Summary: It’s dangerous to laugh at God’s people, because God is on their side. So the people of God can have confidence in facing opposition
According to Jeff Kennet, Christians are "People of the Past". That’s what he said. He said it when Christians raised objections to the Crown Casino. "To object to something like that," he said, "meant you were out of step with the community." How could you possibly object to something that would be such a revenue raiser for the state? That would bring so many tourists, particularly overseas tourists, to Victoria. Just because a few families will suffer untold misery, just because gambling is so addictive. So what! If you’re a Christian, he said, you’re living in the past. So get with it! Go down to the casino and enjoy yourself.
I wonder how you feel when you hear people say things like that. That Christianity is a spent force. Do you get angry, or does it worry you? There are times when I find myself wondering if maybe they’re right. Maybe we are out of date. Are you old enough to remember the time when if the church said something the politicians took notice? Do you remember the time when the Liberal party, in particular, espoused Christian principles. You could almost rely on their policies being in line with Christian values. But not any more. Nowadays no-one cares what Christians think. As long as they’re there to do the social welfare jobs the government doesn’t want to pay for.
But it isn’t just in the political field. If you’ve done any training in the sciences you’ll know that there’s a deep belief by many in that area that Christianity is irrelevant to our understanding of the world. We don’t need God, because we’re finding out all we can know through science. There’s the idea that science has all the answers, and in general those answers conflict with a Christian understanding of the world.
Well, despite the fact that there are all sorts of holes in that particular argument, can you see how hard it is for us to maintain our confidence in Christianity as a way of life. What if they’re right? What if Christianity is old hat? I’m sure you’re aware that Jeff Kennet isn’t alone in espousing such a claim. We’re surrounded by people who’ll argue that what we’re doing and saying and believing here today has no place in the 20th century, let alone the 21st.
Well, I want to let you in on a secret. People have said that sort of thing before. In fact they’ve been saying it for thousands of years. Writing off the people of God as not worth worrying about.
Today I want us to take a look at the book of Obadiah, the shortest book in the OT. One you’ve probably never even noticed, and if you did, you may have wondered why God let it be included in the OT Scriptures. As we look at it, I hope we’ll see that it’s talking about people who have made exactly the same mistake - of writing off the people of God in a similar way to the way people do today, or even worse.
Obadiah is an unusual prophet, in that there’s nothing in the book to tell us who he is or when he’s writing. Most of the other prophets make this clear but Obadiah just announces a vision that he’s received. Which makes it a bit tricky to work out what he’s talking about doesn’t it?
Well, one of the things I want to talk about today is how you actually go about reading your Bible when you get to a section like this. What’s really important in this situation is to have a good grasp on the big picture. The overall story of the Old Testament. Those who came to our Lenten studies the last two years may have a better idea of this than others, because that’s what we did on both occasions, though in different ways. We looked at the overall story of the Bible as it unfolds through the pages of the old Testament. It’s important to see the big picture so you can fit the individual parts together. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s really hard to do a jigsaw puzzle if you don’t have any idea what the picture looks like. You need to have the picture in front of you so you can see where each piece fits in. The other thing about a jigsaw puzzle is that the more pieces you have in the easier it is to fit in new pieces. So what we need to do now is to fill in some of the pieces of the puzzle
In this case the big picture is the story of the Old Testament, starting way back in Genesis. Genesis tells us we’re living in a world that was meant to be good - but it’s been broken. Broken by the fact that Adam and Eve; and everyone else, has decided to go it alone. That we can decide right and wrong for ourselves. We don’t do much of a job of it. And a whole lot of the Old Testament is about the mess we make when we try to run things without God. But in the middle of all the mess, God makes some big promises to a man called Abraham. He promises that with Abraham he’s going to make a whole new start. That from him is going to come a nation. And the nation’s going to have a land of their own. And from that one special nation, God’s going to bring a blessing that will spread to all the world.