Thursday, December 13, 2007

Obadiah (1)

It's been a great three days spending time with this prophet. The shortest book in the Old Testament is certainly not short on meat. The book seems to split up nicely into three bits, one long and two short, so these thoughts will break up into two over the next couple of days. This one on 'who are God's enemies?' and tomorrows on 'who are God's friends?' and 'who is God?'. A lot of these ideas come from Mark Dever's excellent sermon on the book. Read me.

Does God have enemies? I guess it depends who you ask. The Muslim fundamentalist would probably say America, the extreme Hindu might say Muslims and Christians, the atheist student might say Christians...but what would we say. Surely we think the idea of God having enemies is outdated...God is good, God is love. It's human to hate...but divine? The idea seems ridiculous to our sanitised western religion.

But how would we find out for sure? And what's it like to have an almighty enemy? Having a persistent human enemy is bad enough, but an almighty One? No thank you. What's Obadiah's point of view? Well we see from verse three that the proud are God's enemies. Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon in 587BC and their near neighbours to the south east had done nothing to help. In fact as we'll see later they'd done worse than nothing. Obadiah is clear as to where his message comes from in verse 1, the sovereign almighty God. He is stirring war against Edom from Babylon, Edom will be made small (v2).

Why was Edom such a proud place? It's hinted at in verse three and four. They dwelt 'in the cleft of a rock', literally Edom was a high mountainous place, hard to get into or out of, and it seems they had all their security in that. They had no awareness of God. In fact times were good. Judah's fall had eliminated their local trade rival, and all they were surely secure from the same fate that had befallen Judah, secure as they were in their high rocky kingdom. Edom's pride had deceived them (v3) they were about to learn that security apart from the LORD is no security at all. God will bring them down, He is neither impressed nor put off by their strategic position (v4) Edom on their deceptive pride had not given a single thought to the King of the nations.

Nothing can save Edom from complete ruin. Thieves only take what they want, grape gatherers leave gleanings (v5) but Edom will be torn apart. (v6) Any nation anywhere at any time that put its security in defence, or economics or isolation will not escape judgement. Anyone in any place at any time who puts his trust in something other than the LORD will not escape judgement. We need to be more aware of this than anyone...what is the way of Christ? Surely humility.

But what had Edom done? In answering this question we in some ways push further into the mind of God than we can grasp. God used Babylon to judge Judah for their faithlessness, and then judged Edom using Babylon for essentially not helping Judah...then judged Babylon for what it did to Judah. Until we grasp the power and goodness or our God who is outside time, we will struggle with this.

Verse 10 says it was because of the violence done to 'your brother Jacob' Edom will be judged. Obadiah was an effective user of history and language. Edom was not an impassive passer-by when this happened to Judah...Edom is his brother. Edom is Esau (v6,9,18) Judah is Jacob. Edoms crime looks much much worse now. In verse 11 we see they 'stood aloof' on the day when Judah was pillaged, they cast lots for Jerusalem at her gates. Judah's own kin, with all their shared history stood and watched as people gambled for his city! God loves justice, Edom will be humbled for their actions. Neither the wise nor the strong can save Edom from the Babylonian onslaught. Note the warning that the allies that Edom trusted in are the same ones who will now destroy her. Not only do we see Edom watching passively in Jerusalem's overthrow, but they cut down those who fled. The few who escaped and braved the mountain pass to seek help from their brothers were cut down. Those who were found alive were turned over to their terrorisers. Some believe that the language is so brutal here because some of Obadiah's relatives were among this number. It's certainly not impossible. Edom acted worse than the thieves and grape robbers, and this towards their own brother. This towards, as we'll see next time, people who were in fact, God's friends.

so what can we learn from the first 13 verses of this book? Firstly that God opposed the proud. In fact He hates them. He will destroy every lofty perch and starry nest. All those who do no consider Him worthy of a thought will fall before Him. Taking security in anything and anywhere other than in God in Jesus Christ is suicide. These things needn't always be bad in themselves, be they relationships or possessions or a job, but we turn them into idols and justly invoke God's pure anger against us for it. And third, God's enemies are the enemies of God's people. While Christians pray for their leaders often their leaders ordain their persecution. This God hates, as we see here, those who do not aid Christians in their plight, those who participate in the killing and persecution of Christians are, among everyone else, the enemies of God.

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