Weâ€™re continuing our study of the minor prophets today with Obadiah. Obadiah. When I found out this weekâ€™s lesson was on Obadiah, my first obvious question was, â€œWho in the heck is Obadiah?â€ Isnâ€™t he one of the Beverly Hillbillies? â€œLet me tell you â€˜bout a story â€˜bout a man named Obadiah.â€ Or is he the subject of that famous Beatleâ€™s song, â€œO-bla-di, O-bla-dah, O-ba-di-a! Lala how the life goes on.â€
Well, it turns out Obadiah isnâ€™t either one of those two choices. Obadiah is the smallest book in the bible, a single chapter of 21 verses, probably a single page in your bible. But donâ€™t let the small size fool you; God has a powerful message in this little book.
First, letâ€™s look at the history. Who is Obadiah? The answer is, we really donâ€™t really know. There are at least 12 people named Obadiah in the Old Testament, but none of them seem to be this particular Obadiah. â€œObadiahâ€ mean â€œservant of Jehovah,â€ and in Obadiah 1:1 it begins, â€œThe vision of Obadiah. This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom.â€ Perhaps Obadiahâ€™s anonymity in itself is meaningful; if we are a true humble servant of the Lord, then it doesnâ€™t matter if we become famous and our identity is passed along through generations. Obadiah simply appears and announces the vision of God that he has received. Edom will be destroyed.
So who is this Edom? Letâ€™s back up to Genesis 17 where God promises Abraham to make him the father of many nations. Abraham has to wait 4 chapters, all the way to Genesis 21 before Sarah bears him a son named Isaac. Three chapters later in Genesis 24, Isaac is all grown up and falls in love with Rebekah, and in Genesis 25, Rebekah has twin boys, Esau and Jacob. We are told these boys fought in their motherâ€™s womb and they continued to fight their whole lives, from Genesis 25 to Genesis 33. You may remember that Esau sold his spiritual birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. While this doesnâ€™t say much in favor of Jacob, it says a lot about Esau who would rather satisfy his hunger than obtain his birthright. Jacob eventually begins the nation of Israel; in Genesis 36, Esau begins the nation of Edom by defying the Lord and taking two wives. Esau was the father of the Edomites.
Edom and Israel never got along, even though they shared a common ancestry in Isaac. Edom makes another appearance in the book of Numbers. Moses is finally ready to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, but they have to pass from the desert of Sinai through Edom to get there. Was Edom helpful? No, they were not. When Moses asks permission to pass through, Edom replies in Numbers 20:18, “You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.” Israel was forced to go around Edom.
Now, Israel spent some time defying the Lord for the rest of the Old Testament. God made incredible promises if only Israel will follow Godâ€™s laws and be faithful to the Lord. Israel was about as successful at that as, well, we are today. When Israel falls short, God punishes Israel. In 586 BC, Jerusalem is defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews are brought to Babylon in exile. Now, Edom is a large country to the south of Jerusalem, and they share a common ancestor with Israel. Do the Edomites help their sister country when Nebuchadnezzar attacks? No, they do not. They sit in their fortified cities on a hill, brag about how big and strong Edom is and how weak Israel is, and when the opportunity arises, the Edomites sweep in and loot whatever is left of Jerusalem. Not exactly the kind of neighbors you hope for in tough times.
In the book of Obadiah, the prophet tells Edom that the Lord is not amused. While Israel is being punished because they do not follow all of Godâ€™s laws, Edom isnâ€™t following any of Godâ€™s laws. Edom feels they are invincible, powerful, and mighty. In Obadiah 1:3-4, the Lord says to Edom,
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,”
declares the LORD.
What was Edomâ€™s great sin? Pride. Letâ€™s read Obadiah 1:11-14 and see what Edom did instead of helping their neighbor:
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.
Apparently Edom laughed when Jerusalem was in trouble. Not only that, but they helped themselves to the plunder, and when they found Jews fleeing the city, the Edomites killed them or handed them over to Nebuchadnezzarâ€™s army. Sort of like coming across an old lady trying to cross the street who is obviously bewildered and confused. Edom pushes the old lady into traffic and steals her handbag. And all of this behavior and attitude rooted is in the pride of Edom.
Before I continue, I want to ask a couple of questions about the most offensive sins. What is the most offensive sin to you personally? Either when you commit a sin, or when somebody else commits a sin in your presence. Murder? Adultery? Whatâ€™s another really offensive sin?
