Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Obadiah is a strange book. It’s short. It’s not quoted in the New Testament as far as I can remember. It deals with a country other than Israel. And although it is a book of curses, unlike other books of curses, there are no “but if you repent” lines in order to avoid God’s wrath. Obadiah is a book in which the Lord condemns Edom to destruction with no escape clause written in. I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling every time I read Obadiah. What am I supposed to get from this? Is there anything in Obadiah that a Christian can learn? How does this connect to my faith?
Well, after praying and asking God all of the questions I could before reading, the Holy Spirit came in and lit up the text for me and explained at least one thing we can get out of Obadiah. You see, Obadiah draws a comparison between Israel and Edom. “Ok, well how does that help me, a modern-day Christian?” Remember, that as Christians, we are inheritors of all of the promises made to Israel. Paul reminds us,
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).
So when we see the Lord make promises to Israel in the Old Testament, we’re able to inherit those promises as well (though, sometimes we need a little guidance from the Holy Spirit on how a particular promise may relate to us). Likewise, we can find that Edom becomes a type for the non-Christian world (or a non-Abrahamic religion world anyway). Edom was a nation that had a God- though not the one true God. In the same way, the world has their idols (be it sex, money, evolution, the worship of ourselves, other Gods, or anything else people put their trust in other than Jesus). And, as we’ll find out while exploring Obadiah, the Edomites reveled in Israel’s destruction. The world is the same; any time that some problem crops up in the church, there’s always some anti-Christ on the radio, in the internet forums, or getting interviewed on the news for some reason who’s saying, “See, the church is just a place of corruption and lies blah blah blah.” They love it when the Body of Christ falters. Understanding this relationship between the forces of Obadiah and our lives today is a huge key to unlocking the passage.
Alright, so let’s open this up a little bit and find out what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us today from Obadiah. The Lord says (through Obadiah),
“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
You who live in the clefts of the rocks
And make your home on the heights,
You who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
And make your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,”
Declares the Lord (Obadiah 1:3-4).
A lot of non-Christians are doing pretty well for themselves. In fact, it’s a theme throughout the Bible that God’s people usually seem to get the short end of the stick while the people who hate the Lord are doing well. Even Job, the man who kept his faith under great adversity had to stop and consider this situation. We read in Job 21:7-15,
Why do the wicked live on,
Growing old and increasing in power?
They see their children established around them,
Their offspring before their eyes.
Their homes are safe and free from fear;
The rod of God is not upon them.
Their bulls never fail to breed;
Their cows calve and do not miscarry.
They send forth their children as a flock;
Their little ones dance about.
They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
They make merry to the sound of the flute.
They spend their years in prosperity
And go down to the grave in peace.
Yet they say to God, “Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?”
Most of the world sees success as a justification for a style of living. This is a terrible pride and arrogance. Job continues saying, “But their prosperity is not in their own hands, so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16). As believers we know that all things that happen come from God (or are allowed by him anyway). The Lord allows people to prosper, and through this their heart is really tested. When the rich and successful of the world flaunt themselves against the Lord, we find out who they really are, arrogant, prideful, and ultimately doomed. Obadiah reminds us that such people face destruction; either in this world, or the guaranteed hell that awaits them after death. Paul reminds us in Romans 14:11,
It is written:
“’As Surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘Every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will confess to God.’”
When those who let their prideful hearts oppose Christ and the church face their creator, they will bow too; before the gates of hell they’ll bow. But as Obadiah tells us, those who lived in the stars will be brought down to the depths, never to rise again.
Along with their arrogance, the Lord had more charges against Edom. Scripture records,
Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
You will be covered with shame;
You will be destroyed forever.
On the day you stood aloof
While strangers carried off his wealth
And foreigners entered his gates
And cast lots for Jerusalem
You were like one of them.
You should not look down on your brother
In the day of his misfortune,
Nor rejoice over the people of Judah
In the day of their destruction,
Nor boast so much
In the day of their trouble (Obadiah 1:10-12).
When something comes up in the church that causes it to look bad, the media is all over it. In and of itself, covering a news story about a problem in a church is not a bad thing. It is important for the people to know when there’s a problem and to keep their eyes open for potential weak spots in order to fix issues and strengthen the church. Take for example when the Catholic clergy were overstepping their powers, this was an issue that needed to be resolved and the media circus gave the Catholic Church motivation to do so. Nowadays as varied corruptions are coming out in the Protestant Church the media is prompting the churches to make quick actions in order to alleviate possible problems. However, the problem lies not in reporting the news, but the method with which many media outlets report it. Instead of attacking the problem as the problem that it is, they use the discovered weakness as a place to attack the Body of Christ as a whole. “Some Catholic ministers are closet sexual deviants? The whole church must be bad and be eliminated!” “Some Protestant pastors have been messing around with church funds? All clergy therefore must be corrupt and therefore the church is a lie!” Those outside of the faith love it when something goes wrong with Christianity so that they can gloat over what they see as something false. But what they forget is that the Lord allowed the corrupt church practices and problematic leaders to be outed because he is fair in his justice. God looks on everyone equally. Paul wrote to the Jews in Romans 2:22-23,
You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
Though Paul was writing to people who believed in God, the same can be said of anyone outside the church. If you’re calling out God’s people for sin, are you sinning? You who claim the House of God is corrupt, are you acting corruptly? The Lord said in Obadiah that those who look on with contempt on those who are struggling are as bad as the people who are acting against them. So when a person is so quick to commentate on the ills of the church, remember: that person is seen in God’s eyes as doing the very same things as the person who is causing problems in the first place. And so as the perpetrator falls, so does the naysayer.
