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It Didn’t Have to Be This Way [7-7-24]


July 7, 2024

Obadiah 1-10

“It Didn’t Have to Be This Way”


Someone asked me, “Why are you preaching on Obadiah?” “Aside from the cool name?” “Yeah.” “Well, it’s the shortest book in the Old Testament, so it has that going for it. Obadiah is a great follow-up to our series on Jude, the shortest book in the New Testament, so I kinda like that bookend feel to it. Obadiah is the rare prophetic book with a message of judgment, not for the disobedient people of Israel, but for her enemies. Finally, Obadiah is obscure enough to warrant an in-depth look at why God is telling us this story.”


Make no mistake. The overall sweep of this short book is the comfort it gives us in knowing that God will bring justice to those who target the innocent. Abortion, genocide, ethnic injustice, terrorism, antisemitism, and other acts of violence and hatred drive us to ask, “When, Lord, will there be justice?” But God will bring justice in His time. Evil doers will be 

punished, while the persecuted will be comforted.


With that in mind, let’s look once more at Obadiah 1-10:

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:We have heard a report from the Lord,    and a messenger has been sent among the nations:“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”Behold, I will make you small among the nations;    you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you,    you who live in the clefts of the rock,     in your lofty dwelling,who say in your heart,    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”Though you soar aloft like the eagle,    though your nest is set among the stars,    from there I will bring you down,declares the Lord.

If thieves came to you,

    if plunderers came by night—    how you have been destroyed!—    would they not steal only enough for themselves?If grape gatherers came to you,    would they not leave gleanings?How Esau has been pillaged,    his treasures sought out!All your allies have driven you to your border;    those at peace with you have deceived you;they have prevailed against you;    those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—    you have no understanding.

Will I not on that day, declares the Lord,    destroy the wise men out of Edom,    and understanding out of Mount Esau?And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,    so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.

Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall 

cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.


The overarching theme here is judgment against the enemies of God’s people. Remember, other prophets spoke of God’s punishment upon Israel for her disobedience. There were horrible kings. People did horrible things following these horrible kings. And so, there were invasions by foreign powers. There was the Babylon captivity. People were scattered far from the Promised Land. But always there was the promise of return and restoration. Out of that promise grew expectation for the Messiah. We know the trajectory of that story.


Prophets were honest about the faults of God’s people. Justice served was justice earned. We’re in one of those rare places where harsh punishment is spelled out for an enemy of God’s people.


One of the things we’re going to see, coming up, is mentioned in verse 15:

“For the day of the Lord is near upon all nations. As you have 

done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return to your own 

head.”


Did you hear the promise? “For the day of the Lord is near upon all nations.” The day of the Lord is a common theme in the prophets. Listen to Malachi 4:5-6:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Interesting side note. Do you remember when Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say I am?” One of the answers was Elijah. Because of the signs and wonders Jesus performed, some thought he was the promise of Elijah from Malachi 4.


The day of the Lord will be great and dreadful and awesome and terrible. Isaiah 13 carries us deeper:

Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;

    as destruction from the Almighty it will come!Therefore all hands will be feeble,    and every human heart will melt.They will be dismayed:    pangs and agony will seize them;    they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.They will look aghast at one another;    their faces will be aflame.

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,    cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,to make the land a desolation    and to destroy its sinners from it.For the stars of the heavens and their constellations    will not give their light;the sun will be dark at its rising,    and the moon will not shed its light.I will punish the world for its evil,    and the wicked for their iniquity;I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,    and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.I will make people more rare than fine gold,    and mankind than the gold of Ophir.Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,    and the earth will be shaken out of its place,at the wrath of the Lord of hosts    in the day of his fierce anger. And like a hunted gazelle,    or like sheep with none to gather them,each will turn to his own people,    and each will flee to his own land.Whoever is found will be thrust through,    and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.Their infants will be dashed in pieces    before their eyes;their houses will be plundered    and their wives ravished.

 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,    who have no regard for silver    and do not delight in gold.Their bows will slaughter the young men;    they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;    their eyes will not pity children.And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,    the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,will be like Sodom and Gomorrah    when God overthrew them.It will never be inhabited    or lived in for all generations;no Arab will pitch his tent there;    no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.But wild animals will lie down there,    and their houses will be full of howling creatures;there ostriches will dwell,    and there wild goats will dance.Hyenas will cry in its towers,    and jackals in the pleasant palaces;its time is close at hand    and its days will not be prolonged.

