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Sunday June 11th
Here are few simple signs that you haven’t been spending enough time reading your Bible:
1. You think Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was a group that had a few hit songs during the 70's.
2. Your favorite Old Testament character is Hercules.
3. You’re frustrated and confused because you can’t find Charlton Heston listed in the concordance.
4. You think the Minor Prophets are working their way into the major leagues.
Well the Minor Prophets are only called that because they are shorter books, not because they don’t contain major truth. In fact the book of Obadiah only has one chapter, which we’re going to study today. Verse one starts out by saying:
1 This is the vision of Obadiah.
This is what the Lord God says about Edom:
We have heard a message from the Lord.
A messenger has been sent among the nations, saying,
“Attack! Let’s go attack Edom!”
By defining this as a vision, Obadiah is saying that it came to him supernaturally in either some form of inner sight or by hearing a voice from God. He emphasizes this by saying, “This is what the Lord God says”, not what Obadiah says, about the coming judgment of Edom.
So who is Edom? The problem between Edom and Israel began when Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. A personal rivalry between Jacob and Esau unfolded, which included Jacob grabbing Esau’s inheritance and his blessing. This developed into a longstanding conflict between the two nations of Israel and Edom, who were the descendants of the two brothers. Edom is also a term used symbolically to represent all of the enemies of God’s people. One example of this is found in Isaiah 63. In verse 1 it says “Who is this coming from Edom, from the city of Bozrah, dressed in red?
Then in verse 6 the Lord answers, “While I was angry, I walked on the nations. In my anger I punished them and poured their blood on the ground.”
Obadiah has heard prophetic news of a conspiracy against Edom. He recognizes that behind all the human plotting God is at work, bringing judgment.
In verses 2-14 we will see God declaring war on Edom, resolving to humiliate those nations that have hurt Israel.
2 “Soon I will make you the smallest of nations.
You will be greatly hated by everyone.
3 Your pride has fooled you,
you who live in the hollow places of the cliff.
Your home is up high,
you who say to yourself,
‘No one can bring me down to the ground.’
The hollow places of the cliff or the clefts of the rock, refer to a fortress located high in the mountains of Edom. This rugged mountain location was supposedly impossible to invade because it made the fortress difficult to reach. But in verse 4 God says:
4 Even if you fly high like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
I will bring you down from there,” says the Lord.
Edom’s arrogant statement “No one can bring me down to the ground” is answered with God’s reply “I will bring you down from there”.
Although Edom seemed invincible, God was calling the people of Israel to realize that no earthly power can evade His sovereign justice. The prophecy of destruction continues in verses 5-7:
5 “You will really be ruined!
If thieves came to you,
if robbers came by night,
they would steal only enough for themselves.
If workers came and picked the grapes from your vines,
they would leave a few behind.
6 But you, Edom, will really lose everything!
People will find all your hidden treasures!
7 All the people who are your friends
will force you out of the land.
The people who are at peace with you
will trick you and defeat you.
Those who eat your bread with you now
are planning a trap for you,
and you will not notice it.”
So when verse 1 said “A messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, Attack! Let’s go attack Edom!” those attacking nations would turn out to be Edom’s supposed friends and allies. It’s a bit of poetic justice that Edom should be betrayed by friends, after having stabbed his own “brother Jacob” in the back.
That betrayal is what we will see is the root cause of this coming judgment:
8 The Lord says, “On that day
I will surely destroy the wise people from Edom,
and those with understanding from the mountains of Edom.
9 Then, city of Teman, your best warriors will be afraid,
and everyone from the mountains of Edom will be killed.
10 You did violence to your relatives, the Israelites,
so you will be covered with shame
and destroyed forever.
11 You stood aside without helping
while strangers carried Israel’s treasures away.
When foreigners entered Israel’s city gate
and threw lots to decide what part of Jerusalem they would take,
you were like one of them.
12 “Edom, do not laugh at your brother Israel in his time of trouble
or be happy about the people of Judah when they are destroyed.
Do not brag when cruel things are done to them.
Edom is ultimately being punished because they joined in celebrating with God’s enemies as they destroyed Judah. God asks “How could you let your brother” be invaded by “strangers” and “foreigners”?
But Edom’s true loyalty wasn’t with their brothers in Israel. They were only interested in getting ahead in the world, totally disregarding their moral and spiritual obligations to their close relatives.
One commentary points this out:
The seeds of Edom’s flawed moral character were sown by their ancestor Esau, who showed that he cared more for earthly enjoyment than for God’s kingdom by despising his birthright of covenant blessings.
1 John 2:15–17 warns us all about this temptation:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. 16 These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world. 17 The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever.
In verse 13 God again pronounces judgment upon them for how they stood by and watched Israel’s invasion:
13 Do not enter the city gate of my people
in their time of trouble
or laugh at their problems
in their time of trouble.
