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Obadiah's Difficulty

In the Old Testament passage of 1 Kings 18:3-14, we read of a man by the name of Obadiah. This is not the prophet Obadiah who wrote the book of Obadiah. This Obadiah was a governor in the wicked King Ahab’s house. However, Obadiah was a God-fearing man, and when Queen Jezebel sought to destroy the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah secretly hid them in caves and provided them with food and water. What a courageous man of God, to go against the king and queen! But Obadiah was afraid of something.

In comes Elijah. Elijah was the man that King Ahab was most angry with, and Ahab really wanted to kill Elijah. Elijah met Obadiah and told him that he wanted to see King Ahab. He wanted Obadiah to go and call King Ahab over. Obadiah was afraid! He was afraid that Elijah might not keep his promise and instead disappear somewhere, which will get Obadiah into big trouble! Elijah reassured Obadiah that he would not disappear.


Obadiah was not afraid to defy the king and queen; but he was afraid of a broken promise. He was afraid that Elijah would not keep his word. He was not the only one. The apostle Paul, a stalwart of the faith, was also hurt by a broken promise. His companion, John Mark, who was supposed to minister to the group’s needs on their missionary journey, deserted them and returned home. The adverse effect that this incident had on Paul was such that he even quarrelled with Barnabas, and absolutely refused to give John Mark a second chance to follow them again (Acts 15:36-40).

We can probably empathize with Obadiah and Paul. Perhaps we had trusted somebody to perform his duty, but he neglected it. Perhaps we were counting on somebody to be present for an important function, but he did not turn up. It hurts! Such incidents cause us to be wary against trusting others. Seeing the adverse impact broken promises can have, we should not break our promises to others either!


Fortunately, we have a God who always keeps His promises. Men are susceptible to breaking their promises; but not God. As Moses said, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). We are reminded of the great promise that God made to Abraham and Sarah, that out of Abraham would come a great nation, and descendants as numerous as the “stars of the heaven” (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:17-18). Abraham and Sarah waited a long time for God to fulfil His promise. Nevertheless, God kept His promise; Abraham welcomed His son Isaac at an old age of 100.

God has made promises to us as well. Jesus promised that He will come again to receive us into His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Jesus assures us of a better place after this miserable earthly life! That is not merely a possibility, it is a promise! However, we do not know the exact date of His coming (2 Peter 3:9). Do we believe in God’s promise? Have we made ourselves ready for His coming?


Just as God always keeps His promises, He expects His people to do the same. Since the Old Testament times, God has laid down that those who do not perform their vows are committing sin (Deuteronomy 23:21). Likewise Christians must keep our word: “let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12). If we had said yes, we had better mean it! Therefore Christians must do our best to keep our promises, even though we may be tempted to renege on it. Seeing the importance of keeping our word, we must refrain from making rash promises, as Jephthah did (Judges 11:30-31). God will judge us for every idle word that proceeds from our mouths (Matthew 12:36).

Perhaps the most important promise we made to God was the one we made at our baptism. When we were baptized, we were “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5 ASV) i.e. we are baptized into the authority of Jesus. Therefore by submitting ourselves to water baptism, we are submitting ourselves to Jesus’ authority. It is a promise to no longer serve ourselves, but instead serve Jesus. Have we kept our promise to Jesus?

Obadiah, the one who defied the wicked king and queen, was afraid of a broken promise. Broken promises cause hurt and distrust. Thankfully, we have a God above who never breaks His promises. He has promised eternal life to all who are faithful to Him. Let us also be keepers of our promises, and above all, let us keep our promise to Jesus, to obey Him and to serve Him all the days of our life.

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