February Reading from The Message
The brief but intense prophecy of Obadiah is an indictment of Edom’s pride and injustice towards God’s people. But the last message of this short book takes a giant step out of the centuries of hate and rivalry. We are given a higher standard for how to live in a world of oppressors and victims. Do we need to adjust our vision for the nations, companies, and churches we lead and support?
“Listen to this, Edom: I’m turning you to a no-account, the runt of the godless nations, despised.
You thought you were so great, perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain, thinking to yourself, ‘Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!’
Think again. Even if, like an eagle, you hang out on a high cliff-face, even if you build your nest in the stars, I’ll bring you down to earth.” God’s sure Word.
5-14 “If thieves crept up on you, they’d rob you blind—isn’t that so? If they mugged you on the streets at night, they’d pick you clean—isn’t that so? Oh, they’ll take Esau apart, piece by piece, empty his purse and pockets.
All your old partners will drive you to the edge. Your old friends will lie to your face. Your old drinking buddies will stab you in the back. Your world will collapse. You won’t know what hit you.
So don’t be surprised”—it’s God’s sure Word!— “when I wipe out all sages from Edom and rid the Esau mountains of its famous wise men. Your great heroes will desert you, Teman. There’ll be nobody left in Esau’s mountains.
Because of the murderous history compiled against your brother Jacob, you will be looked down on by everyone. You’ll lose your place in history. On that day you stood there and didn’t do anything. Strangers took your brother’s army into exile. Godless foreigners invaded and pillaged Jerusalem. You stood there and watched. You were as bad as they were.
You shouldn’t have gloated over your brother when he was down-and-out. You shouldn’t have laughed and joked at Judah’s sons when they were facedown in the mud.
You shouldn’t have talked so big when everything was so bad. You shouldn’t have taken advantage of my people when their lives had fallen apart.
You of all people should not have been amused by their troubles, their wrecked nation. You shouldn’t have taken the shirt off their back when they were knocked flat, defenseless. And you shouldn’t have stood waiting at the outskirts and cut off refugees, and traitorously turned in helpless survivors who had lost everything.
15-18 “God’s Judgment Day is near for all the godless nations. as you have done, it will be done to you. What you did will boomerang back and hit your own head. Just as you partied on my holy mountain, all the godless nations will drink God’s wrath. They’ll drink and drink and drink— they’ll drink themselves to death.
But not so on Mount Zion—there’s respite there! A safe and holy place! The family of Jacob will take back their possessions from those who took them from them. That’s when the family of Jacob will catch fire, the family of Joseph become fierce flame, while the family of Esau will be straw. Esau will go up in flames, nothing left of Esau but a pile of ashes.” God said it, and it is so.
19-21 People from the south will take over the Esau mountains; people from the foothills will overrun the Philistines. They’ll take the farms of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will take Gilead. Earlier, Israelite exiles will come back and take Canaanite land to the north at Zarephath.
Jerusalem exiles from the far northwest in Sepharad will come back and take the cities in the south. The remnant of the saved in Mount Zion will go into the mountains of Esau and rule justly and fairly, a rule that honors God’s kingdom.
A Corrective Vision from God
A vision is a look at the world through God’s eyes. In some ways, it’s better than we imagined; in other ways, it’s worse. Edom, a nation that the world admired, was seen in Obadiah’s vision as a people to be warned of God’s judgment. The Edomites lived “perched high among the rocks” (Obadiah 1:3), both literally and figuratively. Their country was a lofty, impregnable fortress. Their spirits were just as lofty, and just as impregnable. Or so they thought.
Edom was famous for its wise men and its warriors. But they separated their gifts from the divine Giver and looked at themselves with a sense of superiority and self-sufficiency. The consequence of their pride was the judgment of God, who would bring this “king of the mountain” down to earth.
Perhaps we need such a corrective vision from God about our own nation, our own corporations, or our own churches. Perhaps even for our own lives—yours and mine. None of us are what we seem, individually or collectively. And it’s better to be shown our true selves and be given a chance to humble ourselves before God than to live with false selves that are admired by the world but abhorred by God. For there isn’t a nest—or nest egg—so high that God cannot reach it and bring it crashing to the ground.
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