Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” – 1 Kings 18:5 (NIV)
King Ahab is in the middle of a natural famine that has a spiritual cause. Israel has turned away from following the Lord, and some guy has started rebuilding Jericho – and in the middle of it all, Elijah the prophet turns up from nowhere and says ‘there will be no rain in Israel except by my word’.
Thus Israel has now endured 3 1/2 years of hard drought. Ahab sends Obadiah out to look through the land to see if he can find some springs or brooks or even some grass to try to keep the animals alive. It’s a practical move, but at the same time he’s ignoring the spiritual reality of what’s going on.
You can’t solve spiritual problems with practical solutions. You have to solve spiritual problems with spiritual solutions. The land is in drought not because of water-cycles or overpopulation or anything – it’s dry because the people have turned away from God. Interestingly, the moment that the nation falls on it’s face and cries out ‘The Lord He is God’ – Elijah hears the sound of heaven rain!
Sometimes the things that are going on for us aren’t just ‘life’. Sometimes they have spiritual origins. In the gospels Jesus often first dealt with demonic powers before healing started to flow. You have to ‘bind the strongman before you can plunder his house’.
Yes, there are definitely times when you just need to do a few practical things. But if you find that your life is in famine, and it just keeps going despite all practical solutions being done… maybe it’s time to get down and look to see what might be spiritually going on.
The great thing is that God is so willing to show us if we will just look. It’s not a coincidence that Obadiah, a righteous man who’d been hiding God’s prophets, was the one who stumbled on Elijah while out looking for water. God brought Obadiah right to the one who could help him. He does the same thing for us today!