Summary: God’s warnings are to restore us--His purpose is to help and restore us
Obadiah—“Justice is Coming”
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Perhaps where you work you have an annual evaluation. In the Army we receive written efficiency reports. The following are some phrases you wouldn’t want on your report:
Ø “His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.”
Ø “This officer should go far—and the sooner he starts, the better.”
Ø “He has consistently exceeded the low standards he has set for himself.”
Ø “Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig.”
Ø “This officer has delusions of adequacy.”
Ø “Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.”
Evaluations are like warnings. We don’t often like being confronted with how we need to improve. Obadiah issues a clear and brief appraisal. His message is simply this: “Live according to God’s word or the doom of Edom may be your destruction as well.”
We don’t like hearing dogmatic denunciations, yet this warning was given to restore Israel; it was for their good. Whenever we have to tell someone that they have fallen short, it should be to help them, because we care. Sometimes “performance counseling” is merely a “chewing-out” which helps no one. The purpose of a reprimand is to assist, restore, teach—not punish. Israel may not have appreciated Obadiah’s message, but they eventually saw that his—and God’s purpose was to assist them, to deliver them from sin and destruction.
Obadiah’s name means “servant of God”. There are nearly a dozen people in the Bible with this name (a very common name among the Hebrews), and scholars aren’t sure which one wrote this brief message, the shortest book of the Old Testament. Bible experts think he may have lived during the time of Jeremiah. Obadiah simply delivers his message and is gone.
One of the key points of Obadiah’s prophecy is the power of God, a much-needed assurance. Israel was overcome by hardship. To the world around, the struggles of the Jewish nation seemed to imply that God was uninterested or unable to help His people. The prophet corrects this thinking, based on appearances. God works out His purpose even through difficult times. We may not understand our trials, but we can know that God loves us and that He is in control. We’re to leave the future to the One who is Lord of the future. To think we’re in a no-win situation is a lack of faith in God’s care.
Much of Obadiah’s stern words deal with Edom, a nation south of Judah. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. Esau and Jacob the twin sons of Isaac. These two brothers were in perpetual antagonism. We read in the book of Genesis that even before they were born, they struggled in their mother’s womb. Their antipathy continued throughout their lives, and consequently the lives of their descendants—the two nations of Israel and Edom. They were not good neighbors. Their descendents carried on the conflict, which comes to a focus in the prophecy of Obadiah.
The trouble with Esau and his descendants was pride. Obadiah states, “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (vs 3). Pride is arrogance, presumption, conceit, vanity, self-trust, self-sufficiency, self-importance, and self-satisfaction. Pride is the root of all human evil. And because God is just, sin will be punished.
Obadiah makes mention in verse 3 that the Edomites live “in the clefts of the rocks”. Archeologists discovered the ancient fortress-city of Petra in 1812; it served as the capital of Edom. It is a marvel of ancient engineering. After traveling through a narrow fissure in the rock, an open space appears where temples have been carved out from the rock cliff with doorways 30 feet high. The inhabitants felt secure; yet God was about to humble them; there is no lasting security apart from God.
We appear self-sufficient when we think we can make our own decisions regarding our friends, where we go to school, who we marry, what career we pursue, where we live….In other words, when we think we’re in charge, we’re relying on our limited wisdom and talent, not in God. This is the attitude of Edom. In verse 8 God says He will “destroy the wise men of Edom”. They were wise according to the wisdom of the world. Turn on any talk show and you’ll hear authorities on many subjects. We need to be careful where we get our information, however. We need to be leery, careful of trusting advice from people who reject the spiritual realities of life.
These children of Esau also were guilty of indifference over the plight of Israel, vs. 11 (indifference is a form of pride), and of gloating—vss. 12-13. They were pleased to learn that Israel had fallen on tough times. Scholars believe this is referring to the defeat of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The Jews were then deported to Babylon in exile. The Edomites feasted their eyes on Israel’s misery, then came and looted the city. Have you ever been tempted to cheer when someone you didn’t like met with misfortune? Have you at least thought they had it coming? This attitude reminds me of the abuse Vietnam vets suffered when they returned to the states. I heard of one soldier who lost a leg in battle. He was walking down the street with his crutches when a stranger stopped him and asked him if he’d lost his leg in Vietnam. When the soldier said he had, this total stranger said, “Good—you deserved it.” I don’t know how anyone can be so mean-spirited. This is an Edomite attitude