“It takes the entire Bible to read any part of the Bible. Even the brief walk-on appearance of Obadiah has its place. No one, whether in or out of the Bible, is without significance. It was Obadiah’s assignment to give voice to God’s word of judgment against Edom.
Back in the early stages of the biblical narrative, we are told the story of the twins Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-36). They came out of the womb fighting. Jacob was ancestor to the people of Israel, Esau ancestor to the people of Edom. The two neighboring peoples, Israel mostly to the west of the Jordan River and Dead Sea and Edom to the southwest, never did get along. They had a long history of war and rivalry. When Israel was taken into exile—first the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 721BC—Edom stood across the fence and watched, glad to see her old relative get beat up.
At first reading, this brief but intense prophecy of Obadiah, targeted at Edom, is a broadside indictment of Edom’s cruel injustice to God’s chosen people. Edom is the villain and God’s covenant people the victim.
But the last line of the prophecy takes a giant step out of the centuries of hate and rivalry and invective. Israel, so often a victim of Edomite aggression through the centuries, is suddenly revealed to be saved from the injustices of the past and taking up a position of rule over their ancient enemies the Edomites. But instead of doing to others what had been done to them and continuing the cycle of violence that they had been caught in, they are presented as taking over the reins of government and administering God’s justice justly. They find themselves in a new context—God’s Kingdom—and realize that they have a new vocation—to represent God’s rule. It is not much (one verse out of twenty-one), but it is a glimmer (it is the final verse!).
On the Day of Judgment, dark retaliation and invective do not get the last word. Only the first rays of the light of justice appear here. But these rays will eventually add up to the kingdom of light, in which all nations will be judged justly from the eternal throne in heaven.” –Eugene Peterson, Introduction of Obadiah, The Message
Obadiah 1, The Message
Your World Will Collapse
1 Obadiah’s Message to Edom
from God, the Master.
We got the news straight from God
by a special messenger sent out to the godless nations:
“On your feet, prepare for battle;
get ready to make war on Edom!
* * *
2-4 “Listen to this, Edom:
I’m turning you to a no-account,
the runt of the godless nations, despised.
You thought you were so great,
perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain,
Thinking to yourself,
‘Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!’
Think again. Even if, like an eagle,
you hang out on a high cliff-face,
Even if you build your nest in the stars,
I’ll bring you down to earth.”
God’s sure Word.
5-14 “If thieves crept up on you,
they’d rob you blind—isn’t that so?
If they mugged you on the streets at night,
they’d pick you clean—isn’t that so?
Oh, they’ll take Esau apart, piece by piece,
empty his purse and pockets.
All your old partners will drive you to the edge.
Your old friends will lie to your face.
Your old drinking buddies will stab you in the back.
Your world will collapse. You won’t know what hit you.
So don’t be surprised”—it’s God’s sure Word!—
“when I wipe out all sages from Edom
and rid the Esau mountains of its famous wise men.
Your great heroes will desert you, Teman.
There’ll be nobody left in Esau’s mountains.
Because of the murderous history compiled
against your brother Jacob,
You will be looked down on by everyone.
You’ll lose your place in history.
On that day you stood there and didn’t do anything.
Strangers took your brother’s army into exile.
Godless foreigners invaded and pillaged Jerusalem.
You stood there and watched.
You were as bad as they were.
You shouldn’t have gloated over your brother
when he was down-and-out.
You shouldn’t have laughed and joked at Judah’s sons
when they were facedown in the mud.
You shouldn’t have talked so big
when everything was so bad.
You shouldn’t have taken advantage of my people
when their lives had fallen apart.
You of all people should not have been amused
by their troubles, their wrecked nation.
You shouldn’t have taken the shirt off their back
when they were knocked flat, defenseless.
And you shouldn’t have stood waiting at the outskirts
and cut off refugees,
And traitorously turned in helpless survivors
who had lost everything.
* * *
15-18 “God’s Judgment Day is near
for all the godless nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you.
What you did will boomerang back
and hit your own head.
Just as you partied on my holy mountain,
all the godless nations will drink God’s wrath.
They’ll drink and drink and drink—
they’ll drink themselves to death.
But not so on Mount Zion—there’s respite there!
a safe and holy place!
The family of Jacob will take back their possessions
from those who took them from them.
That’s when the family of Jacob will catch fire,
the family of Joseph become fierce flame,
while the family of Esau will be straw.
Esau will go up in flames,
nothing left of Esau but a pile of ashes.”
God said it, and it is so.
* * *
19-21 People from the south will take over the Esau mountains;
people from the foothills will overrun the Philistines.
They’ll take the farms of Ephraim and Samaria,
and Benjamin will take Gilead.
Earlier, Israelite exiles will come back
and take Canaanite land to the north at Zarephath.
Jerusalem exiles from the far northwest in Sepharad
will come back and take the cities in the south.
The remnant of the saved in Mount Zion
will go into the mountains of Esau
And rule justly and fairly,
a rule that honors God’s kingdom.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
- What we dish out will boomerang back on us causing the same pain and humility.
- Be careful what’s on the menu of our discussions and resulting behaviors. It’s is too easy to talk about the demise of others who have fallen when you are in pain fighting your own sins and injustices.
- Don’t take advantage of people when their lives are falling apart. They need love, help and encouragement, not judgement and instruction at that point. “I told you so…” is not helpful. Most people beat up themselves before you get there.
- Don’t stand by and watch bullies take out your enemy. Stand up for what God says is right and helpful.
God saves the remnant of His family, His Chosen. God’s children, the Jews, weren’t the best of children. They were stubborn, rebellious, and forgetful. Over the years God dished out the discipline and correction. But through all the stresses and strains, God’s love for his children was stubborn.
Edom, a powerful nation, enjoyed picking on Israel. Here in Obadiah, we see God rising to the defense of his children. He says, in effect, “Mess with them and you mess with me.” Obadiah is a small book with a huge message. God cares for his children.
Stand up for and with those trying to follow Jesus. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all need each other. We are all significant in God’s Kingdom. Just ask Him, He will tell you the Truth of His relentless love for us.
I have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation quite a few times now and this I understand clearly: God just wants us to love Him back and trust Him with our lives!
Thank you for your Word that reminds us of your love, mercy and grace. I repent of talking out of line when a brother falls to sin. I pray for salvation and help for that brother right now. Continue to transform my thinking that changes my ways of behaving.
In Jesus Name, Amen