Power in the Parenthetical (Counting Cups of Cold Water)

In a world obsessed with the flashy and seen, God’s kingdom often advances through a parenthetical power. For every front-page cover story, there are thousands of unknown, unseen (by human eyes, at least) acts of obedience and faithfulness. But, if David, a human king, considered mighty a few faithful fellas who risked their lives to fetch him a cup of water, how much more does our Eternal King gladly record otherwise unseen and unknown acts of trusting obedience and sacrificial service (2 Samuel 23:15-17)?

While studying the life of Elijah, I stumbled across such parenthetical power. In the midst of chronicling the story of the prophet who played a major role in the kingdom’s advancement, the writer of 1 Kings parenthetically included an astounding feat of risking obedience, largely unknown and unseen.

In the midst of the court of the mismatched Ahab and Jezebel, whose enmity against the Lord and his people spread like an infection, stood Obadiah. As the manager of the king’s household who feared the Lord, Obadiah lived in a precarious place. Yet, when Jezebel demanded that the true prophets of the Lord be cut off, Obadiah risked greatly because of his great fear of the Lord. The writer of Kings mentions his act of personally preserving 100 prophets of the Lord in a cave for years as a mere parenthetical notation.

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.

The faithfulness and risking obedience contained with those parentheses arrested me. Here was a man who faithfully served the Lord literally under the nose of a crazed Queen who could have easily killed him. God, who had given him a royal position for his own such a time as this, used his daring acts to preserve his truth for future generations. Yet, we almost did not hear about him. His life’s work took up a mere verse of Scripture and was included as a side-note to a primary story.

It made me stop in my study and linger. It made me wonder how much thousands upon thousands of other such stories were not included, were not recorded, were not even seen my the eyes of men. It made me marvel at the reality that our God sees each and every faithful life, each and every act of obedience, whether monumental or minute. For with our God, even the parenthetical is powerful and significant.

We live Coram Dei, before the face of God, under the gaze of God. Our lives are seen by the eyes of the eternal One. The caregiver who is driving to the umpteenth appointment or filling the fiftieth prescription is seen and celebrated in the kingdom of God. The teacher who spends her lunch hour tutoring a struggling student plays as significant a part in the kingdom of God as a seminary professor. The mother who faithfully shares her faith on a playdate is as significant as an evangelist at a revival.

Even though our God counts the stars, He always counts cups of cold water given in His name (see Matthew 10:42). Take courage, you saints who feel unseen, for your Father sees you and He works great power even through what seems parenthetical!

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