In today’s current events regarding Israel, we need to hear Obadiah’s message. When asked, most will say they read Obadiah because it’s in their Bible reading schedule, but can’t remember much of its contents. Hopefully, today that will change. Wedged between Amos and Jonah, the book is only one chapter, but its message is clear — stand with Israel, your brothers.
Obadiah lived during the time of Jeremiah, the Babylonian siege and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem. It’s interesting that God used Obadiah to prophesy, not to Israel, but to Edom. Edom was the nation directly east of Israel and was descendants of Esau. Genesis 25:30 tells us that after Esau sold his birthright for “a swallow of that red stuff” he was called Edom. So Jacob becomes Israel and Esau becomes Edom, making Israel and Edom brothers.
The word of the Lord was a strong one to Edom, one of coming destruction. What so impassioned the Lord that He would use a Jewish prophet to speak to another nation about judgment? Was it their sin? Was it corruption? While these may be partially true, the real issue was how Edom treated their brother Israel in their time of need. Verse 11 and 12 are at the core of this message:
“On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem — you too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction.”
The real issue the Lord had with Edom was what they did: nothing. The day that strangers and foreigners invaded Jerusalem and carried off their wealth, Edom just stood aloof. In Hebrew this word aloof is “neged” and means to be in front of or to be in someone’s presence. The original Hebrew gives the impression that Edom showed up to watch but did not get involved. God said that because Edom arrogantly stood back to watch the destruction of Jerusalem and even enjoyed watching Israel get what they deserved, that He counted them as if they were the invaders.
It can be easy to focus on perceived problems with Israeli life or Jewish doctrine, and then use it as an excuse keep their distance. Some go so far to say these attacks that Israel experience are due to Israel’s sin and they should get what they deserve. While the sin issues may be true, we should all get what we deserve, but that is not the message of the Gospel.
The message is clear about how God feels when we “stand aloof” and watch negative or anti-Semitic events unfold toward Israel. It can be easy to focus on perceived problems with Israeli life or Jewish doctrine, and then use it as an excuse keep their distance. Some go so far to say these attacks that Israel experience are due to Israel’s sin and they should get what they deserve. While the sin issues may be true, we should all get what we deserve, but that is not the message of the Gospel. Christian differences are never an excuse for inactivity or gloating when Israel is hurting or needs help. In God’s eyes, when our brothers are suffering, standing aloof in not an option.
So what can we do? We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We can speak up for Israel when we see anti-Semitic comments. We can email encouraging prayer notes to the Israeli believers that live in the land. We can go to Israel and get to know the nation firsthand. We can reach out in friendship to our Jewish neighbors. We can give to Israeli organizations that are making a difference. We can speak mercy and peace when judgment is deserved. We can adjust our perspective to God’s perspective.
From God’s perspective in the days ahead, standing aloof and watching enemies come against Israel is not an option.