Sermons from March 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021 Brad Barrett Minor Prophets—Turn and Live! Obadiah—Comfort and Hope David, king of Israel, in 1000 B.C. said this, Psalm 13:1–2 ESV How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?…How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? What is David after? He is after justice. His enemies were triumphing over him, and he thirsted for justice. He wanted God to do something about it. Such cries for justice and deliverance have been uttered in every generation since the Creation. Today we cry for “social” justice. Justice and equity and fairness in our society in a variety of ways. We also cry out for criminal justice. Someone assaults us or hurts us, and rightfully we want the perpetrator to be held accountable. Even young children know something about justice, as one child cries out to Mom and Dad about his sibling, “That’s not fair.” It is right for us to cry out like David, for God at his very core loves justice. Psalm 99:4 ESV The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Our text today is from an OT prophet named Obadiah. It’s a very short book. In fact, it’s the shortest book in the OT. Only 21 verses. The theme of Obadiah’s book is largely about justice. It is addressed to a foreign nation called Edom. An enemy of Israel. Edom had mistreated Israel, kicking them while they were down. This short book reveals the determination of God to bring about justice over all the earth. And at the same time, we get a glimpse of hope for the future of Israel and us. Obadiah Obadiah (ESV) Vs. 1-4 1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!” First, who is Obadiah? The OT lists about 12 different men by the name of Obadiah. So what do we know about this prophet? Well, the first four words in vs. 1— “The vision of Obadiah”—is his biography. That is our exhaustive look at the man. So if you take an exam on OT history, and you’re asked, “Who is Obadiah the prophet?”, all you need to say is, “I don’t know.” We don’t even know when he wrote this. Some scholars think in the 800’s B.C. Others think in the 500’s B.C. So I that narrows it down doesn’t it? Just a tiny 300-year window. So we know nothing about the man. And we don’t know when it was written. So far, our learning this morning is stunningly deep, don’t you think? So would you like to learn what we actually DO know? Verse 1 tells us we know the nation Obadiah wrote about: EDOM. Edom was on the southern border of Israel. Today Edom would consist of a portion of modern-day Israel and Jordan. The main storyline in Obadiah is that Edom had severely mistreated Israel, so the Lord is uttering a judgment against them. And giving hope to Israel. There is a long history between Edom and Israel. Edom is another name for Esau. Esau was a man who lived more than 1000 years before Obadiah. He had a twin brother named Jacob. Jacob was later given the name ISRAEL by God. These twins were sons of Isaac, and grandsons of Abraham. So the nation Edom is related to Israel The OT reveals a long and troubled history between Jacob and Esau themselves…and their descendants. We know that any brothers can have a contentious relationship, and these two brothers show us how bad it can get. We can read about it in Genesis. It began in their mother’s womb where we are told they struggled against each other. Problems continued when Mom favored Jacob, and Dad favored Esau. Favoritism never helps a family. Then Jacob deceived his brother and stole his birthright, the rights of the firstborn. Then Esau, being the forgiving brother he was, decided he wanted to kill his twin because of the stolen birthright. Jacob had to flee for his life, and lived away from the rest of the family for 20 years. Then as the centuries went on, this adversarial relationship continued…. And it’s described multiple times in the OT. Now some discussion on vs. 1-4: We come to Obadiah’s day. Vs. 1 1 …. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!” God will bring other nations to battle against Edom as God’s judgment. Vs. 2: 2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The Lord calls for their attention: “Behold!” Look. Listen. Edom thought they were great and mighty, but the Lord will bring them down, making them small, even utterly despised by other nations. They must pay attention lest they perish. Vs. 3-4: 3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” 4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. Edom’s pride makes them boast, “Who can defeat us?” They are self-deceived due to this pride. But God is going to humble them. All over the Scriptures we are told of the dangers of pride and the glories of humility. Slide One example, Proverbs 16:18 ESV Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Even if Edom was a powerful nation, which they were not, the Lord could and would humble them. We won’t talk much more about pride and humility today, but let me say this: There is hardly a more destructive quality in our lives than pride. When we are proud and focused on ourselves, we will find ourselves in a tug-of-war with God, and we will not win. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” It will go better for us if we humble ourselves before the Lord does it for us. Edom is an example of God’s opposition to pride and arrogance. Hebrew Poetry Before going on, let me talk for a few minutes about Hebrew poetry. • Much of the OT is written in Hebrew as poetry. Job, the Psalms, and most of the Prophets. You know it’s poetry by the formatting shown in every English Bible I’ve ever seen. It’s formatted line by line and in stanzas. Not in paragraphs. This line by line is very important. We must learn to read it differently than prose, which I’m far more used to. Prose in the Bible would be narratives like Genesis or Matthew or Acts. We read in terms of paragraphs, not line by line and stanzas. • As poetry, these books were much easier for Israel to memorize or sing than prose. • Like poetry in many languages, Hebrew poetry compactly communicates God’s truth, and at the same time evokes emotion through rich imagery. For example, look again at verse 4: Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. This is an image rich and emotional way to say what Jesus said centuries later: Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled…” Both express God’s eternal truth, but they are said in very different ways. If you put poetry like Obadiah to music, how memorable and instructive that would be on the dangers of pride. And if you add a parable to Jesus’ words in Matthew, how memorable and instructive THAT would be. Same truths expressed in different ways. Now back to describing Hebrew poetry: • Hebrew poetry is different than typical Western poetry. Western poetry commonly focuses on rhyme and meter. Hebrew poetry focuses on balanced, parallel lines. On this thought of parallelism, this is quite important. This will help us when we read the Prophets or Psalms. Let’s look at two examples: Verse 2: Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The second line essentially repeats the thought of the first line. Saying something twice but with different imagery is powerful. That’s one style of parallelism. Verse 4 (again): Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. Line 2 echoes line 1. But then line 3 describes what the Lord will do in response. The fourth line is a separate thought, but emphasizing the Lord will make all this happen. I’ve known of this parallelism for years, but I’ve never really looked at it earnestly until the past two weeks. I’ve found it to be eye-opening the past two weeks as I read the prophets and psalms. The text simply makes more sense when I read it more line by line with parallelism in mind. To know just a little more about types of parallelism, go to Stonebrook’s website, www.stonebrook.org, Then go to SEARCH. Type in “OVERVIEW” for a document giving an overview of the Minor Prophets. The last page on the handout has a list of the types of parallelism in Hebrew poetry. Vs. 5-7 In vs. 1-4, Obadiah speaks in future tense. Judgment is coming. Notice as we get to verse 6, he switches to past tense. Though judgment is still coming, apparently God had already begun his judgment on Edom. 5 If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? 6 How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! 7 All your allies have driven you to your border; those at peace with you have deceived you; they have prevailed against you; those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you— you have no understanding. God has brought judgment on Edom from the hands of others, and it is complete and devastating. Obadiah describes it with rich imagery: Edom will be plundered, destroyed, stolen from. They will be left with no gleanings. Their treasures will be taken. They will be driven to the border. They will be deceived by former allies, and caught in a trap. Edom will be completely humbled and crushed. Vs. 8-9 8 Will I not on that day, declares the Lord, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau? 9 And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter. The Lord asks a rhetorical question: “Can anyone thwart Me from accomplishing My will?” He promised he would humble them in their pride (vs. 2-4)…by sending nations to pillage them completely (vs. 5-7). Now (vs. 8-9) he commits to bring their wise men and warriors low and put them all to death. Vs. 10-14 In addition to their pride and arrogance listed in vs. 2-4, the Lord lists more specific sins Edom committed against Israel. 