You have been warned! Rejection of God’s Messiah was, and is, spiritual suicide. These Jewish believers and those Jews who were perhaps near to coming to faith needed to understand something fundamental: there was no alternative route to salvation. Jesus was and is the only way! Our God is a great Judge as well as a great Saviour, and so he will not overlook unforgiven sins. Reject Jesus and there is no further hope. This warning is one of five placed strategically within Hebrews – the number ‘five’ mirroring the first five books of the Old Testament scriptures. If you disregard the gospel, things will be worse for you than if you just disregarded the Law of Moses. God has confirmed the truth of the gospel, not only from the lips of Jesus himself, but also from acts of the Holy Spirit through members of his church.
The remained of the chapter exists to make that case that Jesus was/is fully human. As a mediator of God’s salvation, he needed to be one hundred percent God and one hundred percent human – which of course He was. Jesus was made human, like us, tempted like us, suffered like us, and died physically like us. He had to be like us in every respect, so that he could act as a priest (= mediator), representing mankind before God’s heavenly throne.
He also needed to be human so that he could be killed, as part of the Father’s plan to break the power that the Devil had over us through death. And not only death itself, but also our fear of death! By dying the way he did, he became the ultimate sacrifice of atonement – deflecting God’ justifiable anger away from us deserving sinners – and could take our sins upon himself. And in the process of living as a man, he understood completely what it was to be tempted and to fight against temptation. He never gave in.
The shortest and probably least-known book in the Old Testament. Obadiah was a very common name in Israel at the time – it means ‘Servant of the Lord’ – and bible scholars have found it hard to nail down the precise time and place that he lived. It is interesting that one of the few men in Ahab’s Israel to give help to Elijah was a man called Obadiah, Ahab’s palace administrator, who was a devout believer in the Lord and had sheltered and fed a hundred of the Lord’s true prophets to avoid Jezebel killing them. The scriptures say that whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward (Matthew 10:41); perhaps God spoke prophetically to and through Obadiah from then on! (But I am just speculating.)
The theme is God’s judgment upon the nation of Edom, which had attacked and rebelled against Judah during Jehoram’s reign – say, 900 BC, making Obadiah a contemporary of Elijah and Elisha. Alternatively, he may have been a contemporary of Jeremiah in around 600 BC; Obadiah 1-6 and Jeremiah 49:9-10 are strikingly similar.
The Edomites are related to the Israelites through their ancestors, the brothers Esau and Jacob. Edom (meaning ‘Red’) is a nickname of Esau (meaning ‘hairy’) and we remember that he sold his birthright to Jacob in exchange for a delicious bowl of stew. Later on, he missed out on his father Isaac’s blessing, which was also taken by Jacob. The two men, over time, became two great nations. Edom, the nation, inhabited the land to the south of Judah, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, and extended to the eastern side of the Dead Sea where modern day Jordan is located. Much of it was mountainous and much was a wilderness. Its capital city was Bozrah.
Tradition says that when the Jews were under attack from the Arabs or the Philistines or the Babylonians, the Edomites blocked their escape and handed them over to their attackers – rather than giving them help. (See verse 14.) Therefore, prophetically, God spoke judgment over Edom through this prophecy by Obadiah.
There are several strong parallels between Obadiah and the Book of Revelation: Look at Obadiah 1 and 2, compared with Revelation 17:4, 16. Similarly Obadiah 3-6 are similar to Revelation 18:7, 8.
Edom was criticised for her pride and arrogance: “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?’” (v3). Edom occupied a high rocky desert fortress that was virtually impregnable to any invasion force. However, God says (in verse 4): “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord”. And more than that: they will not just suffer a significant defeat, they will be completely wiped out – destroyed forever! (See 5-10.)
The reasons given by the Lord are in the next few verses:
- Failing to protect and help their ‘brother’ Judah, whilst strangers attacked them (11)
- Gloating over Judah’s misfortune and defeat (12-13)
- Massacring the defeated army of Judah as they tried to escape their pursuers (14)
Judgment will therefore come from Judah itself and other nations will eventually occupy their empty territory (16-21). Eventually the conquered kingdom will be the Lord’s (21). This prophecy was eventually fulfilled in its entirety by the returning Jews from exile. God’s word may take longer than we wish or expect to be fulfilled, but it is certain that fulfilment will come!