Friday, October 13, 2023

Prophecy Update: "A Wasted Heritage"

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "A Wasted Heritage"
Written by:
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In light of the Muslim attack last week in Israel, I thought it would be good to take a break from the Book of Revelation. Our teaching this morning will be an interesting preview of reasons why God sends judgment against His enemies.

The name Obadiah means “servant of God,” and there is evidence from Obadiah’s prophecy that he wrote during the reign of Athaliah’s family (2 Kings 8:16-27). It was King Ahaziah, son of Athaliah and King Jehoram of Judah. He reigned for one year at age 22, and did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 Kings 8 covers the rebellion of Edom against God, and His children. There is one caveat to this: if, as many believe, the Prophet Joel wrote during the reign of Joash, then Obadiah is the first of the writing prophets, and he is also the first to use the phrase “the day of the Lord.”

Obadiah writes of Edom’s rebellion. The Edomites are the children of Esau, brother to Jacob, the Patriarch of the 12 Tribes. Edom covers the region south of the Dead Sea, which takes us into Jordan, and northern Saudi Arabia.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan was used as a place of exile for the strict beliefs of Islam. Thieves, robbers, and law breakers would flee to Jordan instead of facing death or the amputation of an offending limb. Brutality is still a mark of the Muslim faith.

When the Jewish State gained its independence in 1948, the land was barren, and merely managed after WW1 by the “British Mandate of 1923.” But Kubutzes were formed and community co-ops began farming, and as the land began to flourish, the Israelis invited many from Jordan to come and help to farm the land and harvest the crops.

Hungry for work and a paycheck, they came, and today’s Palestinians are their children. They have flourished in the land just like the Jews, and the land that they worked. But the land was given to the Jews by the League of Nations, precursor to the United Nations. It's Jewish land.

Jeremiah 4:1 – “If you will return, O Israel,” says the Lord, “Return to Me; And if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved.”

Bobservations' Column - Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
Prophecy Update: "A Wasted Heritage" - Obadiah 1

Summary/Bible Notes:  

This morning we are taking a short detour from our ongoing study in the book of Revelation in light of current events in the Middle East. We’ve gotten used to stories of violence, turmoil, and political upheaval in the Middle East as a regular feature of our daily news. The truth is, conflict has always been a factor in that part of the world. The terrorist group, Hamas, that attacked Israel this past week is nothing new in Israel's history. The ongoing battle between Israel and the Arab nations remind us of the story of Jacob and Easau. Today our text is in Obadiah chapter 1.

Obadiah is an excellent introduction to Old Testament prophecy. In just 21 verses, it covers all of the typical contents found in the prophets. Themes of wrongdoing, imminent judgment, God's mercy, and His restoration are all found in this short book.

Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is only 21 verses long. Obadiah is a prophet of God who uses this opportunity to condemn Edom for sins against both God and Israel. The Edomites are descendants of Esau and the Israelites are descendants of his twin brother, Jacob. A quarrel between the brothers has affected their descendants for over 1,000 years. 

Obadiah's prophecy was probably written around 586 BC, during an especially dark time for Israel. Around 588 or 587 BC, the Babylonian empire, under Nebuchadnezzar, attacked for the third time in as many decades (Daniel 1:1–4; 2 Kings 24:8–20; 2 Kings 25:1–7). This time, they not only took many of the people as captives, they also sacked Jerusalem and burnt the temple. Edom did not come to help their "brother" nation. In fact, they actually helped the Babylonians. Edom blocked the road and caught Jewish fugitives, handing them over to Babylon. In payment, they were allowed to loot Jerusalem along with the other invaders. Most of the specific accusations made in the book of Obadiah revolve around this incident.

Unfortunately for Edom, Obadiah's prophecy would be fulfilled fairly quickly. Not long after, one of Edom's supposed allies, the Nabateans, sprang a trap. While supposedly attending a banquet, the Nabateans surprised the Edomite soldiers and routed them. The nation which had been so strong, and laughed at Israel's misery, was suddenly destitute and driven from their homes. The book of Malachi, written after Israel had returned home from the Babylonian captivity, describes the cities of Edom as ghost towns (Malachi 1:2–5).