10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11 On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. Then in vs. 12 Obadiah changes from the past tense to the present, warning Edom: 12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. Though it is not mentioned explicitly, Israel was being punished for their rebellion against the Lord. We know this because part of the Covenant to Israel through Moses was that if Israel walked by faith with the Lord, they would never be defeated by enemies. Never. But if Israel rejected the Lord, he would bring enemies upon them as judgment. So here since Israel has been crushed by enemies, we can safely assume that God himself has brought judgment upon Israel, using the nations and Edom as his tool. However, Edom was violently wicked in their treatment of their “brothers”, descendants of Abraham and Isaac. So the Lord is holding Edom accountable. And actually even in our day, any nation who treats another nation like Edom did will be worthy of judgment. Someday all sin will be dealt with in perfect justice. Vs. 15-18 Verse 15 sums it all up well: 15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. To the level of Edom’s evil and even ALL the nations, that is how they will be judged. 16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been. The “drinking” refers to drinking the cup of God’s wrath, a metaphor found multiple times in the Scriptures. Verse 17 gives a glimmer of hope for Israel: 17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. A remnant will escape. Some will return to the Promised land and own land again. There is hope for Israel when they repent. And look at the graphic imagery in vs. 18: 18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken. God is going to use Israel to be like a fire set to stubble. Edom will burn up quickly. Such a graphic description. In our backyard, we have a garden area with some tall grasses planted. A few weeks ago, I burned off all the dead grass. It burned easily and quickly like a torch. So it will be with Edom. And the very last line in vs. 18: “The Lord has spoken” (vs. 18b), leaves no question about God’s determination to make this all happen. Vs. 19-21 Now in this last section, Obadiah brings more hope to Israel. We look back and remember that Israel has been punished by the Lord when these other nations destroyed them. And Edom has been and will be punished. But there is still hope for God’s people. Someday… some future day…Israel is going to be raised back up. 19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. 21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. Though the Lord had often spoken hard words of warning to Israel throughout their history, here Obadiah speaks of a future glory for Israel. On some future day, they will possess the land of all their enemies, and all of it will belong to the Lord as part of his kingdom. This apparently speaks of the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom. Vs. 21 seems to allude to events that are still future even to us. Who these “saviors” are is not clear. The word means “deliverers.” “Rescuers.” Perhaps they are some of God’s people who will serve the Lord in eternity, guiding the people. All of this seems to speak of the future kingdom of Jesus Christ. All over the Scriptures we are pointed to a day when Jesus Christ will come back to earth literally and bodily, and he will set up his eternal kingdom on earth. And he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will bring condemnation on all who have rejected him. He will bring reward and honor to all who have believed him The “kingdom” shall be the Lord’s. This last line makes me think of Revelation 22: Revelation 22:3–5 ESV No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Application I want to make some application from Obadiah to our lives today. Be WARNED. God is just and will deal with all sin. The unchanging truth of God is that he will judge ALL sin. Nothing will escape his eye. Hebrews 4:13 NIV Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. No sin ever committed escapes the eye of him to whom we must give account. Author A.W. Pink said this, “Though he be invisible to us, we are not so to Him. Neither the darkness of night… nor the deepest dungeon can hide any sinner from the eyes of Omniscience.” This truth of God’s perfect justice is TERRIFYING. And we are WARNED. The warning comes to every one of us: God is perfectly just and righteous, and no sin will go unpunished. Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death…” Everyone should take heed and be warned. Someday everyone will stand alone before this holy Creator God. But mercifully, there is an escape. And only one way of escape: That is through faith in Jesus Christ, who died to be our substitute in judgment. To finish up Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This perfectly just God mercifully offers deliverance is through Jesus, the Son of God. This is the very reason God sent his Son to earth 2000 years ago. And God has provided no other way. That is the WARNING. What should you do? 1. Humble yourself. Don’t be like Edom. If you don’t humble yourself before the Lord, he will do it to you. 2. Believe in Jesus Christ. He has suffered the wrath of God for you. You can go free. A greater gift you will never find. 3. Talk to a friend. Don’t go it alone. So the JUSTICE of God WARNS us. But the JUSTICE of God also COMFORTS us. It comforts us in two ways. First, it COMFORTS all of us who have believed in Jesus Christ. For us, Jesus took the condemnation we deserved. And so now, we have been set free. Romans 5:1 says that we now have peace with God. Romans 8:1 says that we will never be condemned. Romans 8:16 says that we have been adopted as children of Almighty God. Romans 8:38 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. What comfort and joy and hope we have in words like that. Forever and ever and ever glory in the presence of the Lord is ours. What should we do? 1. Every day, every morning give thanks to God. Rejoice. 