Obadiah (By Lynne McCarthy)
Text: Obadiah, Psalm 128
Observe: Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible – only 21 verses long. But “short” doesn’t mean “inconsequential”; it is dense with forthtelling and forewarning. Obadiah’s vision concerned a nation that made itself an enemy of Jacob/Israel: Edom, a nearly inaccessible mountainous area south of the Dead Sea, its geography offering its inhabitants apparent safety from enemy attack.
If you recall from Genesis 25:22, Esau and his twin, Jacob, had been at war with each other literally from the womb. Esau eventually went to live in Edom, while rivalry between Israel and Edom remained over generations. Pride of place and aggression increased over the years.
Yahweh through Obadiah spoke against Edom’s pride and arrogance (1-4), warning of their destruction (5-9) finally charging them for their violence against your brother Jacob. (10-14). Prior to and during Obadiah’s time, Edom had been harassing Jacob, stealing from them, mocking, generally making itself The Enemy, believing with puffed-up hubris “us” as superior to “them”—a familiar bigotry, we might note.
So, for their evil visited on God’s people? As you have done, it shall be done to you; / your deeds shall return on your own head. (15b). Retributive justice, indeed, as the prophecy of Edom’s demise came to pass when it disappeared into the mists of history, proving Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction/and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
Through Obadiah the Lord God promised redemption, not to Edom, but to the people of Jacob. The ‘Kingdom of the Lord’ is theirs when the land and God’s people are restored (19-21).
Interpret: ‘The Lord God’ was Obadiah’s name for Yahweh as the true ruler of all; “Obadiah” actually means “worshipper of Yahweh”. He was one of a few prophets to speak out against nations other than Judah. The Lord God sent a prayerful, humble man to this violent nation to announce God’s judgment on Edom’s pride. Obadiah’s trust in his Lord God strengthened him for this daunting task.
This short book focuses on a difficult truth about humanity’s relationship with God: those who place themselves in opposition to God and His people can expect judgment, not restoration, at the end of life.
Apply: Obadiah compels us to recognize the destructive power of pride in putting our own feelings and desires first without considering others, or God. Such goes right back to the tragedy of the Fall. Obadiah’s stark prophetic reminder to place ourselves under God's authority, to subject our desires to His purposes, and to find our hope in being His people, are all worth our greatest efforts in applying. God’s redemptive work is for all who take seriously Jesus’ earliest command to Follow Me… – into a completely new life. (Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17)
Ask: Do I struggle to set aside my own wants and desires for those of God and others? Do I harbour pride in being ‘better than’, in hidden biases against others? From today’s Psalm we might also ask, How should I then live to bless Your church family and beyond, so we all flourish under Your indescribable love and care?
Pray: Lord God, I ask for Your Spirit’s gift of humility, setting me free to live as You would have me live, go where You would have me go, speak as You would direct (even to courageously warn Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible or rebuke), and bless those who may be Your, and my, enemies.
Song: Ps. 128 Sons of Korah
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.