Edom’s Fall and Israel’s Rise
“The exiles of … the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (vv. 20–21).- Obadiah 15–21
Our brief study of Obadiah concludes today as we consider the last seven verses of this short book. In its original context, this passage gave hope for the exiles of Israel that their dispossession would not be the final word from the Lord regarding His people. As with the Old Testament as a whole, Obadiah foresaw a glorious restoration for the faithful descendants of Jacob (Deut. 30:1–10; Ezek. 36:22–38).
Restoration of the faithful remnant, however, has on its flip side the defeat and destruction of the remnant’s enemies. Therefore, Obadiah speaks of “the day of the Lord … upon all the nations” (v. 15). As we have seen in other studies, the phrase day of the Lord is God’s intervention to save His people and crush their enemies. It can refer to specific instances of the Lord’s judgment in history—such as Babylon’s fall (Isa. 13)—but it can also stand for the final judgment, when God will set all things right forever (Mal. 4:5). In any case, a specific day of the Lord within history always prefigures the final judgment to come. Obadiah may have in view the specific day of the Lord that brings about the end of Edom in history or the final day of judgment. In fact, it seems that he combines the two, for he speaks of the worldwide recognition of God’s reign: “the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (Obad. 21). Either way, Obadiah reveals that God will not leave His people to suffer forever but will intervene decisively to save Abraham’s faithful children.
Moving into the New Testament, we see a clearer presentation that even the faithful must undergo the day of judgment. Those who serve the Lord in faith do not do so because they possess a righteous status in themselves before God. Instead, as with those who remain outside of the kingdom, we who love the one, true Creator are children of wrath apart from our Father’s sovereign initiative (Eph. 2:1–3). But God sent His Son to endure the day of the Lord in our behalf, to bear the punishment we deserve as the enemies of God, thereby showing Himself to be just and the Justifier (Acts 2:14–41; Rom. 3:21–26). Christ’s work on Calvary manifested the day of the Lord for His elect, which was granted by our holy God in His grace that His people would not have to be counted as His enemies on the day when Jesus returns to consummate His kingdom. Because God has judged us in Christ and imputed His righteousness to us, the final day of the Lord for us will not be the day of wrath it will be for those who do not know Jesus (1 Thess. 1:10).
By His grace, God in Christ intervened in history before the final day of the Lord to save us from the Lord’s wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Thus, we do not yet experience certain aspects of what Obadiah saw regarding the day of judgment. God’s people do not yet possess their full inheritance in the new heaven and earth, so we don’t possess the land of the Canaanites. But the work of Jesus has guaranteed it for us. One day, we shall rule over the whole earth, the Holy Land included.
Passages for Further Study