I believe that the days of Obadiah are over. The days of Elijah have come.
Obadiah, pious, Godly has saved thousands of believers. In order to do that Obadiah had to be anonymous, quiet. Oh he was privately advancing the cause of YHWH. And it must be said that he was a pious, Godly effective man in his day, to his people.
But the days of Obadiah are ending. . . the days of Elijah are coming.
Peter Berger, a secular sociologists, reminds us that the social structures we call “culture” are no longer sustaining our society, that, in effect, things are falling apart. Our problems are much deeper than the economic crisis, there is a crisis of cultural authority. Or, as my old friend Professor Harvey Cox, at Harvard, coyly observed, “Once Americans had dreams and no technology to fulfill those dreams. Now Americans have tons of technology, but they have no dreams left.”
The first strophe of William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” begins:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is tossed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
American in the beginning of the 21st century is spinning out of control. We are stretching our wings adventurously, but drifting farther away from our God. We are in trouble.
The days of Obadiah are ending and the days of Elijah are coming!
The fact is, and numerous theologians and social annalists echo this, America is in a post- Christian era. Ergo, for the first time in American history, Evangelical, born-again Christians, are most definitely a minority element in America. Writers like William Willimon, Thomas Sine, David Wells, Os Guinness, and others echo this theme of “resident aliens” throughout America. Increasingly we who proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior are finding ourselves in a minority culture.
It seems, at times that Americans are lost. “The sense of being lost, displaced, and homeless is pervasive in contemporary culture,” Walter Brueggemann writes. “The yearning to belong somewhere, to have a home, to be in a safe place, is a deep and moving pursuit.” I am a pastor, and in spite of our hedonistic bravado, I generally find most of my congregation members–who generally are not living a life centered on Jesus Christ–are in fact desperately unhappy. And no wonder. This world does not provide what we need. No, it really doesn’t. It once thought it did.
I can remember being seduced by the august institution that was HarvardUniversity. In 1976, I really believed my university chaplain who told the incoming Harvard class, “You are the next history makers of America.” I wanted to believe it. I needed to believe it. My acquaintance and colleague from Harvard Divinity School, Dr. Forrest Church, now pastor in a Unitarian Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “In our faith God is not a given, God is a question . . . God is defined by us. Our views are shaped and changed by our experiences. We create a faith in which we can live and struggle to live up to it . . . compared to love a distant God had no allure.” Indeed. This thinking has gotten us into quite a mess.
Oh, but, my friends, the days of Obadiah are ending and Elijah is coming!
Elijah with his bravado and choleric melancholy. Elijah with his intrepidness and eccentricity. Elijah the prophet. Choleric Elijah is coming home—and no one wants him to come home. He is crossing his Rubicon. After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, of course, hate him. But even, Obadiah, a faithful follower of God and trusted advisor to the king and queen, who had learned so well to survive in this hostile land, who has done so much good for God’s people—Obadiah was not too thrilled to see him either. In fact, no one welcomed Elijah—not the hostile king and queen nor the pious evangelical Obadiah. Even though Elijah brings good news—it is finally going to rain—no one welcomes him. Elijah’s fish-or-cut-bait prophetic messages are irritating the life out of the status quo. That is bad enough. But what really scares the dickens out of everyone is the fact that Elijah has come home to Zion, to the City of God, to challenge the gods of the age to a duel.
In one sense, like Obadiah, we resist the coming of Elijah. The anonymity that we evangelicals have so enjoyed over the last few years has caused us to prosper. But there is no middle ground left to us evangelicals.
On the other hand, as Os Guinness reminds us, there needs to be a great falling away, perhaps a great persecution before there is great revival. Bring it on, Lord!
Elijah is coming to town!
One of the most disturbing essays I have ever read is an essay by Thomas Merton entitled “A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann.” “One of the most disturbing facts,” Merton begins, “that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane.” The fact is, given our world, we can no longer assume that because a person is “sane” or “adjusted” that he/she is ok. Merton reminds us that such people can be well adjusted even in hell itself! “The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning is itself meaningless (p. 47).”
Obadiahs, spread forth your grandeur! Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord! For Elijah is coming!
Be the best you can be. Speak, act, work with excellence! Ask for no quarter, give no quarter, but go to the Mt.Carmels of our society, tear down the Asherath Poles, and confront the Gods of this age!!!!
1Walter Brueggemann, The Land (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 1.