When Your Heart is Separated from God

Obadiah – A Prophet to the Edomites

September 20, 2020

Genesis 27 tells the story of Jacob stealing his twin brother Esau’s blessing from their father, Isaac. He’d already tricked him out of his birthright.

Jacob had to leave home and find work with his Uncle Laban because Esau was so angry, he would have killed him.

Many years later, the brothers reunited. Both had become wealthy and powerful men. Both met and embraced, but the brothers never developed a relationship.

Chapter 36 of Genesis says that “their possessions were too great for them to remain together. The land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So, Esau (also called Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.” (Genesis 36:7-8)

Then in the remaining verses of Genesis 36, you have a bunch of names of people that are descendants of Esau or Edom.

The Old Testament storyline follows Jacob’s descendants until we come to the New Testament and we read about a man named Joseph of Bethlehem, one of Jacob’s descendants, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus.

But God did not forget about the people of Esau, the Edomites.

Just as God had sent prophets to warn the people that descended from Jacob that they needed to turn to Him, God also sent a prophet to the Edomites.

His name was Obadiah.  Now you know why the book of Obadiah is in the Bible.

This morning, I want to tell you what Obadiah’s message was to the Edomites.

  1. When Our Heart is Separated from God, Pride Will Consume You

Has anyone ever deeply wounded you?

Has anyone ever wounded you so deeply that it has caused you to say, “That will never happen again? I will never be so vulnerable ever in my life again. I will never be put in a position where I will allow you or anyone else ever to wound me again.”

I understand that. I know what it is like to be wounded. The trust level drops. When that happens, it’s easy to create a protective shield around yourself that does not allow that person or anyone ever to get close to you again.

I think that sums up the attitude of Esau. Members of his own family wounded him.

Perhaps you remember the story.  His brother Jacob stole both his birthright and his blessing from him.

Jacob first stole Esau’s birthright by taking advantage of his hunger.  Esau had been out hunting for many days.  He came back with nothing and he had not eaten for days.  Jacob had food prepared and agreed to feed his brother in exchange for his birthright.   Of course, after filling his belly and coming to his senses, he was angry with both himself and his brother for such a senseless trade.

But the betrayal that separated the family was the trick Jacob pulled with the help of his mother when Jacob pretended to be their father Isaac.

Esau was so hairy that Jacob put the wool of sheep on his arms so that blind Isaac would would be fooled when he touched him.  He tricked his fatherland  got the blessing, which granted him the inheritance and designated him as the leader of the family.

Jacob had to leave in fear that Esau would kill him, and he stayed gone for many, many years.

When Jacob came back home, both Jacob and Esau were wealthy men, but Esau decided there wasn’t enough room for both.

He didn’t trust Jacob, nor did he want anything to do with him.

So, he moved his family to the hill country, and he isolated them from anyone that could harm them.

Perhaps that was the time for forgiveness. It had been a long time. But Esau was not the forgiving type.

Through the generations, it’s interesting that this attitude of self-sufficiency and “we don’t need anybody but ourselves” attitude was passed down from Esau to other generations.

The Edomites, as a people, carried a sense of pride as a people. They were a distrusting people.

In 1812, archaeologists discovered a city in this area that had been hewn from the solid cliff of rose-colored rock. This city was an impregnable fortress, so safe from an attack that Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria deposited their money there. The enemy couldn’t get there because the only way into this area was through narrow passes through canyons, which only took a few to defend.  https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mcgee_j_vernon/notes-outlines/obadiah/obadiah-notes.cfm

However, there is a lesson here.  When we close our hearts and shut out the world, we usually close out God and send God the same message, “I don’t need You, either.”

Perhaps this is the reason God sent Obadiah to the Edomites. The Edomites had said to God, “We don’t need you.”

So, before we continue to the message of Obadiah, allow me to quickly carry you to the last book of the Old Testament.

Listen to these words from Malachi 1:2-4. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? the Lord says.

“Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” (Malachi 1:2-4)

Malachi is not saying that God hated the person Esau. Malachi is referring to all of Esau’s descendants, the people of Edom.

What word are you drawn to there?  It’s the word “hate” isn’t it?  That’s a strong word to us.

What is it that God hates about these people?

What it is that Malachi is telling us?

Malachi is just saying that God loved Esau and his descendants less than Jacob because they set themselves against God.

Because the Edomites set themselves against God, Obadiah was sent to them as God’s prophet.

They were up there in that hill country because they tried to save themselves.

Have you ever tried to save yourself? How did you do?

Have you ever resisted calling for help?  How did that work for you?

The Edomites said, “Never again, will we be vulnerable to anyone.” So, they fled to the hills and believed the mountains could protect them from anyone, from any invasion. No one would ever take advantage of them again.

They felt good about their accomplishment. They were smug, confident, and proud about their space. They were confident that they were so well fortified and protected that no one could harm them.

Through Obadiah, God told them their pride had deceived them in their hearts.

“You who live in the clefts of the rocks, and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (1:3b-4).

Pride puffs us up. We ride high on our accomplishments, successes, and reputations. When we refuse to admit our mistakes, make amends, seek reconciliation, or build a relationship with God, the big “I” in the middle of pride swells. When we cannot see that we are not self-sufficient, that we need others, and that we can be humbled, pride becomes our enemy.

Obadiah lets the reader know that it’s not the people that God hates, but it’s the pride in their hearts that he hates because pride says, “I don’t need God. I don’t need anyone but myself.”

One of the reasons the church is important is that we need to admit that we need God and that we each other.

