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What has Obadiah taught me?

By Steve Sammons, 29 Apr 2020

What has Obadiah taught me?

When I first began to prepare to preach on Obadiah, Coronavirus was purely an issue in the Far East. Little did I know the context to which I would preach from this prophet would change so dramatically. And little did I know quite how relevant Obadiah would turn out to be as our times did changed in the dramatic fashion they did. Here are three concluding thoughts that have particularly struck home with me as I’ve prepared my sermons on Obadiah.

God’s people need to be reminded who they are

When reading a book in the Bible, it’s always helpful to ask the question “Why was this written?”. When you do that, you begin understand the author’s purpose and therefore God’s purpose with this book.

It is as you ask that question that you realise God’s people in Obadiah’s day needed to be reminded who they are. Why are they being told about Edom being brought low? Because they messed with God’s special holy people. Why are they being told that they will return to the land? Because they are God’s special holy people. Why are they being told they will burn Edom? Because they are God’s special holy people.

It’s very easy as someone teaching God’s word that I must have something to tell my listeners to do. But Obadiah – a prophet of God – simply uses his message to tell his listeners who they are and how valued they are to God. This has been a very helpful to be taught by God’s word as I am (as I said in this blog post) normally an action man and so assume others should be the same.

Being reminded we are God’s special people also seems to have greater relevance when facing times of trouble – Obadiah’s readers were facing their whole world being turned upside down. So as other times of trial come in the future (after lockdown!?) I pray I can remind myself and others that we are God’s treasured people.

Look beyond the here and now

It’s so easy to get caught up with what’s going on right now, isn’t it? Will I be able to get what I need in the shops? Will I be able to see friends soon? Will I get furloughed or work from home?
Obadiah points us to something beyond those things. It points us to the real hope we have. The hope of dwelling with God in safety.

It’s worth noticing another absence from the book of Obadiah – God’s people being told what to do in exile. Obadiah is written just as they’ve gone into exile, but instead of writing to inform them of what to do in exile he points them towards the bigger picture: what God will do for them to end the exile.

As we face our daily lives God wants us to look beyond the difficulties of our lives now and focus on what is to come – when God will end our exile from Him and we will join Him in the Mount Zion of the New Heaven and Earth. And though those days seem far off, we can look beyond the issues of the here and now to glimpse them, as the Gray Havens describe so wonderfully in their song Shadows of the Dawn:

It’s veiled and stands behind the shroud
The final day when trumpets sound
Sometimes I glimpse into the fog
And listen for the song
Til then I’m waiting for the day
In the shadows of the dawn [1]

Although the final day is veiled, we can glimpse into its fog and listen to its song in God’s songbook: the good things of His creation and his Word the Bible. And that will help us to wait in the shadow of that day, rather than in the shadows of our day to day life. And as the rest of the song describes, we will therefore run all the more eagerly towards that dawn!

Obadiah clearly wanted his readers to run towards the dawn of the end of their exile, we soul also run towards the dawn of ours.

God’s word will do His work

God has been so very kind to us here at Church by the Bay. He has given us elders who love His word, and that means we as members can trust that it is God at work in all we do as a church. It is the Lord’s work that we are having more people join us on Wednesdays and Sundays.

And as that happens it will be God’s word that burns or gathers. We can trust that whichever it does, God’s word is working, God is judging or God is gathering.

As I’ve been looking at Obadiah, this is something that has struck me afresh. Who would have thought that a tiny book written 2700 years ago would have so much to teach us about God? And so much to teach us about how to respond the current lockdown situation?

And realising God’s word will always do God’s work, is itself God’s word doing God’s work! How awesome is that?!

Through the book of Obadiah, God’s word has certainly worked in my heart. My thoughts have been reassessed, my actions challenged and my heart comforted. I pray the same will be true for all who heard Obadiah preached and for all who read this. 

If you would like to listen to the talks they are available here.

[1] https://www.thegrayhavensmusic.com/blog/2016/7/21/shadows-of-the-dawn