Minor Prophets Series: Obadiah’s message
Scripture: Obadiah v1-21
There once was a woman, pregnant with twin boys. Even while still in the womb, the 2 babies jostled each other. Eventually, two nations would emerge from them who would remain in conflict right to the end.
The woman was Rebecca and the two boys were Esau and Jacob, we read it all in Genesis 25.
Although Esau was the eldest, the Lord’s great Promise of a coming Deliverer, would be fulfilled through the descendants of Jacob. From the beginning, Esau was negative towards the Lord and His Kingdom. So much so that Heb 12:16 calls him “godless and sexually immoral”. He sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. He took foreign wives. He went to live in the area south of the Red Sea. The area was known as EDOM. His descendants were therefore the Edomites. For hundreds of years they were in conflict against their brothers, the Israelites.
When Israel was saved from Egypt and on their way to Canaan, the Edomites refused to allow them to cross their territory. In similar ways, they constantly conflicted with the Jews. When the Lord’s nation was taken into exile in the year 586 BC and Jerusalem was destroyed, the Edomites rejoiced over it.
600 years later, king Herod had all the newborn male babies killed with the intention to kill the newborn Jesus. And Herod was also an Edomite. The struggle of Herod against the newborn Savior was therefore still the very same conflict between Esau and Jacob. In the end, the Edomites were all killed by the Romans in 70 AD during the destruction of Jerusalem – as the Lord had prophesied through Obadiah.
One should see this conflict between Esau and Jacob (Edomites and Israelites) also against the wider background of the mother-promise in Genesis 3:15 where God – directly after the fall – promised that a male Person would emerge from the offspring of Eve who would eventually crush the head of the snake, although the snake would bite the heel of the woman’s seed.
The entire OT reveals this conflict – how the snake tried to prevent God’s promise from being fulfilled for a male redeemer to be born out of Eve’s descendants.
Only to say that the Edomites were only one of the snake’s instruments to prevent the coming of the Redeemer. That is why Jacob’s descendants had to be wiped out (by the snake’s opinion) because God’s promise was running in the Jacob-line!
Eventually, our Lord Jesus was born from the line of Jacob. In fact, this snake-poison/ arrogance-antagonism-of-the-Edomites is running in the bloodstream of all of us, hence our inner resistance against the Lord, and against everything that is Biblically-spiritual. Fortunately, we do not have to continue with our struggle ad infinitum. That is the good news that Obadiah was preaching.
Why this lengthy introduction? It is the indispensable background of Obadiah’s prophetic word. The Lord was speaking through Obadiah to condemn the descendants of Esau (Edomites) and to bring hope to the Israelites, the true children of the Lord. The time when Obadiah prophecied was when the Lord’s nation was taken into exile to Babylon in 586 BC, and the Edomites took delight in that, and kept themselves aloof from it.
One could summarize Obadiah’s message like this: Even although the Lord’s people/ children/church sometimes deserve His correction, He absolutely stands behind/with them when their enemy approaches.
The Lord was telling the Edomites: “I saw how you hurt, robbed and betrayed your brothers. When their need was at its most desperate, you rejoiced in their suffering and kept yourselves apart from them. You chose to side with the Babylonians against your brothers. You regard yourselves so high, and think “Who can bring me down to the ground?” Well, I will bring you down to the ground.”
And then the Lord turns to His people and says to them: “I will stand by you. Through thick and thin. You will once again return to take possession of Canaan. Deliverance will be on Mount Zion. My promised Saviour will come from you and, on Mount Zion, He will work your deliverance. There is hope. There is a future waiting for you. Everything is not so dark. Remember: The kingdom/authority belongs to Me, not to the Edomites. Take heart my people. My life is more powerful than death.”
The Holy Spirit used the pen of Obadiah to address a matter of the utmost importance – which affects all of us even in 2018.
What is it that was behind the actions of the Edomites? What is it that drove them to misconduct and twisted relationships? What is the root of all the evil? Because remember, it is the problem with all of us. The Edomites represent everybody. It is important to know what the root of our trouble is, because when the root is pulled out, we will experience healing, recovery and restoration.
Well, what was the root of the Edomites’ problem? Was it hate? Sin? Greed?
No, the Lord looks deeper and says: pride. Verses 3+4. “The pride of your heart has deceived you. You who make your home on the heights. You who say to yourself “Who can bring me down to the ground?” Though you soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” declares the Lord.
