Obadiah: Did God say that?!?
Thomas D. Kock
Did God say that?!?
The question is reasonable, and Obadiah likely raises that question.
A cruel message of punishment
The one-chapter book of Obadiah is unusual. It’s addressed to a specific nation: Edom. Edom was located to the east and south of the Dead Sea and was a perpetual enemy of the Israelites. That is tragic, for the Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. (Read the account of Jacob and Esau, starting at Genesis 25:19.) So, Edom was a cousin nation to Israel.
But the relationship between Edom and Israel was awful. Psalm 137:7 tells us that on the day Jerusalem was destroyed (586 B.C.), some Edomites were there, crying out, “Tear it down . . . tear it down to its foundations!” Wow!
So perhaps we’re not surprised to hear God say, “But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!” (v. 6), and “everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter” (v. 9), and “you will be destroyed forever” (v. 10).
Edom was Israel’s enemy. Edom deserved this. And yet, it’s quite reasonable to ask, “Why would God say that? It sounds so cruel! So harsh!”
In a sense, it is cruel; it is harsh. But it’s a message that I need to hear. Why?
It reminds me that there is a God who rules this universe and to stand against him is a horrible decision. Indeed, the only ultimate result of obstinately standing opposed to God (as Edom did) is to suffer an eternity in hell.
That’s a message I need to hear because my sinful self too often takes sin so lightly. Every sin is rebellion against God. As I hear God’s strong words to Edom, I’m reminded that I too deserve what Edom received: “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (v. 15). Just as Edom deserved punishment, I deserve punishment. I need to hear that!
A needed message of deliverance
Thankfully, Obadiah continues. “But on Mount Zion will be deliverance” (v. 17). Jesus came to win deliverance for sinners, for all sinners. He won forgiveness for the
Edomites—and for me. It happened on Mount Zion, the “mountain” on which Jerusalem was located. No, Mount Zion isn’t as impressive as some of the mountains of Edom, but what happened there was oh-so-impressive. There Jesus earned deliverance for all mankind—by dying and rising. Obadiah reminds me of that; I need to hear that.
Obadiah ends, “And the kingdom will be the LORD’s” (v. 21). Obadiah reminds me that God is in charge. He really does rule all things! Even when nations are in overt rebellion, God remains in charge. Even when I’m struggling mightily, God remains in charge. Even when I’m soaring high, God remains in charge. I need to hear that!
So, in Obadiah I’m reminded that I’m a sinner who deserves God’s judgment. In Obadiah I’m reminded that God has earned salvation for all, for me. In Obadiah I’m reminded that God is in charge, always.
Did God say that?!? Thank God, yes, he said that
Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.
This is the fifth article in a 12-part series on the minor prophets.
Name meaning: “Obadiah” means “servant of the Lord.”
What is Obadiah?: Is “Obadiah” a person? Or a title? We don’t know.
Background: Obadiah prophesied sometime after 586 B.C., when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed.
Key concept: God rules all things. Mock him at your own risk!
Key verse: “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (v. 4).
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Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018
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