Because both Obadiah and Jonah are pretty short books, I’m combining them into one reading for today. Brief as these books are, however, they both have plenty of important teachings for us. And so to prevent this posting from turning into a minor book, I will keep my remarks about the highlights brief.
The obligations of family (Obadiah) — The book of Obadiah takes the nation of Edom to task specifically because they were distant brothers. Edom was, you might recall were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. In the Exodus and wilderness wanderings stories Israel (descendants of Jacob) were forbidden to provoke or attack Edom (Esau) because they were brothers. Their relationship between these two brother-nations over the years had been strained, but the obligations of family still applied. Yet, when Israel was being attacked, the Edomites not only stood aloof but even gloated over Israel’s disaster. Family relations are always have their difficulties, whether we’re talking blood families or church families; but it is grudges that must be shunned, not family.
There’s no place safe from God (Obadiah 1:3,4) — The Edomites thought (wrongly) that they were safe from any military attacks, their fortresses were actually carved into the stone mountains of Edom. But there’s no place safe from God. Sometimes men still fool themselves that they have made themselves safe, even from God, through their money, their intellectualism, their science, their military, their arguments, and their hedges against disaster and catastrophe.
The sin and danger of gloating (Obadiah 1:10-16) — What goes around, comes around. What Edom was doing would come back to haunt them. Israel would come back from their captivity and flourish. Edom ultimately would cease to be a distinct nationality in time. Who would be getting the last “laugh”, as it were?
God’s prophecies don’t fail (Obadiah 1:17,18) — The nation and ethnicity of Edom would cease to exist as a distinct group after about 107, after the conquest of Edom by John Hyrcannus. God’s prophecies do not fail — either for good or for ill.
Can you use God against an enemy? (Jonah 1) — Jonah was a contemporary of Jereboam II, Amos, and Hosea. He lived and prophesied a mere 70 years before Israel would be brutally taken off into Assyrian captivity. If Jonah had any inkling of God’s plans for Israel through Assyria (either through something that God revealed to him personally or through the prophecies of Amos and Hosea), it’s easy to see why Jonah may not have wanted Assyria to survive. Jonah’s apparent plan was to use God against them; if they didn’t repent, God would surely destroy them. But will God be used in our personal conspiracies and prejudices? And the answer, of course, is no.
You can run but you can’t hide (Jonah 1) — A common misunderstanding about the gods (including the true God) in the ancient world was that the gods were localized and territory restricted — like men. Wars and conquests and even empires were considered to be not only a human endeavor, but also a divine endeavor — your god wanted to expand his territory. With such a misunderstanding in mind, Jonah was trying to escape the one true and living God, the One without boundaries, by running to Tarshish (modern Spain, like running to the other side of the world). How silly! But wait a minute, isn’t that what men still try to do as they do their evil in isolated areas or in the dark or in their hearts? God caught up with Jonah, and God will catch up with all of us.
The saving power of the spoken word (Jonah 3) — After Jonah is thrown overboard, swallowed by a great sea creature, kept 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the creature, and then vomited out onto the beach, he repented. Reluctantly, he journeys to Nineveh (capital of Assyria), and reluctantly, he preaches repentance. Just as Jonah had feared, Nineveh did repent. But there is a significant lesson here for us here about the power of God’s word as it is preached. Paul stated it well twice in the book of Romans: (Romans 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,” and (Romans 10:13, 14) “for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” People aren’t saved by great examples (as important as examples are for laying the groundwork of the message); they get the chance to be saved by hearing God’s words.
Caring about the wrong thing (Jonah 4) — Are you kidding? Jonah is worried about a stupid plant and his personal comfort more than the souls of the people? We can get quickly and easily outraged at Jonah’s self-centered priorities; but how different is this from getting upset at having to leave our own couches or La-z-Boys and 52″ flatscreen to teach a neighbor, visit a faltering brother, or help a struggling teen? Is it really so different? How many Jonahs does our own age have?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.