Obadiah, Part 2

judgement for the world

The little nation of Edom, founded by Esau, is the subject of this little book of prophecy. Verse 6 is the key verse:

But how Esau will be ransacked, is hidden treasures pillaged! (NIV)

The words “ransacked” and “pillaged” give you a clue as to Edom’s future. It didn’t have one. Edom was a vile, wicked nation that was facing God’s ultimate judgment and His wrath. There was no hope for Edom; the die had been cast, and it was up to Obadiah, the prophet, to bear the bad news.

The first verse of the prophecy serves as a sort of summary statement of the first section of it:

This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom—We have heard a message from the Lord: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, “Rise, let us go against her for battle”— (Obadiah, verse 1 NIV)

In this verse, we can notice how human history moves along its course. The Sovereign Lord, a major theme of Obadiah, is the prime mover. God is over all the kingdoms of this world. And yet, as we see here, there is an international political component to human history. In this case, international politics – and it’s no different today – are motivated by the selfish and self-seeking. Of significance is that God uses such nations and leaders to accomplish His purposes. Of course, the godless nations of earth have no clue that it is God behind all that they may plan and do. It may be hard to wrap your mind around it, but God was working through the conspiracy and treachery of the nations that surrounded Edom for the purpose of bringing it down.

Edom’s judgment, Verses 1 – 9

See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. (Obadiah, verse 2 NIV)

This whole verse is written as determinative prophecy – as something that hasn’t happened yet but God’s mind is made up about it. He has already decided to accomplish this; He WILL make Edom small compared to all the nations around it; He WILL cause Edom to be a hated nation.

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. (Obadiah, verse 3, 4 NIV)

The thing that motivated God to judge Edom was simply pride – “the pride of its heart.” The word translated “pride” is an interesting Hebrew verb that means “to boil up,” “to seethe.” But the root word is a noun that has reference to water that boils up under pressure. You get the picture of what God thought of Edom. The Edomites thought highly of themselves; they were insubordinate; they were arrogant; they rejected any and all authority while they pursued what they wanted.

The thing that caused their pride was – if you can believe it – it’s real estate. Edom’s strategic location made it virtually impregnable and self-sufficient. They had lived in this location for generations and no enemy had been able penetrate its defenses. And the Edomites themselves were no dummies. They were shrewd people, and they had a civilization much more advanced than the nations that surrounded them.

Edom lived secluded – like eagles high up on the cliffs. And the whole kingdom was full of pride. Over in Proverbs, we read this interesting verse:

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16 – 19 NIV)

It’s not unimportant that the very first thing the Lord hates is pride, which the NIV renders as “haughty eyes.” A proud look betrays a proud heart.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13 NIV)

God hates pride. It was the thing that caused Lucifer to fall from grace and it was pride that caused man to fall. No wonder God hates pride, it destroys lives.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 NIV)

The entire nation was riddled with pride, and this is what caused God to move against it. He had determined to bring it down. They took great pride in their real estate, their achievements and their treasures, but God hated what those things caused: a prideful heart and attitude.  How many people today live like the Edomites? They take pride in their achievements; in their investment accounts; in their station in life. They think they can do anything because of what they possess. A great many Christians are prideful – we’re not immune from this awful sin. Pride destroys a believer’s testimony for Christ, and it splits churches. In fact, Christians are to be exactly the opposite of prideful: we are to be humble. And the key to living in humility is living like Jesus.

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had… (Philippians 2:5 TNIV)

What kind of attitude did Jesus have? He told us:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29 TNIV)

Pride was the sin of Satan and it’s the sin the kills the effectiveness of Christians. A very simple definition of pride might be this one: Pride is the attitude of life that declares its ability to live without God (McGee). That’s how a lot Christians live, whether they realize it or not. That’s how Edom lived and God’s judgments were going to be harsh.

“If thieves came to you, if robbers in the night—oh, what a disaster awaits you!—would they not steal only as much as they wanted? If grape pickers came to you, would they not leave a few grapes? But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!” (Obadiah 1:5, 6 TNIV)

God’s coming judgments would be far worse than anything they ever experienced before. It’s bad enough to face a coming disaster, but what will make Edom’s judgment so bad is that it would come, not from enemies, but from friends.

All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. (Obadiah, verse 7 TNIV)

It’s a remarkable thing; in the world of geo-political relations, friendship is fickle. This was especially true in the case of Edom. The Edomites were long viewed as being wise and prudent people.

Concerning Edom: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Is there no longer wisdom in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom decayed?” (Jeremiah 49:7 TNIV)

These people had become so infatuated with themselves – their security, their wealth, their education – that they never noticed they were being done in by their pride, manifested by their foolish behavior. So blind Edom had become, that they didn’t even notice their one-time friends had become their enemies.  E.B. Pusey wrote:

Pride and self-confidence betray man to his fall. When he is fallen, self-confidence betrayed passes readily to despair. Men do not use resources which they yet have because what they have valued, fails them. Undue confidence is the parent of undue fear.

