1 Chronicles 16, Obadiah

Today’s readings are 1 Chronicles 16 and Obadiah.

This devotional is about the book of Obadiah.

Obadiah wrote this prophecy against Edom (v. 1), a nation that bordered Judah to the south. This nation traced its ancestry to Esau, the twin brother of Jacob/Israel. The Edomites are condemned here for two sins:

Pride: Verses 3-4 describes a smug feeling of invincibility that the Edomites possessed. Then, verses 5-9 prophesied an easy defeat for the nation. Later in verses 18-20 Obadiah prophesied that no one would survive from the family of the Edomites after God’s judgment fell on them. Victimizing Judah: Verses 10-14 describe how the Edomites responded to the invasion of Jerusalem. Remember that Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Jerusalem happened in three stage; those three stages may correspond to Edom’s responses that are described here. At first, Edom did nothing. Verse 11 says, “you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth.” Refusing to try to help God’s people was, according to Obadiah, tacit approval of the invasion. We see that in verse 11 where Obadiah said, “while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” That last phrase, “you were like one of them” equates Edom with Jerusalem’s attackers even though they “stood aloof” (v. 11a) while it was happening.

Let’s focus this devotional on sin #2 described above. Was Edom obliged to come to Jerusalem’s defense? They shared a border with Judah and hundreds of years before their patriarch Esau was brothers with Israel (v. 10a). Normally, I wouldn’t think that those two facts mean much in a context like this. They were now separate nations and their “brotherhood” was ancient history (literally). So were they really obligated to help?

Apparently, yes, they were. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians as an act of judgment for their sins and idolatry. That’s the spiritual/theological reason for their demise. But on a human level, Nebuchadnezzar had no moral right to invade Israel. They were, politically and militarily speaking, victims of Babylonian aggression. Their common ancestry, though ancient, should have caused them to have some affinity for God’s people. Their common border should have caused them to want to help their neighbors to the north.

The argumentation in this passage reminds me of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told that story to teach us that “loving your neighbor” means helping anyone who needs help who is within your reach. The Samaritan was a step-brother (in a sense) the Jewish man who was victimized by robbers. His countrymen, his brothers, who passed by without helping him were “standing aloof” to borrow the image of verse 11a. But Jesus praised the Samaritan for giving assistance when he saw the plight of the Israelite.

The application, then, for us is to understand that God expects us to help when we see someone being victimized. We shouldn’t stand by and do nothing and we certainly shouldn’t join in the victimization as Edom did in verses 13-14. We should help the oppressed fend off the oppressor.

Now, in our globally-connected world, we know about world problems and injustices that people in other eras of time would never have known about. I don’t think God requires us to find every problem in the world and get involved in it. The Good Samaritan, after all, was walking by; he wasn’t like an ancient Batman looking for crime to fight. So the Bible isn’t teaching that we have an unlimited responsibility for everyone else’s problems. Instead, we should understand that it is not acceptable in the Lord’s sight to be a bystander when we see injustice or violence or exploitation.

So, if you saw someone abusing a child or a woman, would you do anything about it? If your neighbor’s land was being polluted by a corporation or seized by the county unjustly, would you try to help? Honestly, this is very convicting to me. My nature is to say, “That’s none of my business” and I can think of some situations recently where I could have tried to help and did not. May God forgive me for that and give me grace to do right in the future.

1 Kings 4–5, Ephesians 2, Ezekiel 35, Psalm 85

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 4–5, Ephesians 2, Ezekiel 35, Psalm 85. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Ezekiel 35.

Much of Ezekiel’s prophecy concerns the sins of Judah, but in the section we’ve been reading lately his focus is on other nations. In today’s chapter Ezekiel prophesied against Edom. This nation was located to the East and South of Israel; it is part of the modern nation known as Jordan. This land was populated with the people who came from Jacob’s (aka “Israel”) twin brother Esau. At times the Edomites and the Israelites had a good relationship; other times, however, they fought like brothers… I mean, like enemies.

This prophecy promises desolation to Edom (v. 3b, 4). The reason is found in verse 5 where God said, “you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity….” The “ancient hostility” is probably a reference to the tension that existed between Esau and Jacob but the phrase you “delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity” refers to a more timely issue. When Nebuchadnezzar was attacking Jerusalem, the Edomites were cheering and even assisting the Babylonians (see Psalm 137:7, Obadiah 1:10-14). So God promised here in Ezekiel 35 (and other passages) that he would repay the Edomites with justice.

And what was the motivation for Edom’s alliance against Judah? Jealousy: “Because you have said, ‘These two nations and countries will be ours and we will take possession of them,” even though I the Lord was there, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them’” (vv. 10-11) Though Esau and Isaac personally lived out their old age at peace with one another, the resentment of the Lord’s favor for the Israelites simmered in the hearts of Esau’s descendants. When God’s judgment came on the people of Judah, Edom did not intercede with him for mercy or mourn the loss of so many lives. Instead they cheered the demise of their brother-nation.

What an ugly sin jealousy is! It causes us to hope for the worst for others, wishing maximum pain on those we dislike. There is a time, of course, to ask God for justice when someone has sinned against us. But if we take perverse pleasure in his justice, can God be pleased with the state of our hearts? And, if we hope for, long for, and even strive for the demise of someone else—not because they mistreated us but because they did better than we did in some way—do we not deserve the Lord’s discipline too?

As we prepare to come together for worship today, search your own heart. Any jealousy there? Any resentment, any hostility, hatred, anger? Do you long for pain in someone’s life so that you can feel better about yourself or take the thing they have that you think you deserve? These are common human attitudes but they are wicked in the sight of God. Repent of them and ask God to give you a true love for your enemies, just as he loved us when we were at war with him.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.