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God's Prevailing Justice in History- Obadiah

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.


Introduction: God's Inescapable Justice

Former Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once talked with a man who had appeared before him in a lower court and had escaped conviction on a technicality. This is what he said to him:

“I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.”

Of course he was talking about God, who is the supreme judge of all. The Triune God is the only one with the full knowledge to judge everyone fairly and the complete power to carry out justice in this universe for everyone.

The definition of justice is the use of power as appointed by law, honor or standards to support fair treatment and due reward. It involves properly punishing the guilty for crimes or sins as well as rewarding the righteous. Behind the concept of justice lies the notion of balance - that people get what is right, fair and appropriate.

Unfortunately, we are living in a world where injustice reigns at times. The guilty may go unpunished and the innocent or righteous aren't always treated properly. In fact sometimes the innocent seem to be punished for doing what is right.

However, there will come a time when all wrongs will be righted and all good things done for God by His people who belong to Him will be rewarded.

We can get a small glimpse of God's inescapable justice in the small, one chapter, prophecy of Obadiah. It is one of only five books in the entire Bible with one chapter and is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It's just 21 verses long. It is among the books which have come to be known as the minor prophets. However, don't let that fool you. He is called a minor prophet only because of the size of his book and not because he has an inferior content.

Obadiah lies tucked between the books of Amos and Jonah and may be easily missed by the average reader of God's Word. However, it's message deserves to be read and known by all.

Let us take a look at this short but powerful book and see how we can apply its teachings to our lives today.

I. Background of Obadiah

We begin with a little bit of background to this prophecy. The book consists of a series of divine judgment poems against the ancient people of Edom. Their crime was that they were not only complicit in an attack against God's people but they assisted the enemy of the Southern Kingdom of Judah in trying to destroy the capital city of Jerusalem.

The author is named Obadiah. His name means 'Servant of the Lord.' We see it 20 times in the Old Testament, referring to many other individuals. Nothing is known for certain of the author of this book since the other references to men by this name don't appear to be talking about him. He frequently mentions Jerusalem, Judah and Zion which would suggest that he belonged to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The exact date of the writing of the book is also mysterious though we know it is tied to an Edomite assault on Jerusalem described in verses 10-14. Obadiah apparently wrote shortly after the attack.

There were 4 significant invasions of Jerusalem in Old Testament history, although there are only two which could fit the circumstances of the book. Either it was the attack by the Philistines and Arabians in 848-841 B.C. during the reign of Jehoram, king of Judah, or it was the attack by Nubuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, which lead to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Since Obadiah's description doesn't indicate the total destruction of Jerusalem which took place under Nebuchadnezzar's attack, it was probably the first attack in the 800's B.C. that Obadiah was referring to.

Also, although the Edomites were involved in the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. it is significant that Obadiah doesn't mention the Babylonians by name as the other prophets who told of Jerusalem's fall did. Nor is there any reference to the destruction of the temple or the deportation of the people which happened then.

Placing Obadiah in the 800's B.C. makes him the earliest writing prophet, a few years prior to Joel, and a contemporary of the prophet Elisha.

Another question that we really need to answer in order to understand this book is: 'Who are the Edomites?' If you remember your Old Testament history, Abraham was the Father of the Israelite people. He had a son named Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau was the father of the Edomites, so the people of Judah and the the Edomites were from the same family. It was like a family feud which went back all the way to the point that Jacob stole Esau's birthright and got the blessing from their father Isaac instead of his brother. Their offspring appear to have continued the sibling rivalry started by these brothers.

A final thing that we need to cover as an introduction is to go over a quick outline of this book. This particular outline is taken from the MacCarthur Study Bible. It is as follows:

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I. God's Judgement of Edom (1-14)

A. Edom's Punishment (1-9)

B. Edom's Crimes (10-14)

II. God's Judgement on the Nations (15-16)

III. God's Restoration of Israel (17-21)

Now that we have seen some of the background and details of this book, lets look at some of the lessons are that can be learned from it.

II. Lesson 1: God Humbles the Proud

The first lesson that we can glean from God's judgement upon the ancient city of Edom is that God hates pride and humbles those who are proud. Edom's major sin was that of a prideful self-sufficiency. This is not like being proud of a child or proud of a job well done. Rather it is arrogance which is the opposite of humility. We see in Psalm 10:4 that the proud are so consumed with themselves that their thoughts are far from God The verse tells us that:

“In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”

The proud in Scripture are so blinded by their pride that they think they have no need of God or, just as bad, that God should accept them as they are because they deserve His acceptance.

Here is what the prophet Obadiah has to say about the nation of Edom, starting in verse 3. He says:

"The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock. In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth. ' Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down' declares the Lord." ( Obadiah 3-4).

This passage references the fact that Edom literally lived in a difficult mountain terrain. They settled in the hill country of Seir. They had an imposing impregnable capital city of Petra. It was virtually inaccessible, giving her a sense of security and self-sufficiency. Deep terrifying gorges emanating from peaks reaching 5,700 feet surrounded Edom like a fortress, and gave to them a false sense of security.

But God was not impressed or intimidated by all of this. The Lord is all-powerful and can destroy even the strongest of nations. And He will not have them going against Him or against His people without some consequences. Edom clearly did not have a healthy fear of Almighty God. They trusted in themselves and in their mountainous fortress to keep them safe.

