Obadiah and Our God of Humility

 

 

Obadiah Says to Worship Our God of Humility

 

“The pride of your heart has deceived you …; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.

—Obadiah 3-4, emphasis added

 

Obadiah (853-840 B.C.) was a contemporary with Elijah (875-848 B.C.), Micah (865-830 B.C.), and Jehu (855-840 B.C.). As A.M. Hodgkin writes, “Between the Gulf of Akaba and the Dead Sea lies a range of precipitous red sandstone heights, known as Mount Seir. Here Esau settled after he had despised his birthright, and his descendants, having driven out the Horites (Gen. 15:6), occupied the whole of the mountain (Deut. 2:12). The capital city Selah, or Petra, ‘Rock,’ was a city unique in its kind amid the works of man. Perched like an eagle’s nest (ver. 4) amid inaccessible mountain fortresses, the dwellings were mostly caves, hewn out of the soft rock (ver. 3, 6), and placed where you could scarce imagine a human foot could climb.”

The story of Esau and Jacob is that of twin brothers, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. They were not identical twins; actually, they were opposites (see Genesis 25:24-34). Esau despised his birthright. The man who had the birthright was in contact with God; he was the priest of his family; he was the man who had a covenant from God; the man who had a relationship with God. In effect Esau said, “I would rather have a bowl of soup than have a relationship with God.”

Having seen Esau in the first book of the Old Testament, look now at the last book of the Old Testament and read this strange language: “I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated …” (Malachi 1:2-3a). This is a strange thing for God to say: “I loved Jacob and I hated Esau.” The explanation for that is in the little book of Obadiah where God said to Edom, “The pride of your heart has deceived you …” (1:3).

Christ is the model of humility. James Boice points out, “But there is this to add. It is true that the sin of Edom, long indulged, worked itself into the very character of the people and therefore inevitably flowed on in history. But that same flow of history also brought one who lived by an entirely different standard.” There was a day in history when two kings confronted one another for the first time. One was an earthly king. He sat that day at the pinnacle of power. His name was Herod Antipas. Herod was a son of Herod the Great, who was an Edomite (or an Idumean, as the New Testament lists it). Herod the Great had slaughtered the babes of Bethlehem in his desire to exterminate Christ. His successor, Antipas, with whom we are concerned, was no better. He had beheaded John the Baptist and had been called “that fox” by Jesus (Luke 13:32). Antipas had everything he wanted. His income, expressed in American money in 2006, would be in excess of six million dollars a year. All the pleasures of life were his. If anyone stood in his way ... well, the life of that person meant as little to him as the lives of the innocents of Bethlehem had meant to his father. The motto of his reign was: “What will it profit me?”

The other king was Jesus. He was the King of Kings, One who, according to the flesh, was the natural heir to David’s throne and who, according to His divine nature, was the Supreme King over all the kings of this earth. But He did not look like a king. He stood in humble clothing. He had been rejected. Within hours He was to die a felon’s death. If Jesus had wished, He could have called forth legions of angels who would have vindicated His cause instantly and have swept the usurper Herod from the throne. But Jesus did not want the throne in that way. He did not want the throne until you and I could share it with Him. To make that possible He would die.

Herod said, “What does it profit me?” Jesus said, “What can I do that will be the greatest possible benefit to My brethren?” God vindicated Jesus. Jesus went to the cross. He died. But His death was followed by a resurrection, and today He lives to enable those who believe in Him to behave as He did and bring a true, supernatural brotherhood to this world. For his part, Herod went on with his revelry but soon was banished to Lyons, France, where he died in misery.

This is the choice before us: go Herod’s way or Jesus’ way. We cannot do both. God wants to break us of pride because pride competes with God for control and glory. He therefore offers us actions that promote the growth of humility in our lives. I call these the “Three R’s of Spiritual Growth”:

        Refocus: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

        Remove: … Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly …, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:12-14).

        Request God’s humility: … Younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Pride is the root of all sin, but humility is the root of all virtue. Pride leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18), but humility brings blessings and honor from the Lord. Which category most represents your life’s present testimony?

 

 

 

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