Obadiah is the book for big brothers who gloat. The letter is address to Edom which is the nation of Esau. God has harsh words for the nation that stood by and watched their little “brother Jacob” carried off by strangers. They stood by and “rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction.” They walked through the streets and tsk-tsked, and shook their pious little heads and pursed their holy little lips. Others thought they would help God with the judgment and cut down various Israelites fleeing from the hand of their conquerors. And those they did not cut down, they dutifully turned in to their captors. “Dad, here’s the culprit.”
All of this is particularly interesting because of all that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Edom surely saw the hammer falling on little brother Jacob, and if this is from the hand of Yahweh, why can they not do their part? This is the national/corporate version of the big brother who nods approvingly as he watches his little sister marched off to the bedroom for her ‘just desserts.’ Perhaps he even adds some pious remark about why it’s wise to obey mom and dad otherwise things like this happen. And if the parent has read Obadiah, the little boy will find that it’s his turn next.
God requires loyalty even in the midst of his judgment. Even when the judgment is just and deserved, the response of the faithful is to identify with God’s people even when they are getting the worst of God’s fury. As David said, “Please let us fall into the hand of Yahweh, for his mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Sam. 24:14). It’s one thing to be thankful that you did not fall, but all the holy-speak is a show of false piety. God promises greater blessings for little brother Jacob.
The ecclesiastical version of this is refusing to rejoice when God’s judgments fall on various portions of his church. When God sends the blight of sexual perversion upon portions of his church, the faithful response is not, ‘see? told you so.’ The response is to fear God, obey his commands, and plead for his mercy on all of us. When a denomination seems to have a knack for making foolish and mind-bendingly ridiculous decisions sort of like that pesky squirrel that always seems to run towards your car, the temptation is to merely mutter something about ‘stupid is as stupid does.’ But that simply will not do. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Pro. 24:17).