Big Lessons From a Little Book

Big Lessons From a Little Book

Of all the minor prophets Obadiah might be the most minor of them all. Keep in mind that this designation is neither about rank nor importance. The term “minor prophet” is simply a nickname earned by the sheer volume and length of these books. Of the 12, Obadiah is the shortest. This one chapter, 21-verse book is not only shorter than the other 11 Minor Prophet books, it’s the shortest book in all the Old Testament.

There are a few other “minor” issues that you might encounter when studying this book. For example, there are more than a dozen men in Scripture with this name and there is no strong evidence (only certain Jewish traditions) that even hint at which Obadiah might be the author. Likewise, scholars are divided on the date of writing. Dates attributed to this book stretch all the way from 900 BC to 400 BC. While there might be some internal evidence that helps and suggests an earlier date (see verse 12), this is still subject to debate. Even the recipients of the book are somewhat minor. The Edomites were the decedents of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother who was deceived out of his blessing and sold his birthright. He was the lesser of the two brothers in the scheme of redemption and God’s covenant promises to Abraham. The Edomites were not minor in receiving God’s blessings, care, and even protection. However, the Old Testament is not their story and the Messiah did not come through their family.

Even with all of these “minor” issues, the lessons found in it are major. Let’s consider three of them this week. I would suggest reading this book in a single sitting before giving attention to these lessons.

First, we cannot ever get so high that God will not bring us down (1-9). Edom took advantage of the topography of their land and used it to flex their national muscle against many people –including that nation of Israel. They took pride in their seemingly impregnable position in the clefts of the rocks and allowed the confidence to mushroom into full-blown pride. Obadiah revealed their high position brought an arrogance of heart (v. 3) that God was going to rebuke and break (v. 4).

We might consider pride to be a sin of attitude rather than action. Consequently, we might see it as a light problem. However, pride heads the list of the things that God hates (Prov. 6:16); it is one of the three major categories of sins as defined by John (1 John 2:16); and it was apparently the sin that motivated Satan, himself (1 Tim. 3:6). Don’t miss it. God will deal with all sin and he will humble the proud!

Second, we should never get so angry that brotherhood is forgotten (10-14). That ancient, in-womb struggle of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:22-23) is now all grown up. Those two boys fathered nations (Jacob/Israel; Esau/Edom). In their story Esau was angry and bitter because of his own shortsightedness and the deceptions of his brother. His ancestors continued that animosity. Obadiah notes they were guilty of violence (10); standing idle while Israel was attacked (11); gloating over Jerusalem’s fall (12); raiding the spoils of the city (13); and preventing their escape (14). What a tragedy it is when anger destroys brotherhood!

Third, we should never feel so lost that Zion is not our hope (15-22). The prophet ends the book by looking to Zion for hope. In Zion there is salvation and holiness (17), there is victory (18), and there is authority (19). Thus, deliverance will come in that mountain (21). This is reminiscent of Isaiah 2:2-3. The hope of any lost people –even those lost because of their own arrogance and anger– is the mountain of God. There we find forgiveness, hope, and security.

What a great book! What a great deliverance! What a great God!

-Wayne Jones


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