Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Today we will take a look at Obadiah.


A little book that is never mentioned by Jesus.

Never quoted in the New Testament.

A tiny little one page book that many people have never even read.

When we look at a book like this, one might think, “what qualifies a book to make it into the Bible?”

There are lots of books that were written by men who said they were prophets. We have a book that is titled, “The Epistle of Jeremiah.” Why isn’t that in the Bible?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians mentions a fellow named Clement as one of his “fellow laborers.” (4:3)

We have two of Clement’s letters or epistles.

In one of them, there is this interesting line that is very appropriate for Chapel by the Sea.

"For the whole business of the Church is like unto a great ship, bearing through a violent storm men who are of many places, and who desire to inhabit the city of the good kingdom. Let, therefore, God be your shipmaster; and let the pilot be likened to Christ, the mate to the bishop, and the sailors to the deacons, the midshipmen to the catechists, the multitude of the brethren to the passengers, the world to the sea; the foul winds to temptations, persecutions, and dangers; and all manner of afflictions to the waves; the land winds and their squalls to the discourses of deceivers and false prophets; the promontories and rugged rocks to the judges in high places threatening terrible things; the meetings of two seas, and the wild places, to unreasonable men and those who doubt of the promises of truth.

Why isn’t Clement’s writings included in the Bible?

The books of the Bible are the inspired Word of God. For some people, that means that God dictated certain books word for word. I remember being in an art museum and there were four portraits – one of Matthew, another for Luke, Mark and John – the four writers of the four Gospels. They were each portrayed as being at a desk, writing a Gospel, and behind each was a ghostly image of an angel whispering into the ear of the writer.

That’s not the way God inspired the Bible. It was more complicated than that.

It was part of a process that took centuries.

The oldest books of the Bible were the first five books of the Bible. We often call these the Pentateuch, meaning five books. When they were written on one scroll, they were called the “Torah.”

By the way, as a matter of interest, think of the size of the Torah Scroll. If completely unrolled it would be over 150 feet long. As most sheep are only 2 or 3 feet long, it would take an entire flock of sheep to make enough sheep skin to contain a single Torah Scroll.

These books were copied by perfectionists – people who probably suffered from OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If they made a single mistake, they would remove that one panel – or single sheep skin AND the one that touched it – and throw it away.

This is why there are virtually no significant differences among the different ancient copies of these books. The so-called TRANSMISSION of these books is ultra accurate.

The Spirit of God was not only inspiring the writing of these books, but also the transmission of these books.

And the Spirit of God was guiding the development of the list of holy books – or Canon.

We don’t really know how this happened. In the 19th Century a theory developed that there was a gathering called the Council of Jamnia that decided what was in the Canon and what was not. I remember I was taught that in college. But scholars have pretty much disproved that theory. The Canon was set long before the Council of Jamnia.

The short answer is “God only knows.” We don’t know how the Canon came about, but by the time of Jesus the Canon of the Old Testament was universally accepted.

We can, however, determine that there were four criteria used in the selection of these sacred books.

First, the book was written in Hebrew – the only exceptions were chapters 2 through 7 of Daniel, written in Aramaic. Hebrew was considered the language of Sacred scripture, Aramaic was considered the language of common speech.

Second, the writing had to be sanctioned by usage in the Jewish community. For example, the book of Esther was used at the holiday of Purim, but the book of Judith was not – so Judith is not in the OT, and Esther is.

Third, the writing had to contain one of the great religious themes of Judaism.

Finally, the writing had to be composed before the time of Ezra.

The canon of the New Testament was defined by the end of the First Century AD.

There was some development in this canon. For example, the Gospel of the Hebrews was widely accepted as Scripture. There are several quotations from the Gospel of the Hebrews in some of the first and second century Christian writings, but the actual book was lost. There are no copies in existence. That’s the way the Spirit of God was at work – preserving some books, losing others.

The oldest copies of the New Testament are the Codex Alexandrius and the Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum Library in London, and the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican. A Codex, by the way, was the gathering of sheets of sheep skin, but instead of lined out in a scroll, they were bound together more like a book format. These ancient collections date back to approximately the 300’s AD.

The oldest OT collections go back 1000 years. Small scraps and portions of the Scriptures exist in abundance, and they testify to the accuracy of the transmission of these Holy Books.

These books have been translated over and over. We all know that.

Translations go back to the beginning of the Scriptures. The OT was written in Hebrew and the NT was written in Greek.

In AD 382, Jerome translated the NT into Latin. We often call that the Vulgate. Vulgate for “vulgar” which doesn’t mean offensive, but “common.”

