We Need Obadiah

Nov 29, 2023 by

By Brandon Cooper, TGC.

The opening chapter of J. L. Myres’s 1923 classic The Dawn of History reminds us that millions have lived without a sense of history. Many people think things are what they are and that they’ll never change. In their view, there’s no arc of history bending in any direction. To believe otherwise, they say, is delusion and breeds false hope. We only imagine differently because our society remains ingrained in Christianity.

But is belief in progress naive, held only because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate? Is there an end, a telos, toward which we’re carried? The short, unfamiliar book of Obadiah shows us how to develop a greater consciousness about God’s purposes in the world.

This strange little book about Edom appears dark, nationalistic, even vengeful. But it has great relevance for Christians today. Obadiah gives us several gifts. It shows us our need for history, eschatology, and Jesus.

Why We Need History

Obadiah receives not a word but a “vision” (v. 1), inspired insight into God’s purposes in history. Ostensibly addressing Edom, Obadiah encourages Judah with this insight.

The nation had just suffered an enormous blow, likely the sack of Jerusalem and subsequent exile. God’s people are reeling physically and spiritually. Did God fail? Is Baal stronger than Yahweh? Neighboring Edom gloats, loots, and participates in his brother’s doom (vv. 10–14). He seems to get away with it, and this is why Judah needs Obadiah’s message.

Does history have a purpose? Will there be justice at last? Obadiah answers with a resounding yes.

Speaking to a defeated nation, the prophet has the audacity to proclaim God’s universal reign (v. 15). Judah’s defeat looked like Yahweh’s defeat, but it wasn’t. When a coalition of enemy tribes approached Edom, Obadiah could see God’s hand at work. As Richard Lints suggests,

In the hands of the Old Testament prophets, history was instruction in the ways of God. . . . History was recorded because history could be repeated—not in detail, of course, but according to the principle that the past acts of God provided the hope that he would continue to be faithful to his people and his promises.

Obadiah teaches us to read history—and our own stories—with redemptive-historical goggles. We know who God is and what he’s doing in the world, not in abstraction but in his mighty historical acts.

Read here.

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