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God’s Word for You

Obadiah 1c A call to war

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 27, 2018

We have heard a message from the LORD.

Who are “we”? Is the prophet associating himself with all of Israel? More importantly, weren’t we just told that this is what the Lord himself said? If so, does this phrase belong here at all? This “we” isn’t like the divine “we” or “us” of Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make man in our image”), since this “we” has “heard a message from the LORD,” which means it isn’t the LORD speaking. Some commentaries argue that it does not belong here. However, there are many instances of a message from God in the Bible in which the introduction (the Messenger Formula) is followed by a brief interruption on the part of the messenger before the message commences. These sorts of interruptions include:

  1, An expansion concerning the speaker, such as “This is what the Lord the God of the Hebrews says…” (Exodus 10:3). See also Isaiah 29:22; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 31:35-36, etc.

  2, An expansion concerning the one addressed. Consider Jeremiah 45:2-3. “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning you, Baruch—you said, ‘Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain…’” (etc.).

  3, An expansion about the topic of the speech. Consider here Jeremiah 27:19-22: “This is what the LORD of Armies says concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels left in this city, which Nebuchadnezzar did not take away…” (etc.).

  4, An expansion by the messenger. This is not always easy to detect, but there seems to be an example in Jeremiah 30:5-7. 5“This is what the LORD says. We have heard cries of fear, of terror, and not of peace. 6 ‘Ask and see, can a man give birth to a child? Why then do I see every strong man with his hands on his belly like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? 7 Oh! That day is so terrible, there is none like it! It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.’” (EHV). The second half of verse 5 seems to be an expansion on the part of Jeremiah, and not part of the judgment of the Lord.

The fourth option seems to fit the text here in Obadiah. The “we” would be the prophet himself, and perhaps Judah (or Israel and Judah), since the target audience is the land of Edom.

An envoy was sent to the nations to say, “Rise up! Let us rise up against her for battle!”

There is no record in the Bible or in history of such an envoy. It might have been one of the nearby nations, or a “lying spirit” like the one in 1 Kings 22:19-38. Without a doubt, there were wars against Edom. The Edomites were attacked by Syria, Persia, and the Nabateans, as well as the Romans.

Once again there is a “we” or “us” in the verse. This time, the Lord includes himself in the pronoun. He is inviting nations to join him in a war against Edom. Keil (1888) says: “The sender is Jehovah, who will also rise up along with the nations for war against Edom, placing himself at their head as leader and commander.” Recall Joel 2:11, “The LORD thunders at the head of his army,” and Isaiah 13:4, “I have commanded my holy ones; I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath.” God does not require human armies to go into battle for him (2 Kings 19:35). Yet he chooses to invite nations to join him, to spur them on to trust in him for salvation as well. In the same way, God could do all evangelism himself through miraculous visions (Acts 22:7-10, 26:14-18), but he chooses to use us as his messengers, to make disciples of all nations. He no longer asks us to exterminate the pagans. As converted pagans ourselves, he invites us to proclaim the gospel to the people around us, and to proclaim it out in the world. Just as he had victory over Edom, he will win victories through us over sin, death and the Devil. Our battle standard is not any human flag, but the cross of Jesus Christ. We are called to a war of peace; a war of conversion. A war of change—not a change of governments or philosophy or borders, but a war on hearts, to turn, to ask for mercy, in order that all can be spared.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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