“You should not have gazed on the day of your brother, in the day of his captivity; nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction. Nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of (his) distress. . . .” Obadiah 12
As responsible followers of Jesus Christ we must watch and critique our impact on the surrounding culture.
The evident rise in sharply critical and very ad hominem attacks on fellow citizens with different viewpoints signals for us a continuing cultural decline. Civility is a necessity for a healthy society. Sad.
More distressing is the widespread incident of this kind of communication among professing Christians, not only toward folks in the larger society, but also toward others in the faith. Really Sad.
And with this kind of behavior, consequences follow. Grace offers no ‘Get out of jail free’ card with this stuff. The church will pay a price for this conduct, and it will become evident as we move on down the timeline.
Related Note: The ‘Day of the Lord’ is any day the Lord shows up to settle accounts with an individual, a group, or a nation. (vs. 15)
The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, and throughout Biblical history Israel and Edom were almost always at variance. The prophet Obadiah was witness to a particularly grievous incident around 840 BC. He was the first of the ‘writing prophets;’ chronicling for history the plundering of Jerusalem, likely at the hands of the Philistines. For the Edomites, it was a celebration!
As Israel was ravaged and routed by their violent oppressor, the Edomites positioned themselves to happily witness the carnage and carry off anything the attackers left behind. They mocked Judah as they staggered and fell, hurling insults and applauding every indignity they suffered.
A few of the Jews managed to elude the attack but the Edomites cut off their escape route and handed them over, along with some stragglers, to their enemy, In all of it, Edom exposed the most spiteful and vicious spirit.
Perhaps you’ve heard the popular German word for it: Schadenfreude – (i.e. Damage Joy) ‘A delight in the misfortune of another.’
“You should not have entered his gate . . .” “You should not have gazed on their affliction.” “You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off their escape.” “You should not have delivered to the enemy those who remained.” (vs. 13, 14)
The prophet was saying, “Edom, you’ve gotten by with this dark behavior for the moment, but you shouldn’t have done these things.” God called what they did a most ‘shameful violence!’ (vs. 10)
So how does this Old Testament incident speak to people in the modern world? Is there a truth preserved in this harsh account we should pay attention to?
Sometimes believers misapply the blessing of God’s grace, seizing it as a handy detour around the consequences of obvious misbehavior. It isn’t, at least not usually. I’m often amazed by the scope of God’s mercy to us, but in the everyday press of human activity the law of sowing and reaping is always in play, especially for us folks who’ve had our eyes opened.
I’ve observed Christians taking satisfaction from seeing others ‘get what’s coming to them,’ drawing the conclusion, with little or no first-hand knowledge, that they somehow deserved what befell them.
Recently, in the arena of political discussion, I have noticed the obvious delight of some professing Christians to see those who disagree with them experience misunderstanding, hardship, or misfortune.
Even in families, misconduct of all sorts is committed with the expectation that it will be tolerated and eventually overlooked. Insensitive, crude, and even abusive words and actions are somehow acceptable because one has professed Christ or is active in church.
When I see or hear this stuff in the daily rounds or on social media (or, God forbid, in myself) the words of Obadiah come with stinging clarity, “You shouldn’t have done that!”
For, not only is a sharp rebuke appropriate but likely an unavoidable consequence is going to follow. Oh, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but as sure as one planted those dark seeds, that crop’s gonna come up!
It is particularly disturbing when believers vilify and demonize others, saints or sinners, for perspectives formed by real hardship, violence, or oppression; something the speaker cannot possibly understand or appreciate without a similar experience.
Obadiah’s prophetic pronouncements against the Elders of Edom delivers, across the centuries, some of the consequences associated with such harsh attitudes:
- “The pride of your heart has deceived you . . . . God is searching it out.” (vs. 3, 6)
- Your wisdom and understanding will be compromised (vs. 8)
- “Shame shall cover you.” (vs. 10)
- “As you have done it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head” (vs. 15)
It’s important to have viewpoints and values which correspond to the Word and the Spirit, as we under-stand them. It is also important to recognize that other individuals of character may hold a differing under-standing or interpretation of the same Word and Spirit.
“The love of Christ constrains us” to interact with those folks with charity and sensitivity, as one for whom Christ died. And if their occasional mishap, or trial becomes, however slightly, a source of satisfaction for us, we had best reconsider that tasty response; there may be some bones in it!
Because of our privileged cultural and political experience, modern American Christians are accustomed to suffering little or no reprisal for their sometimes-nasty responses to their critics. We may be sure, however, there are consequences. Some will be experienced personally, some by loved ones, and some will also impact our witness, a double-edged sword.
It may sound rather ‘old fashioned’ and even a bit legalistic to the contemporary Christian person, but the prophetic phrase “You shouldn’t have done that” needs to again find a place in the church’s vocabulary, with particular application to ourselves!
Remember, “There’s a slow train comin’ up around the bend.” – Bob Dylan