of the cause of Christ.
2. Because God brings revival when there is unity, we must learn to honor those in the body who are different than us.
This does not mean we should be unified with those who have a different gospel (like salvation by faith apart from works) or differ on important aspects of the gospel (like the deity of Christ). It is the gospel that makes us part of God’s family. It is essential to our faith; however, there are secondary and tertiary doctrines that we do not all have to agree on (such as the eschatological timeline, spiritual gifts, or the role of women in ministry). We should recognize those who are part of the body and work with them on areas we do agree about—such as praying for our nation and sharing the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 12:21, Paul said, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor in turn can the head say to the foot, ‘I do not need you.’” We need one another to do God’s work on the earth. A divided body will not be as effective. Divisions hinder revival.
When God was going to bring revival in Israel, it is no surprise that he brought two differing laborers together. One boldly confronted evil and separated from it, and the other shined brightly amidst the darkness. God placed both of them in their different ministries, and they both were essential to God’s plan to revive Israel. When it was time, God brought them together to help bring a revival. Likewise, we must seek unity with others to help bring revival as well. Ephesians 4:3 (NIV) says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Application Question: What relationship is God calling you to help reconcile? In what ways have you seen how discord can rob believers—individually and corporately—of spiritual power? How can churches start to work together to better complete God’s mission?
What are steps toward revival? In Kings 18, we see part of God’s process of bringing revival in Israel. At the end of the chapter, Israel will repent of following Baal and declare that Israel’s God is the only God.
1. When Bringing Revival, God Often Allows Desperate Circumstances to Help People Recognize Their Weakness and Depend More on Him
2. When Bringing Revival, God Often Raises Up the Righteous to Faithfully, Boldly, and Sacrificially Serve Others
3. When Bringing Revival, God Often Unifies Believers So They Can More Effectively Complete God’s Work
Application Question: What ways is God calling you to help bring revival in your own life, family, church, community, and nation?
• Pray that God would use our hardships and desperate situations to help us recognize our weaknesses and become more dependent on God, his Word, and his people.
• Pray that God would send faithful laborers into the harvest fields of education, business, government, sports, media, and the church—that God would strengthen, encourage, protect, and use them mightily for his work.
• Pray that God would reconcile broken relationships in his church and unify them to help complete God’s mission—pray that God would unite individuals, churches, and denominations to pray, worship, and serve God together.
• Pray that God would revive our lives, churches, communities, and nations—pray that believers would grow strong in the Lord and the lost would come to know Christ.