Have you read Obadiah lately? If you haven’t, it won’t take you very long because this prophecy is only 21 verses long! That’s right, one short chapter.
How’d this guy even make it into the Bible? His writings hardly seem long enough to be of any use. Well, remember that God can use anybody and anything to guide his people into his will. So reading Obadiah should tell you, first of all, that as unimportant as you are to the world at large, you still count with the Lord.
Obviously, we know little about this prophet. He didn’t even address God’s people with his prophecy. He focused on one of its neighbors, an enemy, Edom, a nation that took advantage of the fall of Jerusalem to raid Judah and to harass the few people who were left. In face of the Edomites’ haughtiness, the prophet Obadiah spoke for God: “‘Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord” (Obad. v.4, NIV). His message, in part, revealed the Lord as Judge and Deliverer of all peoples. Edom would answer for its crimes.
Obadiah announced that a “day of the Lord” was coming and all nations would answer to God for their behavior. “…your deeds will return upon your own head” (v. 15d). Sin will not be ignored by the Lord. He deals with it among all the world’s inhabitants. No sinner can escape his righteousness.
The prophet also announced that God’s people would be avenged. “Jacob will be a fire and Joseph a flame; Esau will be stubble, and they will set him on fire and destroy him. There will be no survivors from Esau. The Lord has spoken” (v. 18). The Lord would use those whom others ruined to ruin their enemies. Another lesson from Obadiah is that the sufferer wins. The one who causes suffering will, in turn, endure the weight of their own wrongdoing. In the end, “…the kingdom will be the Lord’s” (v. 21c).
It’s important to know that the Edomites were relatives of the people of Israel. They had descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother. The ancestors of each nation were brothers; they were Abraham’s descendants together. This brings us to the heart of the Old Testament’s struggle to create a nation holy and pleasing to God. Obadiah is a prophet who spoke to those who needed to hear: The Lord judges all people, including his own chosen ones and all related to them. Divine judgment is no respecter of persons.
You might want to read Jeremiah 49:14-16 in comparison to Obadiah verses 1-4, and Jeremiah 49:9-10 in light of Obadiah verses 5-6. See how the two prophets spoke to people in the Lord’s name. Jeremiah said similar things to Edom as Obadiah proclaimed. God was deeply distressed with how these neighbors and relatives dealt with each other. He warned them both over the years before and after the exile to mend their ways, or he would have to judge them harshly.
Even after the ministry of Jesus Christ, our God continues to be a “consuming fire,” yet as the author of Hebrews instructed us this is a reason to come to God with thanksgiving, worshiping him “acceptably with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28-29, NIV). If we learn this lesson, we’ll appreciate the prophet Obadiah all the more.