Hereâ€™s 3 examples. Imagine you see a Sunday school teacher at a wet t-shirt contest. Imagine you read about a church deacon that was arrested for breaking into a convenience store. Imagine a prayer warrior proud of the number of people heâ€™s led to Christ.
That last one doesnâ€™t seem so terrible, does it? Our human perception doesnâ€™t rate â€œprideâ€ very high on the scale of serious sins, but Godâ€™s perspective is not the same as ours. In Godâ€™s sight, pride is worse that stealing. Itâ€™s worse than drunkenness. Imagine saying, â€œHeâ€™s a good man but proud.â€ Doesnâ€™t sound so bad, does it? Now imagine saying, â€œHeâ€™s a good man but a thief.â€ Pride is the sin of sins, and all the more devious because the nature of pride is so hard to recognize in ourselves. Weâ€™ve probably heard Proverbs 16:18 before that says, â€œPride goes â€¦ before a fall.â€ Weâ€™re less familiar with Proverbs 16:5, â€œThe Lord detests the proud of heart,â€ and Proverbs 6:16-17 that basically says God hates pride.
What is pride? Simply put, itâ€™s a belief in oneâ€™s own importance and superiority. Itâ€™s a reliance on self instead of God. It is the attitude of a life that declares an ability to live without God. Pride says we donâ€™t need God. Pride, therefore, is the root of unbelief, and thatâ€™s why pride is the sin of sins. In Obadiah, we can see how the pride of Edom led to other sins. In verse 10, pride led to violence against Israel. Verse 11, Edom â€œstood aloofâ€ while Israel was being destroyed. This is the sin of omission; itâ€™s the sin of saying, â€œDonâ€™t get involved.â€ In verse 12, Edom looks down on Israel and rejoices over Israelâ€™s troubles. To feel superior to Israel, Edom boasted and rejoiced over Israelâ€™s troubles. Feeling good because somebody else is suffering misfortune is a symptom of pride, and if we put them down, it is a symptom of pride.
Verse 13, Edom looted Israel during their disaster. After a disaster; a tornado, a hurricane, a flood, whatâ€™s the appropriate Christian response: help or loot the victims? Verse 14, pride leads to betrayal. As the Jewish survivors fled, Edom helped the enemy kill the Jews. Pride can lead us to stab another in the back just to improve our own situation.
Thatâ€™s why pride is the sin of sins. By itself, pride doesnâ€™t seem so bad to us. God knows, though, that pride is a reliance and a dependence on oneâ€™s self instead of relying on God and will lead to a multitude of other sins. Human pride denies God the honor due Him. Human pride rejects the need for our Savior.
In Matthew 11:25-26, Jesus tells us that pride makes us â€œknow-it-allsâ€ and that it pleases God to hide things from know-it-alls. He says, â€œAt that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.â€
When we are self-reliant and proud, we are often not even aware of it. We tell ourselves we are being obedient to the Lord while living a disobedient life. We become a â€œpractical atheistâ€ â€“ one who attends church and bible study and openly confesses Jesus as lord â€“ but then lives everyday as though God does not exist. And we all do that, each and every one of us, every time we sin and fall short of Godâ€™s mark.
Benjamin Franklin had a list of 12 virtues he practiced that he said led to moral perfection:
1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11.TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
One day a Quaker friend told him that Benjamin Franklin sure took a lot of pride in his moral perfection, so Ben added a 13th virtue: humility. Here is what Benjamin Franklin wrote about pride:
My list of virtues contain’d at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show’d itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc’d me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list).
In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
Pride is something we all suffer from. If we think we do not suffer from pride, then it is possible pride is blinding us to our pride. Pride is real easy to recognize in others, though, isnâ€™t it? Itâ€™s because when we see pride in somebody else, weâ€™re smugly saying, *I* donâ€™t suffer from pride like *he* does. Like Benjamin Franklin, we are being proud of our humility.
C.S. Lewis has this to say about pride:
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, grief, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison; it was through pride that the devil became the devil; pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that- and, therefore know yourself as nothing in comparison- you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see Something that is above you.
