Toward the end of the Old Testament, hidden between Amos and Jonah, sits one of the shortest books of the Bible, the writings of the prophet Obadiah. Obadiah is unique among the writings of the Old Testament in that it addresses Edom, the people descended from Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. In this letter, God promises to make them small and despised, he says:
Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the Lord,
and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”
Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
you shall be utterly despised.
Why would God pronounce this judgement upon Edom? The following verses make that clear:
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
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.
The short answer is: Pride. Edom fancied themselves a great and powerful nation, but God saw through their thinly veiled facade into their wicked hearts, filled with lofty ideas about dwelling among the stars and soaring above the heavens. Edom stood by while Israel and Judah were plundered, their long-standing hatred for their brother Israel resulted in rejoicing at the sight of their misfortune (11-14). But God makes it clear that in the end, Edom will be the ones who are destroyed, and those whom God has chosen as His own will be restored (15-18), and God will use Israel to bring this calamity upon Edom:
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,
eand there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the Lord has spoken.
Obadiah is yet another reminder of one of the most prevalent themes in Scripture: The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
There is a line in the praise song “Give Us Clean Hands” that my former worship pastor, Dave Bassard, had a real problem with. The line says, “Oh Spirit come make us humble.” Now I understand the meaning of the line, that God is the only One who can produce humility in our hearts. Dave understood this as well, but when I asked him why he didn’t like that line, he said, “bad things happen when God humbles people.”
Dave was right. If we live proud lives, we force God’s hand in our humility. He will humble us, and it will not go well for us. But if we come before God and ask for humility and grace, He will supply both freely and gently. Edom is a reminder of our tendency toward pride. Let us flee from it and to the cross where we find grace abounding for prideful sinners who lay down their lives for the glory of Christ.