Christians these days just can’t seem to get a win! Faith in the God of the Bible is retreating from the world at an alarming rate. Christians face increasing persecution across the globe, many even to the point of death. God’s enemies delight in their perception that He must be getting weaker and so more powerless to stop the tidal wave of evil. After losing one cultural battle after another after another, Christians are beginning to wonder the same thing, and some are losing faith.
They’re wondering, “Does it seem like God has forgotten us?”#Christians are beginning to wonder, 'Has #God forgotten His children?' Click To Tweet
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets (available on our website and on Kindle and Nook), you will marvel at the similarities between the people of the nation of Israel in the Prophet Obadiah’s time and God’s people today when asking that very same question.
We’ll begin with an introductory story, an elaborations on Scripture, an imaged scenario that the text hints at but doesn’t necessarily describe. We ask that you take this story as intended—as historical fiction to illustrate historical fact. Then we’ll dive directly into the book of Obadiah and learn what the prophet has to teach us concerning faith when it seems like God has forgotten.
The Anonymous Message
Sun overhead. Dusty streets below. The stranger deliberately made his way through the sparse thoroughfares of Jerusalem. He earned barely a few glances from those standing by the market shops, the looks of appraisal one gives to those who aren’t from “these parts.” He was neither distinct nor remarkable, doing little to attract meaningful attention and apparently not interested in haggling with the local vendors. His presence went in one eye and out the other as the merchants who cared only about potential buyers soon returned to their latest news and gossip.
As the man continued on his way toward the east side of town, he paused at one of the large stones that littered the area. It no longer blocked half of the street but instead had been pushed to the side. The jagged edges had been worn down from use; conquered, no doubt, by an endless stream of energetic kids and their imaginations climbing to the top. Now just a plaything, the rock seemed as ordinary as the man looking at it. That hadn’t always been the case.
Looking up, the stranger could see one of many gaps in the city’s protective wall where the limestone jungle gym had once sat with confidence. The wall had served Jerusalem for years, keeping enemies at bay and giving those who lived here a sense of security… until the day it didn’t. The day when Zion was attacked. The day when Zion was defeated.
Years had passed since that day, and time’s passing had softened the intensity of her defeat. Those residents who remained in the city—the handful not killed or captured—attempted to carry on as if little had changed. They bought and sold, made and repaired, talked and laughed. The duties of everyday life continued as they had and as they would.
But stones like this were a daily reminder that everyday life was not normal. Pretend though they might, life now was different. The people’s routines masked heartache as survivors wondered why God had abandoned them; why God had pushed them aside like the boulder beside the street. The stones were ever a reminder of God’s judgment on the city and its inhabitants. Life would never be normal for the remaining Jews, no matter how much they hoped. Jerusalem was defeated.
If anyone had been looking, they would have seen a mix of emotions on the man’s face as he stared at the fallen rock. Maybe a little bit of sadness, maybe a wry smile. The look didn’t last, though, and the man didn’t linger to explain it. Unlike the boulder, he wouldn’t be staying around this corner long.
Up the street, up some stairs, he found the home he’d been looking for and knocked to make his presence known. A man answered, polite but uncertain. The room behind the occupant was simple. Its only eye-catching detail being the priestly robes hung in the corner, clean and ready for duty. A few crumbs on the homeowner’s beard were evidence of an interrupted lunch, but he showed no trace of irritation. Patiently, he waited for the stranger to state his business.
No words were said, though. The stranger simply reached into his cloak and pulled out a short scroll. Questioningly, the priest took it and unrolled enough to see the first few lines. His eyes widened a little, and he stole another peek at the stranger who stood calmly by his door. Without as much as a whisper, the priest stepped aside and allowed the man to enter, closing the door behind him.
If you asked any of the neighbors later, you would get a different story from each of them. Some thought the man was there for a few hours, while some guessed until after the day’s end. No one could really remember him leaving. The only point on which everyone agreed was that he had quietly slipped away.
What of the paper delivered to the priest? That was a different story. It demanded more attention than the stranger ever did. As the priest shared its contents with his colleagues, and they with the residents of Jerusalem, a sense of hope and excitement gripped the city.
God had remembered them.
As the reluctant owner of a Chihuahua, I (Steve) have discovered two things about dogs: 1) they can be very intelligent, and 2) they can be very stupid.
