Hope in Covenant Breaking (Obadiah 1:1-4)

June 2, 2024

Series: Summer Series

Book: Obadiah

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I Have Heard a Report                                                                                            June 2, 2024

Bethany ARP Church

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Well, the words to which I would like to draw your attention to this morning come to us from the book of Obadiah, so I invite you to stand to the reading of God’s Word.

We are beginning a new sermon series this morning through the month of June from the book of Obadiah, and so we’re going to be looking in the first four verses of Obadiah this morning.

Let us turn to the Word of God.

The vision of Obadiah thus says the Lord God concerning Edom. We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations saying, ‘Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle. Behold, I will make you small among the nations. You shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you. You who dwell in the clefts of the rock whose habitation is high, who say in your heart who will bring me down to the ground? Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord.’ Amen.

Let us pray.

Christ and your Heavenly Father, we give thanks again for the Word that you provided for us in your Providence this morning, and to God we pray that you would be an encouragement unto us as we rest in and trust in the words of Holy Scripture, and that the Holy Spirit will be working in and through this Word to give us a testimony of your blessing. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Please be seated.

Well, this year we have been in the book of Ecclesiastes. We’ve heard several messages from the Psalter, and we’ve just completed time in the book of Titus. And now, in the month of June, we are in the book of Obadiah. It is not intentional that we have gone from bigger to smaller, but now we are in the shortest book of the Old Testament. Obadiah is a prophet of the Lord, as you may have guessed. He is likely a priest. He is one who has given a word to a people who are not my people. This morning in Sabbath school, we went through the first chapter of the book of Hosea, and in Hosea we hear that God has a word for the northern kingdom which had broken His covenant. However, this morning the Edomites are a people who had broken God’s covenant many, many generations before.

The Edomites are of the descendants of Esau. Now Esau, as you might remember, was not a huge friend of the people of Israel. Remember even at their conception, the young children in the womb of their mother, Jacob and Esau, fought with each other. Now we have been blessed over the past six months or so with a number of young children, and we are waiting to meet even more young children and God and His providence has not blessed us with any twins in that, but imagine if you will that you had a child in you who was not only kicking you, but was kicking their brother at the same time. Now imagine what that must feel like. And yet that’s what the mother of Jacob and Esau dealt with for nine months. And even at their birth, what do we see Esau and Jacob doing, but they are striving to be the firstborn. They are fighting to get the first hand out of the womb. And through their life, what do we see Jacob and Esau do, but be at odds with one another. Sometimes when you read the stories of Jacob and Esau at first glance, you can almost kind of feel sorry for Esau. Because Esau seems to be an industrious young man. He seems to be a man who works hard. He seems to be a man of the field. We have many farmers here, and I’m sure many of y’all know people who don’t work very hard. And it can get annoying when you’re out in 100 degree heat, bailing hay and fixing fences and all that stuff, to think about the fella getting disability while you’re out here doing all this work. And yet, what do we see?

We see God blesses Jacob, and he does not bless Esau. Again, it can seem somewhat unfair, it can seem somewhat unjust, but we know that God has blessed the one and not the other, because who has the covenant blessing? Well, it is Jacob. And what has that done to Esau? Throughout the history of Esau and his generations, there is continued warfare between Jacob and Esau. In the days of the wilderness journey, when the people of God are getting ready to go into the promised land, they come up upon the Edomites, and they think the Edomites are going to be of help because they’re of the same blood. But of course, as you know, in the book of Exodus, are they much help? No. In fact, as we read in all of the letters of Moses, they are a thorn in the side of the people of God.

And the history is the same as you read in 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st and 2nd King, 1st and 2nd Chronicles. Every time Edom is mentioned, it’s not as a word of thank you. It is a word from God to this troublesome people. And here we come into the days of Obadiah, where the story is the same. And here we have a word of God concerning Edom. We hear a report from the Lord, and we see that a messenger has been sent to the nations. Now, one of the things we’re meant to learn in the midst of the book of Obadiah is that God has a word for everyone, and that God has a word for every nation under heaven, even those nations which are covenant breakers. Now that word isn’t often good, but God has a word for it. And if God is speaking to you, then that in itself is a blessing. Because as I’ve heard people say before, I’d much rather somebody be angry at me than somebody don’t care about me. Because if somebody is mad at you, they want to fix something about you. That means they desire your better.

