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Obadiah 14, 1015, 1718, 21comment (0)

January 17, 2013

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Obadiah 14, 1015, 1718, 21

Bible Studies for Life 
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University

OBADIAH: A Message of God’s Justice

Obadiah 1–4, 10–15, 17–18, 21
How should we respond to tragic and unjust events happening in the lives of others? Does it seem we are powerless to make a difference for good in the presence of pervasive injustice? Is this why we choose indifference over action? What if we are the victims of injustice?

The brief prophecy of Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, presents a message of God’s activity in the presence of indifference and unrighteousness. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. We know these brothers had a tumultuous relationship characterized by deceit and even hatred. Yet the Edomites were blood kin to the Israelites and both were bound by Deuteronomic law to honor each other (Deut. 23:7). Obadiah tells the story of the Edomites’ failure to honor the relationship. Not only did they turn against Judah during the time of the Babylonian conquest, the haughty Edomites delighted in the catastrophe their brothers and sisters in Judah experienced at the hands of foreign invaders.

God acts in decisive and deliberate ways when dealing with arrogance and prideful behaviors, especially when these behaviors harm innocent persons. 

This lesson calls us to move from an attitude of apathy to one of engagement and action. What might we do to change injustice into justice, to aid the victimized, to turn wrong into right?

God’s Action Is Certain (1–4)
“I will bring you down, says the Lord” (v. 4). The nation of Edom was situated in a region that was easily defended. Mountains and steep cliffs offered natural barriers for protection. Water was abundant and the land was well suited for farming. There was plenty of food for the large population. The Edomites thought they were secure and beyond needing help from others. It is not difficult for us to understand how they might regard themselves superior to their conquered kin in the nation of Judah. Obadiah’s prophecy is clear: they would be brought down. The Lord God would act on behalf of the victimized Israelites. Big Edom would be made small among the nations. Rather than be looked up to, they would be despised. Arrogance, pride, over-confidence and a self-assured attitude — whether among nations or individuals — are contrary to the way of God. 

God’s Action Is Near (10–15)
The German pastor Martin Niemöller was a courageous voice against Nazi evils during World War II. A saying of his is on display near the exit in the winding exhibit of the Holocaust Museum in Washington: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” 

It was bad enough that the Edomites did not come to the aid of their brother nation. Even worse, they gloated over the calamity Judah experienced. God takes human relationships seriously. The responsibilities of neighbor for neighbor, promises between husbands and wives, obligations of siblings to each other — all are important to God. Edom ignored such relational covenants. As a result, God’s justice led to its destruction.

God’s Action Brings Deliverance (17–18, 21)
In contrast to the “day of Edom” (11–14), Obadiah declared a coming “day of the Lord” (15). Things would not go well for Edom on that day, or for other nations that fail to honor the way of righteousness. The Israelites, once victims of abuse, would know restoration and redemption. 

What might we do to bring restoration and redemption to the abused and despised we see around us?

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