Well, let’s begin by reading our last verses in the book of Obadiah 1:15-21.
“The Day of the Lord is near.” Comforting words to those who believe and follow – not so comforting words to those who don’t. But even then those who don’t believe, so to speak, may not believe ANYTHING in those words for they only “mean” something if you believe that they mean something and have action backing the words spoken. In other words, if you don’t believe in the God of Yahweh then would you care if “the Day of the Lord” was near? Probably not. And that strikes me. It strikes me not because I don’t believe that those words have backing and merit, I wholeheartedly do, but what strikes me is that it seems like this is the typical situation with MOST bullies. If you are the strongest, biggest, and baddest person out there and nobody has dethroned you – then someone threatening you with being dethroned really isn’t going to be very threatening. And while Edom wasn’t the “biggest and baddest” out there they definitely were not only not being picked on but there was NO WAY Israel was going to do ANYTHING to them because they never had in the past…so what makes today any different than yesterday?
These last verses really draw out the fact that what goes on in the kingdom of God matters to God and simply because something has taken place in the past, or tolerated in the past, doesn’t mean that it was good, right, or will continue to be allowed to happen and go unpunished in the future. And so we see them being called out here. So we read in verse 16, rather quickly and in passing, that they “drank” on God’s holy hill but this will NOT go on any further and that in fact THEY will be “drank” so much that they will cease to exist. So Obadiah is doing a play on metaphors all-the-while declaring, and calling out, Edom’s death (judgment is often pictured as “drink” or “drinking” to the point where there is nothing left. It’s a way of expressing that what was will no longer be).
But also in this breath of 7 verses we not only have judgment but we have deliverance as God is declaring that his people will once again be restored. That what was fallen will be picked up, what was broken will be repaired, and what was once a remnant will now be in abundance. That when God comes to judge he comes to redeem and restore as well. And to the people of God this was their hope. They wanted restoration, they needed home to be home and safety to surround them once more. They needed to hear that it would be all OK and that God was going to step in and declare that enough was enough. They needed to be reminded that God was still God and they were still his people. But what’s interesting, to me, is what’s missing. Nowhere do we read that deliverance happens because Israel was faithful, deserving, and well-behaved. Nowhere do we see that God heard their prayers and their petitions and so he comes to judge and deliver them from their woes. We read in verses 19-21 about those in exile and deliverance that takes place which should declare to us that God was acutely aware of all that was going on and where his children were – but again we don’t read ANYTHING about God’s people deserving, or doing, anything here. So what does that mean? This means that it’s all on God, his will, his desires, and his work. So there will be NO taking credit for this Israel!
Was Israel faithful? Well – not really. Pretty much the OT is one giant story after another of how faithful God was and yet how two-timing, ignoring, unfaithful, and generally bad Israel was (not all of them – but most of them)…and yet here is God holding to his covenant-faithfulness to them. God declared all the way back in Deuteronomy that he was GIVING them the land (Deut 1:8, 21; 2:25; 9:4-6) and so here we see God giving them the land! Once more – this is all on God and nobody else. And since this is God at work, since this is God judging and restoring, there is no place to run, no place to hide, and no place to feel “secure” while God is pursuing you for your sins. So fire will come, Joseph will be a flame, and Esau…the “stubble”…will be consumed, burnt, and destroyed. The Negev, foothills, fields, and all other places will be occupied and covered and ready to take out these enemies of God.
It’s easy to sit here and go “yeah!” as we look at these enemies of God. And while these words from Obadiah ARE directed to Edom we must swing wider and, once again, be reminded that these words are towards ALL enemies of God. That judgment comes upon those who speak ill of God, who don’t believe in him, who do not worship him, who do not live by his standards, who do not abide by his rules, who do not adhere to his Law, and who do not worship his Son. And judgment doesn’t only come to those who break all of them all the time but judgment comes to all people who break them sometimes, most times, and even those who do so every once-in-a-while. Judgment ALSO comes to those who believe in God and yet don’t abide in ALL of his rules. We can worship Him and yet fail to love others and guess what: Judgment. Why is this? Because all of us not only stand to be judged but all of us fail to uphold all the laws – which means all of us are, and should, be found guilty. Because you, and me, are “enemies” of God in every sense of the word.
But this is not where the story ends as it propels us to Christ, judgment, wrath, and restoration.
A beautiful reminder of judgment, and drinking from the cup, comes to us from Christ in how he “drank from the dredges” the cup of wrath of God. That in his dying he drank, and took on, our judgment for sins – so much so that he drank it all to the silt that remained at the bottom of the cup from the wine. In other words, Christ completely took it all away. Judgment, wrath, punishment for sins – all of it is no more. (And yes, feel free to shout “thank you Jesus” here.) Jesus, in his living and dying and coming again, is going to deal with the enemies of God – but in his love he took on, and delivered, some of the enemies just as God took on “some” of the enemies back in Obadiah’s day – it’s just through Christ God’s children have been expanded from Israel and beyond.
So here is where I REALLY find myself wondering. If the story takes us to Christ, and if Christ is the redeemer, justifier, and judgment-shoulderer of sins against God (and the enemies of God)…if Christ takes on the enemies of God in every sense of the word, then is there a chance, a hope, for Edom in the future? We know that Edom is taken down and yet she isn’t FULLY destroyed as remnants remain still to this day, and so the question is if Christ, when he returns, if he will still wipe them out or will there be some descendants of Edom that are taken into glory (as verse 18 states there will be no survivors from Esau)? Well ultimately, and thankfully, those answers aren’t up to us. And thankfully none of us are held to the sins of our parents and parents’ parents – or else we’d all be damned to hell. But Obadiah isn’t worried about that – he’s simply delivering the message that the kingdom of God is at hand and whether you believe in Yahweh or not he still exists and he will deal with all those who oppose him and are his enemies. Words of hope for those who are oppressed, grief-stricken, and exiled – words of “correcting” for those who believe but maybe aren’t walking in the path God has asked us too…and possibly words that don’t do anything for those that don’t believe.
But God’s words “don’t do anything” … God’s words are everything. Words from God, once spoken and declared, are backed 100% by His actions. Something every single person who ever drew breath (and didn’t draw breath) will find out. The question is if you believe it…and does it mean something to you. “The Day of the Lord”, judgment, comes to all of us – the question is if you believe in the One who brings it, are fearful of the sword he wields, and yet find hope and comfort in the peace that he brings along with him.