So how do we recognize pride in ourselves? How do we know when our own pride is blinding us to our own pride? Jacob, the Archbishop of Nizhegorod of the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote this about how to recognize pride within oneself:
â€œIn order to understand and recognize [pride], notice how you feel when those around you do something against your will. If within you there arises not the thought of meekly rectifying the mistake of others, but discontent and anger, then know that you are extremely proud. If even the smallest lack of success in your affairs oppresses you, so that the thought of the participation of Godâ€™s Providence in our affairs does not cheer you up, then know that you are extremely proud. If you are wrapped up in your own needs and cold towards the needs of others, then know that you are extremely proud. If the sight of othersâ€™ misfortune, particularly that of your enemies, makes you merry, while the unexpected good fortune of those around you makes you sad, then know that you are extremely proud. If you are offended even by the slightest remarks concerning your shortcomings, while praises of your imaginary worth seem wonderful and admirable to you, then know that you are extremely proud.â€
Pride is being â€œfull of yourself.â€ Pride is saying, â€œitâ€™s all about me.â€ Pride is saying, â€œI am better than youâ€ or saying â€œyouâ€™re worse than I am.â€ The opposite of pride is being full of the Holy Spirit. The opposite of pride is saying, â€œitâ€™s all about God.â€ The opposite of self-centered pride is humility.
The opposite of pride is not, as some people seem to think, low self-esteem. Pride is thinking too highly of yourself. Low self-esteem is thinking too lowly of yourself. Humility is not thinking of yourself at all; humility is thinking of others.
How do we replace pride with humility? God provides the answer with the fruit of the Holy Spirit which includes humility. Ask the Lord to show you your own pride. When you speak to others, do you speak down to them? Are you focused on your own feelings, or are you focused on the feelings of others? Do you belittle people and tell them whatâ€™s wrong with them? Thatâ€™s pride talking. Instead, lift up people with your words and actions. Tell people about their strength and what you admire about them instead of what you donâ€™t like about them. Donâ€™t try to put them down or put yourself up; leave that to the Lord. James 4:10 says, â€œHumble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.â€ Proverbs 11:2 says, â€œWhen pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.â€
So where is Edom today? No, really, where is Edom today? You donâ€™t know, either? They soared like eagles, they built their nest among the stars, but in Obadiah 1:5, the Lord says he will obliterate Edom and there will be nothing left. If thieves break into your house, they steal what they want but they still leave something behind. But the Lord says of Edom nothing, nothing at all will be left. Where is Edom? By the time we get to the book of Malachi, Edom is gone. In the book Malachi, God tells Israel that He loves them even though Israel deserves punishment. Malachi 1:2-5 says
“I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD -even beyond the borders of Israel!’
In 164 BC, Judas Maccabeeus overthew the nation of Edom and by the time of Christ, Edom no longer existed. The last recorded Edomite in the bible tried to kill Christ as an infant. Herod, descendent of Edom, still suffering from pride.
Godâ€™s will is not subject to manâ€™s will. Pride tells us we can tell God what to do, but God will do as He pleases, and God invites us to participate. God always fulfills His promises. He promised to demolish Edom, and Edom is no more. God is sovereign, God is all powerful. Obadiah in the first verse recognizes this by calling God â€œthe Sovereign LORDâ€ or â€œLord GODâ€ depending on your translation. The Hebrew is â€œAdonai Yahweh.â€ Adonai means â€œLord or Masterâ€ and acknowledges that God is the Lord over all creation. Yahweh or Jehovah is the personal, covenant name for God, and means â€œthe one who isâ€. God is absolute and God is unchangeable. By putting â€œAdonaiâ€ and â€œYahwehâ€ together, Obadiah recognizes God both as ruler of the universe as well as the personal ruler of the people of Judah.
Adonai Yahweh. Adonai Jehovah. Everlasting, unchanging God of Creation, and everlasting God of me. God hasnâ€™t changed. When God says he hates pride, God still hates pride. And God will defeat pride. Those that ignore God and consider themselves superior to God, they will have their Day of Judgment. For believers in Christ, Christ will deliver us from our pride if we trust in Him. Obadiah 1:17-18 says,
But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy,
and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.
The house of Jacob will be a fire
and the house of Joseph a flame;
the house of Esau will be stubble,
and they will set it on fire and consume it.
There will be no survivors from the house of Esau.”
The LORD has spoken.
Our deliverance has come if we put our trust in Jesus. Jesus is our deliverance. What is keeping us from acknowledging Jesus as Lord? Some believe that becoming a Christian will restrict their freedom; they will no longer be able to party like they want to. The irony is that it is the Christians who are free, and those that want to party are slaves to that desire. They do not want to give up their freedom because of selfish reasons. They – we – believe we know better than God. We are full of pride.
As we have learned from our study today, God hates the pride that is in each and every one of us, the sin of sins that tells us we can go our own way. Practice today serving humbly and lifting up each other, for it is in humble obedience to the Lord that brings us wisdom. And above all, rest in the sovereign promise of the Lord God that He will deliver us.