January 25, 2020

Obadiah|eternal justice and fidelity

This is part one of a series being preached on the Missionary Church Association in Jamaica’s radio program The Grace Hour, aired on RJRFM each Sunday morning at 7:15 a.m.  Be blessed and please leave your feedback/questions in the comments section below.  You can listen to the audio version here.

Among the many interesting facts about the Bible is the observation that there are five books which contain only one chapter.  Obadiah in the Old Testament, Jude, Philemon and 2nd and 3rd John in the New Testament.  This sermon series will take an expository look at these five books.  We begin with The Prophet Obadiah. Our interest will lies primarily in the critical issue of justice, the enormity of human sin, God’s sovereignty over the workings of humanity and the folly of pride. Listen to the prophecy:

The vision of Obadiah. 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”—“See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you,    you who live in the clefts of the rocks[a]    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. “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!  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,[b] but you will not detect it. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?  Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter.  10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. 11 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. 12 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.  13 You should not march through the gates of my people  in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14 You should not wait at the crossroads  to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors  in the day of their trouble. 15 “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. 16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,  so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink  and be as if they had never been. 17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;    it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance. 18 Jacob will be a fire     and Joseph a flame; Esau will be stubble,     and they will set him on fire and destroy him. There will be no survivors  from Esau.” The Lord has spoken. 19 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. 20 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. 21 Deliverers will go up on[c] Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau.
And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.

Very little is known about the identity of this prophet.  God has willed that his name alone and this brief prophecy should be known in this world.   The greater accent of the book lies in the message of the prophet.  This is crystal clear for the brevity of the prophecy is far outweighed by its potency, its deep conviction against the particular vices it repudiates, and the finality of what it anticipates.

 Our nation (Jamaica) is one which has been steeped in the struggle for justice from her inception and it seems as though the passage of time has not been met with a commensurate increasing sense of justice for all.  I have a keen interest therefore in the justice theme that saturates Obadiah’s vision.   As you read the vision it may strike you that the promised judgment on Edom by the hand of God sounds gruesome. Beyond that though there is a striking similarity between what would be meted out to Edom and what they did to their brethren from Israel. In Numbers we see the two nations. Israel is marching to Canaan. Esau withstands him. The King of Edom prevents the progress. At that time Edom seems the stronger.  Obadiah’s vision of what awaits Edom provides a sort of mirror of what Edom did.   At verse But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!  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,[b] but you will not detect it

This is a fine example of what lies at the heart of the “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” in the Torah.  It is the principle of balance, that there should not be an overkill, that the scales of justice be equal.  W. Elmslie sums it up.  In his words “what creates Obadiah’s vision and compels his utterance is an indestructible sense of the eternal justice and fidelity.” There are those among us who live daily or regularly with the stronger, the more powerful ones impeding their progress.  Their blockades are calculated, cold and unrelenting. What is lacking totally or woefully inadequate among the people of God is this kind of interest and soul passion that Obadiah had in eternal justice and fidelity.  The vision and desire for it is lack luster at best and thus the agitating for it and pursuit of it is sporadic and short lived at best.   If we take our cue from the God we meet in Obadiah we find ourselves weighed in the balance and found wanting.  That God acts towards  Zion, once feeble and down trodden and despised, making her triumphant and glorious by his grace, love, wisdom, and power.  May the vision of Obadiah consume us.


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