Now they may not actually want your better, but at least the desire is there. But if somebody is apathetic about you, if somebody doesn’t even think about you, if somebody doesn’t even care about you, then there is much to be concerned about. So whenever we see judgment prophesied in the Bible, we need to come to it with the right mindset that God is concerned with Edom. And he desires that Edom would repent and turn to the living God. And one of the messages here, of course, is a blessing for us and for those who live today is that I’m sure many of us have Edomites in our lives. I mean, not literally. I don’t know if there’s a big group of Edomites living in York County, but there are sinners among us. And there are sinners among us whose sins go back generations, sins that go back even to the old country, who never seem to be able to get out of that generational curse and fall into the same sins that have been natural to their family line for time immemorial. And God has a word of grace, a God of mercy, and a word of love to those people, which is why he sends Obadiah to Edom, to call them to repentance, to remind them of the judgment that is to come, and to warn them that this judgment is certain because they are covenant breakers, that God remembers the sin of men, that it cannot remain hidden, that it will not remain unknown in the day of Christ’s coming.

One of the warnings that Jesus gives to the Pharisees and to others in his earthly ministry is that the day will come when you will stand in front of the living God and will have to give an account for everything you have done. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Israelite, it doesn’t matter if you’re an Edomite. You will be judged. And so the more that we hear of the coming judgment, the more that it is meant to cause us to not just repent but to give thanks unto the Lord for his mercy in giving us the covenant blessing of being a son and daughter of Jacob.

One of the other times we see Esau mentioned in the Scriptures, of course, is in Romans chapter 9. In Romans chapter 9, Paul begins that kind of three chapter testimony about the physical people of Israel. What is going to happen to those who are physically related to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob? And as he’s introducing that message, we see him quote from the Old Testament. Now Paul quotes a lot of the Old Testament, and he does that because that’s the Bible, but he says to us about the nature of the mercy of God. God will have compassion on who has compassion, and that what does he say about Jacob? Jacob, I have loved, Esau, I have hated. Now Israel was supposed to take that message and do what with it? Jacob was supposed to hear that word and even more rest and trust in the love of the living God. For every morning that Jacob woke up, he should have been putting his head to the heavens and giving thanks to God that he was born Jacob and not Esau. That’s the part of the message, of course, of Luke 18 between the Pharisee and the publican. The publican who has come to faith in the living God. Every time he goes to the temple, he can’t but throw his face in the ground because what is he?
He’s a sinner.
And what has God done for sinners but shown mercy unto them? He can’t look at the publican, I mean the Pharisee, he can’t even look at himself. All he can do is stare at the ground and give thanks to God that he has had mercy and grace upon him as a sinner. And that’s what we are to learn, again from Obadiah, that we are to give thanks that we have been born into covenant keeping families. One of the things about being a Presbyterian is that we believe in the continuing blessing of the covenant. We believe in the generational blessing of the covenant. Part of the reason why we baptize infants is because we believe that they don’t become believers or become members of the covenant when we put water on them. No, we are recognizing something that already exists within them by the power and the glory of God, that God in his mercy has allowed you and his providence to be born to a believing parent or believing parents, whatever the occasion might be. And we are testifying that God in his grace has provided this blessing and that we are recognizing that blessing. We are recognizing the covenant promise that has been placed on that child. And that’s why we are to see the admonitions and the scriptures that we are to raise our children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, because who do they belong to? They belong to the Lord. That’s why fathers are especially given that responsibility. They are not only to raise their children up so they know right from wrong, they are of course supposed to teach them moral lessons and tell them what is right and what is good. But one of the primary responsibilities of fathers is to remind their children of that covenant blessing. That’s why fathers are to pray with their children daily, because fathers are particularly given that role in the scriptures.