By AD 500, the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages.

But then, just one century later, it was restricted to ONLY one language – the Latin Vulgate. The Roman Catholic Church wanted Latin to be the universal language of Christianity so that no matter where you went, the language of worship was the same. But the problem was that eventually the only people who understood Latin were those who were well educated. Basically, this meant only the priests and very very few others could read the Bible.

The number one reason why we had the Protestant Reformation was the Bible – getting it into the language of the people and reforming the church back into the teachings of the Bible.

The history of the translation of the Bible into English is an interesting history, filled with blood and gore!

John Wycliff is often referred to as the first person to translate the Bible into English. Actually there had been portions of the Bible produced in English for centuries. But Wycliff and his followers translated the entire Bible from the Latin Vulgate in the 14th Century.

He was declared a heritic. Wycliff had a stroke and died, but the church insisted on digging up his body and burning it at the stake for good measure.

William Tyndale was a priest and studied under Martin Luther in Germany. Tyndale translated the Bible into English a little less than a century after Wycliff. Tyndale was also declared a heretic and was strangled at the stake, and then his body burned. Lots of anger there.

King Henry the 8th of England did not like Tyndale’s Bible, so he commissioned a new translation that was done by a group of ten Bishops and it is called the Bishops’ Bible.

These were followed by lots of translations: The Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, Taverner’s Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, another translation that was referred to as the Bishops’ Bible, and then the King James Bible.

New translations are coming out all the time. Some try to limit the vocabulary so that the most common person can read the Bible. Others are revisions of previous translations, others are new translations using the oldest manuscripts, and others are paraphrases.

Take a look now at Obadiah as an example of this process.

Obadiah would preached his prophecies and he wrote this book. The book was then circulated by being copied by hand and distributed to different cities and towns where people worshipped. The translations that we have of Obadiah are based on something called the Masoretic Text, which dates back to a century after the birth of Christ. Obadiah is also in the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-20th Century, and those copies are a 1000 years older, and yet there is no difference in the content.

The theme is similar to a verse from Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:11) “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” and “… there was no profit under the sun” (

If we find security and safety in the things “under the sun” then we are doomed. Think current economy.

But if we trust in God for our safety and security, we will find that God will never be shaken.

Obadiah literally means “Servant of the Lord.” This is a very common name in the Old Testament. There are a dozen other men with that same name.

There are some who believe that the Obadiah who wrote the book that bears his name is the same as the one mentioned in I Kings 18. That Obadiah was employed by King Ahab and helped hid 100 prophets of God. He encountered Elijah on the road and introduced Elijah to Ahab.

But that is questioned by a lot of scholars.

So we really don’t know much about the writer.

But Edom and Israel are two nations that are key to the book.

The animosity between the Edomites and the Israelites is one of the oldest examples of a discord in human relationships. It began even before their ancestors, Esau and Jacob, were born: “The babies jostled each other within her,” in the womb of their mother Rebekah (Genesis 25:22). Then, for a bowl of red stew, Esau eagerly sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob (Genesis 25:29-34). Later Jacob stole the blessing from Esau by deceiving their father into believing Jacob was Esau.

Later, Edomites refused to let the Israelites pass through their land when the Israelites were on the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14, 21). Even then, God told Israel, “Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7). However, the animosity continued for centuries, and the Edomites harbored hostility against Israel and we see this in Ezekial, 1 Samuel 4:47, 2 Samuel, and I Kings. Saul, David and Solomon all had problems with the Edomites.

The enmity between the descendents of Jacob and Esau is seen even in the New Testament. Edom was later controlled by Assyria and Babylon, and in the Fifth century B. C., they were forced to move to the area of southern Palestine, where they became known as Idumeans. Herod the Great was an Idumean. Herod the Great became the King of Judea under Rome in 37 B. C. This was the king who attempted to murder Jesus by ordering that all the babies under two years of age be killed.

Obadiah took up here the topic of the doom of Edom.

What was so wrong about Edom in Obadiah’s time that God was so upset with him and made him the object of His supreme wrath? The basic reasons were his pride and self-sufficiency. The book gives several reasons for this pride and self-sufficiency:

1. Pride because of their safety and security. Obadiah writes:

1 The vision of Obadiah.

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, let us go against her for battle”—

2 “See, I will make you small among the nations;
you will be utterly despised.
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks[a]
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’

Edom’s imposing capital city of Petra was impregnable and virtually inaccessible.

How many of you know about Petra? How many have been there?

