Summary: Everyone’s not expected to fly overseas and devote their lives to the poor and needy. Everyone is expected, though, to do everything in their power to help those who are called to do that.
Obadiah - Who is my Brother
On Saint Patrick’s Day 2013, two people got in a fight in a Boston subway. After a heated argument, a woman gets up and starts brutally punching a man in the face. The other riders on the subway did nothing -- they just sat in their seats and watched. Many of them even recorded the fight on their cell phones and posted them on YouTube.
On April 17th, 2008, six girls got in a fight in Clarksville, Indiana. The girls all ranged in age from 12 to 14. At one point, the fight was 5 on 1, with one girl grabbing rocks from the ground and repeatedly beating the victim in the head. We know this because at least three adults stood by and recorded the fight on their cell phones. None of them tried to stop the fight.
There are countless more examples of this sort of thing happening -- people are getting hurt, sometimes even killed -- and everyone around them simply watch and do nothing. Why? Is it because we like to watch? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard friends of mine laughing about a fight they saw at school, or sharing a video of a fight online. A lot of times they get excited, and start “picking sides” -- even though they don’t know anything about what is happening or why.
This is actually a recognized psychological phenomenon, called the “Bystander Effect”. In short, people are less likely to help if someone is getting hurt if there is a large number of people around them. If they’re by themselves, though, they’re actually more likely to help. It’s something that’s gotten to the point where people who record a violent crime on their phone without trying to help the victim are getting in trouble themselves. Students are getting suspended; adults are going to jail.
This isn’t anything new, though. This has been going on for thousands of years -- not recording video on a cell phone, obviously -- but standing by, doing nothing, while other people get hurt. Getting punished for doing this isn’t new either. Let’s go to the book of Obadiah.
Obadiah is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible -- only 21 verses! But in it, Obadiah brings a word from the Lord against the nation of Edom, condemning them for just standing around and doing nothing while Israel gets conquered again and again.
But wait -- why would God condemn Edom for this, and not any other nation? What makes Edom different from, say, Moab? Or Assyria?
Well, to really understand Obadiah, we need to go back to Genesis. In Genesis chapter 25, starting with verse 23, we learn that Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, is pregnant with twins. “The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’ ” The Lord was referring to the twins Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first, so he was entitled to his father’s inheritance. but Jacob tricked his brother into giving him the birthright instead. As you can imagine, Esau wasn’t very happy with this, so he held a grudge against his brother.
Time passes, and Jacob gets married and has eleven sons. He was alone one night, when he met a man. This man wrestled with Jacob all night. Jacob tells him that he won’t let him go until he gets a blessing! At that point, the man renames Jacob -- his name is now Israel.
Are things starting to click now? Jacob is Israel. Jacob founded the nation of Israel -- after his name was changed, he had another son -- 12 sons for 12 tribes of Israel.
But what about Esau? Esau founded the nation of Edom. That’s right -- Edom was a Jewish nation, descended from Abraham. And the bitterness between the two nations did not stop when Esau died. In 1 Samuel 14, Saul fights against Edom. In 2 Samuel 8, David conquered Edom. In 2 Kings 8 Edom revolted against Israel. Isaiah chapter 34 said that Edom was doomed to judgement. Jeremiah chapter 49 said that God will bring calamity to Edom. Ezekiel said that God would lay their towns to ruin in chapter 35. Malachi mentions their destruction, so does Lamentations. Now, Obadiah. What did this country do to deserve this judgement?
And that’s the point. Edom just stood by and did nothing while Israel suffered at the hands of the Babylonians. Obadiah verses 10-14:
10Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. 11On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. 12You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.