A big problem with how the world and the church interact is that most people don’t really think about how God works. Obadiah tells us,
The day of the Lord is near
For all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
Your deeds will return upon your own head (Obadiah 1:15).
Unless otherwise noted, when God stretches out his hand, everyone gets hit. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the church or outside the church, disaster comes to everyone. Edom gloated over the destruction of Jerusalem, but God reminded them through Obadiah that they wouldn’t be spared when the day came for Edom either. The same is true when the world gets very judgmental about the church and its problems. Jeremiah reminds Edom (and the world) in his prophecy, “This is what the Lord says: ‘If those who do not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, why should you go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, but must drink it’” (Jeremiah 49:12). The Lord is fair in his dealings; maybe today the church is facing hard times, but when the day comes, the rest of the world will too. In his teachings, Jesus reminds his followers of this very idea so that we in the church don’t get too puffed up when our enemies fall. Christ tells us,
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-45).
People are people, and to find delight in the downfall of others is a sin no matter who you are or what God you follow. When the church falls, the world should be careful not to find joy in its struggle, and when the world faces trouble, it is the believer’s duty to pray for them, even in their evil. Actually, just a few days ago I read something that really caught my eye. During the Lord’s plagues on Egypt in Exodus, things got pretty bad for the Egyptians. While they were being plagued with frogs, Pharaoh called Moses and asked for him to pray for the frogs to go away. Now keep in mind, the Lord brought the frogs onto Egypt because the Egyptians keeping the Israelites as slaves was an evil act. Moses could have let the Egyptians wallow in their misery, but instead we read this, “After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh” (Exodus 8:12). Notice that Moses didn’t just pray because he felt obligated to do so, but instead he cried out emotionally to God on the Egyptians behalf. Moses realized that although the people of Egypt were in the wrong, he was just a man like them. For there is only one human race and we’re all under God alike. Therefore one should not let his status, either as a success in the world or as a child of God affect how he treats his fellow man (or woman).
Ok, so we’re all the same, right? Well, not exactly. While on this earth there is little distinction from one person to the next, all people will face one of two endings. Obadiah writes,
“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
It will be holy,
And the house of Jacob
Will possess its inheritance.
The house of Jacob will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a flame;
The house of Esau will be stubble,
And they will set it on fire and consume it.
There will be no survivors
From the house of Esau.”
The Lord has spoken (Obadiah 1:17-18).
Although we are not to make distinctions between our brothers and sisters, the Lord does. Those who believe in Jesus and the power of his sacrifice on a cross to save us from our sins will inherit the promises of Abraham: promises of prosperity and restoration; if not in this life, then in the life to come. Those who deny the power of Christ will face ruin; if not in this life, then most certainly in the eternity to come. Remember, the Israelites were exiled because of sin, but the Lord always promised restoration for his people. Think of the church leaders who have made mistakes that have essentially ruined their lives. They are still looking forward to an eternity of bliss in heaven. Do you think that after a life of serving Christ that some media circus will take away their rewards in the afterlife? Think again. Or what of the man who opposes Christ when he faces ruin and yet is able to claw his way back to the top. Do you think any of this will matter in the end? Malachi writes,
Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”
But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord” (Malachi 1:4).
No matter how rich, successful, or smart you may be here on this earth. When death comes, there are only two places you’ll go. Either you’ll be in heaven with Christ, or you’ll be in hell without a savior in sight.
Understand the message and the warnings given us through Obadiah. Those who are too cool for Jesus now will face destruction- destruction without any chance for rebuilding or relief. However, even suffering Christians will reap great rewards, on this earth or in heaven (or both). For it is written,
Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:17-18).
Those with Jesus are inheritors of the Lord’s mighty promises to Abraham and his children. Beyond this life is an amazing Promised Land for the believer- no matter how much a Christian may suffer in their life on earth. But for those who think that God is a lie and that they’re too smart for all this Jesus talk, remember Obadiah 1:8,
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“Will I not destroy the wise men of Edom,
Men of understanding in the mountains of Esau?”
When you die, any amount of intellectual superiority you may have felt in this life will be extinguished. It won’t matter how smart, rich, or successful you are for death is not biased. If you are without (or against) Christ, please wake up, I implore you. Repent of your ways and live, knowing that a greater glory awaits those who have submitted themselves to Jesus as their Lord and savior.
If you would like to change your eternal fate and find new life through Jesus Christ and his resurrection then pray along with me. Just read the words of this prayer out loud, and God will hear you and listen to your prayer.
I have spent my life in opposition to you.
I thought you didn’t exist
And that believing in you was foolish.
I was foolish.
Forgive me of my arrogance and my other sins,
Give me this promised new life.
Lead my path and guide my steps.
I need you Lord,
More than I ever thought.
Be with me forever, for I am yours.
In your name, Lord Jesus, I pray,