  1. When Our Heart is Separated from God, We Will Look Down on Others.

Jesus once told us to pray for our enemies. The people of Edom hated the people of Israel.

They were once brothers. In verse 12, Obadiah still referred to Israel as “your brother.”

Do you think the Edomites thought Israel was still their brother?

Hundreds and hundreds of years had passed, but the people had not forgotten what took place between Esau and Jacob. The oral history continued to be passed down from generation to generation.

Now it had morphed into a hated for a people group.

Yet these people were their kin.

There was not that much difference in skin color.

Through the years, hatred for people is passed down from generation to generation because of the differences we have with others.

The Edomites knew why they lived in the hill country, and they literally and figuratively looked down on their neighbors below.

When we look down on others, we judge that we are better and that we are more worthy of being loved in God’s eyes.

Elevating ourselves above others for whatever reason is the root of prejudice, racism, injustice, and discrimination.

The Apostle Paul said,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Perhaps you see why it was so important for Jesus to redeem us because Esau and Jacob’s family is a microcosm of the sickness of the world.

We wound each other. We choose sides. We think we are better than others. It gets worse through the generations. We become prideful and arrogant. We separate ourselves. We refuse to forgive. Battle lines are drawn. We think we are self-sufficient. We even tell God that we don’t need Him.

  1. When Our Heart is Separated from God, Revenge is a Strong Temptation

Verse 12-15: “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, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 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. The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will be return upon your own head.”

The house of Jacob refused to listen to the prophets who repeatedly warned them that if they did not keep the covenant that God had established with them that they were going to lose their nation, their wealth, their temple, and their homes.

But now, a prophet by the name of Obadiah was coming to them in judgment, not only because they had rejoiced over the downfall of their brother, but when it appears that they also took advantage of Jerusalem’s pillaging.

In 598, Babylonia attacked Jerusalem, leading to King Jehoiakim’s death and the surrender of the city by his successor, King Jehoiachin, in March of 597 B.C.

Obadiah tells us that the Edomites rejoiced in their city’s destruction. They came down out of the clefts of the rocks and marched through the gates and helped themselves to the city’s wealth. As people fled the city, they killed some of those who tried to escape.

Here is a group of people that had been waiting for hundreds of years to avenge Jacob’s wrongs to his brother Esau.

With each item taken from Jerusalem, the people felt justified. They believed the things they were taking in Jerusalem were compensations for the blessing Grandpa Esau never got from his father, Isaac.

Each person that went away with something valuable from the city of Jerusalem felt justified.

But the revenge was wrong. It was not in keeping with God’s loving-kindness.

The Psalmist lamented, “Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. ‘Tear it down,’ they cried. ‘tear it down to its foundations” (Psalm 137:7).

Listen to these words from Ezekiel: 25:12-14: “God, the Master, says: Because Edom reacted against the people of Judah in spiteful revenge and was so criminally vengeful against them, therefore I, God, the Master, will oppose Edom and kill the lot of them, people and animals both. I’ll waste it—corpses stretched from Teman to Dedan. I’ll use my people Israel to bring my vengeance down on Edom. My wrath will fuel their action. And they’ll realize it’s my vengeance. Decree of God the Master.” (The Message)

It is a natural reaction within most of us to want to take revenge against those that wound us or our family, especially those that hurt our children.

Jesus expects us to seek justice and work for justice on behalf of others, but there is a difference in working for justice and seeking revenge.

Justice is holding someone accountable for their actions and seeking a fair and reasonable judgment. Seeking revenge is trying to punish someone for the wrongs that a person has done to you. Revenge is attempting to harm or wound someone in response to some wrongdoing or perceived wrong they did.

God says that it is not our place to take revenge. It’s God’s place to act in punitive measures.

  1. When Our Heart is Separated From God, We Will Be Judged

What you never see from the Edomites is any attempt to reach out to God. The response from God is judgment.

We know God as a God of grace and love. But when we never reach out to God in response to his grace and love, the result is judgement.

That is the message delivered by Obadiah: “As you have done, it will not be done to you,” he says.

Even so, this very short book ends with a message of hope.

There is a comparison of mountains by Obadiah.  He wants people to think about the differences between Mt. Zion and hill country of Seir.

Obadiah says, “But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.”

What is Obadiah saying? Mt. Zion was another name for the City of David, for the Temple Mount. Both had been destroyed. The Edomites had celebrated its destruction.

But Obadiah said, “There is hope. The house of Jacob will receive its inheritance.”

The condition of the house of Jacob was that they were judged but not destroyed.

Perhaps the difference between the descendants of Esau and Edom can be seen in the words of King David. When he had fallen away from God through sinful behavior, he cried out to God with words like these:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12 NIV)

Some people are too prideful to come to the Lord and ask for that restoration.

Instead, by their words and actions they say, “I don’t need God.

I am self-sufficient.”

They decide to close out most people because you can’t trust anyone, not even church people.

That’s what had happened to the Edomites.

Perhaps that’s what has happened to you.

If you are one of those, you need to hear the voice of Obadiah.

The reason God sent Obadiah to the Edomites is that he cared for them. He loved them.

God loves you.

Don’t close yourself off from God or from those that love you.

Don’t be like the Edomites. Be humble.

Come down from that high place and knell at the cross. Allow Jesus to work in your life and give you victory over those who have wounded you so that you are no longer in a self-imposed prison.

Allow the forgiveness of Jesus to set you free from your anger and let go of grudges and burdens that you tend to carry.

As you see, all these things do is create attitudes within us that are unholy, unChristlike, and separate us from the abundant life that Jesus wants us to live.