Sunday, September 20, 2009

Least Known Biblical Book – Obadiah: “Justice And The End”

With a sense of boredom I wondered what to do. A whisper in my soul suggested ‘go to the farthest corner of the Bible—see what you see.’ I obediently selected Obadiah. I read a theological commentary and its twenty one verses. I was gifted with knowledge of its ancestry—Jacob and Esau, the fathers of Israel and Edom. Obadiah is a court room stoush; a “covenant-lawsuit”[1] address and Obadiah is the messenger.

There is much more theology than plain judgment in the Minor Prophets. It is too often judged that way. The books of history and the prophets often combine with the Pentateuch and also wisdom literature to fully encapsulate the pre-Christian biblical canon.

Edom had acted unwisely in bringing their judgment upon Israel. “As you have done,” says the LORD, “it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your head.” (v. 15 NRSV)

Edom had taken upon themselves the higher standard, drinking from God’s holy cup on his holy mountain (v. 16), and with that—a horrible irony for them—they were to be measured by that same standard. They, of course, were found wanting.

When people take on the standard of God, and they take on God’s people, they fight an invisible force—a force to be reckoned with—a force that spans the generations unto life and Creation itself.

And this is how it is for the persecutors of God, those who would step between his will and plan. Nothing on earth or in the heavens can ever ultimately deter the will and plan of God.

And who are the Edomites of today’s world? They will be the terrorists that depose temporarily the people of good conscience. They’ll be the tyrant employers, the abusive and neglectful fathers and husbands and wives, the cowardly financiers that line the pockets of the dead. They’ll be the murderers and slanderers of genocide and contempt. They’ll be the God-haters and wielders of fear in the name of themselves against the world. And they’ll wither and groan and die. It will be so miserable that the faithful will also groan in paradoxical empathy.

And how will it be for the faithful? They will not only reclaim the holy mountain of their LORD, they will go onto new heights of blessing and provision, because they will trust their God and obediently wait for him. They will not strike on their own. As surely as the end of the foe was promised it is to be completely delivered, without a trace of imperfection.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come and will not delay”
–Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV).

It has surely commenced.

[1] Jeffery J. Niehaus, Obadiah – The Minor Prophets: Vol. 2 (Thomas E. McComiskey ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Co., 1993), p. 507.

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