They are the spiritual heads of their families. And that headship, again, is pointed to us here in the book of Obadiah, because why is Edom in the situation it’s in? It’s in the situation it in, because Esau has passed down this generational hatred for Israel from generation to generation. When a young Edomite was born, probably the first story they heard from their father was is God was mean to us and chose Jacob instead of our father Esau. And so they were raised from the time they were little babies until they were old men to hate Israel with every fiber of their being. And so, it shouldn’t be surprising to us that when Israel comes around that Edom doesn’t help. Well, if you’ve been told from the time you were one year old that Israel is a bunch of bad people, you would not help the Israelites. But again, God has testified to Israel that God has not forgotten nor forsaken the Edomites. Even though they are covenant breakers, that says the Lord God concerning Edom, we have heard a report from the Lord and a messenger has been sent among the nations saying arise and let us rise up against her for battle. Behold, I will make you small among the nations, you should be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you. Again, that is the message. That is why Edom is in the situation it’s in.

It’s because of the pride of their hearts. They cannot get over this earthly fault. They cannot get over this fleshly thorn in their flesh that God had chosen Jacob and not Esau. Now go all the way back to the actual Jacob and Esau. We know the story well, right? We hear about the kind of weird things that happened with Jacob’s mom and how she seems to deceive and how Jacob seems to deceive and it strikes us as rather strange that God would bless Jacob and not bless Esau. But remember, what’s one of the things the game of scripture tells us? Who is sovereign over all things? God is sovereign over all things. And who are we to stand in judgment of the living and the true God? Again, we who are called to walk by faith and not by sight often do the opposite, right? We see the appearance of things, right? We see the things that are shown to us and we treat that as the actual reality of the world. But that’s not how we are to live, is it? Again, there are lots of things happening that we cannot see with our created human eyes and mind.

And so when we read in the scriptures that God chose Jacob and not Esau, we are reminded of course by the Apostle Paul again in Romans 9 that God did what? That God called Jacob from before the foundation of the world. Before anything that they had done, anything that Jacob had done or anything that Esau had done, God had established that Jacob would be a covenant keeper, that he would be the one who maintained the covenant made with Abraham to the generation which would follow. And of course, one of the things that we’re blessed with is that we’re blessed with a whole life of Jacob. We get to see the fullness of his testimony, the fullness of his life. There’s a warning then again to us, but we must be very careful about judging people for what we see in the moment. Especially when we don’t know anything about them or know what’s going on in their life or know what’s happening in the things that we cannot see. And we also need to be careful to judge people in the present. Because again, what do we know of the work that God has established in their life? That’s one of the reasons why in the Christian faith when we see men and women living in ways that are wicked and evil, that are an abomination unto the Lord, what are we called to do? We are called to pray for them. We are called to witness the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to them. We are called to preach the gospel to sinners. Because do you know whether or not your kind word will be the way that God brings them out of that wickedness and unto the life of his marvelous grace? Of course you don’t.

Now again, we don’t preach a gospel of niceness. Sometimes as we said last week in closing out Titus, sometimes you need to use the two by four of the Holy Spirit. And sometimes you need to speak forthrightly with those who are leading themselves into destruction. But even when you speak harshly to those destroying themselves, what is the spirit by which you are preaching that truth? You are preaching it with the understanding that Jesus Christ desires sinners to come to repentance.

I think sometimes we don’t preach the gospel to those we hate because we don’t want them to repent. We don’t want them to turn away from wickedness. We want them to be destroyed. We want them to fall on their faces, whether literally or spiritually. We rejoice over the death of the wicked when the Scriptures tell us to do the opposite. We are to mourn the death of the wicked because what does that mean? If a person who is destined to hell goes to hell, what does that mean? It means they are in hell. And should we desire that any should see that eternal death, well as human beings the answer is no.

In 2 Peter 3 we hear a word from the Lord that the Lord desires that none would see perdition. Of course the nature of man’s wickedness and evil is that some men do go on to perdition. And remember how does Jesus respond to the covenant breaking to the apostasy of Israel? Well as he enters into the woe passages in Matthew 23 in the midst of those what do we see Jesus do? But he stands and he looks down at Jerusalem and what does he do? He weeps and laments over the apostasy of Israel. Why? He desired that they would come under him like little chicks, like little biddies, come under them and receive the protection. They have chosen to run into the hands of the wolves. And so God sends this message to Edom.

