BASIC TRAINING-AMERICA! GIVE OBADIAH YOUR EAR
Dear Christian friends,
One chapter. Twenty one verses. One page in the Bible - sometimes two depending how your Bible divides. The book of Obadiah. “Obadiah” almost sounds more like an expression than it does a name. “Obadiah, it’s hot outside!” or “Obadiah, my tire is flat.” But it is the prophet’s name. He’s not Isaiah or Jeremiah, prophets we know and recognize. He’s a minor prophet – the minor of the Minor Prophets. “O” seems to stand for obscure. We know little about Obadiah. It means “servant of Jehovah.” That’s about all we know of him.
His message is loud and clear, and especially fitting on the Fourth of July weekend. Obadiah spoke to a nation that did not believe that “God shed his grace on thee!” As we study the words of the prophet, I am not saying America is going to hell in a hand basket, but I’m not saying it isn’t. Only God knows. It seems closer to doing so than 200 years ago or even twenty years ago. But let’s not be Edom. Listen “America! Give Obadiah Your Ear!”
Obadiah was addressing the country of Edom located southeast of the Dead Sea. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the not so identical twin brother of Jacob. They were sons of Isaac. Abraham was their grandfather. He could have been nicknamed “Red” for his complexion and hair. While Jacob and Esau were twins, they had little in common. They had different interests; they looked different. Father Isaac favored Esau; mother Rebekah favored Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau out of so much he got out of town.
Esau wasn’t religious man, but then neither was Jacob until God called him to faith. Esau’s descendants were fiercely independent, worst of all, from God. As a nation they thought they were like Elliot Ness – untouchable. Obadiah writes, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you 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.’”
The Edomites lived in mountainous regions that provided safety. Cities like Sela were built in the mountains. Access was only through a narrow 12-20 foot mountain pass. A small platoon of soldiers could hold off enemies because of that.
Edom was also on the King’s Highway, a trade route. It was like Atlanta where I-20, I-75 and I-85 converge all at once. That highway provided opportunity for business.
While living in the heights provided them safety, the people needed to look higher than that. They needed to look to the Chief Resident of heaven, the Maker of heaven and earth. Without him they were merely easy targets. Obadiah makes that very clear. “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.’” Their pride was mountain-like and an abomination before the Lord.
These words ought to be loud and clear to our nation too. We are proud of our military and all the technology that comes with it. We have satellites to spy, missiles to plunder, bombers to destroy, submarines that can sneak attack. A man I know works for a defense contractor. He is “classified” and works on secret projects. He says we have weapons at our disposal that are unbelievable and scary if the general population only knew. Like Edom we have developed a false sense of security.
King David, whose military prowess was unparalleled for his time, gave credit where credit was due, “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”
Edom was by no means a poor country. Excavation of this land indicates there were some pretty fertile valleys where there was water and irrigation to produce food. They were on trade routes and tolls were levied on the many caravans that passed through. The city of Ezion-Geber in the very south was a mining town. They had iron and copper smelters. Some archeologists compared Ezion-Geber to Pittsburgh in its steel heyday. Yet Obadiah says, “But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!
As families we try to protect ourselves from disaster with IRA’s, investments, and insurance, but the healthiest get sick, the richest have accidents. We can all be brought down. I met a man very early in my ministry who said he was a millionaire, but his wife developed cancer. He spent his fortune on experimental treatment that didn’t work. When I met him he was living as a pauper working for a non- profit company. He was too old to be hired by companies which had provided him his vanished nest egg. He had to work to make some money long after retirement age.
The Edomites thought that security could be guaranteed through treaties and alliances. Nations wanted to be Edom’s friend because they controlled the trade pipeline. Their state department was filled with documents signed and sealed but delivered no guarantees of safety. Obadiah warned, “All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it.”
My third grade teacher loved current events. I got interested in the news then; I have been ever since. There is something confusing to me. Presidents from Eisenhower to Obama made treaties with countries. Haven’t we done so repeatedly? Is that my imagination? Is it because people’s words are just that – words, and not promises that they intended to keep? They need to be renewed all the time.
If you want to talk about peace treaty, let’s start with God, the one that really matters. He keeps his Word. His treaty with us was written in blood, the blood of Christ. It is written for all time and for all people. It was signed and sealed and delivered on Calvary and verified at the Garden’s empty grave. We are at peace. We remain at peace. There are all kinds of benefits.
In the sixties the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States was on edge. We called it the Cold War. People talked all the time about the red phone that had been put into place because if someone made a mistake that set off a nuclear war, quick communication could result to talk and calm down. There was never a red phone. There was a teletype that had a back up that had a back up that had a back up that had a back up to keep communication open.
No technology is needed to speak to God. He knows our thoughts. He knows what is going on inside of us. He knows history past; he knows history future. He makes his church the center and core of history. I knew a man who said the Bible had to come from God because no mere man could write the Bible passage that I am about to read from the inspired apostle Paul. The power of God is the subject. “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Allow me to paraphrase. The same power that raised Christ from the dead and allowed him to ascend into heaven is the same power by which he rules the universe and every nation, whether good or evil. That same power is being used for one purpose – the good of his church - of which we are members. No power whether earthly or demonic or both will overturn the will of God.
The Lord is zealous for his church. Edom wanted to harm it. Obadiah writes, “In that day,” declares the LORD, “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau? Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter. Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever… 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.” It would appear that the Obadiah lived around the time when Judah was being chastised for her own sins. From Judah would come Christ! While God was chastising Judah Edom laughed. “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.” The Lord will punish those who despise his people.
The last few years have been tough on Christians living in America. Many of you have expressed how the Supreme Court decisions that have come down from Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortion, the health law making Christians pay for abortifacients and the decision to legalize gay marriage has been a punch to the stomach of the Lord’s people.
There is a phrase that struck me in Obadiah’s prophecy. God says, “Will I not destroy the wise men of Edom?” It takes a lot of brainpower to be a lawyer. It takes a lot of brainpower to be a judge. The Supreme Court, however, is not really the Supreme Court. No one will ever overrule God.
Humanity is so pretentious and arrogant and defiant to think that we know better how to live and say what is right and wrong than our God.
What can we do? Do we give up? Not so fast! Let’s list a few things.
• Don’t be arrogant and self-righteous. Examine your own heart. Recognize your own personal sins against the sixth commandment, the commandment that rules sex and marriage and all other commandments. Repent of the lustful and evil thoughts we have; repent for not making your marriage all it can be. Thank God for the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ.
• Be an example and a light shining on a hill to show the world that God’s way is not only right but the only way to be happy. Successful and happy marriage consists of three – one man and one woman living together under Jesus.
• Be ready to pick up the pieces. There will be plenty of pieces to pick up as time wears on. That’s always true when God’s commandments are not taken seriously.
• Pray and work for these laws to get changed so they are in accord to God’s law. There was a time the Supreme Court ruled that black people were considered property and not people. That was changed just a few years later when we had a good president who was willing to fight for what was right.
• Pray as Jesus prayed when he pleaded, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”
• Stand fast! Be prepared for abuse from people who don’t care about the Christian faith and what God says. Your love for the Lord needs to grow. Read your Bibles and worship.
• Don’t be surprised at these things. These are the signs of the last times. Peter wrote, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”
• Remember God still controls the world. He will not be mocked. By grace we have been called to his side. The other side has already been defeated. One day, albeit too late, they will know it fully. America, give Obadiah your ear!