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We earlier reflected on the judgments God pronounced on Edom, the nation made up of the descendants of Esau (and thus the distant cousins of the Israelites). Ezekiel is very explicit (Ezek. 35; see meditation for October 2); Hosea is less prosaic but says similar things (Hosea 13; see meditation for November 7). Here in Obadiah, an entire book (albeit a short one) is devoted to this theme. The time is after the sack of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., and possibly as late as the early postexilic period when the Jews started returning to the land. The fulfillment of these prophecies took place over an extended period. Certainly by 312 the capital of Edom was firmly in the hands of the Nabatean Arabs. A coalition of Arabs had been displacing the Edomites for more than a century. In the early period they were led by King Geshem, who in about 440 was one of Nehemiah’s opponents.
One must ask why the Old Testament prophets devote so much time and space to Edom.
(1) Swelling through this little book is the theme of God’s justice. If Edom could get away with her triumphalism and gloating, when her own conduct was no better than that of the nation of the Jews she mocked, then there is no justice.
(2) The point can be universalized. “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obadiah 15, italics added). Although in some ways Edom is unique (of the surrounding nations only she had blood ties to Israel), yet at another level she stands as an important model for all nations. When we see opponents fall, we had better recognize that God is the One who exacts temporal judgments—and one day all of us will face eternal judgment. Temporal judgments are thus God’s prophetic announcement of what will happen to all. Jesus argues along similar lines (Luke 13:1–5) with respect to relatively small groups of individuals. Here Obadiah insists the same thing is true at the level of the nation. The Nazis fell: should we gloat and pat our backs in triumphalistic glee? Shall we not remember that Germany was a country of extraordinary education and technical competence, and it turned toward power, expansionism, and cascading evil—and fell? Should we not fear, and beg God for mercy that we might walk in integrity, honor, and love of virtue?
(3) In some ways, Obadiah is a commentary on Amos 9:12. Like Judah, Edom is cut down. Nevertheless the hope of the world lies in Judah’s future, not Edom’s—and that kingdom is the Lord’s (Obadiah 17, 21). That was reason enough not to despise God’s covenant people, both then and now.
Probably James 3 is one of the best-known passages in all of literature dealing with the tongue.
(1) The burden of James 3:3–6 is that although the tongue is a very small organ, in many respects it controls and, in the worst case, inflames the rest of the human being. Each of the analogies James draws casts a fresh hue on the subject. The bit is tiny compared with the rest of the horse, yet it steers the horse. Something similar can be said of the rudder with respect to the ship, only now it is part of the ship rather than separate from it. The spark is tiny compared with the conflagration it causes—but in this case the focus is not only on relative size but on the horrible damage the tongue can achieve.
(2) The next section (James 3:7–8) adapts the last of these three analogies, and purposely distances itself from the first. The notion of a bit in a horse’s mouth might conjure up mental expectations of control and discipline. The reality, James insists, is closer to conflagration. We manage to tame “all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea” (James 3:7), but no one can tame the tongue. “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
(3) In particular, it is the tongue’s wild inconsistency that is so offensive (James 3:9–12). The analogies James draws suggest that if with the one tongue we praise God and abuse God’s image-bearers, the praise we offer to God cannot possibly be more than religious cant. One stream cannot provide both fresh water and bitter.
(4) All of this is in danger of being misunderstood. The focus on the tongue is rhetorically powerful, of course, but we all know that the tongue is not independent of the person. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why James goes on to contrast two kinds of wisdom (James 3:13–18). At issue is who we are as persons. If our hearts “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14), that will surface in our speech. We control our own tongues—and what we need is “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17), so graphically described in the last two verses of the chapter.
(5) Similarly, the opening two verses of the chapter cannot be abstracted from what James says about the tongue. These two verses are frightening to any thoughtful teacher of Scripture: “We who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1) That is part of a biblical axiom: responsibility is assessed as a function of knowledge. But teachers know that their performance is tied to what they say (James 3:2). We have returned to the tongue—or, by only the slightest extension, to the printed page and the CD-ROM.
16:1 And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD 3 and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat,1 and a cake of raisins.
4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.
8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
11 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
17 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”
19 When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
20 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
21 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
22 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;2
30 tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
35 Say also:
“Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and deliver us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!”
Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD.
37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required, 38 and also Obed-edom and his3 sixty-eight brothers, while Obed-edom, the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. 39 And he left Zadok the priest and his brothers the priests before the tabernacle of the LORD in the high place that was at Gibeon 40 to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, to do all that is written in the Law of the LORD that he commanded Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever. 42 Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.
43 Then all the people departed each to his house, and David went home to bless his household.
3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,1 and set on fire by hell.2 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,3 these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
1:1 The vision of Obadiah.
Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the LORD,
and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”
2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
you shall be utterly despised.1
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,2
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
though your nest is set among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,
declares the LORD.
5 If thieves came to you,
if plunderers came by night—
how you have been destroyed!—
would they not steal only enough for themselves?
If grape gatherers came to you,
would they not leave gleanings?
6 How Esau has been pillaged,
his treasures sought out!
7 All your allies have driven you to your border;
those at peace with you have deceived you;
they have prevailed against you;
those who eat your bread3 have set a trap beneath you—
you have4 no understanding.
8 Will I not on that day, declares the LORD,
destroy the wise men out of Edom,
and understanding out of Mount Esau?
9 And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,
so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.
10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
shame shall cover you,
and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their ruin;
do not boast5
in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
in the day of distress.
15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
your deeds shall return on your own head.
16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,
so all the nations shall drink continually;
they shall drink and swallow,
and shall be as though they had never been.
17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape,
and it shall be holy,
and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.
18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
and the house of Joseph a flame,
and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the LORD has spoken.
19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,
and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines;
they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,
and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 The exiles of this host 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.
21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion
to rule Mount Esau,
and the kingdom shall be the LORD's.
5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”1 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy.2 And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus3 stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.4 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”5