I debated whether to put the chapter designation here because Obadiah only has one chapter. His vision didn’t last very long! But fortunately, it lasted long enough to tell us something about God. And it’s something we need to remember—especially when life takes a turn for the worse.
The lives of the Israelites had taken a turn for the worse. Jerusalem had recently fallen to the Assyrians, and the Edomites (their distant relatives) had helped speed their demise:
“Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.” (vs 10-14)
It’s worth noting the progression of evil which occurred among the Edomites toward their Israelite brothers. First, when the Israelites were attacked, Edom did nothing. They “stood aloof.” Perhaps we couldn’t fault them for that. Perhaps they were the Switzerland of their day—remaining neutral, not taking sides.
But their neutrality didn’t stay neutral for very long. Soon, they were “gloating” over the misfortunes of the Israelites, celebrating their demise. Why? Maybe they thought they’d be able to take over the land once the Israelites had fled. Maybe they were just jealous. Still . . . “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” There isn’t anything criminal about feeling happy over the misfortune of someone you don’t like.
But it didn’t end there. That led to taking advantage of their Israelite brothers while they were in distress. As the Assyrians were working to conquer the city, it seems at least some of the Edomites marched right through the gates and started looting the place, grabbing what they could and carrying it away. As if that wasn’t bad enough, finally, they ambushed the Israelites who were fleeing and either killed them or handed them over to the Assyrians.
That’s certainly quite a progression! It’s a sobering thing to realize that evil never really starts out “all that bad.” It seems innocent enough, but left unchecked, it doesn’t take long for us to turn into the very thing we swore we’d never become. When we fail to stand up for what is right, we may be heading down a road that will end in blatant wrongdoing.
But that’s what made the declaration about God at the end of the chapter all the more heartening: “Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.” (vs 21)
The kingdom will be the Lord’s. How important it is to remember that simple, yet gargantuan, reality. No matter what happens in this world—and trust me, it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better—God has the final say. Nothing’s going to happen today that will surprise Him. Nothing’s going to happen today that will catch Him off guard.
No matter how bad things get, they won’t “get out of” the mighty hand of God. At the end of the day, the kingdom still belongs to Him. So, let evil mushroom, let Satan rage, and let the world fall to pieces. When the dust has settled, we will see: God wins.