It is a great place, but very isolated. It is in the country of Jordan and it is very isolated. It was lost for centuries but was rediscovered in the 19th century.

I was there in the 1970s and at that time the only way you could get there was to take a long bus drive through the desert, then a long horse back ride through the desert and into the mountains. You enter the city through a narrow pathway in a canyon. No way could an army attack this place. Then you take a turn in the trail and suddenly you see this beautiful building carved out of the rock of the canyon.

Edom found her safety and security in her surroundings.

The warning here is that America cannot find our safety and security in our isolation with two oceans, or in our technology, or in the power of our armies. Our personal security is not in the surroundings of our home or property.

2. Pride because of arrogance.

4 Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,”
declares the LORD.

You might apply that to pride because of trust in technology. America’s space program is a source or pride and it would nice to think that someday we will, in the words of Obadiah, make our next among the stars.

But the real interpretation of this is that Edom’s pride is such that it is so arrogant that it would elevate their nation above God.

And that is also a message for America. There is a struggle over God’s place in modern America. Eisenhower was influenced by his Presbyterian preacher in a sermon in which his pastor suggested adding the phrase, “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Others say that those words should be removed from the pledge.

Faith and politics are always a struggle to find a good balance mix, but there are some who would make America a God-free nation. There are those who advocate a freedom FROM religion rather than freedom OF religion.

That is the pride of Edom’s arrogance, and it can become our pride as well if we are not careful.

3. Pride because of her hidden treasures.

5 “If thieves came to you,
if robbers in the night—
oh, what a disaster awaits you!—
would they not steal only as much as they wanted?
If grape pickers came to you,
would they not leave a few grapes?
6 But how Esau will be ransacked,
his hidden treasures pillaged!

Obadiah talks about Edom's hidden treasures (verses 5-6), for which Edom was proud.

These thieves in the night – gotta watch out for them!

Think about the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6 –

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

4. Pride because of her allies and political alliances.

7 All your allies will force you to the border;
your friends will deceive and overpower you;
those who eat your bread will set a trap for you,[b]
but you will not detect it.

We have some great and long time allies. England. Canada. But think about our relationship with Pakistan. Great ally. Important political alliance. But not completely trustworthy, as we have seen so many times, including in the situation with the capture of bin Ladin. We could not trust them and they could not trust us. So nations always need to be careful to look not toward political alliances for security, but to God.

5. Pride because of her military power.

8 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“will I not destroy the wise men of Edom
those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?
9 Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified,
and everyone in Esau’s mountains
will be cut down in the slaughter.

I value our military and I have a sense of pride that our nation has a great military. It was wonderful to see the Seal Team Six rescue the two American relief workers held in the Sudan last week.

I’ve been in several third world countries, and more than once I’ve found myself at some risk. When you are in a country that has no real police force and people begin rioting, it is nice to be able to look on a map and figure out – just in case you need it – three or four routes to the nearest US Embassy. Why? Because at the Embassy you can find the US Marines.

But – our security is not found in military might. Our security is in God.

Edom is a symbol of human philosophy that has no place for God. Strangely enough, if there is any nation on the face of the earth today who can boast of these things listed about Edom, it is the United States of America. Where has all the prosperity, military power, and prominent place in world politics brought us today?

6. Pride of considering "us" better than "them".

10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
you will be covered with shame;
you will be destroyed forever.

In verse ten we see yet another pride of Edom – the pride in persecuting Jacob. Jacob is the brother of Edom.

This might be applied to persecution of God’s people, and it might also be applied to persecution of any of our “brothers and sisters” in humanity.

11 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 were like one of them.” Edom did not invade Jacob, but stood by and did nothing to help.

Thus, one might become guilty by inaction.

15 “The day of the LORD is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;

Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran Pastor in Germany. He initially supported the Nazis but eventually spoke out against Hitler. He was imprisoned and narrowly escaped execution. He is best known for this familiar poem.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

As you have done, it will be done to you, says Obadiah, a book that is never quoted in the New Testament.

But consider Matthew 24

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Obadiah warns us that the answer to that ancient question, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” is “Yes.”

We do not stand by and let harm come to others.

We do not cheer at the defeat of others.

When we come to the end of Obadiah, what do you think we find? Redemption and restoration for the defeated.

20 This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan
will possess the land as far as Zarephath;
the exiles from Jerusalem
who are in Sepharad
will possess the towns of the Negev
21 Deliverers will go up on[c] Mount Zion

to govern the mountains of Esau.
And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.

No comments:

Post a Comment