There were two local churches.
One church was concerned only with its own well-being. It competed with other churches in the area for attention, but didn’t really do anything to benefit the community. In fact, its members mocked the community and the world. Instead of sharing Christ’s love and the message of salvation, it only complained about how terrible the world was. There were people hurting and church number one only hurt them more so that it could continue on without the burdens that the community might bring.
Local church number two was concerned with building something that mattered for the community. It was willing to give up its own security to benefit others. People in the community felt loved and felt like the members of church number two actually cared about them. This church resolved to love people even if they believed differently or had different convictions, and it chose to share the life that Christ offers with the whole of the community.
God chose to bless one of these churches, and the other slowly died because it hadn’t truly loved the community.
This month, we have looked at Ruth’s story: a story of love, redemption and what it means to be a family. We have committed ourselves to be a family and we have resolved to reach this community with the Gospel and the love of Christ! Moving forward, we will either look like church number one or church number two. We celebrate the victories of the past and we mourn the losses, but we move forward. My hope and my prayer is that we will be concerned with the things that God is concerned with and follow His direction without reservation. When we decide to live like this, I believe that God will bless this church beyond anything that we can possibly imagine.
Obadiah’s prophecy has two parts. There is a historical family feud that has lasted for generations: The descendants of Esau against the descendants of Jacob. The story began when Jacob and Esau were born fighting in the womb. Scripture tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau (Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13). One of the great difficulties when looking at the story of Jacob and Esau is that Scripture actually tells us that God hated a person. Why is it, then, that we are so convinced that God loves all people? In order to answer this question, we do have to look back to the original language. Since Paul was quoting Malachi in Romans 9, we only have to look at Malachi’s use of the word. In Hebrew, the word used is סנא (sanay). This word means both hated and enemy. In this case, hated specifically means made an enemy of. It is not a difficult concept for us to grasp. We live in an age where terrorism is rampant in our world. We are told in Scripture to love all people, so we love the terrorist. We are also commanded to detest what is evil, so we make an enemy of the terrorist. It is possible that God loved Esau as a person, but made an enemy of him while favoring Jacob.
The first part of Obadiah’s prophecy condemns the nation of Esau because they were arrogant, and took pride in their own accomplishments. They were not concerned with others, only with their own prosperity. The second part of Obadiah’s prophecy praises the nation of Jacob because they humbled themselves and were reduced to little on this earth for God’s name’s sake. Their kingdom was not their own, but it belonged to God, and God restored them. Here is His promise to His people:
Obadiah 15-21 (HCSB)
For the Day of the Lord is near,
against all the nations.
As you have done, so it will be done to you;
what you deserve will return on your own head.
As you have drunk on My holy mountain,
so all the nations will drink continually.
They will drink and gulp down
and be as though they had never been.
But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion,
and it will be holy;
the house of Jacob will dispossess
those who dispossessed them.
Then the house of Jacob will be a blazing fire,
and the house of Joseph, a burning flame,
but the house of Esau will be stubble;
Jacob will set them on fire and consume Edom.
Therefore no survivor will remain
of the house of Esau,
for the Lord has spoken.
Future Blessing for Israel
People from the Negev will possess
the hill country of Esau;
those from the Judean foothills will possess
the land of the Philistines.
They will possess
the territories of Ephraim and Samaria,
while Benjamin will possess Gilead.
The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah
and who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath
as well as the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
will possess the cities of the Negev.
Saviors will ascend Mount Zion
to rule over the hill country of Esau,
but the kingdom will be the Lord’s.
All nations judged
Throughout Scripture, this idea is clear: All people will be held accountable for the things that they do. I will be held accountable if I have pursued selfish ambition. Our churches will be held accountable if they have been prideful and not truly concerned with sharing the love and message of Christ with the community and the world. Our nation will be held accountable if it has forsaken the only God. All people will one day be judged. Either we will have acted selfishly like the house of Esau or we will have humbled ourselves like the house of Jacob. As we have done, God promises it will be done to us. If we hate and despise others, we too will be hated and despised. If we do not consider the good of our community, then God will not consider us. If we choose not to bless others, then God will not bless us. If we are prideful and act according to our own preferences, then God will make us enemies of Himself as He did with the house of Esau. Every person on the face of the earth will be held accountable for what he or she has done in this life according to the direction of God. His wrath will be poured out against human pride and against human unwillingness to live for the benefit of others rather than their selves. He has promised this from the very beginning.
I look at our nation and I weep. I weep because I see that most people are filled with this very pridefulness. It is the pride of the individual that says, “I am right and everyone else is wrong.” It is the pride of the individual that says, “My way or the highway.” It is the pride of the nation that says, “We know what is best and we will not take input from anyone.” It is the pride of a church that says, “We just need to focus on ourselves and not on the needs of the community.” It is the pride of the leader that says, “I know what I am doing and have nothing else to learn.” It is the pride of the young that doesn’t consider much needed advice. It is the pride of the elderly that assumes all wisdom. We are all in danger, every day, of falling into pridefulness. Many times we become prideful to protect ourselves, much like the house of Esau, and what we don’t realize is pride is the very thing that will destroy us eventually.
James, Jesus’ half brother, picks up on this very idea when he writes, “What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.
Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?
But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:1-6 HCSB).
Pride makes us God’s enemy, when God takes the side of those who are humble. Pride causes conflict, church splits, civil wars, family dissention, and broken communities. God promises to restore those who are humble.
All people given an escape
While all nations will be judged and held accountable, Obadiah does not end his prophecy there. He states that there will be a deliverance. Some will escape God’s wrath. The great promise and the good news is this: Those who belong to God will inherit the earth just as Israel inherited the land of Canaan. Those who are humble will be raised up. Those who trust in Christ will receive life! When we earned wrath for ourselves, God’s gift is restoration for those who trust in Him and follow His direction. This is the big promise of Scripture and all of Scripture works together to tell this story. It is redemption in the book of Ruth and it is restoration here in Obadiah’s prophecy.
This means that no matter how prideful we have been in our lives, we have the amazing opportunity to give up that pride and begin to follow Christ in humility. We have the opportunity to turn from pursuing our own preferences in order to seek the good of each other and the community. We have the opportunity to give up a little so that we can help someone in need. We have the opportunity to share life with the community rather than only be concerned for ourselves. We have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope for the world rather than a source of discouragement. We are God’s church. Let Him build His kingdom here. Let us be humble enough to pursue God’s direction and not try to build our own kingdoms.
God blesses the humble, and stands against those who are prideful, and every person, every church, every nation, every group, and every household will be held accountable. Let us be last so that as we serve God, He will raise us up!