In all likelihood, you have never heard these words to open a Sunday morning service: “Friends, please open your Bibles to the Book of Obadiah.” After all, Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, comprising one chapter of twenty-one verses. Nothing is known of the author apart from the words of this book preserved by the Holy Spirit—words which include not one biographical detail about the prophet himself. Further, Obadiah’s prophecy is addressed to Edom, a relatively minor nation descended from Jacob’s twin, Esau. And although referenced repeatedly throughout Old Testament history as an opponent of Israel, Edom does not loom large in our consciousness. Nor is this dim outline reinforced in the New Testament, which neither quotes nor references Obadiah’s prophecy. Nevertheless, Obadiah’s words, which are God-breathed and eternal, contain powerful messages that are relevant today. For example, the character of God as set forth by Obadiah is an invaluable study. But in this space, we will briefly consider the application to us of what is, perhaps, the key verse: “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head” (v. 15).
We will not take space here to discuss Edom’s long and unbroken opposition to Israel, which began in a national sense when Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through their territory as God’s people ended their wilderness wandering and prepared to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. It is worth noting then that, although Obadiah’s prophecy is primarily addressed to Edom, our text mentions “all the nations” who had opposed or would oppose His chosen people. That expanded reference underscores the fact that the principle teaching of this verse, namely, that we reap what we sow, is universal in its application.
God may tarry in mercy, patience, and longsuffering, but His recompense is sure and just. We may hope He forgets; we may ourselves forget, but God never does. By the time of Obadiah’s prophecy, Edom had been a thorn in Israel’s side for some six hundred years. (As with other details extraneous to the prophecy, the date of Obadiah’s ministry is not certain). And it would be another two-hundred-fifty years before judgment would fall on Edom in the form of Arabs known as Nabateans, who descended on the nation and drove most of them out of their land. Still they survived until Titus, the Roman, annihilated them in A.D. 70, and they disappeared from history. Obadiah had prophesied their termination: “’Will I not on that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘destroy wise men from Edom . . . So that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter. . . . So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau’” (vv. 8a, 9b, 18c). As they had done, it was done to them; their dealings returned on their own heads.
No one is exempt from the promise regarding reaping and sowing is Writing perhaps a century later, Hosea prophesied regarding Israel: “they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (8:7a). And more than eight hundred years after Hosea, Paul echoed the same theme: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). And these explicit statements of a truth are illustrated everywhere throughout both testaments, both in sinners like Naboth or Jezebel and saints like David and Solomon who were recompensed for their sinful deeds, or in saints like Abraham and Ruth who were blessed for their righteous behavior.
Still, how easy it is for us to think that righteousness goes unrewarded or that we will be the unique exception where sin is concerned and escape God’s chastening. Obadiah reminds us all that “As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.” God keeps accurate and long accounts: sinners will be judged, sinning saints chastened, and faithful saints rewarded.
Previous Page | Next Page