He sends it through the mouth of Obadiah that they would be awakened out of their slumber. That the pride of their heart would be destroyed, that they would no longer walk in the hatred of Jacob but would come to see the covenant blessing of God in Jacob. But again they aren’t to do that for Jacob’s sake, they’re to do that for the Lord’s sake. And one of the things, one of the problems that God often brings to the conscience of Jacob, to the southern kingdom particularly, is that God has given them for a witness to the nations.

In Book of Deuteronomy, as Moses is giving that kind of final sermon to the people before they go into the land of promise, he reminds them in Deuteronomy that they are to be alight unto the nations, that the people of God are to witness the glory of God, the wisdom of God, the beauty of God, the grace of God so that the nations surrounding them will want to know this God who has been such a blessing unto the nation of Israel. And so the witness here again to us as we think about what God has to say to the Edomites is that as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, what witness are we being to the Edomites of the culture around us? Are we witnessing Christ in the testimony of His grace? Or do we live and act as the world acts? So we know better than the Edomites?

Well, that was certainly true of Israel and Judah in the days of Obadiah.
What are the northern kingdom doing at this point? They’re getting ready to be wiped out by the same Assyrian army that’s going to wipe out Edom because they’ve chosen to follow after the sins of their father, Jeroboam. And so the northern kingdom is just as much a bunch of covenant breakers as Edom. So who is Israel to stand in judgment of Edom at this point in history? Have they not done the same thing? Have they not laid upon the pride of their own heart? Again, that’s the Jews that Jesus comes into contact with in John chapter 8. Remember, Jesus there is, he’s proclaiming the good news of the gospel. Again, these Jewish men are wanting to say over and over again, no, our father is Abraham, our father is Moses, our father is this, this, and this. But of course, who does Jesus say the real father is? Jesus says Satan is their father. And why?
Because who is the father of lies? Who’s the father of pride? Who’s the father of arrogance? Why does Satan rebel against the Lord our God? Because he was not humbled before the Lord our God. Satan, who spoke over in the scriptures as the strongest of the angels, the most beautiful of the angels, the most well apportioned of the angels, looks at God. And rather than being thankful that God has made him so, he wants to be greater than God and God casts him out.

And what does Satan spend the rest of his life, if you want to put it that way, doing? Trying to get others to live in the same pride that he has in himself. And so the witness we have here in Obadiah is of a nation which needs to be humbled, a nation which needs to be reminded of the power of God to save sinners. And of course, the same could be said of our own nation at this very time in history. Is there any other words you would use to describe the United States than pride? We’ve dedicated all month to it. But again, the nature of that is an attack against the very person that God has made us to be. It’s an attack against the creature as much as it is an attack against the creator.

It’s easy for us again as we have all those images tossed in our face to again be as the Pharisee. And say, I don’t have any pride in my hearts. I don’t have any pride in my life. I don’t have any pride in my walk. It’s all those other people who live in such a way. And yes, all those other people need to repent and turn into living God. But again, the Lord is doing something in the witness of this evil in our own age. He is calling us again to examine our own hearts and consider once more our own walk with Him. Nobody is more happy to be Presbyterian than I am. I grew up in another form of Presbyterianism which has apostatized and left the kingdom of God and is now a synagogue of Satan. And many of you know that my own family continues to witness in that evil. And it’s easy again for us to look at the churches around us that are embracing that paganism, embracing that evil, embracing that Satanism. And say, boy, I’m glad I don’t go to that church. Boy, I’m glad I don’t engage in these things. And there is a sense, of course, which we should be thankful that we have a Bible believing in a gospel preaching church. That’s a blessing unto us. But again, it’s what we do with that blessing. It’s how we understand that blessing that makes all the difference. Again, do we stand in our pride about not engaging in such wickedness, or do we humble ourselves before the living God? Proverbs 11-2 says, ‘when pride comes, then comes shame, but what the humble is wisdom.’ James 4:6 says, ‘…but he gives more grace. Therefore, he says, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ That’s the simple message of the Scriptures when it comes to the nature of these things. Again, as we hear and go through the various sins of Edom, it is worth pointing out the sins of Edom, because Edom needs to be convicted of their sin. They need to be witnessed to. They need to be told that they are doing evil. But we need to be careful as we hear of the judgments that are falling upon others, and not, again, apply the same truths to our own heart. And that’s part of the necessary nature of the preaching of the gospel.

