Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Obadiah 5 If robbers came at night…

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 24, 2018

5 “If thieves came, if robbers came at night—oh, how you will be destroyed!—wouldn’t they steal only what they wanted? When the grape pickers come to you don’t they leave some for gleaning?

I won’t bother to explain how challenging this verse is to translate. A quick comparison with any three or four versions will show that it isn’t easy. I have remained as close to the Hebrew as I could, even leaving the cry “Oh, how you will be destroyed” in the middle of the first sentence, just as it is in Hebrew. The idea, of course, is that normally anybody would leave something behind, even a thief. Think of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch who left “hooks and some wire.” And when people came to pick grapes or harvest a field, they didn’t take everything. God’s law commanded them to leave something for people to glean. Perhaps a point God is making is that whether people take things illegally (thieves) or legally (grape pickers), they don’t take everything. But Edom won’t be so fortunate. There will be no remnant, no straggler, no families; not even a single child. No one from Edom was going to remain behind.

This is a threat, and a blessing. The threat is clear and needs no elaboration: There was going to be nothing at all left of Edom, meaning the people of Edom.

How are these words a blessing? The very existence of these words as a book of the Bible is a blessing, not only to us, who read it today, but for the people of Edom. They received this warning ahead of time, which meant that for them, there was time to do something; time to repent. God sent this warning so that they might see the depth of their sin, see the tragedy on its way, and stop their sinning to turn to God for forgiveness. This is what happened when Jonah took his equally severe judgment to Nineveh: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). Was Nineveh overturned forty days later? No. Why? Because the King of Nineveh led his people in repentance. They fasted, they prayed, and they even set their animals apart with fasting (Jonah 3:7) to show their terror and their grief. God had turned aside his wrath on Nineveh and the Assyrians—he could certainly do the same thing for Edom. When God’s law condemns the sin in our lives, it is a blessing, because God cares enough for us to send his law, to send disaster, to call us back in repentance. There is no limit to the condemnation God could pronounce: “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5).

But God also he cares enough for us to have sent his own Son to atone for our sin. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Jesus Christ paid the price that covered over our guilt to make us his holy, rescued children.

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.

Browse Devotion Archive