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12th May

Obadiah 1; Psalm 127

Bible in a Year
5 minutes
In this article
12th May

Obadiah 1; Psalm 127

Bible in a Year
5 minutes


Today's reading is a short one. Obadiah is the shortest of all the books in the Old Testament. Unlike the other prophetic books we've looked at, this one is not a compilation of all Obadiah's preaches and visions. This book is just the one vision focused on the nation of Edom.

Of all the foreign nations, Edom has the closest history with Israel. If you think all the way back to Genesis, before Jacob had his twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob was still living at home. And he was a twin to his brother Esau (Genesis 25-27).

Esau was a hairy, red-headed man. These two had an uneasy relationship, namely because Jacob kept cheating his brother out of his blessing. Just as Jacob's descendants became the nation of Israel, Esau's descendants became the nation of Edom. Because of this, these two nations have always had an uneasy relationship with one another (see Numbers 20:14-20).

When Babylon came to sack Jerusalem and take its people into exile, the nation of Edom saw this as an opportunity to raid and murder in other Israelites cities.

Obadiah 1-14 - Accusations against Edom

Obadiah 15-21 - The day of the Lord against all nations

Like many of the pre-exilic prophets, Edom deals with the destruction and judgement on wickedness and evil, while also sharing of a future hope when all things will be restored under God.

Obadiah 1-21

Obadiah's vision starts with God's declaration against Edom. He will wage war against her and make her small. And the reason? Because of her pride. They both lived in lofty cliff tops, and saw themselves as better than the Israelites, with no-one being able to defeat them as easily.

God then brings up the image of a thief or a plunderer. In both these cases, these people would steal and take what they needed, but would leave the stuff they couldn't carry or weren't interested in. In contrast, Edom's destruction will be total. There will be nothing left. They will bill driven out of their own borders. 

We are then given more specific reasons for Edom's judgement. When Babylon came, they let it happened and then saw this as an opportunity to join in. They gloated and celebrated in Jerusalem’s downfall. In the downfall of their sister nation.

Then God gives them a series of 'do nots', which are probably things they are already doing. He tells them to not laugh and mock Israel for their destruction. Do not go into the wreckage of the city and loot what the Babylonians left behind. And do not trap those few who survived Babylon's attack, so you can sell them into slavery. We can see from this how wicked Edom had been in how they treated Israel.

And then Obadiah pivots. Having focused on Edom, Obadiah now declares "the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations." (Obadiah 15). Having looked at the coming destruction of Edom, Obadiah then sets his eyes on a much more future day that is coming where God will bring judgement on all the wickedness on the earth.

Just as the people of Edom drank to celebrate Israel's destruction, so will the wicked people of all the nations drink of God's judgement. Just like Edom had tried to consume the last of Israel, one day Israel will be like a fire consuming all the wicked in Esau and in the rest of the nations. 

Then God ends with how his people, represented by various cities in Israel, will possess these foreign nations. God will restore his people, and they will reclaim this land. In other words, after destroying the wicked, God will restore his people and establish a new kingdom that includes all the nations of the earth.

Obadiah uses Edom as an example, which is made easier by the fact the Edom (אֱדוֹם) uses the same letters as Adam (אָדָם) which can also be translated as humanity. Just as Edom was proud and corrupt, so the rest of humanity has proven itself proud and corrupt. And while God will punish Edom in the near future, there will come a future time when he will deal with all pride and corruption in humanity. He will then restore his people, and his kingdom, and all nations will be restored to him.

Psalm 127

This psalm is to king Solomon and is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

Psalm 127:1-2 - The Lord must build the house

Psalm 127:3-5 - Children are an inheritance

In this ascent journey we’ve gone from being far from God's presence (Psalm 120), to seeking God’s presence (Psalm 121), and then to reaching God’s presence (Psalm 122). From there, the psalmist has asked the Lord for help (Psalm 123) and then praised the Lord for his protection (Psalm 124).

From within Jerusalem, they reflected on the nature of righteousness and wickedness (Psalm 125). They thanked God for how he has restored his city, but also ask for more (Psalm 126). Now comes a reflection on the importance of God being first and foremost in our live (Psalm 127).

The psalmist opens with a simple observation: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1). It is pointless working and striving for something unless the Lord is in it. It’s useless working hard from a place of anxiety to provide for yourself. The Lord is the one who provides for those he loves. Success comes from the Lord. Nowhere else.

The psalmist then reflects on children. They two are a gift from the Lord. A warrior without an arrow in his hand cannot use his bow. He is useless. But a warrior with a quiver full of arrows is powerful and effective. In the same way, children are a blessing and help to their parents. They are a cause of celebration.

It’s perhaps fitting that this psalm is attributed to Solomon, as it’s the first wisdom psalm of the ascent psalms. It’s a reflection on the fact that all good things come from the Lord, so rather than striving in our own strength, we should seek for where he wants to work.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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