That’s why we preach the law, because we need to be convicted of our sin. We need to be shown where we fall short of the glory of God. We need to know where we need to grow in grace, where our sanctification needs particularly work done. That’s what brothers and sisters, as we consider once more, again, the Book of Obadiah, again, the Lord God concerning Edom. ‘We have heard a report from the Lord and a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, Arise, and let’s rise up against her for battle. Behold, I will make you small among the nations. You shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, who dwell in the quest of the rock, whose habitation is high. You who say in your heart, who will bring me down to the ground, though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord.

Again, pride goes before the fall. You’re the men who believe themselves to be greater than others, are the first who will face the judgment. And those who consider themselves to be above others will be the first to face the judgment. What has Christ called us to be but to be servants? How did Jesus describe himself to his own union disciples? I have come not to do what? I have come not to be served, but to serve. And the witness of that, of course, is that as the king of kings, the Lord of Lords, the second person of holy trinity has humbled himself and come in the form of the flesh and has lived, died, has been raised from the dead, and has given unto us the blessings of this covenantal promise. And as we come to a greater understanding of that, again, it has an effect on us, which is opposite from how the world would think.

As the more and more we come to know Jesus Christ, the less and less room there is for us. The less and less room there is for the pleasures of the flesh, the less and less room there is for the devil to speak in. The Apostle Paul tells the people of Colossae and the people of Ephesus to allow the word of Christ to dwell within us richly by the singing of songs, hymns and spiritual songs. He’s telling us that if you’re filling your hearts and your mind and your soul with the word of the living God, then what room will there be from pride? What room will there be for self-building up? Because what does the word of God say on every page?
That Jesus Christ is king, and you’re not.
And that that same king has done what? That same king has come to lay down his life for sinners. This testimony that we see in the Book of Obadiah, again, is a grand entrance into the opportunity that God provides each and every Lord’s day for the people of God to, first of all, see their sin, second of all, be reminded of the free offer of the gospel, and thirdly, be renewed in that covenant blessing. In older writing and stuff, you’ll see Lord’s Day worship referred to as a covenant renewal time. And especially as we come to take the Lord’s Supper next Sunday, that’s an especially important time of covenant renewal. Because every time we come to the table, what are we saying? We are saying that we believe in Jesus Christ. We don’t just believe that Jesus Christ exists, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, for even the demons testify to such. But every time we come to eat of the bread and drink of the cup, we are testifying that we are sinners who are dead in our sin. And who have been raised from death and into the marvelous light of the gospel. That we are no longer ourselves, but we belong body and soul to the living God. And this testimony of the covenant that we see is a witness to the nations around us that we feed by faith on Jesus Christ. That our hope is not in flesh and blood, but our hope is in the God who has made the heavens and the earth.

And every time we look at God, it humbles us. Every time we look at God, it causes us to fall in our knees, to fall in our face and rest in Him. For it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. And so brothers and sisters, as we close this morning, let us be reminded of this simple truth. That there is no hope in Edom and Esau. There’s no hope in the pride of the flesh. There’s no hope in the hatred and the anger and the spitefulness that we have for one another. But our hope is in the God who has given that covenant promise to Jacob. Who has given that covenant promise to the people of the living God that we might rest and trust in Him both now and forevermore. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.

And consider that, meditate upon that this week as we prepare to again spend more time in the book of Obadiah. This opportunity that God has given to us to reassess our covenant blessing. To rest in that covenant blessing and to be reminded of the glory which we have received in Jesus Christ, our Savior, both this day and forevermore.

Let us pray.