ďJacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.Ē
The book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, just 21 verses. It is read in just a few minutes. At first glance, it appears to be nothing but a prophecy of doom against the ancient nation of Edom, which has long ago disappeared from history. Edom is a nation buried in the dust of the past. Yet, the fact that this little book finds its place in the Book of God, and that fact alone, tells us that its message is for us (Rom. 15:4).
There are thirteen men in the Old Testament named Obadiah, but there is no indication that this Obadiah is the same as any of the others. His name means "servant of the Lord," or ďworshipper of the Lord.Ē Like a true servant and worshipper of God, Obadiah keeps himself in the background in utter obscurity. He tells us absolutely nothing about himself. He simply steps onto the stage of history, delivers Godís message, and steps down. In fact, it may be that Obadiah, rather than being his name, was simply a penname, a pseudonym used to deliberately conceal anything at all about himself. His only purpose and intent as Godís prophet was to deliver Godís message. What a noble example his is to all who are responsible to speak to eternity bound sinners as Godís messengers!
The outline of these 23 verses is very easy to follow. ― In verses 1-9 Obadiah declares Godís judgment upon Edom. Though proud, thinking themselves secure and invincible, Edom was the object of Godís determined wrath and must be destroyed. ― Verses 10-14 display the justice of that judgment. Edom was destroyed because of their proud and cruel treatment of Godís people, Israel. ― In verses 15 and 16 we see the result of Godís judgment upon the proud nation. The Edomites were crushed by Nebuchadnezzar and later by Cyrus, who slaughtered them by the thousands, and finally brought into oblivion by the Maccabees. By the time the Romans conquered Jerusalem, Edom was nothing but a name in history. ― Then, in verses 17-21 the prophet of God speaks to Edom (the house of Esau) of the sure and certain salvation of Israel (ďthe house of JacobĒ).
But what is Obadiahís message to us? What is the meaning of this prophecy? What does the Spirit of God here teach us? Read a few passages from the Inspired Volume, and it will become clear (Gen. 3:15; Mal. 1:2-5; Rom. 9:11-18). Remember, Edom is the whole house of Esau and Israel is the whole house of Jacob, his younger brother, the object of Godís everlasting love, mercy, and grace.
††††† Here is Obadiahís message. ― May God give us grace to learn it, rely upon it, and expect its fulfillment. Though the seed of the serpent hates, persecutes, and constantly bruises the heel of the womanís Seed, the Seed of the woman (Christ and his body the Church of Godís elect), shall ultimately crush the serpentís head and his seed. Let me show you seven things clearly set before us in this magnificent prophecy of Obadiah.
1. First, learn this and rejoice ― The purpose of our God cannot be hindered, thwarted, or frustrated.
Before ever they were born, the Lord God declared that Esau must ever serve Jacob, that the elder must serve the younger. And so it shall be until time is no more. As Moses declared that Ham must serve Shem and Japheth, Godís Word regarding Jacob and Esau is but a declaration of Godís purpose to assure the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners that the reprobate of this world can do us no harm. They only serve the interests of our souls. Jannes and Jambres gave Moses a fit, withstanding him to the face at every turn; but they could proceed no further (Ex. 7:11; 2 Tim. 3:8-9). And those who oppose Godís people in this world, those who abuse, mistreat, and persecute Godís elect in this world, cannot hurt them. They only serve us.
2. Second, we see in the Edomites and their history that the enmity of the seed of the serpent toward the Seed of the woman shall never cease so long as time stands.
The enmity of Edom toward Israel, the enmity of Esau against his brother Jacob began long before Obadiah came on the scene. It began while the two boys were still in their motherís womb. It is an enmity manifest throughout history. It is the enmity Cain had for Abel, the enmity of Babylon against Israel, the enmity of Herod against the incarnate Son of God, the enmity of the Judaizers against Paul, the enmity of the religious world against the Kingdom of God. It is a never ceasing, unabated, ever-increasing enmity. It is the enmity of the dragon of hell against the Woman of Godís choice (Rev. 12).
††††† What is that enmity? It is the vile, base, deep-seated hatred of all who proudly presume that they can be saved by their own works, saved without God, against all who are saved by free grace alone, trusting Christ alone, looking to him alone for redemption, righteousness and everlasting salvation. If anyone thinks this enmity is imaginary, let him read a page or two of history, or of the morning newspaper!
3. Third, learn this ― That which destroys all who perish under the wrath of God is the self-deceiving pride of their own hearts.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9) Obadiah declares, "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD" (1:3-4).
††††† Edom represents all those vain men and women who, like Esau, despising Christ presume that they can go it alone, that they can ascend to heaven by their own will, their own works, and their own goodness. They hide themselves in what they think is an impregnable rock of morality, on a high hill of experience, and say, ďAll is well. I am secure. Who shall bring me down?Ē
4. Fourth, let us be reminded once more of the far reaching influence of evil.
Edom, the whole nation, followed the example of their father Esau. The whole nation followed their father straight to hell! None are ever saved by the examples of others; but multitudes perish forever by the examples of others. What a horrible scene I have in my mindís eye of the torments of the damned in hell, as the lost child looks into the eyes of his lost parents, as the lost multitudes look into the eyes of lost preachers, and curse them forever for their evil, damning influence!
5. Fifth, Obadiah goes to great lengths in these few verses of Inspiration to show us that all who suffer the wrath and judgment of God perish under the just judgment of the Almighty because of their own sins (vv. 10-17).
I cannot state emphatically enough that all things are exactly according to Godís purpose. The whole world is ruled and disposed of according to Godís everlasting love for Jacob and hatred of Esau (Rom. 9:11-24). Vessels of mercy are vessels of mercy and shall never be vessels of wrath. Vessels of wrath are vessels of wrath and shall never be vessels of mercy. Is that clear enough?
††††† But I state this with equal force ― No one goes to hell because of Godís purpose. Vessels of mercy are prepared by grace for glory. Vessels of wrath fit themselves for destruction. Men and women go to hell because of their own obstinate, willful rebellion and unbelief. Esau is in hell today because he despised Christ, because he preferred the world to the Son of God, because he preferred a bowl of beans to gratify his flesh for a moment to Godís eternal inheritance of grace. Edom perished for exactly the same reason. That nation perished because of its hated of God and his people, as displayed in their conduct.
6. Now, letís read verses 17-21 and rejoice to see once more that the everlasting salvation of Godís elect is a matter of absolute certainty.
"But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it. And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south. And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S."
††††† Here, Obadiah, by the Spirit of prophecy, looks beyond the range of time to that last great day when Christ shall come again in his glory. In that day holiness shall be seen everywhere. The whole house of Jacob shall possess their God-given, divinely purchased, rightful possessions. Jacob shall be a fire and Esau shall be stubble before him (Ps. 137). The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God (Rev. 11:15).
7. Seventh, the only hope for proud sinners is him who is Jacobís Portion forever, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is your choice? Will you follow Esau to hell, choosing that which gratifies the flesh, or will you follow Jacob, choosing Christ for your everlasting portion?