Punishing those who do wrong* - the prophet Obadiah verse 15. God Rules, O.K.?
Obadiah is one of 5 books in our Bible just one chapter long. It is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Scholars are not quite sure where it fits historically into time:
Jeremiah 49:14-16 are the same as Obadiah vs1-4.
49:9-10 are the same as Obadiah vs5-6.
Did Jeremiah quote Obadiah? Did Obadiah quote Jeremiah? Did both quote an earlier prophet? No-one knows for sure!
We do know both Jeremiah and Obadiah prophesy against Edom, south east Israel between Dead Sea and Red Sea (Obadiah 1:1; Jeremiah 49:7-22), and we do know why there was conflict, painful conflict, between God’s people and the people from Edom. They were close relatives. That is always painful.
To understand and apply Obadiah we must first look at God’s sovereign choice in Genesis 25:23 – when Rebekah and Isaac were expecting twins. God said to Rebekah “two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Esau became the oldest, firstborn, and Jacob the youngest – his hand grasping Esau’s heel in an attempt to overtake during birth! The Lord’s prophecy became true: as an adult Jacob tricked his blind father Isaac into blessing him in preference to Esau, Genesis 27. (Note how God showed His sovereign knowledge in advance of what would happen). Since that time, the sons of Jacob (also known as, the children of Israel) have always been enemies of the sons of Esau (a.k.a. Edom).
You get glimpses of this, as for instance Exodus 15:15 and Numbers 20:18 when, after the Exodus, Moses requests permission for the Israelites to cross through Edom to the Promised Land, and Edom refuses to give it!
So, Obadiah verse 8 “the Edomites … men of understanding in the mountains of Esau” – who continued through history to hold a grudge against their close relatives Israel – were going to be judged by God. And Obadiah warned them what was coming.
We can learn four lessons for ourselves from this short book:
1. God is more important than anyone else. What God thinks is more important than what anyone else thinks.
2. God is totally against any human pride.
3. God will always bring sinners to judgement.
4. God is ultimately bringing His own kingdom to rule. His overriding purpose.
The awesome sovereignty of God
Application: You’ll be aware, of course, how human reasoning and logic can easily come out on Esau’s side in the Genesis 27 story. Jacob tricked and deceived Esau. In a way that emphasises my point. God is right, even when He seems to be wrong, because God is the sovereign God. Does God do things you wouldn’t do if you were God? Is He wrong? Or are you wrong? I believe I know which!
“God’s exercise of power over His creation is (sometimes) called His sovereignty (His omnipotence, His power)”. God rules as King over creation. God has free will to act as He chooses in history. Human pride usurps God’s authority. Man does what he wants. “I am right,” he says. But, God is still God!
“The doctrine of the sovereignty of God … gives meaning and substance to all other doctrines.” “In order to be sovereign God must be all-knowing, and all-powerful and absolutely free.” Any limits would negate His complete sovereignty. If God is not sovereign, something could happen to thwart His love and purpose – we could rely on nothing. “God (even) permits sin for His own reasons.”
Some people wonder why I don’t issue invitations for people to trust in Christ – almost every week here at KIC. Their own church background expects it. The answer is in the sovereignty of God. The Sovereign God commands repentance and submission to His appointed King Jesus. (He does not invite it!). Any individual’s eternal destiny is decided on that. Have you chosen to be really free by submitting to God your Creator’s choice? Or are you choosing to stay bound in proud rebellion against God: saying, though not verbalising, “I don’t need You, God. I’ll do OK on my own – or with a distorted version, cheap imitation of You.”?
Who is most important in your life? Sovereign God or self? “The Sovereignty of God is His right and power to do whatever He pleases with everyone at any time.” God is answerable to no-one. He is at peace with Himself. He is perfectly free. His holy and righteous character is guarantee that this privilege and prerogative will never be abused.
The awesome sovereignty of God
Four truths from Obadiah:
1. God is more important than anyone else. Verse 1 “Obadiah” means ‘servant of the Lord’ or ‘one who worships the Lord’. There are 12 men so named in the Bible. About this one we know nothing. It may not even be a name – just a title ‘a servant of the Lord’. And here is the point. The servant does not need to be known. His name is unimportant. He is insignificant. But, the prophet writes, you must recognise my God! Verse 1 “This is what ‘The Sovereign Lord’ says”.
(a) My God speaks – verse 1 “a message from the Lord”. Verse 4 “declares the Lord”. Listen to this. Listen to Him.