When my wife and children persisted in their request to bring home a dog for the first time, I didn’t want to say “yes.” The burden and responsibility of owning another pet far outweighed the potential blessings. Our cats, I reasoned, were more than sufficient for animal companionship. Why bother adding a new species to the mix? But when the energy of saying “no” to the sad faces and batting eyelashes became too much to bear, I caved. The little black terror, a.k.a. Ivy, soon pranced into our home and into our lives.
From day one, I’ve marveled at the way her mind works compared to our feline friends. Dogs are just different. On the one hand, she is full of spunk and intelligence. She can figure out innumerable ways to manipulate my wife into giving her the things she wants. From food to treats to the prime position on the couch, the dog has an ally in my spouse, and Ivy knows it.
On the other hand, the dog just doesn’t seem to have any common sense. Maybe I’m expecting too much out of this animal, but she has yet to figure out the way things work in our house. For example, every single time we leave, we come back. It’s a fixed pattern, and we’ve never forgotten to do so. Yet, every day, Ivy seems shocked that we return home, and she celebrates with a chorus of yapping that could wake the neighborhood. Also, every day we give her food and water. It shows up in the morning and the evening, thanks to my wife’s keen powers of memory. Yet Ivy assumes that feeding time is not on the agenda, so a series of progressively louder whines and more pitiful stares come our way in hopes that it will prompt the end to our cruel neglect.
Ivy truly seems to think that we have forgotten her. I freely admit that there are days when I would like to forget her, but the plain and simple truth is that she is impossible to forget. As her owner, it is my duty to remember; as a resident in the house where she creates so much chaos, it is unlikely I’ll ever fail to take notice.
Pets often give us insight into the nature of our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and my experience with this 11-pound bundle of nervous energy is no different. Her persistent doubts prompt me to ponder a question we sometimes ask of God:
Will He remember?
Such a question might elicit a chuckle from anyone who knows the Scriptures. The Bible clearly describes a God who is omniscient, the all-knowing being who perceives every inch of His creation from the number of stars in the sky (Psalm 147:4) to the number of hairs on a person’s head (Matthew 10:30). To ask if God will remember is like asking if a mathematician knows the value of pi. God knows, and so God will remember.Steve Howell: To ask if #God remembers is like asking if a mathematician knows the value of pi. Click To Tweet
Still, there are times when I am like my dog and I doubt God’s memory. I worry that maybe I can be forgotten. Perhaps He will forget to provide my daily bread, or perhaps He will not remember my prayers. These doubts aren’t doctrinal, they are emotional. But they aren’t totally without reason.
The Bible does point out some instances in which God chooses to ignore information He knows. In Isaiah 43:25, God declares, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” It seems that there are some actions which God may choose not to revisit; some sins that He may decide to disregard. The facts may be filed away, never again referenced. Known, but not considered.
And therein lies the question. If God can willingly overlook certain facts, what determines which facts He will overlook? Will He fail to notice a minor offense? A serious crime? A horrendous injustice? A life-altering assault?
Perhaps it is not just an action that He will ignore. Perhaps it is a person or even a group of people. After all, that’s how the Israelites felt as they were languishing in slavery in Egypt. Though they were promised blessings by God, He seemed to be a distant memory as they toiled in the mud pits, making bricks while the whips cracked across their backs.
Theology may tell us about God’s perfect memory, but it fails to quiet our worries when God grows silent. Our faith can sometimes struggle to stay positive in such moments. Will God choose to disregard us? Will He forget people He once showered with blessings? As time passes, our doubts become more pronounced. If God has not taken action yet, maybe He won’t.
Will God remember?
Strong faith is needed to trust God when we feel forgotten, to believe in His eternal plans for our glorious future while we live a mediocre present. That is exactly the kind of faith we need, and it is exactly the kind of faith that our next Minor Prophet demonstrates. This prophet not only gives an affirmation that God remembers, but he also points out that God has a plan to put His people on center stage. Rather than being forgotten, they are being prepared for greatness!
How can we be so confident in God’s message when so many others had given up? Let’s investigate Obadiah, learn more about him, and be inspired by his trust in the Lord. Perhaps we’ll see why he had faith that God would remember even when the people felt forgotten.
Read what Obadiah learned about faith in 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets!