CUTTING DOWN FUGITIVES & IMPRISONING SURVIVORS—THE BATTLE THAT RAGES OVER FORFEITED BIRTHRIGHTS AND STOLEN BLESSINGS

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Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Obadiah and encompasses all twenty-one verses of the book. The prophetic book of Obadiah is a rather unique book—not simply because it is one of the few books in the Scripture that contains only one chapter, but because it is one of the few prophetic books in the Scripture that is not directed toward the people of God. If you take the time to read the language of this book, you will undoubtedly discover that this prophetic book is addressed to the nation of Edom—Edom, which if you are not already aware, was another name for Esau, twin brother of Jacob. The prophet Obadiah was given a very specific prophetic message concerning the descendants of the twin brother of Jacob, and not only that, but this book is the first prophetic book in the Scripture that is addressed to a Gentile nation. Although the nation of Edom descended from Abraham through his son Isaac, Edom was considered a Gentile nation in the earth, and was excluded from the promises, the blessing, and the inheritance promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Imagine reading the Scripture and it reading—“the God of Abraham, Isaac and Esau.” We have become so used to understanding the Lord our God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that it almost doesn’t seem to fit to include Esau in the mix. The nation of Edom was but one of the nations that proceeded from the family of Abraham, for you will discover that the nations of Moab and Ammon were descendants of an incestuous relationship between Lot, nephew of Abraham, and his two daughters. Moreover, although Ishmael wasn’t the child of promise, the Lord nonetheless promised to make of him a great people. When we read the prophetic book of Obadiah, it is the first book in Scripture to deal exclusively and solely with a Gentile nation. This is actually quite interesting, for when you read the entire Bible, you will find there are only two other books that are directed toward a specific Gentile nation, and even that, is only directed toward a capital Gentile city—the city of Nineveh. Both the Old Testament book of Nahum, and the Old Testament book of Jonah deal exclusively and solely with the city of Nineveh, which was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. While other Hebrew prophets delivered the word of the Lord concerning Gentile nations and peoples—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, just to name a few—only Obadiah, Nahum and Jonah were directed to speak directly to these nations only. What’s more, is that only Jonah was directed to rise from his place among the people of God, and actually travel to the city of Nineveh, and there proclaim the judgment and wrath of the Lord—a message which resulted in the entire city repenting with sackcloth, dust and ashes.

The question that is asked almost immediately when beginning to read the prophetic book of Edom is why—why did the Lord raise up the prophet Obadiah to speak to and address the nation of Edom? What was it about the nation of Edom that warranted the Lord raising up a Hebrew prophets to declare His heart and mind concerning this nation and people? What causes this to become even more unique is when you consider that the prophetic message of Obadiah concerning Edom was one of multiple messages that were directed toward this nation and people. Consider the words of the prophet Amos, which he proclaimed and declared concerning the nation and people of Edom: “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever: but I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah” (Amos 1:11-12). These words were proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah, and are recorded in the forty-ninth chapter of the book which bears his name: “Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts: Is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished? Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him. If grapegatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning grapes? If thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough. But I have made Esau bare, I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself: his seed is spoiled, and his brethren, and his neighbors, and he is not. Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me. For thus saith the Lord; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? Thou shall not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it. For I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes. I have heard a rumor from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent unto the heathen, saying, Gather ye together, and come against her, and rise up to the battle. For, lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men. Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: thou thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord. Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof” (Jeremiah 49:7-17). Consider also the words which were spoken by the prophet Ezekiel concerning Edom: “Thus saith the Lord God; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 25:12-14).

There are various other references to Edom in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, and even references in the book of the Psalms, but only the book of Obadiah is a specific book in the Old Testament that was directed toward Edom. How incredibly interesting it is that the Lord not only spoke concerning Edom through the prophets Amos, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but He also raised up Obadiah to deliver a very pointed, powerful and specific word concerning the nation. Edom was the only nation and people during those days to have multiple prophetic words spoken concerning it, and even have an Old Testament prophet raised up to speak directly to it. If you read the language contained in this prophetic book, you will uncover the various reasons why the Lord of hosts felt it necessary to raise up the prophet Obadiah to speak concerning it. “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, Who will bring me down to earth? Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord” (Obadiah :3-4). “Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever. On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem—you too were as one of them” (Obadiah 10-11). “Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction; yes, do not boast in the day of their distress” (Obadiah 12). “””DO not enter the gate of my people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity in the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth in the day of their disaster” (Obadiah 13). “Do not stand at the fork of the road to cut down their fugitives; and do not imprison their survivors in the day of their distress” (Obadiah 14). “Because just as you drank on my holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed” (Obadiah 16).

It becomes quite clear when reading the prophetic book of Obadiah (as well as the various other Old Testament references) that Edom was guilty of a great attrocity before the Lord. Although this particular book opened up addressing the pride, the arrogance and the boasting of Edom, it quickly transitioned to Edom’s actions toward, and interactions with Israel and Judah. The prophet Obadiah was raised up for one purpose and one purpose alone—to declare to Edom the indictment the Lord had concerning them and their treatment of Israel. If there is one thing we must understand, it’s that Israel was the descendants of Jacob, whose name was later changed by God to Israel, and Edom was the descendants of Esau. This prophetic book addresses a feud that existed in the earth ever since Jacob and Esau were in the womb of their mother Rebekah. “And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years when she bare them” (Genesis 25:21-26). You must also consider what is recorded in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis, for it is in that chapter where we encounter additional details which fueled and fostered the tension and animosity between Edom and Israel: “And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made savor meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? Where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Yea, and he shall be blessed. And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing. And he said, Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me…AND ESAU HATED JACOB BECAUSE OF THE BLESSING WHEREWITH HIS FATHER BLESSED HIM: AND ESAU SAID IN HIS HEART, THE DAYS OF MOURNING FOR MY FATHER ARE AT HAND; THEN I WILL SLAY MY BROTHER JACOB” (Genesis 27:30-36, 42).

Should you continue reading in the Old Testament book of Genesis, you will find that no less than fourteen years later, Jacob was reunited with his brother Esau. The account of their reunion is recorded in the thirty-third chapter of the book, and if you are already not familiar with the story of these two brothers, you might be shocked to discover what became of their reunion. “And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids…And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant…And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it. And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee…So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and build him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitch his tent before the city…” (Genesis 33:1-12, 16-18). In this particular account of Jacob and his brother Esau being reunited and restored to each other, we find absolutely no evidence that there was a grudge between the two of them—absolutely no evidence that Esau once hated and abhorred Jacob, and loathed him so much to the point that he sought to take his life. Jacob came to Esau with gifts in order to pacify his wrath and soothe his anger—gifts which Esau was reluctant to accept. Both Jacob and Esau had been blessed by the Lord, and both had acquired much wealth because of the favor and blessing of the the Lord. Both had been so blessed by the Lord, for both would in time become great nations within the earth—Esau and his descendants would become the nation of Edom, and Jacob and his descendants would become the nation of Israel.

What happened? What happened from the time Jacob and Esau were reunited and restored to each, and the time of the Hebrew prophets? There is this familial language that is found within the prophetic book of Obadiah, as Obadiah spoke to Edom about the violence he committed toward and against his brother Jacob. The prophet Obadiah spoke of how Edom gloated over his brother’s day, and over the day of his misfortune. Edom rejoiced over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction, and even boasted in the day of their distress. Edom sought to enter into the gate of His people in the day of their disaster, and gloated over their calamity in the day of their disaster. Moreover, they sought to loot their wealth in the day of their disaster. Edom also stood at the fork of the road in order that they might cut down their fugitives, and imprison their survivors. CUTTING DOWN FUGITIVES & IMPRISONING SURVIVORS. Here was Edom taking advantage of a terrible day of devastation and destruction in the life of his brother, and instead of coming to the aid of his brother, he cut him down and imprisoned him. If there is one thing the account of Edom as a nation reveals, it’s that anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred, and even offense can survive throughout the generations. To think that the days of Obadiah were so far removed from the days of Jacob and Esau, and that there was still this ancient hatred which was held to perpetually is actually quite telling and revealing. If there is one thing this particular passage reveals, it’s that bitterness, offense, a vengeful spirit, and a heart that is filled with hatred can and will target fugitives seeking to escape, and imprison those who have found a way of escape. Edom cut down the fugitives of Israel—those who perhaps rebelled against the king of Babylon—and he imprisoned those who survived the calamity and distress that came upon Judah and Jerusalem.

We as the people of God must diligently and earnestly work to ensure that there are absolutely no grudges or offenses within us, for if such offenses and grudges remain hidden or buried within our hearts, we may find ourselves standing at the fork of the road, and cutting down fugitives, and imprisoning survivors. Should we hold on to any manner of bitterness and offense, instead of helping and aiding those who have escaped the sword, we will actually seek to imprison them in prisons of guilt, prisons of shame, prisons of condemnation, prisons of judgment, etc. While the prophetic book of Obadiah might not seem like it has any relevance for us in this generation, I strongly disagree, for it is a book that deals with pride and arrogance within the heart, arrogance and boasting upon the lips, and acting out offense and bitterness toward brothers and sisters. When reading this prophetic book, we must recognize and understand that it deals with tension, hatred and animosity that still existed between two brothers—despite the fact that centuries earlier, reconciliation seemed to have taken place. This prophetic book reveals the strong possibility and reality that it is possible to pick up the offense of another—even if that individual has moved past the offense itself—and to harbor a grudge and animosity toward others. Oh that we would examine our hearts when reading this passage, for this book is about one who forfeited and despised his birthright, and who vowed vengeance upon the one who had received the blessing instead of him. OH that we would be incredibly careful and cautious when we witness others receive blessing—especially when we feel they received blessing and we ourselves didn’t. Esau’s major concern with his brother was that he had stolen the blessing of their father, and that there wasn’t a blessing left for him. Oh it is true that his father still blessed him, yet that blessing wasn’t the same which was pronounced upon his brother.

It’s worth noting that this whole grudge, this whole tension, this whole animosity has to do with the blessing and the birthright, and the offense itself was over Israel received the blessing and birthright, while Edom did not. This reality is acted out in this generation in the tension over the land which Israel was permitted to return to—and not only return to, but occupy as their rightful inheritance and place in the earth. The tension and animosity which Edom harbored toward Israel had its foundation centuries earlier when a birthright was forfeited and a blessing was stolen. FORFEITED BIRTHRIGHTS AND STOLEN BLESSINGS! Oh, I would dare say that there are those among us in the house of the Lord who like Esau despised and forfeited their birthright, and actually have the audacity and the nerve to hold a grudge and offense toward others because they actually desired and received the birthright. There are countless quarrels and struggles that are found among us in the house of the Lord over birthright and blessing, and this reality is seen in the conflict that exists in the Middle East between Israel and her neighboring nations—Lebanon, Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Iraq. The conflict and struggle we see in the Middle East is the same struggle between the herdsmen of Abraham and the herdsmen of Lot because the two couldn’t coexist with each other. The struggle and conflict we see in the Middle East today is the conflict between two brothers as the struggle for birthright and blessing is still fought over today. The struggle and conflict we see in the Middle East today is a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit—between the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael. Oh, countless battles and struggles have ensued and broken out in our midst over birthrights and blessings, as countless men and women harbor grudges toward others because they feel cheated and robbed. Oh be very careful if you feel cheated, robbed or betrayed, for such feelings are the breeding ground for offense, bitterness and resentment. Beware when you feel cheated and robbed when it comes to the blessing of God, for such feelings and emotions can cause us to cut down fugitives and imprison survivors. Beware when you feel cheated and robbed of the provision and favor of the Lord, for such feelings and emotions can undoubtedly cause you to face strong emotions and feelings of resentment, envy, jealousy, anger and even hatred toward others. CUTTING DOWN FUGITIVES & IMPRISONING SURVIVORS—THE BATTLE THAT RAGES OVER FORFEITED BIRTHRIGHTS AND STOLEN BLESSINGS. Oh that we would be willing to examine our hearts and see if such feelings and/or emotions are present within us, and if there are, that we would ask the Spirit of the Sovereign God to extract, eradicate and remove them. Let there be no quarrels, struggles or battles ensue in our midst because of forfeited birthrights and stolen blessings.

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