Edomites who survived this invasion settled south of Hebron, where they faded into obscurity. Known later as Idumeans, they were bullied by most other nations, including Israel, and later Rome. Herod the Great, who tried to have Jesus killed as an infant (Matthew 2:16–18), was Idumean—an Edomite. The remaining Edomites joined with Jews in rebellion against Rome in AD 70, and were essentially obliterated. As a nation, they became extinct.

The very end of Obadiah includes predictions which look forward to the end times, when the territory of Edom will be occupied by Israel, and ruled directly by God.

Concerning Edom:  Obadiah's entire one-chapter prophecy deals with God's coming judgment on Edom, the nation founded by Jacob's twin brother, Esau.  

Edom was an ancient people group that inhabited the land south of Judah and the Dead Sea. The Edomites, also called Idumeans, descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Genesis 36:1). They were of great historical importance as descendants of both Isaac and Abraham. The word Edom in Hebrew means “red,” a reference to Esau’s reddish look at birth (Genesis 25:25). Yet, despite their shared ancestry, the Edomites and Israelites lived in almost perpetual conflict. Edom refused to allow the Israelites to pass through their territory en route to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14-21). They fought with King Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-25), opposed King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22), and rebelled against King Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:8).

This kingdom had developed a government led by kings long before the monarchy arose in Israel. Genesis 36:31-39 lists the eight Edomite kings up to that time, delineating a long line of political leaders during the years in which Israel lived in slavery in Egypt.

A prominent city in Edom was Petra. This city, accessible only through a narrow canyon within cavernous mountain walls, was featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  In the fifth century B.C., a people called the Nabateans defeated the Edomites and removed them from Petra. The Edomites were forced to move south of Israel in an area that would become known as Idumea. In the New Testament, Herod the Great, who commanded the murder of all boys two years old and younger in Bethlehem (Matthew 2), was an Idumean.

In Obadiah, Edom is mentioned twice by name (1:1, 8). Yet the focus of the entire book is on Edom’s destruction as God meted out His judgment on a historically rebellious people.

Obadiah prophesies that Edom would be “small among the nations . . . utterly despised” 
(Obadiah 1:2); that Edom’s best-laid plans would come to naught (verse 8); and that Edom would be completely destroyed: "And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it" (verse 18).

Obadiah’s prediction came true in the fifth century B.C. when Edom was removed from Petra. The Edomites would later disappear from history completely, marking the total destruction of one of Israel’s enemies. In His dealings with Edom, God kept His promise to His people, "
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3).

Key Verses:
  • Obadiah 1:4 - "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord."
  • Obadiah 1:12 - "But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress."
  • Obadiah 1:15 - "For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head."

Obadiah prophesies judgment against Edom in context with the Day of the Lord when God will judge all nations (v15), and then restore the remnants of Israel and Judah, allowing them to take possession of the territories of their enemies (v17-21).

Clefts of the Rock - Edom's main city was the famous "rock city," Sela, or Petra, considered almost impregnable because of the very narrow gorges which were its only assess routes.  Edom also controlled the chief trade routes between Asia and Egypt, becoming very propserous. 

Against His Brother Jacob - Bible commentators have often written about Jacob and Esau as though Esau were the innocent victim of Jacob's greed. However, a careful reading of the record will indicate that God-ordained Jacob the leadership of the chosen nation of Israel.  Esau's determination to get even, by slaying Jacob, plus the influence of his pagan wives carried over into the attitude of all his descendants toward the children of Israel with hatred and violence.  

This week we watched the Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the slaying of Jews in Israel.  God didn't turn a blind eye in the Old Testament, and He will not turn a blind eye today.

The Day of the Lord - The phrase “day of the Lord” usually identifies events that take place at the end of history (Isaiah 7:18-25) and is often closely associated with the phrase “that day.” One key to understanding these phrases is to note that they always identify a span of time during which God personally intervenes in history, directly or indirectly, to accomplish some specific aspect of His plan.

Most people associate the day of the Lord with a period of time or a special day that will occur when God’s will and purpose for His world and for mankind will be fulfilled. Some scholars believe that the day of the Lord will be a longer period of time than a single day—a period of time when Christ will reign throughout the world before He cleanses heaven and earth in preparation for the eternal state of all mankind. Other scholars believe the day of the Lord will be an instantaneous event when Christ returns to earth to redeem His faithful believers and send unbelievers to eternal damnation.

The phrase “the day of the Lord” is used often in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5) and several times in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). It is also alluded to in other passages (Revelation 6:17; 16:14).

