Dear Friend,

Do you know you have a friend named Obadiah, who would lay down his life for you?

The Obadiah I have in mind was a friend of the prophet Elijah. Obadiah managed the household of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and his work for such idolatrous, greedy, and persecuting rulers might seem to disqualify him as a friend. But Obadiah used his position within the system to hide the Lord’s servants from his bosses. And when Elijah asked Obadiah to risk his life by bringing a message to King Ahab, Obadiah took the risk of faith because he “revered the Lord greatly.” (1st Kings 18:1-16)

My thoughts go to Obadiah because on the second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel calls us to go into the wilderness to encounter John the Baptist. John dressed like Elijah, and like many of God’s prophets, he did not mail sentimental Christmas cards to the religious teachers of his day. Instead he called them a bunch of snakes. (Matthew 3:7)

For a religious teacher like myself, going to meet John in Advent is like waiting for Jesus to visit on Palm Sunday. John warns of the wrath to come. Jesus looks around and starts overturning tables. So I find myself standing in line with the multitudes, tax collectors, and soldiers asking John, “Teacher, what shall we do?” (Luke 3:12)

John told his listeners to practice generosity and justice within their callings (Luke 3:10-14), and that’s what Obadiah had done in the days of Elijah. Obadiah did not join a band or prophets, enter a monastery, or move onto a commune. But within his calling, he did not try to save his life; instead he gave his life for the sake of the Lord, whom we know as Jesus. (Mark 8:35)

Can you and I give our lives to the Lord within our callings? How so? Those are good question to ask the One who came after John. Those are questions that immerse you in Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:7-8)

Joel Kok