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.