Are you kidding me? Things are not going to go well for unbelievers. What horrible things await those who reject God’s sovereign purpose. Ezekiel 30:1-3 says:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord God:

“Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’For the day is near,    the day of the Lord is near;it will be a day of clouds,    a time of doom for the nations.”

Again, as we saw two months ago from Amos 5:18-20:

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!    Why would you have the day of the Lord?It is darkness, and not light,     as if a man fled from a lion,    and a bear met him,or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,    and a serpent bit him.Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,    and gloom with no brightness in it?


From God, through Obadiah, the day of the Lord is near. When that day comes, all will be humbled. God, and God alone will be exalted. As Isaiah 2:17 promises:

“And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,    and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,    and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

God’s beauty and glory will be clearly seen in His expression of justice. People will give thanks to the Lord for the defeat of wickedness.


I love how this is expressed in Romans 8:35-39. It is something we look forward to, as devoted followers of Jesus Christ. In spite of the bad news we read or see or hear, all evil will be vanquished:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or 

distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or 

sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


You can hear echoes of Obadiah. Trial and tribulation are real. While judgment awaits the wicked, God’s everlasting love awaits the elect, those whose names have been written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.


Here’s the tragic thing. All this judgment and doom didn’t have to fall on Edom. Remember, Esau got over his conflict with Jacob. They reconciled. But his descendants didn’t. All they had to do was stay on the path he travelled, and be kind and decent toward their kin. But they didn’t. They became like garbage.


Let’s set up their downfall.

For a reference point, in ancient times, thieves and pillagers played by certain rules. Kind of like that old, “Honor among thieves,” saying. Thieves took what they needed, leaving the rest behind.


On the legitimate side, the same principle applied to harvesters in the vineyard. They didn’t take everything. They would leave remnants for the gleaners. This meant the less fortunate had access to what they needed to survive. This served as a sort of social contract between the haves and the have-nots. A safety net. Everybody got along.


Did you catch the difference in verse five? “If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night - how you have been destroyed! - wouldthey not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?”  In other words, if you had not worked to thwart God’s sovereign will, things would have continued on as normal. But no. Obadiah even paused to interject his own amazed observation:

“How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!”

There would be no niceties or adhering to social norms to save you. Obadiah marvels at how hard the hammer of justice would come down upon Edom.


Do you know what Schadenfreude is? It is “joy over another person’s grief,” or the emotional experience of pleasure in response to another's misfortune.” It’s one of those not so good character traits most of us have felt at one time or another in our lives. It hits when, say, a person who has been cruel or unkind to you has something bad, short of death, happen to them. For example, someone who cuts you off in traffic, makes an obscene gesture as he speeds past you, then gets pulled over a few miles down the road. Don’t tell me you haven’t or wouldn’t smile when driving by.


Some have suggested that verse six was an expression of Schadenfreude. We see how that could be the case. But that is not the case. Rather, God and Obadiah express horror at the demise of Esau. There is no glee in these words. Remember, it didn’t have to be this way. There is no joy in the calamity about to afflict the descendants of Jacob’s brother. After all, 

through Esau, they, too are great-grandchildren of Abraham. Here’s the 

higher ground, expressed in Job 31:29-30:

“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me,    or exulted when evil overtook him(I have not let my mouth sin    by asking for his life with a curse).”

After the example of Job, there ought not be any sense of Schadenfreude in the heart of a child of God. Amen?


More than anything, Obadiah expresses shock at what has happened to Edom. As the descendants of Esau, they have paid the price for their wickedness. While God is doing what He has warned He would do, and has every right to do it, it’s still a shocking result. It didn’t have to happen. The story could have ended differently. But on the troubles roll.


There is a lesson to be learned. We only live to please God. No one else. Especially not self. God gave us this grand and great and glorious life to live in obedience to Him. That’s all Edom had to do. They simply had to be kind, decent people who helped and loved their brother Jacob…Israel. 

Simply live a life that is pleasing to God. If they had only remembered that, 

the story wouldn’t have ended the way it did for Edom.


We’ll close with this…big picture…of what God calls us to do:

JESUS DIDN’T EAT WITH SINNERS AND TAX COLLECTORS BECAUSE HE WANTED TO APPEAR INCLUSIVE, TOLERANT, AND ACCEPTING. HE ATE WITH THEM TO CALL THEM TO A CHANGED AND FRUITFUL LIFE, TO DIE TO SELF AND LIVE FOR HIM. GOD’S CALL IS TRANSFORMATION OF LIFE, NOT AFFIRMATION OF IDENTITY.

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