Do not take their treasures
in their time of trouble.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
to destroy those who are trying to escape.
Do not capture those who escape alive and turn them over to their enemy
in their time of trouble.
15 “The Lord’s day of judging is coming soon
to all the nations.
The same evil things you did to other people
will happen to you;
they will come back upon your own head.
16 Because you drank in my Temple,
all the nations will drink on and on.
They will drink and drink
until they disappear.
17 But on Mount Zion some will escape the judgment,
and it will be a holy place.
The people of Jacob will take back their land
from those who took it from them.
18 The people of Jacob will be like a fire
and the people of Joseph like a flame.
But the people of Esau will be like dry stalks.
The people of Jacob will set them on fire and burn them up.
There will be no one left of the people of Esau.”
This will happen because the Lord has said it.
The coming Day of Judgment will destroy all of God’s enemies and vindicate His people. Paul refers to this as “The day of the Lord” in Thessalonians. Now Obadiah portrays the judgment of Edom as God’s final reckoning with all nations. In other words, this wrath against Edom is only a preview of God’s complete judgment; He will not stop until He has cleansed the world of all His enemies. Edom’s drunken celebration on the temple mount in Jerusalem will be answered with the cup of God’s wrath upon them and all the nations that have desecrated the things of God. Mount Zion will again be made holy and pure, cleansed by God.
Judah will rise up like a blazing fire of divine wrath to consume Edom. Although they were a powerful nation in Obadiah’s day, from God’s perspective Edom was already as good as dead.
Verse 18 ends with the words “This will happen because the Lord has said it.” This emphasizes the finality of God’s intentions. He has committed Himself to bringing justice. And once the evil nations have been judged, God’s people will regain their lands.
19 Then God’s people will regain southern Judah from Edom;
they will take back the mountains of Edom.
They will take back the western hills
from the Philistines.
They will regain the lands of Ephraim and Samaria,
and Benjamin will take over Gilead.
20 People from Israel who once were forced to leave their homes
will take the land of the Canaanites,
all the way to Zarephath.
People from Judah who once were forced to leave Jerusalem and live in Sepharad
will take back the cities of southern Judah.
21 Powerful warriors will go up on Mount Zion,
where they will rule the people living on Edom’s mountains.
And the kingdom will belong to the Lord.
God’s people will finally return to occupy the land of their inheritance. God promises His people that the boundaries of the Davidic kingdom will be restored to the south (Mount Esau), the west (“the land of the Philistines”), the north (“the land of Ephraim and . . . of Samaria”), and the east (“Gilead”).
God reminds His people that no earthly power can remove them beyond the reach of His love, even though they had been taken into captivity and scattered.
The commentary says this:
“God’s people, transformed from fugitives into deliverers, will reign over what was once enemy-held territory.”
Obadiah is making a point here—that the kingdom will be the Lord’s in that He will judge His enemies and deliver His people with finality. God will be all in all, and His glorious, triumphant people will reign forever with Him. In this promise, Judah found hope for a future without persecution; here too the church finds hope for the future, when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15).
So how do we apply the lessons of Obadiah to our lives today?
First, I think we should take some comfort from the fact that God will eventually right all wrongs, punish those who have done wrong and reward those who have been faithful to follow His call and live according to His ways.
Obadiah is reassuring us that nothing has escaped God’s notice, and nobody is getting away with evil, despite the fact that it seems as though the wicked are unpunished sometimes.
This is especially true if we apply Obadiah’s vision to the things that are currently happening in the Middle East. If we go back to the earlier question of “Who is Edom?” we can clearly see that ISIS is Edom, Hezbollah is Edom, the Taliban is Edom, and Al Qaeda is Edom. Are they running rampant in the world today? Yes. They most certainly are. Will they escape God’s justice? No, they most certainly will not!
The second thing that I think we need to remember from Obadiah’s vision is that God does not look kindly on those who take pleasure in, or even stand by and watch, the misfortunes of others. This is especially true when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and should probably include our Jewish brothers and sisters as well.
When we truly understand that we are one body, one family, then it makes no sense to be gleeful about someone else’s troubles. The biblical instruction we should live by is found in Romans 12:15
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
If you’re doing well, then I should be blessed by that. So there is no reason for any one of us to ever be jealous of one another.
If you’re not doing well, then I should be concerned about that, because your well-being matters to me, or it least it SHOULD matter to me!
Just think about how much unity and love could overflow into our lives if we truly rejoiced in each other’s accomplishments and supported each other’s gifts, with no competition or jealousy!
Let’s resolve to do that, to deliberately live that way because God is telling us that’s what He is looking for, and the prophet Obadiah is reminding us that God should get what He is looking for, because He is worthy of our highest!