By Frank Jamerson
The little book of Obadiah is the most “minor” of the Minor Prophets, but it contains two major lessons that are never outdated. Those lessons which we wish to discuss are the hatred expressed in indifference and the sin of pride.
The Edomites were relatives of Israel, being descendants of Esau. The struggle began in the womb of Rebekah (Gen. 25:2426) and continued even to the confrontation between Jesus and the Herods who were Idumeans. Herod the Great (whose father and mother were Idumeans) tried to kill Jesus at birth (Matt. 2), and Herod Antipas (the son of Herod the Great and Malthrace, who was a Samaritan) had John beheaded and tried Jesus, after he was sent from Pilate (Lk. 23:7-12).
This history may seem insignificant, but it relates to the issue of whether God’s marriage law applies to those not under the covenant. John said to Herod Antipas, who had the wife of his half-brother Philip, “It is not lawful for you to have her” (Matt. 14:4). Other passages also show that God’s marriage law applies to aliens. Paul told the Corinthians that they were to withdraw from brethren who were fornicators, but not “from the fornicators of the world.” (1 Cor. 5:9-11). Again, he wrote “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). God’s marriage law was given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24) and it has applied to all their descendants. The Gentiles who “had not the law” (Rom. 2:14) committed fornication (Rom. 1:29), which includes every form of sexual immorality, including “adultery” (1Cor. 5:2) and “homosexuality” (Jude 7).
Though this is an important lesson, it is not the main lesson we wish to discuss in this article. Notice that Edom claimed to be neutral toward Israel, but God said: “In the day that you stood on the other side – In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered the gates and cast lots for Jerusalem – even you were as one of them” (Obad. 11). Their indifference was not really indifference, for they “gazed” and “rejoiced” in the day of Judah’s destruction, and even entered the gate to collect spoils (vv. 12,13). Their hatred for their distant brethren was professed in indifference but practiced by active participation when the opportunity arose. Have you ever noticed how often men today who claim that they will “have nothing to do with that person” are not really indifferent, or neutral, when the opportunity arises to do damage?
Another lesson Obadiah taught Edom was the danger of pride. They thought that they were impregnable because of their physical surroundings, but God said: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, who will bring me down to the ground? Though you exalt yourself as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord” (vv. 3,4).
Whether it is “face pride” (how we look), race pride (racial prejudice) or “grace pride” (feeling we are better than others because of our knowledge of truth), it is all wrong, and God would say to us: “I will bring you down!” Jesus said concerning the publican who was humble in his attitude, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14). Peter wrote: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).
God has a way of humbling the proud. Have you ever noticed how often single people who know so much about how children should be raised become silent after they have children, or how often those who say “that will never happen to me,” end up “eating crow”? A haughty, unforgiving, self-righteous spirit is the very opposite of the spirit of Christ. The scribes and Pharisees were “too good” to associate with sinners, and even condemned Jesus for doing so, but Jesus had more sympathy for the sinners than the proud Pharisees had for Jesus! If we are not careful, we can show more of the Pharisaical spirit than the spirit of Christ. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
Let us remember the fact that hatred may be shown in a professed indifference, and that pride is deceptive. We must humble ourselves as little children and be committed to doing right and standing for it.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, p. 325
June 1, 1989