Obadiah 17-21

obadiahObadiah

17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions 18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken. 19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. 21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

Julian the Apostate was an Emperor of Rome who attempted to steer the Empire away from Christianity and back to Rome’s pagan roots. He was considered the last pagan Emperor of Rome. It has been alleged, though many counter-allege that this is apocryphal, that Julian’s last words were, “Vicisti Galilaee,” which translated means, “You have conquered Galilean.” It is seen as his ultimate recognition that Christ was unconquerable and that Christ ultimately had won.

Whether or not Julian said that, the sentiment is vitally important: Vicisti Galilaee! You have conquered, Galilean!

Christ indeed conquers. What God has originally intended God will have. His will will be fulfilled and He will not be frustrated. This is important for us to understand, especially when the evidence seems to point to the contrary. For instance, after Babylon sacked Jerusalem and the Edomites were gloating over the ruins, the Jews, and all the surrounding peoples, must have thought it was the end of the Hebrews as a people. How, after all, can life arise out of the ashes of destruction and despair? How can a decimated people ever hope to see hope dawn again?

The answer is found in Julian’s alleged cry: Vicisti Galilaee! Christ will conquer and, with Him, the people of God will conquer!

The people of God will have victory.

Judah had fallen. The people of God were exiled or scattered. The house of Jacob had been crushed. Yet God speaks through Obadiah and says the following:

17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions

The people of God will not be destroyed and they will “possess their own possessions.” Bruce C. Cresson writes that, “It is possible to translate the final line of v. 17 either the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions or ‘the house of Jacob shall possess those who dispossessed them.’”[1]

What this means is that the people of God will have victory.

From any human vantage point, such a sentiment would have been considered absurd, even by many of God’s own people! How could a broken people who had nothing ever expect to possess their possessions again? It is because they had God with them and, with God, we are never without hope and never without an inheritance.

It occurs to me that there are many who feel like Judah: broken, destitute, crushed, and without hope. Let this text remind us that those who possess the promise of God are never truly poor even if the promise is all we have. The promise of God is weightier than our circumstances at any given moment and the poor man who has God’s promise is richer than the rich man who does not.

Perhaps you are sitting in the rubble of what used to be your life. Take heart! God has not abandoned you! God will have the victory and, with Him, His people will have the same.

Those who reject God will be judged.

Conversely, those who have rejected God will be judged. If the Edomites marveled at God’s prophecy of the restoration of Judah, they must have positively guffawed at what He said next.

18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken.

Not only will God’s people conquer, but, through His people, God was going to bring judgment upon Edom! Edom would be like stubble before the fire of the house of Jacob. There is a shocking inversion here. The Judah that had been burned would become the burning fire of the judgment of God that would burn Edom. This must have been a particularly unsettling decree for Edom to hear as they arrogantly rejoiced over the smoldering ruins of Judah.

Imagine them there, watching the smoke rising from the ruins of Jerusalem. They rejoice with perverse joy at the thought of the fires of war consuming the people of God. Then they hear the word of God: “Judah is a fire!” They agree with insolence. “Yes, Judah is burning!” “You do not understand,” the Lord says, “Judah is mine. These are my people. I will restore them. They will become the fire of my judgment and they shall burn you to the uttermost.”

What a shocking turn of events! But there is more. The Lord speaks of “the house of Jacob” and “the house of Joseph.” Mark Dever explains why this is a surprising comment and how this points to something other than the mere national restoration of Judah.

            In one sense, these promises were fulfilled within a few decades, when a number of the Israelites returned form the exile in Babylon to the land of Judah. But the author also seems to perceive dimly that this resurrected kingdom will include all of God’s people. Thus he includes a reference to the “house of Joseph.” The house of Joseph was a part of the northern kingdom that had been dispersed among the nations 150 years earlier. The fulfillment to which Obadiah alludes was not ultimately experienced by Ezra or Nehemiah, two of the returning exiles. Rather, God’s words through Obadiah will be ultimately fulfilled when God’s people are in God’s place under God’s rule through the Lord Jesus Christ. What blessings we have in Christ![2]

Yes, more is happening here than a prophecy about what would soon happen. This a comment about the ultimate regathering of God’s people from their scattering wherever they are at the end of all things. This is a comment about the ultimate victory of God’s people! This is not merely about the judgment of Edom. It is about the judgment of all who reject God. This is not merely about Judah reclaiming its home, it is about all of God’s people entering into their final home!

