Devotion – Obadiah

Background: As the only one chapter book of the Old Testament, we must go back to the first book of the Bible to understand this book.  God called a guy named Abraham and told him that he would make his descendants a great nation.  Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Esau was the older, but God choose Jacob, the younger son, to be the one He would use to raise up His people, the Hebrews.  Esau and Jacob had a combative relationship as brothers.  While Jacob’s descendants became the Hebrew people, the descendants of Esau also became a people, the Edomites.  They lived in a section of land just east of Israel and were their national neighbors, but the relationship of these two countries were the same as the brothers from whom they came.
God’s people, the Hebrews continually rejected God and worshiped other gods, therefore God brought judgment by sending a great army in the Babylonians to conquer them and deport most of the people to Babylon.  It was a terrible thing for the people, but the Bible is clear that this was from God and would be used by Him to transform His people, which it did.  Yet, while it was happening, the Edomites used this conquest as an opportunity to get rich and powerful.  They plundered the cities after the Babylonians came through, stealing the possessions of the Hebrews.  This plundering led to part of the problem that would be experienced by Nehemiah in our current sermon series.  They also turned over Hebrew citizens to the Babylonians, rather than protecting them.      Obadiah is a sermon to the people of Edom, pronouncing judgement for their response during the siege of the Babylonians.  They are scolded for their wickedness to their “brothers”, and reminded that God is sovereign.  Ultimately, Obadiah tells them that they will experience the same fate as their neighbors because of their role in this story.

Application: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany at the time of World War II.  While Hitler did horrific things to the Jews, and multitudes of other people, many of the churches and pastors in Germany threw their support behind Hitler and the Nazi regime, while turning a blind eye to the atrocities being committed.  Bonhoeffer refused, and became a Christian voice speaking prophetically against the anti-semitism of the Nazis.  Because of his opposition, the German government banned him from preaching or any public speaking, but Bonhoeffer became part of an underground church who worked toward justice.  He eventually came to the conclusion that the only way to protect the innocent was to take out Hitler, but the conspiracy was discovered, and Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually hanged.

The decision to take the life of Hitler for the greater good is a tough one.  We could argue over whether this was the right course of action for a Christian to take for days, but don’t miss the larger point.  Most of the church in Germany sat silently with their hands under their butts, doing nothing, or they even involved themselves with the Nazis.  Bonhoeffer understood that the call to follow Jesus was a call to help those who are hurting, and to give himself away to stand for those who could not stand for themselves.

In life, we are confronted with times when people are oppressed, and experience great injustice.  We might encounter an individual who is being robbed or beaten by others.  It might be that a group of people in our city are being treated unfairly.  Or it might be that the culture actually oppresses an entire segment of the society, much like Americans did with African-Americans through slavery.  When these times arrive in life, followers of Jesus are confronted with a decision.  Some respond by justifying the injustice and becoming involved with it.  Pastors in Germany would read from the Bible and then preach sermons filled with support for the Nazis.  Churches in the south used the Bible to justify the inhumanity of slavery.  Others, in fact, most people usually take a neutral position, turning a blind eye to the plight of hurting people.  They aren’t slave owners, or Nazi sympathizers.  They just sit silently on the sidelines and do not get involved.  The third choice is to get involved, standing for justice.  Choosing justice is always the hardest because it can lead to suffering and rejection.  Justice will take time, because you can’t help hurting people without giving time to the effort.  And, in some cases, it might even cost you your life.

The people of Edom either became part of the Babylonian destruction of God’s people, or they sat silently turning a blind eye to the plight of the people who were being captured.  Obadiah let these people know that responding in this way would eventually bring the judgement of God on themselves.  Had they responded with justice, protecting those who were fleeing rather than plundering, God would have blessed them.

Take some time today to think of people around you who are oppressed and hurting.  D you know anyone who is rejected and ridiculed because of their social setting, race, or gender?  It might be a group of people living in poverty.  How can you represent Jesus and live for justice with these people?

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