(b) My God is sovereign – verse 2 “I will make you small, Edom.” Verse 4 “I will bring you down.” Verse 8 “I will destroy the wise men of Edom.” You may not realise it, want it or accept it but ultimately God determines what will happen.
E.g. New York/Bali/Yemen/Iraq. Hussein/UN inspectors/secretary general/President Bush. God is in charge.
2. God is totally against human pride. Verse 3. “Edom: the pride of your heart has deceived you.” Plenty of pride in those situations I’ve just described! Verses 3, 4 describe Petra, the capital of Edom. Temples, homes and businesses carved out of rock in an impregnable canyon – reputedly 12 men could defend it against any army! The Edomites built a great fortress. Tourists go there today. Brenda wants to visit. God says: Your pride, against other human beings may be OK. You are invincible world champions. But I hold the world. Remember, I am God. Much more than human. More than a match for you.”
Verses 3, 4, God is stronger than rock. God is higher than eagles’ nests. God is beyond the stars, in His unreachable greatness and majesty. In these verses God testifies to His omniscience – He sees and knows everything. His omnipresence – there is nowhere to hide from Him. His omnipotence – He is more than able to do everything He pleases.
Illustration: Edomites may boast of their greatness! But it is like the man with his gun, suddenly realising he is surrounded by dozens of police marksmen, all with bullet-proof clothing and each with a rifle trained on to his head or chest. Outnumbered. Out-thought. Outmanoeuvred. Undone.
1. Pride is a sign of godlessness in the end times, 2 Timothy 3:2.
2. God detests the proud, Proverbs 16:5.
3. Pride brings automatic opposition from God, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5.
4. Pride caused Satan’s downfall, Isaiah 14:12-14.
(Application: “Are you too big? Is your God too small?) The all-important sovereign Lord God asks you …(?)
Greek: Tuphoo = wrap in smoke, hence puffed up, conceited, place self above others, high-minded.
3. God will always bring sinners to judgement.
Verses 8-14 list eight violent acts: “You stood aloof … you looked down on your brothers … you rejoiced in their destruction and trouble … you marched in to add to their defeat … you made worse their calamity … you plundered them as easy prey … you did not spare the survivors.”
As a sinner myself I observe that the all-seeing, all-remembering God had a list of charges against Edom (as He does against me and you I am sure). These things happened over centuries, but God still had them fresh in mind. Decades for us. The facts were indisputable: God is always right.
And now, verse 15 “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.” Verse 16 The cup of the Lord’s anger must be drunk. Illustration: Hard to say ‘No’ to wonderful hospitality here in Khartoum. I am a diabetic, often offered Coke, Pepsi, sweet tea. Very hard to refuse, but I have to! Note, it is Impossible to say ‘No’ to God’s offered wrath!
The word ‘near’ is a problem to some. How come the Day of the Lord was near in 586BC and is still near today?
Two solutions, both true.
1. Prophecies had an immediate fulfilment – Babylon attacked soon after this and laid Edom to waste. But these prophecies also have an ultimate fulfilment (yet future), when God will judge every person and every nation in the great final Judgement Day.
2. Imagine a book balanced on the edge of a desk. Finely balanced. Any movement and it will fall. No-one can say when it will fall. It depends when movement close to it occurs. But it will fall. So, “The day of the Lord is near.” Secure in Saviour – OK! Illustration: Christmas plans are probably made although there are several weeks still to go.
4. God is ultimately bringing His kingdom to rule.
Verse 17 even in judgement there is “salvation/deliverance” for those in the place (person) “made holy”, Mount Zion, (Jesus)! Those in God’s house will receive their inheritance.
Verse 21 “And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.” NIV, KJV, RSV. “And the Lord shall be king.” LB. “And the Lord Himself will be King.” GNB, TEV.
The Sovereign Lord is reigning now: steadily working out all things to the day of His choosing, when everyone will recognise Jesus is King on the throne of world history.
Application: Security comes, not in nuclear armaments, but in the arms of God!
Safety and prosperity come not in any work of your own, but by investing your life in God’s bank.
Justice comes when God brings people to account before Himself (not an International Court, but an impartial, unimpeachable, incorruptible divine session). How should you respond? On your knees to beg God for mercy! Verse 15 “The day of the Lord is near for all … as you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Ask King Jesus to be your Saviour, now. God is love. Christ died for us. Read verse 17 “on Mount Zion – deliverance.” Rock solid rock, not Petra. It is Jesus!
God Rules, O.K.?
Khartoum international Church 17th November 2002.