“Your arrogant heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. This is the Lord’s declaration.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
On occasion I’ll help my boys work on something that they’ve never done before. Oftentimes it is something that I have done and know how to do. In these instances it is not uncommon for them to get a little resistant to my help. Parents, give me an, “Amen.” They protest that they don’t need me because they know how to do it. In my more gracious moments (I don’t have those all the time…) I let them go a bit and help them up when they fail. But their pride can be pretty maddening at times. Sometimes it is downright infuriating. Our heavenly Father feels the same way.
Obadiah is an interesting little book. For starters, it is the shortest book in the Old Testament–just 21 verses. It also happens to be a pretty narrowly focused book, and its focus is not Israel. Obadiah is a prophecy against the nation of Edom. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who was himself the founding father of Israel. Both boys were renamed, one by God and one by nickname, and their second names are what became the moniker of their respective nations.
Well, the relationship between the two brothers was rocky at best. They were in competition with each other from the moment they came out of the womb. Moses relates several instances of their rivalry being played out in increasingly aggressive and even potentially violent ways in Genesis. The final straw as far as Esau was concerned was when Jacob, with their mom’s help, tricked Isaac, their father, into giving him the family blessing. On top of being swindled out of his birthright this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Esau swore murderous vengeance on Jacob and the two were estranged from each other for decades.
Now, Moses does tell us that the two hugged and made up much later in life, but the bitter hatred the older felt for the younger seems to have been passed down to his children who passed it on to their children and their children and so on down the genealogical line. The end result was that the two nations were constantly at war with each other. Edom looked for every opportunity to harass Israel they could find and openly delighted in every trouble that befell them. Israel, for their part, when they were finally strong enough to exact some vengeance of their own went way overboard.
Like a loving–if exasperated–parent, God played referee a few times, but things never got better. Finally, when it came time for Israel to be judged and conquered by the Babylonians, Edom not only openly celebrated their downfall, but pillaged their cities and even killed many of the refugees. This was a bridge too far and through the prophet Obadiah, God announced judgment on them.
The problem was, Edom was located in an exceptionally strategic location militarily speaking. Their cities were built not only on top of, but into mountains on the east side of the Jordan River. Theirs was a defensive location that seemed unconquerable in its construction. The result of this was a stubborn pride that couldn’t be shaken. They were confident that no invaders were going to be able to uproot them from their land. They were set.
Enter Obadiah. The prophet’s very first message for the people was a simple one: You’re not as secure as you think. You are going to face judgment and your large and impressive fortifications aren’t going to matter a hill of beans when it finally arrives. No matter how secure they felt, God Himself was going to bring them down to the ground. The rest of the prophecy goes on to unpack just how awful this judgment was going to be. Their time was coming due and when it was up, that was going to be the end of Edom.
So then, what does this mean for us? Well, let’s take the reminder and learn the lesson they only finally took the hard way. We have fortifications in our lives against trouble. Sometimes these fortifications are financial. Sometimes they are relational. They could be occupational or social or take one of many other forms. Whatever they might be, there is a great tendency on our part to trust in them. As we’ve talked about recently, this is particularly true when it comes to our finances. If we have enough money, we feel secure against any external threat.
In our places of perceived security, it is easy to begin to let down our guard. We stop paying such close attention to our guard rails. We don’t lean as hard on the accountability structures we have in place to keep us from getting off track. We start to let little things go. We take risks we perhaps wouldn’t normally take. In short, we grow prideful. We lean harder and harder on the supports we think will hold us and less and less on the God who really will.
This is no way to do life in the long term and our God loves us far too much to leave us in such a place for long. He sacrificed His only Son so we could enjoy real life. Why would He leave us to play at these silly life games that will only ever end in disaster?
What does this mean? It means that at some point He either allows or even actively kicks out the legs from under the structures we’ve built to hold the weight of our lives. This is never a pretty or pleasant sight, but if we will not take the gentle calls He’s given to trust in Him instead of any one of a number of other things in our lives, it’s all He has left. And again: He loves us too much not to do it.
So then, where is your trust? On what are you resting the weight of your life? If it is something, anything, other than God, be warned: He won’t leave you in such dire straits for long. Having those supports removed will hurt, but the purpose of that pain is always and only to get you to reorient your life on the foundation that cannot be moved or shaken. Learn from Edom’s mistake by reading the text, not by experiencing the fall yourself.