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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The End of God's Enemies
Text:Obadiah 1-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-04-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 98:1,2                                                                                              

Ps 38:8,9,10

Reading – Obadiah 1-21; Revelation 11:15-19

Ps 60:1,2,4,5

Sermon – Obadiah 1-21

Hy 14:7,8,10

Hy 53:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, today we open our Bibles to the prophecy of Obadiah. It’s probably not a book that you’ve often studied. You might even have had a hard time finding it! Obadiah quietly sits there among the twelve “minor prophets,” and the fact is, we sometimes think of the “minor prophets” as if their message is kind of minor, too. Not that relevant for today, and certainly not as interesting as the prophecies of Isaiah or Daniel. And within this section of prophets, Obadiah is the shortest book—“the most minor of the minor”—it’s even the shortest book in the entire Old Testament.

All this is to say that we might overlook the prophecy before us this morning. Somehow we know that’s not a good thing—it is in the Bible, after all. We know that all of Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for training us in righteousness. Only it takes effort sometimes to get into a Bible book: to see how it points to Christ, and to hear what it’s saying.

Also in this book of Obadiah, there’s a living message from God. For this is a book all about the enemies of God’s people, those who oppose the church and hate her Saviour. Maybe we don’t always see who our enemies are, today. Or maybe we prefer not to think about them too much. But Obadiah opens our eyes to this reality—the enemies are around, and they’re active. So he calls us to be faithful, and he gives the assurance of our security in the Lord God! This makes the message of Obadiah not minor at all, but major in its comfort and calling. And so this morning we consider the 21 verse prophecy of Obadiah under this theme:

Obadiah foretells the end of Edom, enemy of the LORD and of his church:

  1. Edom’s pride and violence
  2. God’s anger and judgment
  3. Judah’s peace and victory

 

1. Edom’s pride and violence: If there is one main character in this book besides the LORD God, it’s the nation of Edom. Israel has a place here, but mostly on the sidelines. In essence, Obadiah describes a showdown between God and Edom: two enemies, head to head, with one sure to lose.

So who is Edom? When this book was written, probably about 600 years before Christ, Edom was a country located to the southeast of Israel, just across the Dead Sea. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. And that’s important to keep in mind throughout: this Edom wasn’t just another foreign nation out of dozens of nations in the area. No, it had a deep tie with Israel—Israel and Edom were “brother” nations, maybe like Canada and Australia (or like Canada and the United States) today, countries that have a lot in common, who have a shared mother.

Both Jacob and Esau grew up as covenant children. As they got older, though, they went their separate ways. Between them there could be a real hostility. Already in their mother’s womb they’d struggled—which was a sign of things to come! You also remember the story of how Jacob had cheated Esau out of his birthright and blessing, and how Esau had left in anger, in order to start a new life somewhere else.

His descendants then forgot where they came from. They grew powerful, they grew proud, and also grew to hate Jacob’s people. It’s about this hatred that God now has something to say. The condemnation begins in verse 3, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock.”

This verse means that we need a bit of geography. That land across the Dead Sea is a rocky region, and a place of steep mountains. Yet the Edomites chose this as their home, because these surroundings gave a great advantage for defense. Anyone who came to attack would first have to climb up, where Edom was firmly entrenched in the clefts and caves.

They thought they were invincible in their mountain strongholds. Edom said to himself, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” (v 4). Their fortresses gave them immunity—they could do as they pleased, without any payback. Who could ever knock them from the heights? Not even the God of Jacob could! And so God rebukes the Edomites, for God hates all human pride. He shows this at the Tower of Babel too: when people celebrate themselves, when they think they’re untouchable, God won’t stand by but He’ll take action.

God hates pride, but what He hates even more are those who attack his people. And of this, Edom was also guilty. They had done “violence against [their] brother Jacob,” God says in verse 10. While Edom wasn’t the biggest nation around, they still liked to get involved when there was a fight, to see if there was any advantage for them. You might compare Edom to a vulture, one of those scavenging birds who waits for the larger animals to make a kill. A vulture flies safely in the sky, until he swoops down to benefit himself from another’s bloody work. That’s exactly what Edom had done to Israel.

Sometime before Obadiah, God’s people had been attacked by the armies of Babylon. They stormed Jerusalem just like the prophets foretold, they destroyed the temple, and plundered the city. “In the day that you stood on the other side,” God says to Edom, “in the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem—even you were as one of them” (v 11).

While the attack was unfolding, the Edomites in their high fortresses gloated: Israel was getting it now! Then as the Babylonians were finishing Jerusalem off, the Edomites came down. They wanted to enjoy the scene of carnage close-up, like people craning their necks to see a car accident along the freeway. They hoped to watch Israel dragged off to exile. Now, Judah might’ve deserved this punishment from God, but Edom had no right to act as it did. It seems that they even joined in stripping Jerusalem of her wealth—they grabbed a bit of gold for themselves.

