I’ve been anticipating all year that when I came to Obadiah, I would have a challenge finding the Gospel. We won’t find specific promises concerning the Messiah or any details of the heart of the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So what Good News is to be found in Obadiah?
Obadiah is a common name meaning “servant of the LORD.” The name is found twenty one times in the Bible, but nothing necessarily links the prophet to any of the others by the same name. His prophecy is just one lonely chapter of twenty-one verses, the only singular chapter in the Old Testament and only matched in the New Testament by Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.
The prophecy is primarily a judgment on Edom as described in verses 10ff.
Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
you will be covered with shame;
you will be destroyed forever.
On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem,
You were like one of them.
You should not look down on 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.
You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster,
nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster,
nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.
You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives,
nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.
When was this? Two eras are proposed, neither conclusive, but both viable options.
1. Was it the 9th Century rebellion against Judah and Jerusalem by Edom as recounted in 2 Kings 8:20-22? If so, Obadiah would have been the contemporary of Elijah’s successor, the prophet Elisha.
2. Was it the late 7th, early 6th century invasion and destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon? If so, Obadiah would have been a contemporary of Jeremiah. This option seems more likely as Edom’s sin appears to be, not so much what they did to Jerusalem, but how they celebrated Jerusalem’s calamity when attacked by others. And there is an interesting parallel between verses 1-9 and Jeremiah 49:7-22, a possible connection between the two prophets.
Who is Edom? Why were they cheering against Judah and Jerusalem?
Hatred between Edom and Judah has roots that go all the way back to the twins sons of Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, who began their struggle with each other while still in the womb. You can read the narrative in Genesis 25-33.
While the two brothers eventually made peace, you get the sense that it was an uneasy peace. And so it was with the nations that came from them, Edom and Israel; or later Edom and Judah* as these two nations bordered each other south of the Dead Sea.
The Gospel in the macro sense is that Obadiah confirms the great promise of the Gospel that Justice will be accomplished in this world.
The day of the LORD is near for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you:
your deeds will return on your own head.
Ancient Edom, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome all faced their day of reckoning. So it will be for modern Syria, Iran, Isis, North Korea, China, Russia, and even the United States of America. God’s rescue, the theme of the whole Bible, would not be complete without justice on the nations. That’s what God promises through Obadiah.
But consonant with that judgment, Rescue and Restoration for God’s people is promised; for believing Israel and for all who bow the knew before the true King, the Messiah, Jesus.
This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan
will possess as far as Zarephath;
the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
will possess the towns of the Negev.
Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau.
And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.
No matter how scattered, God will restore His people. He will gather His people from all peoples and nations into His eternal family.
This last verse echoes the ultimate triumph of the Gospel in the second Advent of Christ, reflected in the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, inspired by the great promise of the Gospel in Revelation 11:15
The Kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ,
and he will reign forever and ever.
* Do you remember? Judah is the southern portion of the split kingdom of Israel and Judah, the north retaining Israel for its name as the majority of the tribes split off; the south known as Judah, the dominant tribe, absorbing Simeon, the area bordering Edom. Edom today is the modern day Kingdom of Jordan.