“The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau shall be stubble; they
shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of
Esau, for the Lord has spoken” (Obadiah 18)
Are you an Edomite? If you are, you don’t know
it. That’s part of the message of today’s verse. The entire little Book of
Obadiah in the Old Testament is the prophesy of God’s impending judgment on the
Edomites, the descendents of a man named "Esau"
who was the brother of
"Jacob" (also called
"Israel" or "Joseph"). “No survivor” was to “remain of the house of Esau.” They would be gone. It
sounded imminent, like it would happen in just a little while, but it would be
in God's time, 900 years in the future. "Jacob" (Israel) would survive
and sometimes flourish, but the Edomites as a people would be gone.
God’s time is different than our way of viewing things.
It is much larger. Some time ago, I spoke with a man in Boston,
Massachusetts, in the USA. He mentioned that he's Nigerian by nationality, and
I asked him: “Are you part of the Ibo tribe that
suffered so terribly?” He was surprised that I knew about the genocide
against his people, and looked steadily at me as he answered, “Yes, I am.” Then he said he was angry at God about what
happened. Why, he wondered, did God not take revenge on those who had
harmed his people? I responded by telling him about our study in the Book of
Obadiah prophesied Judgment against the people of Edom,
sometimes called “Esau,” who was the red-headed
brother of "Jacob" (later known as “Israel”). The Edomites were located mostly in
the land that is now called Jordan, in the Middle East. Their capital was
Petra, called the “rock city” because it was hewn right out of the rocky cliffs
of the region and from a defensive military standpoint, the place was considered
impregnable by the countries who were their neighbors. But the seemingly safe
Edomites were not secure at all - In His time, God would bring judgment upon them.
Armies from Edom often marched out and attacked Jewish
settlements, killing and enslaving many, taking “loot” from those settlements,
and then retreating with their captives back to the safety of mountainous
Petra. God spoke to them about their attitude and actions, saying, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the
clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘who
will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you exalt yourself as high as the
eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you
down, says the Lord” (Obadiah 4).
The prophesies of this Book were fulfilled in
interesting ways. In the 5th Century BC, the Edomites were forced out of their
territory through the deceit of their Arabian allies, the Nabateans. Somewhat
like the Mongols finally got into China through trickery by bribing Chinese guards at the
Great Wall, the Nabateans lured the Edomite armies out of safety and then led them to
destruction. The survivors among the Edomites moved as a nation to southern
Palestine where they became known as Idumeans. Herod the Great was the Idumean
king of Judea who later attempted to murder the child Jesus. It was another Idumean king who ordered the death of John the Baptist.
God is in eternity, not in time and space as we understand
things. The past, present and future are as one to Him, and the lament against
the country of Edom relates to not only what they had done, but also what they
would do. The Edomites would be happy when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC
(Psalm 127:7), but ironically, they died trying (as Idumeans) to defend the
place in AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed again; this time by the Roman
Empire. The Edomites, later called the Idumeans, have never been heard of since
that time. As the Lord through Obadiah foresaw, they as a people would be "cut off forever" from this earth. It is hoped that some
of them trusted in the Lord when He was here. Though they no longer have an
earthly heritage, the Lord knows the individual Edomites who trusted in the
Lord. They will live in His presence forever.
I shared with the man in Boston that even though the
Edomites were essentially sinners with no regard for God or their
neighbors, the Lord sent His prophet to address their need. Though they were
far from Him, He was not far from them. He knew their tendencies and their
failings. He intimately knew their every thought, even before they did. He
also loved His people, Israel, though He was about to judge them also. God has
great love for the Ibo people, and in His time, judgment will fall on all those
who did them harm. Whether You have personally chosen to follow the Lord or not,
every wrong will be avenged by the Lord. But those who trust in the Lord will
be rescued from sin and shame.
When you are angry at somebody for something you think they
have done, the tendency is to feel bad if that person does well in life, and to
"gloat" when things are difficult for them. God
offered good advice to the Edomites, keeping it in what we call the
"Bible" all these centuries, so WE might hear these words: "Do not gloat over your brother's day, the day of his misfortune.
And do not rejoice… in the day of their
destruction; Yes, do not boast in the day of their distress” (Obadiah 12).
That's good advice for us all.
God takes His time. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a “Child,” a “Son” who would be
given to the world through the nation Israel. “The government” of this world
would be His. The name of this Child, the Christ, would be: “Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father,
(the) Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hosea the
prophet said the Christ, the Messiah would be called “out
of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1), which was fulfilled when Jesus’ earthly parents
took Him into Egypt for His protection (Matthew 2:13-15). Micah the prophet
revealed that the Christ, the Messiah would be from “Bethlehem,”
the city of David, and that He would also be from “Everlasting”
Isaiah said that the Christ would “bear
(our) iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11); He would
bear "the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12). The
judgment of God against the whole human race was upon the Lord while He hung on that
cross. As Scripture says, “When we were
still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans
5:6). The judgment of God against the Edomites fell on Jesus. The judgment of
God against the persecutors of the Ibo tribe was upon the Jesus who
offers salvation to us all. God’s judgment FELL on Christ, hundreds of years
after the prophesies against Edom, thousands of years before the crimes against
the Ibo tribe and millennia before your sins and mine. In God’s time we have
been judged, and in God's time, we are forgiven.
Father, forgive us our sins. We trust in Your Son.
In Jesus Name. Amen.