The Old Testament passages dealing with "the day of the Lord" often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” (Isaiah 13:6); "For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen." (Ezekiel 30:3); "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand" (Joel 2:1). See also: Joel 3:14; Zephaniah 1:7. The Old Testament passages referring to the day of the Lord often speak of both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much of Old Testament prophecy. Some Old Testament passages that refer to the day of the Lord describe historical judgments that have already been fulfilled in some sense (Isaiah 13:6-22; Ezekiel 30:2-19; Joel 1:15, 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18), while others refers to divine judgments that will take place toward the end of the age (Joel 2:30-32; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:1, 5).

The New Testament calls it a day of “wrath,” a day of “visitation,” and the “great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14) and refers to a still future fulfillment when God’s wrath is poured out on unbelieving Israel (Isaiah 22; Jeremiah 30:1-17; Joel 1-2; Amos 5; Zephaniah 1) and on the unbelieving world (Ezekiel 38–39; Zechariah 14). The Scriptures indicate that “the day of the Lord” will come quickly, like a thief in the night (Zephaniah 1:14-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:2), and therefore Christians must be watchful and ready for the coming of Christ at any moment.

Besides being a time of judgment, it will also be a time of salvation as God will deliver the remnant of Israel, fulfilling His promise that “all of Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), forgiving their sins and restoring His chosen people to the land He promised to Abraham (Isaiah 10:27; Jeremiah 30:19-31, 40; Micah 4; Zechariah 13). The final outcome of the day of the Lord will be that "
And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." (Isaiah 2:17). The ultimate or final fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the day of the Lord will come at the end of history when God, with wondrous power, will punish evil and fulfill all His promises.

Possess Their Possessions - The children of Esau, as well as those of Ishmael, Lot, and others, have thus far kept "the house of Jacob" from obtaining their divine inheritance, as promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as David.  Eventually, however, God's Word will be vindicated, and Israel will "possess their possessions" in the coming age of Christ's kingdom.

Saviours (verse 21)
This verse is an explicit reference to the millennial kingdom of the end times. In the end times, Israel will be restored to her Promised Land. Part of that restoration will be rulership over the lands which once belonged to the Edomites. Verse 18 seems to suggest that there will not be any descendants of Esau left at that time.

This is an example of Old Testament prophets looking forward, and seeing the future both in the near-term, and the long-term. Obadiah's predictions about the destruction of Edom were fulfilled not long after these words were written. The eventual restoration of Israel, and the rule of the Lord (Zechariah 14:9), will not occur until the very end. As with all instances of God's judgment, the end goal is restoration and reconciliation, not merely revenge.

In the last days, "out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from
 Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).  There is, of course, only one Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He shall reign from Jerusalem in the day.  However, Christ has also promised that "he that him will I give power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Revelation 2:26-27).  

Mount of Esau - The "Mount of Esau" was Mount Seir, whereas "Mount Zion" could be called the mount of Jacob.  "...Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau" (Malachi 1:2-3).  Such was God's evaluation of this rivalry, leading finally to Esau's (Edom's) destruction.

At the end of it all, the Lord reigns as king from Mount Zion, and those who have been delivered by him rule with him over Esau's mountain (v21). Esau's mountain has a double meaning in that Edom was originally the region around Mount Seir, between the Dead Sea and Aqaba. But mountains metaphorically represent kingdoms, so the Lord is portrayed as ruling over Esau's kingdom. By the 6th century BC, Edom was considered to extend southward into what is now Saudi Arabia, as far as Dedan (modern-day Al-Ula) - (see Ezekiel 25:13 and Jeremiah 49:8).

Obadiah is a case study of Gen. 12:1–3, with two interrelated themes: 1) the judgment of Edom by God for cursing Israel. This was apparently told to Judah, thereby providing reassurance to Judah that the Day of the Lord (v. 15) would bring judgment upon Edom for her pride and for her participation in Judah’s downfall; 2) Judah’s restoration. This would even include the territory of the Edomites (vv. 19–21; Is. 11:14). Obadiah’s blessing includes the near fulfillment of Edom’s demise (vv. 1–15) under the assault of the Philistines and Arabians (2 Chronicles 21:8–20) and the far fulfillment of the nation’s judgment and Israel’s final possession of Edom (vv. 15–21).

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