Can you see? There is not a single person who has a different root-problem than this – even although it is difficult to break down and admit it. It is the root-problem behind all the issues we struggle with – particularly with something like an inferiority complex. Apprehension. Aggression. Remember verse 3: “The pride of your heart has DECEIVED you”. In other words, pride does not manifest itself as pride! Pride disguises itself. It is deceitful. But it is the root of all relationship-problems. It is the root of our racial tension. It is the cause that our focus on your marriage-partner’s faults and shortcomings, and at the same time on our own desires and needs (the winning recipe for failure).
Pride causes our first impulse always to put ourselves first and make choices in line with what is right for US. We can name numerous examples.
The problem is that the world we live in always puts a high premium on pride. Exactly the opposite as Scripture. We are constantly being brainwashed with how important pride is, and how lofty “King Man” is.
On the other hand, the Holy Spirit speaks a different language. For example Proverbs 16:18/ 21:24.
It is interesting that satan was brought to a fall as a result of pride. 1 Tim 3:16 says it explicitly. Remember: satan was not always satan. He was originally created as a beautiful angel / a cherub named “morning star”. But he became prideful about his beauty and was not satisfied with a position subjected to God. So he became rebellious and the Lord was forced to cast him out, together with a third of all the angels who also rebelled.
Some learned people are of the opinion that this is the meaning of Isaiah 14:11-17: “All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How far you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to earth, you who once laid low the nations. You said in your heart: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you, stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?”
We find a parallel in Ezekiel 28:13 and further. Verse 17: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty.”
This must have taken place before the creation of man. That is why satan – disguised as a snake – tried the same with man in the garden of Eden. And indeed succeeded. Adam and Eve suddenly wanted to be above God’s throne. It does not matter what He said about the fruit of the tree. In any case, who is He to deny us anything? I, king man, will eat from that tree. And then came the devastating fall.
Pride was at the centre of it all. Pride still is at the heart of all problems, sin and devastation. That is why we fall so very hard. That is what destroys relationships and causes thousands of tensions.
Yet the Lord did not leave the situation like that. It is interesting how the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is present in the background of Obadiah. He is the One who was humiliated by His enemies and was again lifted on high by His Father – as was Israel’s experience under the Edomites. He deeply experienced the suffering of verses 10-14. And also the glory and majesty of verses 17-21. During His earthly life, He lived exactly in contradiction to the Edomite’s haughtiness. His second coming will be the fulfillment of the Great Day of the Lord as prophecied in verses 15-21.
Can you see how Jesus is present in the background of Obadiah?
Our Lord Jesus – with His coming to earth – destroyed and defeated all pride in essence. He turned everything that satan and man had turned upside-down, the right-way up again. Satan and man was beautiful, and was created to live beneath God’s throne. Then came pride, and satan and man became dissatisfied and wanted to rise above God’s throne. They were then cast down into death.
Significant that our Lord Jesus did exactly the opposite. From all eternity He was right at the top – God eternal on the throne. But He decided to climb down. Down and down and down. Right down to the curse-death of the cross. Then God exalted Him to the highest position. And in that way He defeated our pride for ever. If we continue to lean on Him, the Holy Spirit allows His humility, meekness and victory to manifest in our lives. It is written in Philippians 2:5-11.
Now we can understand the profundity of the verses of Obadiah. Understand it in the light of the coming Lord Jesus who has already dealt with our root-problem (pride).
1) The best thing that can happen to a person is that the Lord would shake us so that we would tumble out of our eagle’s nest. The sooner that happens, the better for ourselves. He is well able to bring us down to the ground. Think of Daniel 4:37.
2) Due to our Lord Jesus – who occupied the highest place from all eternity – voluntarily climbing down and lowering Himself to take on the stature of a slave and died a curse-death, and based on that, was exalted to the highest glory – He set us free from our root-problem. It is not a deliverance which still must happen. It has already been dealt with. God kept His promise to the end. That original promise of Gen 3:15 also runs through Obadiah. See verse 17: On Mount Zion will be deliverance! The snake’s head will be crushed on the mountain in Jerusalem. The Edomites could not prevent it. Jesus fulfilled it. He breaks the ties as we consciously begin to believe Him for it.
3) For everyone who believes the Lord Jesus for salvation – there is hope for the future. The Lord’s children WILL inherit the land. When we look from the NT back to Obadiah, we see that it is not only about a group of Israelites who will eventually own a piece of country. No, everyone who trusts the Lord, will inherit the earth. The new earth. Because authority belongs to the Lord (v 17). If you belong to Him, His victory belongs also to you!
Translated by Marthie Wilson