Obadiah: “For Violence against Your Brother”

Intro: We are out of time – there are more lessons to be considered from the book of Obadiah than we have time to consider this month.

  • There is a lot of talk recently about the prevalence of violence in our society. We are a violent society. When did all this violence begin? The Bible gives us this information. Go all the way back to Gen. 4 and recall the first episode of violence between humans. Cain killed his brother Abel. Gen 4:8 – Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. This is the first murder, but it is more. This is not one stranger killing another (no drive by shooting). This is the most heinous act of violence we can consider among us – One brother killing another.
  • It is disheartening to realize that violence and hatred thrive most in the very place where they should least be expected – among those who know and should care about each other. Only about 21% of homicides are committed by offenders who are strangers. That means that 79% of homicides are between people that who know each other, the majority of them in the same family.
  • Is there a certain heinous quality to such crimes? Certainly there must be. Cain’s action is a symbolic and prophetic characteristic of a society without God and the influence of His word.

I. Edom’s Sin Exposed: Obadiah 10-12 For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. 11 In the day that you stood on the other side — In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem — Even you were as one of them. 12 “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. Obadiah’s condemnation of Edom exposed their violent actions against Israel. For this crime God was going (and did) destroy Edom.

A. The background to this prophecy is important. As you remember, the Edomites descended from Esau, and Israel descended from Jacob. These twin brothers were at odds even from the womb. Although they personally reconciled, the nations that came from them continued their hostility toward each other for generations.

1. In Numbers 20, the Israelites asked the Edomites to allow them to pass through their land on their way to Canaan. Notice that they appealed to the people of Edom as “your brother, Israel”. (v. 14) But Edom was defiant and would not allow them to journey through their land. Numbers 20:18-21 Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” 19 So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” 20 Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.

2. Throughout the history of Israel in Canaan, Edom was an enemy of God’s people. The specific charge against Edom of “standing on the other side” in the day strangers entered Jerusalem (v. 11) has been interpreted to refer to either the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (in 586 BC) or an earlier invasion of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians during the reign of Jehoram. Vs. 12 -14 are depicted by some (NIV and other translations) as warnings for a future day of calamity for Israel.

B. Obadiah seems to condemn Edom for their acts of violence for two primary reasons. These two complaints form a rebuke of our ways at times.

1.For violence against your brother…” God’s first complaint is not that Edom fought against Israel as God’s people. But He condemns them for violence against your brother, Jacob. Brothers do not treat each other that way.

2. “you stood on the other side…” In times of distress they sided with God’s enemies. If you are not on God’s side, you are opposing Him.

Let’s make some applications

II. Acting like Brothers: Have you ever seen two little boys fighting and someone would comment in a nonchalant manner, “Oh, they are just acting like brothers”. What were they implying? That fighting comes natural to brothers? If they were not brothers they probably would not be fighting? We really can’t expect anything different, can we? God would have to understand just the opposite. If anyone could be expected to not fight and mistreat each other it would be brothers and sisters.

A. “You should know better”. That is an applicable response to Christians who fail to treat each other properly. Paul made this same point to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:99 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; He assumes if they are Christians that love has brotherly love has already been a subject of study. The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that it was common among them by commanding “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). One of the identifying characteristics of the first church in Jerusalem was their willing to help each other and give to each other. In one of his last lessons to the apostles before the cross Jesus washed their feet and then told them, John 13:14-15 – If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. It is not hard to recognize that God expects His children to get along. Anything less is sin.

1. Crucial place of brotherly love: The apostle John helps us see this: 1 John 3:10-12 – 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 1 John 4:20-21 – If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

a. But of specific reference in the case against Edom was the willingness to abandon their “brothers” in the time of need. How did they do this? The sin of Edom is described in three specific charges in vs. 12 – 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; nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. (NIV)

b. They were not attacking Israel themselves. They were simply watching and feeling good (rejoicing) about the bad things that were happening to their brothers. In addition they were arrogantly saying “this could never happen to us”. “We are above this.” Christians often view the distress of their fellow Christians (marriage problems, drug abuse, money problems, unemployment, etc) and distance themselves with an attitude that is just glad they are not like that. That is a betrayal, and nothing hurts worse that being betrayed in the time of trouble.

c. Who is my neighbor? In Luke 10 – Jesus told a parable about a man who was robbed on the side of the road and left for dead. The two people most likely to understand the moral obligation of God to help another person in need simply assed by on the other side and did nothing. The social outcast stopped and rendered aid. It was a lesson on being connected to each other. It was taught to overthrow the notion that we can rationalize away our responsibility to be a neighbor. “Who is my neighbor” turned into “How do I act like a neighbor?” One point is clear: We cannot fulfill the law of God, at its most fundamental level without helping each other in times of need.

d. Some of the most tragic moments in all of scripture are scenes of betrayal in the time of need: In Matthew 26, the Lord is in agony in the garden of Gethsemane, vs. 56 – “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” When the apostle Paul was in Rome, a prisoner in Caesar’s court, and finally was brought to trial, he wrote unto Timothy later to say, 2 Timothy 4:16“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”

e. Who is in a time of trouble in this church? Are we letting some brothers or sisters be attacked and sacked by Satan while we do nothing? Paul said in Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

III. “You stood on the other side” – Do you recall the Bible account of that monumental showdown between Elijah, the prophet of God, and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18? What lesson do you bring home from that event? God is greater than Baal – the fire from heaven clearly showed that? The humiliation of those prophets cutting themselves and calling on their make believe god? I believe one real lesson for Israel (that had to be taught again and again) is contained in Elijah’s leading question: 1 Kings 18:21 – And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. God’s people have always been called upon to choose sides. We are either for God or we are against Him. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” (Matt 12:25)

A. Obadiah wants Edom to understand the nature of their sin against God. Obadiah 11Even you were as one of them. They were accounted as His enemy, along with Babylon. God has always taught this clear distinction between His friends and His foes. We must choose. We cannot play both sides.

1. But this choice is not just a mental allegiance, but is defined by our willingness to obey His commandments. Notice how John enunciates this is in all three of his epistles:

      • 1 John 3:7-8 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
      • 2 John 9-11Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
      • 3 John 11Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
      • Paul said it this way: Rom 6:16 – Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
      • James said it this way: James 4:4 – Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Conclusion: Tonight, the Lord willing we will take a look at the last verses of this book. The Hope of Obadiah. Where does your hope lie? “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. In the end my hope is based on being firmly on God’s side.