Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Obadiah means “servant of the Lord.” He was a prophet. In verse one, we see that Obadiah was given a vision by the Lord. So he begins his prophecy with “Thus says the Lord God,” the standard introduction for a prophetic announcement.
So, we are to understand this is God’s word. The prophecy is “concerning Edom.” Those are terrible words to hear when the pronouncement that follows is God’s judgment. And so was the case with Edom, a country that stands as an example of the proud going inexorably to destruction.
Edom was a country made up of the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. There was always conflict between Israel and Edom. Obadiah’s prophecy takes place around the time of Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The judgment against Edom will come because Edom will celebrate and participate in Israel’s fall to Babylon.
Prophecy can occur because the Lord knows all things and is all powerful. He gives Obadiah a vision of the future destruction of Edom. It begins with nations gathering against Edom (verse 1). The result will be the end of Edom; “You will be utterly despised” (verse 2). And Edom did cease to exist by the end of the 4th century because of invading nations.
The word “despised” in verse 2 is important. Esau was the firstborn of Isaac. His birthright was the covenant promises God made to Abraham. One day after being in the field, he came home exhausted. He asked Jacob for a bowl of the stew he was cooking. Jacob told Esau to sell him his birthright. Esau said, “What good is a birthright to me since I am about to die?” So he swore to Jacob and sold his birthright. He valued the present bowl of stew over the future promise of God.
Then we read In Genesis 25, “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” Paul has this in mind when he says in Philippians 3, “Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with mind set on earthly things.”
Paul is saying that Christians do not value the present world over the future promise of God. Rather he says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Learn to weigh the present things with the future promise of Christ.
Verse 3 points to the root of Edom’s path to destruction: pride. “The pride of your heart has deceived you.” The word used for deceived is the same word used for the devil deceiving Eve. Edom thought itself invulnerable to any attack. It lived in high place. High places can be our downfall.
Edom was strong. The road leading up the mountainous terrain to Edom was narrow and steep. Nations did not think the risk of attacking Edom was worth the reward. So Edom said in its heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground” (verse 3)? But what is a mountain to God? To boast in the face of God’s judgment is to mock God. And God will not be mocked.
Verse 4 reads, “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.” This language points us beyond the boasting of men and countries to the devil himself. Isaiah 14 depicts his mindset: “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”
Can there be more false confidence than that? Edom received a decree of judgment from God; that is the time to repent, or perish. We must understand the propensity sin has to elevate us in our own minds to a level of pride that blinds us to the judgment to come.
You can’t make your own way to heaven. Repentance, sorrow for sin and a humbling of the heart, is of invaluable worth. “You must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God,” the Lord said. That is also a prophecy, a word from the Lord that will stand. Let Edom and her fate be a standing warning to our hearts, so that we do not despise the promise of God. Jesus was crucified for vain men to free them from the power of the devil, so let us be humble before him.