Good morning. I hope you are having a great Friday. Yesterday my wife and I were able to take a day trip to Columbus, Ohio. Before I went to United Theological School in Dayton, I went to the Methodist Theological School of Ohio (commonly known as METHESCO)which is just north of Columbus in Delaware, Ohio. While there a group of us went in to the city of Columbus where we ventured into German Village where we ate lunch. For sixteen years I was determined to go back to that restaurant with my wife. Last summer I took her and my ten year old son to the zoo. Afterwards I was brave enough to try and find the German Village. I did it! We ate at the restaurant, but then my wife discovered that in this area there is a book store with over thirty rooms. Thankfully, I mean, unfortunately it was getting late and we had to travel home. I, being the good husband I am, promised to take her back there. Well, yesterday I kept my promise. (This was her 28th anniversary present) And, yes, this place did have over thirty rooms...but if you get claustrophobic...warning...Stay Away! Well, that's enough about my trip, so let's get to work on our daily lesson. *Oh. while there we discovered many other places that we have to visit...next time.
"This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom-We have heard a message from the Lord: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, 'Rise, and let us go against her for battle'-See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised." (Obadiah 1:1-2)
I have no way of knowing, but I would almost imagine that Obadiah was probably a short individual. Why? Because there just seems to be this type of underlying humor throughout the Bible. In fact, the book bearing his name is the shortest book in the entire Hebrew Bible. Then, we discover the words above. Were they to be despised because of their stature? Did this mean others would look upon them as being incompetent? Is there a reason that American Presidents have all been tall? Here's something interesting. As you are probably aware the majority of the New Testament was written (accredited to) the Apostle Paul. Paul was quite a "man of the faith." Do you know what Paul means? Yes, it means "short." And, according to sources Paul stood under five feet tall.
Who was Obadiah? Well, who knows? We know virtually nothing about him. His name means "servant of Yahweh." Therefore, Obadiah had a common Hebrew name. The setting is believed to have been immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. In the book we discover divine condemnation of Edom who took advantage of the Judeans after they were forced to leave Jerusalem. It is also very possible that the Edomites assisted the Babylonians.
"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." (Obadiah 1:13-14)
In stead of helping the Judeans the Edomites meant them further harm. It sounds as though they were like vultures waiting for the perfect opportunity. What really comes to mind is the days of slavery in the American South. I have read where people would capture runaway slaves, then return them to their master. (Most likely collecting a reward) This also reminds me of the many who prey upon victims of circumstance such as flooding, hurricanes, etc. There is always someone ready to prey upon a victim.
There was apparently no one to stop the Edomites. But, Obadiah warns of the Day of Yahweh when God will punish them. That is basically the book in a nutshell. Rather short, isn't it? Yep, there I go with the short jokes. Well, we need to look at the book a little more. Hmm... if the book is dealing with the Edomites perhaps we should ask, "Who were the Edomites?" Well, perhaps you remember a story we looked at involving two brothers. They were twins. One's name was Jacob. He was later renamed Israel. Who was his brother? Yes, Esau. There was an ongoing rivalry between the two of them. Esau was the ancestor of the Edomites. Interesting!
"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..." (Obadiah 1:12)
There is always the temptation to rejoice when the enemy is brought low. We are tempted to say such things like: "They got what they deserved! I've waited for this day for a long time, etc." I remember the day that convicted killer Ted Bundy was executed by the state of Florida. At his execution protestors held up signs with such messages as "Fry, Bundy, Fry." There were others that were similar. Many people cheered at the announcement that he was dead. Were these people family members of his victims? No, they were just there to hold up these signs and cheer. They were just there to be there. Spectators to an execution. Now, was Ted Bundy a murderer? Yes, in fact he raped and murdered many young girls and women across the country. While imprisoned in Colorado he even asked the question: "Which state is the state most likely to execute you if you commit murder?" (This was when capital punishment was just being reintroduced to the U.S. after a hiatus) At that time there had only been two executions within two years. The first one was in Utah where Gary Gilmore had "volunteered" to be executed. (He was on January 17, 1977 by firing squad) Then, in 1979 Florida executed John Spinkelink in the electric chair. He did not "volunteer." The answer to Bundy's question was, "Florida. Florida is the state most likely to execute you." Ted Bundy then escaped and made his way to Florida where he would kill his final victim. He was a bad man. And, he met up with justice. But, in situations such as this what should our reaction be? Or, what if it involves someone whom we just can't get along with? Someone that doesn't like us and is...well, mean to us? Then, some misfortune befalls that person. How should we respond?
Obadiah addresses this problem. Should justice be served? Yes. The destruction of Jerusalem was clearly ordained by God. We have discovered all the reasons why this was "allowed." Yet, God did not rejoice over the punishment of the people. The day that Ted Bundy was executed should, if nothing else, have saddened us all. Why? Because, isn't it sad that we live in a world where a grown, well educated man such as he was, would violate, victimize, brutalize and murder at his pleasure and for his pleasure. Is this a picture of what humans can do? We have justice because a civilized society depends on it. There is also the justice that God deals in.
I remember the day Ricky R. was told he would have to repeat fifth grade. I had been the classmate of Ricky every since day one of elementary school. Ricky was not liked by any of his classmates. I found it hard to like him too. We made fun of him and did cruel things to him when we had the opportunity. (I'm just being truthful) Even the other kids who were picked on picked on Ricky. But, I remember the day he was told he would not be promoted with us. I can't tell you that I ever knew of anyone ever being demoted while attending Thornfield Grade school. (Grades 1-8 even to this day), but Ricky was told he was to repeat fifth grade. He sat by himself afterwards at recess. He was clearly crying. YES!!!! Finally! Ricky is not going to be with us in class! This was our opportunity to rub it in. But, instead, one by one we walked up to Ricky. Not a one of us said anything. We just sat down by him. We just sat there with him, wondering what this really meant. We were not at all happy. There was no reason to be happy on this day.
Well, Obadiah may have been short, but I may have just typed my longest post to date. Join me Monday as we look at the greatest fish tale ever told. Yes, it's the Book of Jonah. You will not want to miss it! -Pastor Rick