When You Stood Aloof

Today’s Reading:  Obadiah, Psalm 137

Just as the prophets foretold, God’s people were captured by Babylon and taken into captivity.  Jerusalem was destroyed.  God’s promise to His people was to bring them back home after seventy years of captivity.  During this same time of God speaking and bringing forth judgment on the Israelites, he was also speaking judgment against the enemy nations that surrounded them.  One of those enemies was actually their “brother” nation.

Think back to the story of Abraham and Sarah.  God told them they would have many descendants and blessed them with a son in their old age, Isaac.  Isaac married Rebekah and she gave birth to twins – Esau and Jacob.  These brothers started their struggle against each other in their mother’s womb and continued this kind of relationship into adulthood.  They left behind descendants who carried on the family feud.  

God’s people who had just been taken into captivity in Babylon were descendants of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob.  The descendants of Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, were the people of Edom.  The prophet Obadiah spoke strongly against the reaction of the Edomites to the defeat of Israel, replaying the animosity that Esau felt towards Jacob.  As the people of Israel were being attacked and carried into exile, Esau’s descendants were celebrating – they were gloating and even going as far as to assist the Babylonians, instead of stepping in and helping the Israelites.  

O Lord, remember what the Edomites did on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem.  “Destroy it!” they yelled.  “Level it to the ground!” – Psalm 137:7

God addressed this infidelity head on through the prophet Obadiah:

The Lord says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised.  You have been DECEIVED BY YOUR OWN PRIDE because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains.  ‘Who can ever reach us up here?’ you ask boastfully.  But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I WILL BRING YOU CRASHING DOWN,” says the Lord. –  Obadiah 1:2-4

“Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever.  When they were invaded, YOU STOOD ALOOF, refusing to help them.  Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.  You should not have gloated…You should not have rejoiced…You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble…As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you.” – Obadiah 1:10-12,15

God, help us!  How often have we been found standing aloof while those around us are struggling?  How often have we refused to help those around us who are suffering the consequences of their own actions?  We stand back and say, “It serves them right” or “I’m not surprised” or “They are getting what they deserve…”  Just as God expected the descendants of Esau to step in and help their neighboring brother nation, He communicated strong expectations in both the Old and New Testaments for how we are to help those around us.

“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility.  Take it back to its owner.  If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it.  Then you must return it.  Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility.  If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY.  Go and help your neighbor get back on its feet!” – Deut. 22:1-4

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me.  I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home.  I was naked, and you didn’t give me your clothing.  I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.

Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:41-46

Obadiah spoke of this same kind of fire while prophesying of the Edomites future.  He challenged them to look past where they were and see what God had ahead for them:

The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble.

The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything.

There will be no survivors in Edom.  I, the Lord, have spoken! – Obadiah 1:18

God obviously takes our responsibility to those around us VERY seriously – to the point of punishment here on earth and eternally.  For this reason, we also should take it seriously.  So how can we apply this?  God has blessed us with so much and there are so many around us who have so little.  

Dear Lord, show us today to whom you would have us reach out.  Forgive us for our complacency and our gloating.  Destroy our pride and replace it with compassion for others.  Convict us when we look away and give us YOUR eyes to see the world around us.  Amen.

Don’t just pretend to love others.  Really love them.  Hate what is wrong.  Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. – Romans 12:9-10 NLT

Jesus replied, “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:37-39