Welcome to Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament. Its message is about oppression and betrayal, from both vantage points. We’ll also see examples of being the “innocent bystander” in perilous times. It’s thought that Obadiah would have written this prophecy sometime after the Babylonian conquest, but it is not clearly stated.
Obadiah’s message reveals God’s dramatic response to anyone who would harm his precious children. Edom was one of those nations, located southwest of the Dead Sea. The Edomite people were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Remember the story about the birth right in Genesis 27? We see time and again in the Old Testament references to the hostilities and struggles Edom had with God’s people, Israel.
Rather than rush to Israel’s aid, the Edomites gloated over their relative’s troubles. That behavior would surely have gotten God’s attention. The indifference of the Edomites was profound, and they likely believed they were safe from harm. Clearly not. “‘But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,’ says the Lord.”
The Edomites were proud of their self-sufficiency. Such an attitude would lead to their downfall. Possessions and people can disappear in a moment, but God never changes. The Bible warns us about the dangers of pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” How true this would be for the Edomites!
The promised judgment of Edom gives the phrase, “let God fight your battles,” a whole new meaning. God surely has our backs and will punish those who persecute and marginalize us for our faith and way of life. How does that make you feel? However, keep in mind that God did not pronounce judgment on Edom out of vengeance but to promote justice. The Edomites were getting what they deserved based on what they had already done to Israel.
Jesus teaches about revenge, quoting from Leviticus 24 in Matthew’s gospel. “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:38-42)
The Edomites were known to be wise, but there’s a huge difference between human wisdom and the wisdom of God. If the Edomites had continued to follow God’s ways rather than rely on their own wisdom, their future would have looked a lot different. Obadiah speaks of a time when “‘not a single wise person will be left in the whole land of Edom,’ says the Lord.” That’s how God’s justice will work in this situation. The oppressors will not get away with their evil deeds.
So how does this passage speak to you? I believe in the same way God despised the Edomites for their behavior and pronounced judgment, those people today who show disrespect for Christ-followers should also expect peril. Don’t you feel grateful God would seek justice for you in your times of oppression? We don’t need to fight or fear our enemies but lean into God’s love.
Let’s pray … Lord, thank you for how you much you love and protect me. Help me to trust and truly embrace your promises. I am so grateful you reign supreme and fight my enemies. Use me to help others see how much you love them and how you are fighting for us every moment. I want to keep my eyes on you amidst the chaos of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.