The shortest book in the Old Testament, Obadiah’s message is directed toward Israel’s neighbor – and “brother” – Edom. But, even though the book comprises a mere 21 verses, it is not surprising to see how many vital truths, principles and warnings God gives through this prophet.
For instance, for centuries, Edom had mocked Israel’s failures, gloated over their misfortunes and refused to help them in times of need. In response, God, through Obadiah, says to Edom:
“You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands. You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble.”
Haven’t you, at one time or another, celebrated when someone who’s hurt you is suffering? Me too.
But I’m reminded of Jesus’ hard teaching:
“Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
“Well, that’s my favorite verse in the Bible,” said no one ever.
Ambrose was a 4th century theologian from Milan. He also knew how hard this teaching is – which is why he pleaded with God to give him a compassionate heart for his enemies:
Translation: Ambrose is simply praying, “O God – may i never become numb and callous to the sheep you’ve called me to shepherd. Keep my heart soft and attentive that I may rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Application for pastors/church leaders/small group leaders: I get it. For 36 years I’ve been doing it. Pastoring/shepherding is hard work. Because it’s relational. (By the way, if you don’t like people – and you’re a pastor – find a new career.) And sometimes – me included – you just want to disappear. You’ve run out of patience, empathy, etc.,… the well is dry. It’s at those “moments of truth” we have to take a deep breath, take inventory of our lives, and refocus on Christ and how he loved people. No pastor in history has been more in demand than Jesus. Yet Jesus maintained his intimacy with the people by means of maintaining intimacy with the Father.
You can’t give what you don’t have. Even Jesus knew that.
In the words of the great theologians, The Righteous Brothers, don’t lose “that lovin’ feelin’.”
Love to you all, Nick