And to their sin of theft the Edomites added murder. Says God in verse 14, “You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped.” As Judah tried to flee, Edom was only too eager to help round them up, and put some to death.

So had Esau’s descendants totally forgotten how they’d grown up with Israel? Perhaps they didn’t forget at all—they might’ve recalled it well, but they hated Israel and her preferred position. Think of how Esau was so angry when Jacob surpassed him. Edom too might’ve had a bitterness that simmered on low for centuries: “They think they’re so great, the people of God! But not for long,” we imagine them saying. “When Babylon rolls in, we’ll even help to knock Jacob down, a notch or three.”

The hatred that Obadiah tells us about is shocking. Why think evil of God’s people, and treat them with this kind of violence? And as we ask the question, let’s not stay in ancient times. For Obadiah has a lot to say to us. The prophet teaches us about the opponents of Christ’s church, also here in the 21st century.

Brothers and sisters, do we have enemies? Are there countries who would actually enjoy destroying God’s people, just like Edom did so long ago? We can certainly think of examples. We know that in many places of the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, God’s people have to live in constant fear from Muslim fanatics. Something as simple as gathering for Bible study or for worship is enough reason for them to be put in jail or even killed. There are other countries too, that are openly hostile to Christians, like in China. We hear about churches being demolished, and church leaders being intimidated.

And what about closer to home? Here there’s no violent persecution—and we thank God for that. Even so, there can be a hatred for God’s people. More and more, the church is seen to be on the wrong side of the issues of the day: whether gay marriage or abortion or gender identity. The message is there, that Christians are bigots, narrow-minded, and not to be trusted.

Even if the most vocal are only a small group, their godless views can quickly spread. The causes that they push come to have great influence. And like it was for Edom, pride is very strong among those who don’t fear the Lord. They feel secure in their position: they can do what they want, for few dare to challenge them. They feel like they’re undefeatable. When Christians are put down, or when it comes out that Christians aren’t perfect, then Christ’s opponents move in. They want to see if they can gain more ground.

I think we sometimes we struggle to understand this opposition. It’s uncomfortable. And it doesn’t seem to be “according to the rules.” As Christians, aren’t we a peace-loving and friendly bunch of people? Don’t we try to be good neighbours and quiet citizens? Is the church really an enemy to so many? We’re just trying to follow Scripture, so what do the godless have against us?

Then we have to remember why we’re a target. The church’s opponents are moved by the one who’s always opposed himself to God and his Christ—they are being moved by Satan. Scripture tells us that the devil and the Lord are involved in a fierce and long-standing war. In this war, humanity is both the battleground and the prize.

This shows the true nature of those who attack God’s cause: they’re determined to do us wrong. The issues of gay marriage or abortion are merely the triggers for a fight that is bound to happen, regardless. If it wasn’t these issues, then it’d be something else. There’s always something else. For the church faces an enemy that’s driven to destroy all that belongs to the Lord. For they’ve rejected him, and now they want to see his downfall. That’s the world we live in: it’s a world of conflict, one marked by that battle of kingdoms. Yet thankfully God has more to say through his servant Obadiah.

 

2) God’s anger and judgment: After Judah was hit when she was down, God will come to her defense. That’s the opening of this prophecy: “A messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, ‘Arise, and let us rise up against [Edom] for battle’” (v 1). Not just one, but several nations, would go to war against her. And be sure of it: these nations would be sent by the LORD. God had always promised this, like when He said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” That promise has not been forgotten. God will always take up the cause of his covenant people—we can be sure of that!

So the LORD will oppose Edom: “I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised” (v 2). Lofty Edom would be brought down to earth. If thieves came afterwards, God says, they’d find nothing. Abandoned by their allies, terrified under attack, confused in defeat, proud Edom would be destroyed. This enemy of God’s people would meet a certain end.

And Edom wouldn’t be the only ones to feel the wrath of God. Listen as Obadiah prophesies in verse 15, “The day of the LORD upon all nations is near. As you have done, it shall be done to you.” The day of the Lord was coming, that great and dreadful day for executing God’s judgment. The joy and feasting of their victories would be turned into the misery of defeat.

Says the LORD, “As you drank on my holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually” (v 16). Instead of drinking the wine of their victories, God’s enemies will drink the cup of his wrath. One day God will say to this world, “The party’s over.” All the pride and the violence will be finished—ended by the LORD in his power.      

Let’s compare this to what we see in Revelation, when God’s people praise him. They say, “We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty… because you have taken your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come” (11:17-18). Note what the church is doing there: giving thanks for wrath! They give thanks for God’s judgment on the nations of the world. Christ saves his people from sin. But Christ also condemns those who refuse to bow before him.

It’s a vivid scene that’s described by Obadiah, and described in John in Revelation. If an unbeliever sat here in church, it might even embarrass us. Isn’t Jesus all about love? And shouldn’t we love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us? We should. Yet as we said, resistance is part of the program for these last days. Christ says that if they persecuted him, they’ll persecute those who follow him. If we have courage enough to stand out as the disciples of Christ, there will be those who hate us.

