Wednesday, December 13, 2006

So bad...

Today's Old Testament reading is from the book of Obadiah. I have two memories about this book: one is from college, when someone from my dorm gave an irreverant commentary. “Lots of places in the Bible say lots of important things,” he said, “But not the book of Obadiah. The book of Obadiah doesn't mean squat.” I skimmed it - all 21 verses (the whole book fits on a single page) - and it seemed to me not to say much. That was in the mid '70s, before I came to know Jesus personally.

The other thing I remember about Obadiah was from a “Walk Thru the Bible” seminar at our church, where our teacher said that the Edomites were So— Bad (he really stretched out the “o”) that God sent O—Bad-iah to preach to them. And unlike the Assyrians in Nineveh (cf. Jonah), I don't think they listened much.

So what is this book about, assuming that my dorm-mate was wrong?

As I read through it today, it looks like a rebuke of the Edomites because of their arrogance, and a prediction of disaster (which the Lord himself will bring):
“The day of the Lord is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.
The house of Jacob will be a fire
and the house of Joseph a flame;
the house of Esau will be a stubble,
and they will set it on fire and consume it.
There will be no survivors
from the house of Esau.”
Obadiah 16,18
And so what? What does this mean to you and me today?

Something that comes to mind as I look at this: if it is me that's in trouble, and others are gloating, then never fear: the Lord will take care of them as they deserve. I don't have to fret (which as the Psalms say leads only to evildoing) or take my own revenge.

And a corollary of that point: In the end, the devil will get his due as well. I don't know if Obadiah is talking about that, actually, but this part makes me think it's addressed at some spiritual forces, not just at historical Edom:
“ who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,”
declares the Lord.
Obadiah 3-4
Could that have been addressed to more than just the Edomites? More than just humans who feel secure in themselves? To the evil one and his minions perhaps?

Finally, if someone else is in trouble, even an enemy, we might do well to avoid gloating. As one of my old housemates paraphrased Galatians, “... ’cause it coulda been you.” Gloating and arrogance, particularly about someone that the Lord feels affectionate toward, could bring trouble onto us. Which does not sound like fun.

So: a caution not to be a gloater or a boaster, and confidence that my persecutors will get theirs. Two nontrivial things out of this little book, so yes, I think my dormmate was wrong.

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