And there are those living in the 21st century who are just as arrogant and are trusting in everything under the sun except God for their protection. Further, they are living as though He doesn't exist. And sadly, some of those people call themselves Christians. Even though there is absolutely no evidence to back up their claim that they know and love the Lord. The pride of all of these people will one day be humbled.

III. Lesson 2: God Stands Up for His People

The next lesson that we can learn from the book of Obadiah is that God will ultimately stand up for His people against the enemies that would destroy them. The nation of Israel had sinned against the Lord and were being disciplined for it. Israel ended up separating into the two nations of Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Later because of their disobedience, God allowed the Northern kingdom of Israel to go into captivity under Assyria in 722 B.C. And in 586 B.C. , sadly, Judah followed Israel, Jerusalem, the capital city was destroyed and the people were scattered by the Babylonians.

Still, God promised that one day He would bring them back into the land and bless His people again. God had made many promises to Israel that He intended to keep despite their problems with obeying Him.

And God's main reason for judging the people of Edom was that their arrogance lead them to believe that they were superior to His people which caused them to want to join in on the destruction of Judah. The website lists the reasons found in the text that God finally brought judgment upon this Edom. The reasons included:

- Their heart of pride: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 1:3).

- Their violent acts against Israel: “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever” (Obadiah 1:10).

- Their attitude toward Jerusalem’s destruction: “Do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin” (Obadiah 1:12).

- Their plundering and looting of Jerusalem: “Do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity” (Obadiah 1:13).

- Their mistreatment of Jerusalem’s survivors: “Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives” (Obadiah 1:14).

Even though the Lord was bringing His discipline upon wayward Judah by allowing this rogue nation of Edom to help bring punishment upon them, He promised that He would stand up for them ultimately and pay those people back who dared touch His anointed ones. In verses 6-8 we can see that fact very clearly. Obadiah tells Edom:

"O how Esau will be ransacked and his hidden treasures searched out! All the men allied with you will send you forth to the border and the men at peace with you will deceive you and overpower you. They who eat your bread will set an ambush for you, (There is no understanding in him). 'Will I not on that day,' declares the Lord, 'Destroy wise men from Edom and understanding from the mountain of Esau?"

The good thing is that God doesn't change. He still stands up for His people today. We who are the Church the Body of Christ. And our Lord has promised through Paul that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38,39). The God who defended Israel will defend us and will cause all things that happen to us to work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He has promised us heaven and all that goes with it. We can trust Him no matter who is trying to destroy us. In fact, if God is for us nobody can stand against us (Romans 8:31). All our enemies will one day be taken out of the way just as Edom was judged who stood against Judah in the days of Obadiah.

IV. Lesson 3: The Day of the Lord is Coming

The last major lesson that we can learn from this small book is that the Day of the Lord is coming and everyone needs to take heed and prepare by turning to the God of the universe for salvation.

The “Day of The Lord” is the Biblical Old Testament term used to refer to the start of end of time judgments which God will pour out on the world. This is a time when God will once again actively intervene in the affairs of humanity with a devastating impact for those who refuse to bow to Him.

God's judgment on Edom in history was a preview of His future judgment on all nations who are not bowing to His sovereignty. Obadiah's reference to this begins in verse 15. He says:

"For the Day of the Lord draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. Because just as you drank on my holy mountain, all nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they never existed. But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions. Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame. But the house of Esau well be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau (15-18).

The Day of the Lord, in our day and age, just like it was in the time of Obadiah, is still future. It is something that hasn't happened yet. But God indeed will one day judge all arrogance or pride and all will bow before Him in the person of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul says:

"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10,11).

In that day God will forever humble the proud. And He will stand up for His people who are being hurt and oppressed by them. They may be weary from living in this sin-cursed earth now, but they will share in His victory over sin, death and the grave when He takes His rightful place as sovereign over the entire universe.

For the Christians who already serve God today, the Day of the Lord is not a time to fear. Since the prophesied Day of the Lord begins as a time of wrath against the nations, according to Paul, we the Church, will be delivered from that wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:10). We will be raptured or caught up into heaven and will then forever be with the Lord who loved us and gave His life for us (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). Then there will come a time when the Lord will reward us for service for Him at Christ's judgment seat.

However, all those who refuse to bow before the Lord today will experience that wrath. And we, God's people in this time of grace, must warn them that they need to prepare themselves by accepting Jesus' offer of salvation today, before it's too late.


In conclusion, this book of Obadiah is an ancient prophecy from a long ago time. Yet it speaks to us today about things that are just as critical for our lives as they were then. We are living in a time when it appears that evil is in control and many of God's people are being defeated. So we still need Obadiah's message of God's sovereign justice in order to strengthen the Lord's people who's faith may be weakening.

They must be taught that God is still on His throne. The world may seem to be overthrown by lawless forces. However, it is the righteous purpose of God and not the evil will of men, that determines history.

And no matter what might be happening in our personal life, or in the world around us, the Lord is working behind the scenes to make it all turn out according to His plan. He will humble the proud. He will stand up for His people and He will have His day when no one will go against His will ever again. And that will make what is happening to us in our present lives all worthwhile. We can only say to these things: "To God be the glory!!"

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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