At the same time, we know that the hostility won’t go on forever. Just like God sent the nations against Edom, today He can use them to humble the enemies of his church. The one who is sovereign over all can move the nations in order to protect his church.

Often it seems that God judges sin and protects his people simply by letting wickedness runs its course. In history, so many evil nations have collapsed on themselves. They’ve self-destructed, because they could only keep breaking God’s holy law so long. It just doesn’t work to live apart from God’s wisdom.

Think of militant Islam, which seems to make gains around this world. Right now they might be advancing their cause and spreading great fear, but it can’t continue forever. A movement that glorifies death and is motivated by terror can only go so far. Gradually people will see it for what it is, and turn away, or turn against it.

God assures us that we don’t need to worry about today. We don’t need to become frustrated when evil-doers prosper, and worried when false religions thrive. Don’t question God’s justice, when so much sin seems to go unpunished. For the followers of Christ shouldn’t live in fear. We don’t have to be scared of the future. Beloved, He’s given us every reason to trust in Him. Even encircled by the Babylonians and harassed by the Edomites, our God is a mighty fortress, a bulwark that never fails.

As John writes in his first letter, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8). Christ came to defeat the prince of this world, to cast Satan out of heaven for good. He did not conquer through pride, but through his humility. By his service on the cross, by dying and rising again, Jesus showed his total kingship—even over the wicked and rebellious. As John hears in Revelation 11, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (v 15). Today we know that Christ is reigning, and He will reign, for all time!

 

3) Judah’s peace and victory: It’s only toward the end of Obadiah that the people of God come out of the shadows. Even then, they’re pretty small. Judah has been overrun, Jerusalem destroyed, and you can hardly see past the heaps of ruins. But through Obadiah the LORD promises a new day.

There’s going to be restoration. The land, now a desolate wilderness owned by foreigners, will be given back. The temple mount, now a pile of rubble, will be rebuilt: “On Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness” (v 17). On that day, God will give Israel a full victory over all their enemies. And how will this take place? Listen to what God says: “The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame” (v 18). Judah will burn, but not in destruction—in victory. Like raging fire, Israel will consume the house of Esau like it was stubble in the fields!

Think of what this message meant to those in exile. When Obadiah wrote this, it was impossible. Judah was a mess—she was utterly powerless. In some ways, she probably looked a lot like the church today: not in the best of shape, divided, battered and bruised by the world. These days we can have a hard time imagining victory.

But this is what happened: Edom was destroyed. The history books tells us that only a short time after the fall of Jerusalem, God sent the Babylonians against Edom. The same armies that they had helped, now turned against them. As God foretold, Edom all but disappeared from the earth. Even as they were suffering in captivity, Judah could be encouraged by this word of Edom’s destruction! For it says in verse 18 that the land left empty by the Edomites will be given to them. One day the land of all their enemies would be given, and ruled from Mount Zion.

The last phrase of this book says it all, “And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (v 21). It’s a minor phrase, in a minor book, but it packs a major punch! It says there’s a new kingdom for God. This kingdom encompasses every nation, and it swallows up every enemy. For in due time, Jesus Christ will show himself as He is, the King of all the world! All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.

Though God’s people have always been weaker and expected to fail, God lifts us up, and He makes us great. God said this already back in Genesis 25:23 about Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom, “the elder shall serve the younger.” That is God’s way: the younger, the weaker, the disadvantaged—this is the one who’s exalted. For then God receives the glory, and not any man!

Through we’re a helpless people, God reveals his might in us. He is most glorified when we stop being so confident in ourselves. He is glorified when we admit that in this world we’re helpless, and when we admit that we’re facing serious trouble and that we can't survive without him.  Our God shows his power best through weakness

That’s what He did in the time of our Saviour too. For when Jesus was only a little child, vulnerable and helpless, another old Edomite, King Herod the Great, tried to destroy him. Herod sent soldiers to get rid of this threat to his throne, yet God showed once again that the kingdom is his, that He’s in charge. For King Jesus was preserved from Herod’s attack, preserved to die another day—to die in God’s time, and for God’s people.

It’s in Christ that the enemy’s power is completely broken. Through Jesus, a humble descendant of Jacob, the LORD showed what He can do: He can crush the ancient enemy, and He can build a new nation by his blood. One more time, listen to Revelation 11, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”

Beloved, this means that we can be faithful. Not fearful, but confident in the Lord. We don’t have to give in, but we can stand firm in Christ. We shouldn’t even give up on the world, but we ought to speak in this world about the only truth that can save, the only truth that can set captives free.

And when we do stand apart, and when we are opposed, to be resolute. For this old message of Obadiah keeps ringing that note of victory, the victory that’s surely coming with Christ our Saviour, when “the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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