Studies In Obediah. Presentation 01. God On The Throne Chapter 1v1-11. Presentation 01. Introduction.
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The Book of Obadiah is thought to have been written between 848 and 840 B.C. It is the shortest book in the O.T., being only 21 verses long. Obadiah the prophet is used by God to condemn Edom for sins against both God and Israel.
The Edomites are descendants of Esau while the Israelites are descendants of his twin brother, Jacob. Discord had existed between their descendants for over 1,000 years. A rift that caused the Edomites to forbid Israel to cross their land during the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt..
The opening verses identify Edom's sin of pride, which now calls out a strong word of judgment from God. Edom was a naturally fortified country. Its many well-watered mountain strongholds tempted its inhabitants to think that they were virtually impregnable. Its terrain was conducive to a spirit of isolation and proud independence from other nations of whom they were contemptuous.
They looked down on others below them - they ‘stood aloof’ v11 - and their geographical superiority was translated into a moral and spiritual superiority.
The N.T. calls Esau “a godless person” Heb. 12v16. The root meaning of the word ‘godless’ is “out from the temple”, and describes a life divorced from anything religious. Paul, describing the
nature of sin, writes that men “did not think it worthwhile to retain a knowledge of God,” Rom. 1v28. At the heart of this attitude is the determination to be independent of God,
“God is not in all their thoughts”.
Significantly, we never hear in the O. T. of Edomite gods or that Edom ever had a religion! Their long history of proud, derisive treatment of Israel and their other neighbours is clearly the fruit of their thoroughly irreligious attitude to life.
The Scriptures are a much more reliable guide than contemporary life when determining the really disastrous results of irreligion. Some dispute that “morals without religion” is as impossible as Christians maintain. They cite in support of their claim examples of genuine humanistic and humanitarian behaviour on the part of those who reject religious beliefs.
But they often fail to realise that contemporary life has
been for centuries conditioned by Christian
beliefs. As such a Christian ethic has been
woven into our behaviour patterns, so that
many Christian virtues appear to be ‘natural’
to people who have abandoned religious
The irreligious man, who regards the ‘milk of human kindness’ flowing in him and ‘the quality of mercy’ that may characterise his attitudes to others as purely natural products, is entirely mistaken. He surely owes such qualities, whether he realises it or not, to the centuries of Christian tradition and influence in which he has been brought up.
It is when we examine irreligious lives that have not been influenced by the same long traditions that we see a very different pattern.
The real test is not how humanists behave now, but how they will behave several generations from now, when the influence of Christian and religious values is more remote from them than at present. It is then that they will be seen to run true to type and vindicate the biblical claim that ungodliness always leads to unrighteousness.
The desire for independence from God always leads in the end to moral collapse. This should not surprise us since God is the source of all good!
The completeness of the overthrow that is to overtake Edom is seen in v5-7. This is no lightening strike by a marauding band of robbers. Instead, a complete devastation, in a systematic operation directed by God himself. The treachery of Edom’s allies, is seen in v7. Ironically, the treacherous reap treachery.
True loyalty is a rare quality even amongst those who profess a concern for the things of God. But it is impossible of attainment for those who set themselves against the will and law of God. Why? Because there is something essentially divisive about the kingdom of evil, since evil contains the seeds of destruction within itself. CfRev.17v16,17
Edom was noted for its wisdom. Jer 49v7 speaks of the wisdom of Teman. One of Job’s comforters was Eliphaz the Temanite [Job 2v11]. But it was a wisdom marked by cleverness and cunning that marked this proud race. It produced in the world of Jesus’ day, the Herods, described as, “clever, scheming, ruthless statesmen, as able as false and bitter, as shrewd in policy as destitute of ideals.” Jesus described Herod as ‘that fox’!
But this ‘wisdom’, was no match for the wisdom of God, when he rose to judge them.
Their scheming would prove useless in face of the nations God would bring against them cf. Isa 29v14, 1 Cor. 1v19.
A similar emphasis is made in v 9 regarding Edom’s mighty men. Here is a clear indication of the folly of trusting in human resources, and an assurance that human cunning and might, even when it
reaches the grand scale we see in modern superpowers,
will not have the last word in the affairs of men.
Some may recall how the master of cunning, Nikita
Krushchev, was removed from the seat of world
domination almost overnight - it is surely
comforting to the believer to know that
“power belongs to God”.
The reference in v10-14 is surely to the desolation that came upon Judah when Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem captive. A double charge is made against Edom here:
First, that they ‘stood aloof’ v11 from God’s people, failing to extend a helping hand to them cf. Num. 20v14-21;
Secondly, they took an active part in the devastation of Jerusalem v13, and seized what they could of spoil along with the Babylonians. This double outrage, against their “brother Jacob” called out this terrible prophecy against them.
What exacerbated their sin was their common ancestry as descendants of Isaac. It is clear that this “flesh-and-blood” relationship was not without significance in God’s eyes. Indeed, in Deut. 23v7, Moses counselled Israel, “Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you”, thus underlining the relationship, in spite of Edom’s standing aloof and refusing them passage [Num.20].
This injunction to respect family ties also holds good in God’s sight regarding Edom’s attitude towards Israel. Hence the severity of Obadiah’s strictures against them.
Family ties and “flesh-and-blood” relationships form a very real issue, in Scripture and spiritual experience alike. On one hand, there is the stern, warning of Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother… such a person cannot be my disciple” Luke 14v26.
On the other hand, there is condemnation of those who are “without natural affection”.
Consecration to Christ, cannot mean loss of natural affection for our own flesh and blood. Spiritual loyalties can breed a self-righteous contempt towards one’s family which is the antithesis of the Spirit of Christ.
Love for Christ will never mean we will love family any less, for if Christ is first in our hearts, we are set free to love others with great tenderness and understanding. When the opposite happens, and we lose natural affection for them, and have “no time for them”, either literally or metaphorically.
Religious self-centredness and self-absorption, have often become a convenient excuse both for avoiding the plain duties and responsibilities of family life and for obeying the dictates of common sense and human ties alike.
Another lesson can be drawn from this sad record of “violence against your brother Jacob”. Its context is wrongs in the church against God’s family e.g. 2 Tim 4v14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm”. This unnatural Edomite spirit impoverishes our spiritual life.
The quarrels that arise through conflicting ambitions, the
long-standing grudges can corrode our hearts and
suddenly erupt in bitter words and deeds.
The scheming and intrigue of our fallen humanity
jockeys for position against one another - these
things made Alexander the coppersmith hurt and
grieve his brothers in Christ, and leave marks and scars
that sometimes a lifetime will not suffice to heal.
James reminds us that the cries of the hurt and wounded are heard by God [Jas. 5v4]. Men have conveniently short memories, and soon forget their injustice and those whose lives they have crushed. The victims of their heartlessness do not however forget so soon. Indeed, they are unable to do so, for they are scarred by the evil done to them; and God does not forget either! He watches over his own; and the believer who tramples upon his brother causing him hurt and heartbreak may live for years in forgetfulness of what he has done, but he will not pass from this life without suffering and chastisement.