The prophet Obadiah may very well have been an eminent servant of the Lord, in his sermons and preaching and ministry; but in his writings, he is very short indeed. Nevertheless, short as his prophecy is, it carries with it the mark of Divine inspiration. It is probable that he uttered these words of the Lord close to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, for reference is clearly made in these verses to that event.
This prophecy is against the nation of Edom. The Edomites were the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, and so they were the cousins of the Israelites. Obadiah begins his message to them with a peculiarly dignified and authoritative introduction – declaring their doom, asserting the hand of Jehovah in this ruin, rebuking the proud attitude of Edom, and announcing the far-superior power of God. And although the words of this prophecy were originally spoken against the Edomites, they also have a broader spiritual reference to the destruction of all the enemies of the people of God.
The prophet predicted the destruction of the fall of Edom; he says that they shall be spoiled and brought down, despite the security that they boasted of in the natural defensive fortresses which were literally carved out of cliff-faces. One of the most famous of these rock-cities is known to us as Petra, and its ruins may still be seen in the modern-day country of Jordan. In these rocky strongholds, they built their nests like the eagle (verse 4); nevertheless, the Lord assured them that from the height of their fortifications, He would certainly bring them down. All the enemies of Christ and His Bride shall be disappointed in the things that they promise themselves safety in. God can easily lay those low who magnify and exalt themselves, and He will surely do so. Carnal security ripens people for ruin, and it makes that ruin worse when it comes. This was the case with the Edomites (verses 5-9). Obadiah prophesied that the desolation of Edom would result in the complete carrying away of their riches and possessions, which shows that the ruin would be effected by the hand of the Lord; for even thieves and robbers do not usually steal everything – only those things that they deem to be of value (verse 5). Treasures on earth cannot be safely laid up, for they may easily be stolen from us; therefore, if we are wise, we will lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
But in addition to the Edomites’ pride, there was another great sin that they were guilty of (verses 10-14); and it was a crime that was very provoking to the Lord. Their barbarous conduct toward His people, the Jews, is charged upon them. In the day when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, the people of Edom had encouraged the ruthless conquerors to complete the work of destruction (Ps. 137:7; Ezek. 25:12-14). And now the Lord was about to remember their hateful words, and bring them to judgment for them. He had spared the Edomites from the time that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt. And even when they rudely denied the Israelites access through their land; the Lord told the Israelites to make a long circuit, with great inconvenience, so that they might not touch their land. But the Edomites had never acknowledged their kindness; and although Esau and Jacob were apparently reconciled to each other at last, the ancient feud was still cherished between their descendants. And when the Babylonians effected the fall of Jerusalem, the Edomites supposed that their objective of vengeance was forever gained! So intense was their spirit of malignity, that they essentially sold themselves as slaves to the Babylonians, just so that they could have a hand in the Jews’ last catastrophe! And they watched along the by-ways, in order to cut off the poor Jewish fugitives who fled from the enemy to seek safety in other lands (verse 11).
Jehovah’s patience with the Edomites was exhausted, and so He promised that they would be ruined without future hope. This prophecy was first fulfilled by the invasion of their own land by the Babylonians – the very same conquerors that they had sold themselves to, in order to play a part in the fall of Jerusalem! At a later period, the Maccabees exercised dominion over them; and later still, the Romans completed their devastation – and so the Edomites ceased to exist as a nation. The famous ruins of the Edomite rock-city of Petra teach us a very impressive lesson. In her present condition, we see not only the accomplishment of all the denunciations against Edom, but also a warning of the certainty with which all of God’s righteous judgments against sin will be fulfilled. If we read the lesson rightly, every stony fragment of that desolated city will seem to address us with this solemn admonition: “Think ye that they were sinners above all men because they suffered such things? I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
While the prophet saw the coming judgment upon Edom, and uttered his curse upon the cowardice of those who rejoiced in his countrymen’s calamity; he still saw the day of restoration for his afflicted brethren, and spoke of it for their comfort (verses 17-21). But the restoration of Israel and the destruction of the Edomites were pictures and foretastes of the prosperous condition that the Church would experience under the Gospel, when all spiritual enemies were put down. When Christ came – and not until then – the Kingdom became the Lord’s, in the fullest sense of the term (verse 21). Just as none who exalt themselves against the Lord shall prosper, but all shall be brought down; so also, none who wait upon the Lord and put their trust in Him shall ever be disappointed!
Thank You, Lord, that while Your Word condemns obstinate unbelievers, it is a savor of life unto Your children; and the Kingdom shall be Yours forever! Amen.
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