Another living parable
Obadiah 1: You stood there and watched.
It’s hard to call Obadiah a “book” of the Bible. The whole thing is two and a half pages long and so small that translators decided not to divide it into chapters. It’s also unique because the prophecy of Obadiah is addressed to a nation other than Israel or Judah. Obadiah is focused on their neighbor Edom. Way back in the book of Genesis we find the story of the unlike twins, Jacob and Esau. Here we find the expectant mother Rebekah experiencing such movement within her that she’s concerned about it. The Lord tells her that she’s pregnant with twins and that the two boys will be the founders of two nations that will never get along. In fact, they’re getting a head start on the conflict by fighting while still in the womb. No wonder Rebekah is both uncomfortable and concerned! The first born is Esau who becomes the founder of Edom. The younger is Jacob, who’s later called Israel. In Obadiah we find ourselves hundreds of years down the road. Israel is going through some devastating defeats while Edom watches from a safe distance. Not only does Edom watch it all but they rejoice in what they see. Their ancient enemy is being beaten up to the point of destruction. God’s man, Obadiah, turns his face toward this “brother” of Israel and utters a prophecy of condemnation. Edom and Israel may have a long history of disagreement but they’re still brothers who claim a common ancestry to Isaac. Obadiah tells them that by just watching and even cheering what’s happening to Israel that they’ve made themselves party to all the evil that’s being done. So to my surprise, even though I’m reading a tiny, little-read book of the Old Testament, I realize I’m reading a real life version of the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Obadiah’s scathing words, I see what God thinks of people who fail to show compassion on others, even their enemies, in their time of need.
Take Away: So, who is my neighbor?
The high price of stew these days
Genesis 25: My stew for your rights as the firstborn.
The unalike twins, Jacob and Esau, have never gotten along, sharing no common interests aside from their both being keenly interested in their own interests! Jacob hangs around the house, preferring the comforts of home to the adventures of the outdoors. Esau lives for the hunt and might be called a “man’s man.” On this occasion Esau’s hunting expedition has been unfruitful and he returns home empty handed and with an empty stomach. Meanwhile, Jacob has cooked some red stew which happens to be Esau’s favorite. When his brother demands a meal, Jacob plays “let’s make a deal” with him. Esau can have his stew if he’ll give his birthright to him. This is a big deal. Their father is wealthy and being the first born gives Esau the rights to the vast majority of that wealth. Esau, though, is interested in one thing: his empty stomach. Without hesitation he makes what is a very good deal for Jacob and a very bad deal for himself. I think we’re living in the age of Esau. Our entire society is focused on living for today. People trade away their sexual purity for a passing feel-good fling. Government spends money it doesn’t have, strapping our descendants with huge debt, to avoid a downturn in the economy and some disgruntled voters. Comfort and pleasure rule the day and like Esau we trade our birthright for a bowl of soup. Anytime I fail to recognize the larger values of life and focus on my current wants I’m in danger of joining Esau in his folly.
Take away: A life without proper priorities is bound to be a wasted life.
That’s just the way I am
Genesis 25: The children tumbled and kicked inside her.
If there has ever been a set of fraternal twins it’s Jacob and Esau. These boys don’t look anything alike and their personalities are clearly different one from one another. It’s no surprise that their mother Rebekah knows something’s wrong. And no wonder: her body is a sort of war zone! Her babies don’t get along and they’re yet to see the light of day! Their story is, to say the least, a thought provoking one. Here are two babies being born to the same parents, sharing a womb, and sibling rivalry is already full blown. We’ve all said, at one time or another, “That’s just the way I am.” Most often that’s an excuse for failing to practice self-discipline in some area. However, I’m reminded in this passage that there’s truth to that statement. We aren’t born as blank slates ready to be shaped by the events of our lives. Some stuff about us is hard wired from the start. In this case, Jacob and his brother are hard wired for conflict. Their parents, who will play favorites with their sons, won’t help matters any. So what, if anything, can be done about the undesirable tendencies with which we’re born? To some extent, parents can teach their children self-discipline and thus help them learn to deal with their natural dispositions. I’m glad, though, to report that there’s a greater remedy. As we read this story we see God at work, especially in Jacob’s life. As God’s grace unfolds, we see a man who’s changed as only God can change him.
Take away: God can do for us that which we could never do for ourselves.