by Rev. Ian Arnold
Decent people agree that gloating is miserable, either to indulge in it or be the recipient of it. We all know or have witnessed instance of gloating, as when someone who gets ahead of themselves is brought down a proverbial peg or two. After World War 2 people who had fraternised with invading occupying armies were, once those armies had been driven out, the focus of much derision and gloating (and worse).
The little book of Obadiah, just one Chapter, targets one of ancient Israel’s enemies, Edom, whose people had gloated gleefully when Judah fell and Jerusalem was breached and ransacked by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. there had never been a lot of love lost between the two nations, Edom and Judah. For much of their histories Edom had been a bit player on the then international scene, cowed by Judah for much of the time. But, and its nemesis – Judah – broken by the Babylonians, the Edomites couldn’t help themselves.
Thus the warning, thunderous in its way that we have here: “For your violence against your brother Jacob (Judah), shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever.” (Verse 10).
But what of the relevance of this, one of the shortest books of the Bible, to us today?
This is not about history, or exact historical sequence, but the reality is that the books of the Bible do have a sequential order, each in its right order, one following the other.
Obadiah is one of what are called “the twelve Minor Prophets”. And where, in the Bible, do they come? The answer is, right at the end of the Old Testament and immediately before the New Testament which starts with the story of the Coming, or Advent, of the Lord.
In each of these twelve little books, called the Minor Prophets, an evil is highlighted which ran strongly through the ancient people of Israel at that time. And, in us, those same evils are focussed on, as something we need to face up to, and deal with, before we can move on and the Lord can become a reality in our very own lives.
The truth is there is an “Edom” in each of us, a strong inclination to contempt and superiority over others, which gets its opportunity especially when others are weakened or brought low for one reason or another. Australians have a bit of a reputation for bringing down “tall poppies”, and of enjoying their humiliation and discomfit.
Clearly, humility and compassion is the far worthier alternative.