If that doesn’t describe modern American society, nothing does.

Reasons for judgment, Verse 10 – 14

Edom’s judgment will be harsh, but God’s judgment is never without good reason. They were prideful, yes, and God hates pride. But that pride led to bad behavior and the mistreatment of God’s people. This, by the way, is something God takes very seriously.

Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. On 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. (Obadiah, verses 10, 11 TNIV)

The word translated “violence” comes from the Hebrew hamas, and refers to both moral violence and physical violence. So Edom was not only responsible for causing death and destruction to Judah but they were also demoralizing them and psychologically harming them.

In terms of physical acts of violence, it all began back when Edom refused to grant Israel passage through her borders during the Exodus and culminated when the Edomites supported Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians when he sacked Jerusalem in 586 BC.

You should not gloat over 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. (Obadiah, verse 12 TNIV)

By taking at best a passive role in the destruction of Judah, Edom thought they could get on Nebuchadnezzar’s good side. That might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but before God it was reason for their destruction. Jeremiah 49:7 – 22 and 2 Kings 25 are good passages to refer to.

The Day of the Lord, Verses 15 – 21

“The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” (Obadiah, verse 15 TNIV)

For those who may have forgotten, that phrase, “the day of the Lord,” is an important one in the world of Bible prophecy. It’s not just a saying, but rather a very technical expression that refers to a very particular point in time, beginning with the Tribulation. At present, we are in a period of grace, or what some refer to as “the day of Christ.” Thanks to the work of Christ on the Cross, we are fortunate to be living during this extended time of grace, during which God’s wrath is stayed. But that won’t last forever. After the true Church is removed from the earth, the Day of the Lord will begin, and so will begin a terrible time of darkness and judgment. It’s significant that Obadiah’s word of prophecy against Edom dissolves into a word of prophecy that takes us into our future. God is in absolute control of the events on this planet of ours. Nations rise and nations fall according to His plan, and His plan runs continuous, non-stop from beginning to end.

As the Lord did to Edom, so He does to all nations. When Jesus Christ returns to this earth as King of Kings, all nations will be judged by the Lord Himself (Matthew 25). Nations will be held responsible by God for how they treated the citizens of the world, and especially for how they treated (or mistreated) God’s people. There is a precedent for this idea in Deuteronomy 21:

If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was, your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. Then the elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked and has never worn a yoke and lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and where there is a flowing stream. There in the valley they are to break the heifer’s neck. (Deuteronomy 21:1 – 4 TNIV)

The principle, as odd as it may sound in Deuteronomy is a good one: the city closest to the slain man would be responsible to find his killer. In God’s economy, nobody gets away with anything. Psalm 9 gives us glimpse into the character of this Day of the Lord:

The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. (Psalm 9:7 TNIV)

All the nations of the world will be judged when the Lord returns. They will be judged, as verse 15 indicates, for how they treated other nations. Edom is sort of a sneak preview of what will happen in the future. It’s almost a template for the judgment of that nations.  In contrast to what will happen to Edom, we read this about Jerusalem:

But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance. (Obadiah, verse 17 TNIV)

What a contrast! Death and destruction upon Edom, but deliverance and holiness for Jerusalem. Mount Zion will be spared God’s wrath and holiness, as it is used here, suggests it will be not only spared but also set apart by God. Judah will recover lost territory and expand its borders.

The house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; the house of Esau will be stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau.” The Lord has spoken. (Obadiah 18 TNIV)

This verse refers to Israel, the northern kingdom, which had been overthrown by Sargon in 721 B.C. In accord with the prophecies of Hos. 1:11 and Ezek. 37:16-22, Israel is to join with Judah, the southern kingdom, and together they, like a flame burns stubble, shall destroy Edom (Isa. 11:13-14).

People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau, and people from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines. They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will possess Gilead. This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev. (Obadiah, verses 19, 20 TNIV)

These verses describe the extent of Israel’s inheritance. History tells us that during the exile of Israel the Edomites occupied towns in the south of Judah, the Negeb, an area south of Hebron toward the wilderness of Paran. After the Exile, they of the south, i.e., those who return from exile, will possess Edom, the mount of Esau. All this happened in the second century B.C. when the Jews under the Maccabees pressed out into the regions mentioned. The captivity (20) refers to the exiles. This host of the children of Israel would be the Jews deported from the northern kingdom by Sargon after Samaria’s fall in 721 B.C. The exiles from Jerusalem refers to the Jews of the Southern Kingdom carried off by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. to Sepharad, probably Sardis in Asia Minor.

Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the Lord’s. (Obadiah, verse 21 TNIV)

Finally, Obadiah tells us that Israelite deliverers, wise men of spiritual insight and faith, will rule over Edom, the territory once occupied by the irreligious, fleshly sons of Esau. God’s plan is that the spiritual shall at last rise above the profane. And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s: the Lord shall rule over all.

 

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