2. Every day, read passages like 1 Peter 1. 1 Peter 1:3–4 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you… We so quickly forget the truths of the gospel. 3. In addition to giving thanks and reading daily, stay intimately engaged with God’s people, the church. We are not meant to do this alone. I am quite independent by nature. But that independence does me no favors. I must be and you must be linked together like a Body. We must be together like a Family. As we do these things, God will bring us great COMFORT and HOPE. A SECOND WAY we can find COMFORT in God’s justice is to know that all evil in our world will be dealt with in perfect justice someday. The injustices we experience personally….and the injustices we see out in the world….these can drive us crazy with anger and anguish and hopelessness. But we can be comforted because it won’t be much longer. For anyone who is on the side of an injustice done to them—like the harsh treatment the nations exacted on Israel—God will avenge. Perpetrators will be judged. Police departments today may have an “Unsolved Crime Unit,” but God needs no such thing. He sees all and knows all and will deal with all. We can find great comfort that the Lord will make all things right in the end. So what can we do to experience more COMFORT and HOPE in the justice of God in the face of great EVIL and INJUSTICES? 1. First, learn to regularly cry out like David in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? How long before justice is done?” The psalmist prayed in an honest faith like that. This is healthy—even necessary—for us to vent our hearts directly to the Lord. God can take our holy, faith-filled venting. 2. Second, cling to passages that promise us that nothing will escape God’s eye. Remember Hebrews 4:13, that nothing will escape the eye of God. Everyone will give an account. We are not guaranteed justice on the earth (though we should strive for that). But we are guaranteed justice before the Throne of God someday soon. We can take heart and not be distressed. 3. Third, remain humble and grateful. It is tempting to become angry and vengeful and forget that we too were once lost and worthy of wrath. Only “amazing grace” has saved wretches like us. So we must stay humble and grateful for what God has done for us. And our gratitude for God’s mercy to us can even drive us to pray for our enemies and love them as Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. Conclusion Let me finish with this. Whether God is dealing with a nation like Edom or with people like us, he is the God of all justice. The God of perfect, all-seeing justice. By this we are WARNED. By this we are COMFORTED. And as we see glimpses of in Obadiah, he is also the God of Mercy and Hope. What he promised through Obadiah has now come true. The long-awaited Hope of God, Jesus Christ, has come. And he is coming again soon. We finish with these words from Jesus himself, almost the last words in the Bible. Revelation 22:12 NIV “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
This week we will look at the book of Amos, the first prophet to the Northern Kingdom. The nation of Israel hid immorality, greed, oppression of the poor and weak, and many other sins behind a veneer if religious performance. The prophet calls them (and so, us) back to worship of the true God from the heart, evidenced by love for their neighbor and a passion for justice and righteousness.
When we think of judgment, we may think of criminals receiving judgement for crimes or we may think of others unfairly judging us for our choices, but what if we were to be immediately and fairly judged for our actions toward God and others? What sort of judgement would we receive? The prophet Joel warns of a Day of the Lord, a day of judgement coming for all, and Joel helps us understand how we should ready ourselves and others for this coming day.
In a stunning word picture, Hosea under command of God marries a woman of ill repute in order to give a picture to the people of Israel of their waywardness towards the Lord. Adulterous Israel deserves justice. Yet we find in this remarkable book God appeals to his lost people to return to him and so live. We see the mercy of God triumphing over justice. From this story, we then make the connection to the gospel message and realize that in Christ we too can find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.