Summary: Ancient Obadiah teaches us modern lessons that help us express love toward our neighbors.
Who is Second?
Jesus declared that, after our devotion to God, as involved in the first and great commandment, that there is a second that is “like to it.” So, there’s a second commandment that is, also, of incredible importance and position in God’s scheme of things. We call it the second great commandment, but Jesus declared that it has many of the same positional qualities as the first.
Remember what first and great mean: It is the earliest in time or order, before anything else, the beginning, foremost in position, rank, or importance, sufficient by itself, unsupported by others, basic or self-evident. This is what ‘first’ means. And it is the biggest, most admirable, preceding others, distinctive, beyond the ordinary, important, elevated, distinguished, farther removed upwards, chief. This is what ‘great’ means. The second is like this- so it’s a bit lower, perhaps, but still in the same order of things. It’s very powerful and important.
Please turn to Matthew 22. 39- and let us read this: “And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” This is in the same breath as love toward God, and is in the same realm of activity. Jesus tied the two together, which tells us that we cannot have one without the other. We’re not meant to just go off and love God, to the exclusion of people; neither are we to love people to the exclusion of God- and both extremes are possible.
There is much to be learned about loving others- much that has been said, much that has been heard, and much that each of us has sought to do. Today, we will focus on one short OT book, and see what it has to teach us about this matter of love toward our neighbour.
Please turn to the small book of Obadiah the prophet- the minor prophet, not because of lack of importance, but because of lack of size of the book, only. What this short book teaches about loving neighbours is incredible.
In the first few verses, the message is set up for us. We need to understand this in order to understand the message to us, for today.
v. 1, 2- describes some terrible disaster about to overtake Edom, which Obadiah has heard about from before- maybe from Jeremiah- and, now, believes is near fulfillment. The precipitating event seems to be that Edom’s own neighbours and allies were turning against her (v. 7). Those that were ‘the men of your covenant’ and ‘the men of your peace’, were either treacherously hostile or were yielding none of their expected assistance.
v. 3, 4- historically, the main reason for Edom’s proud confidence was her almost impregnable position. Edom was the area directly south of the Dead Sea, the area of Seir and Teman, and was mountainous. Its two principle cities were Bozra and Sela, meaning ‘crag’ or ‘rock’ and has been identified with the rocky face dominating the enclosed valley in which the famous city of Petra was built by the Nabateans in the 4th century BC. The Edomites were not the first or the last to put their trust in a rocky fortress city. But neither their strong position nor their wit, because Edom was renowned for her wisdom in ancient times, too, could deliver them now. No matter how high Edom should go, to where the eagles go, or among the stars, yet God would bring her down to the ground.
v. 5- here is a picture of the completeness of Edom’s coming destruction. In a normal case of an ordinary raid by a band of robbers, there would have been plenty left to salvage. Thieves, normally, only take so much because of limited time and resources, as harvesters gather for themselves and leave gleanings. But Edom, by contrast, is ‘cleaned right out’, leading to Obadiah’s exclamation.
v. 6ff- another picture of the completeness of Edom’s destruction is in the exposure of all the treasures contained in her strongholds. Everything is being sought and laid open and bare. So, her ‘hidden treasures’ will be sought out, her wise men destroyed (v.8), and her mighty men dismayed (v.9).
Why such brutal treatment of this nation? From this, we can learn much about our treatment of people who are our neighbours. We don’t even need to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” We know that whoever we are in contact with is our neighbour, if only for a short time. We will not split hairs on this question.
v. 10- here’s why such was to come to Edom. Because of her violence to Jacob. This term is used, rather than Israel or Judah, in order to recall the relationship between the nations. In Deut. 23.7, the claims of kinship are pushed on Israel; but Edom had shown no reciprocal sense of brotherly relationship. There was an age-long antagonism dating back to the time in the wilderness when Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border- Nu. 20.20f- but, as v. 11 shows, it reached a head in the sack of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. Edom participated on this occasion, and this is long and bitterly remembered by the Jews. When they were in exile by the river of Babylon, they declared: “Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how theyk said, ‘Rase it, rase it! Down to its foundations!’” (Ps. 137.7).