This is about Judah and Edom but this is about more than Judah and Edom!

The people of God can rightly take comfort wherever they are persecuted, wherever they are broken, wherever they are scattered, and wherever they are oppressed.

The recently devastated Coptic Christians of Egypt will not forever be the victims of militant Islam’s wrath. The Lord will be faithful to His people. He has never forgotten them.

The struggling wife who is trying to raise her children in the Lord while her husband models the exact opposite life can trust that God hears her pleas for strength, that God sees her, that God will bless her.

The lonely senior adult who feels abandoned, the frightened child who has been abused, the lone Christian in a non-Christian land surrounded by paganism: all of these and all like them can trust that they will share in the victory.

But the wicked and all who reject God can find in the promise of Edom’s judgment the promise of their own. The author of Hebrews put it in these terms in Hebrews 9:

27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

The promise to the house of Jacob and Joseph belongs to all of God’s people everywhere and for all time.

The promise of judgment belongs to all who reject God and turn from Him everywhere and for all time.

The whole earth will one day be restored to God.

But the promise is staggering, and this is how Obadiah ends.

19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. 21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

In short, the promise is that the people of God will reclaim all the land that is theirs. These specific place names are most telling. The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament sheds some helpful light.

What is envisioned here is both retribution against Israel’s enemies and the reclamation of all of Israel’s traditional territories. Thus the Negev, synonymous with the area around Beersheba and the lower portion of the Dead Sea, would take over the territory of Edom. The Shephelah, a narrow ridge of land between the coastal plain and the hill country, would expand into the Philistine city-states. Ephraim and Samaria, the region conquered by the Assyrians in 721, would be reclaimed by the people of Judah. And, finally, Gilead in Transjordan (stretching from the lower Galilee to the Arnon River) would once again be ruled by Benjamin (the tribal territory between Bethel and Jerusalem.)[3]

Thus, God’s people will be given all that has been promised to them. But the promise of the conclusion of Obadiah is saying more than this. It is pointing to more than this. Bruce C. Cresson has identified “three basic elements” in this text:

  • The Hebrew territory encroached upon by neighboring peoples will be regained.
  • There will be a general expansion of the territory held by the Hebrews.
  • The establishment of Yahweh’s kingdom is anticipated.[4]

This is not merely the restoration of a land. It is also the promise of the coming of God’s kingdom. We see the hope of the coming of God’s Kingdom in the model prayer that Christ gave to His people in Matthew 6.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom has come and the Kingdom is coming. Obadiah saw the same. The concluding verse of Obadiah is crucial.

21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

The plural “saviors” alludes to the many mighty heroes that God sent throughout Israel’s history. Moses, for instance, was a savior in the lower-case sense. So was David. So were many others. But the saviors were merely foreshadowing the coming of the upper-case Savior, Jesus. The earthly kingdom would be led and protected and restored here and there by the saviors, but the new heaven and the new earth, the eternal Kingdom of God, is being and will be restored by none other than Jesus Himself. Revelation 21 offers perhaps the most beautiful depiction of this coming reality.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Judgment will come.

Salvation has come.

All who come to Christ will be saved and brought into the Kingdom that will be without end.

Edom will not win. Edom’s victories are always temporary.

But the people of God are given the victory of God, a victory won through the cross and empty tomb of the Son.

The King has conquered.

He has conquered through love.

 

[1] Bruce C. Cresson, “Obadiah.” The Broadman Bible Commentary. Vol. 7 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1972), p.150-151.

[2] Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), p.761.

[3] John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p.777.

[4] Bruce C. Cresson, p.151.

3 thoughts on “Obadiah 17-21

  1. Pingback: Obadiah | Walking Together Ministries

  2. Have been reading these on my 1am lunch breaks – what an awesome message of hope . Thank you for having these available online !

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