All Roads Lead To Jesus - Obadiah

Obadiah – Jesus Judges the Wicked and the Righteous.
Reading: Obadiah

We can watch hundreds of hours of documentaries and read thousands of words about what it was like to live under the Nazi regime as a Jew and still we would never fully be able to grasp the horror, betrayal, and fear that the Jewish people traversed.

Anne Frank was 15 years old when the Nazi Gestapo burst into her family’s hiding place and arrested them. She was 13 when she began to write what daily life was like for a teenager to live in hiding from the Nazis. In one of her last entries, she expressed hopefulness as she heard of the Allied forces landing in Normandy. Hope was just around the corner. Little did she know that her diary would go on to be a worldwide bestseller. She would never find out as she died of Typhus along with her sister due to the harrowing conditions of a Nazi concentration camp.

She and her family had been betrayed by an unknown Dutch citizen. She paid with her life.

Obadiah prophesied during a similar time in Jewish history. It was around 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. They broke down the city walls, destroyed homes, killed whoever resisted, and exiled the Jews from their Promised Land. Many of the Jews went into hiding and moved from house to house in order to escape the brutality of the Babylonian army.

But just like in Nazi Germany, the Jews had enemies who sought to destroy them. The Edomites, descendants of Esau, betrayed the fleeing Jews. Adding insult to injury, the Edomites took up residency in the empty homes and assumed the lives and wealth of those that had been killed or captured.

When I read the words of Anne Frank and I hear how her story ended, I can barely get through the words without my heart sinking as I think about my own children and family. We do not know who betrayed the Frank family and so our desire for justice is never quenched. As I take in the story, I want to read about how the person who turned in the Frank family was found by the Allies, tried in a court of law, and hung with the Gestapo until dead.

That is the kind of emotion that Obadiah wants to evoke from his readers concerning the treachery of the Edomites.  They betrayed their brothers and now God would judge them for their sin against His people.

But there is more. When I read the story of Anne Frank, I want to celebrate a happy ending. In my story, Anne and her sister survive. They are reunited with her family and the Christian men and women who hid them lead them to Jesus. After all, isn’t this how all good stories end? It’s the hero’s journey. They suffer a bit, they mature, they learn, they overcome, and they win. That is how the story is supposed to go. We long for a happy ending.

But that is not how the story ended for the Franks. Everyone died except Anne’s father, Otto. Upon returning to Holland, Otto met with some of his old friends. One of them had recovered Anne’s diary from the Nazi raid. The diary became a ray of light in the darkest of nights. As a father, I can’t imagine pouring over every word of the diary with both sweet memories and the bitter taste of death in my mouth. The diary was published as a best-selling reminder of the horror of the Nazi regime and the sweet and tender heart of a young teenage girl fighting for her life. Even in the darkness, there was hope.

This is the message of Obadiah and it is where the tragedy of Judah’s exile intersects with the hope we have in Jesus Christ. The people of Jerusalem had been betrayed by their own flesh and blood. But the Edomites would be judged for their actions. God moved Israel toward the ending we long for. Judah was restored. They survived the exile in Babylon, and they returned to their homes. Obadiah reminded the righteous that God would judge the wicked and the evil that had been done against them.

Jesus is the judge that judges the wicked and the righteous. Our world is not just. When I was younger, life felt unfair. Maybe my brother received a better present than me. Maybe I had been punished when I didn’t deserve it. I would say, “That’s not fair!” only to be reminded, “Well, life isn’t fair – get used to it.”

And it’s true. Life is not fair. Many evil people will never suffer punishment on this earth. They will die with a smile on their face. Conversely, many righteous people will be martyred or suffer unjustly. Sometimes, the bad guys win, and the good guys lose. Just like my longing for the anonymous Dutchmen to be found and tried, we want all those who do evil to suffer their due discipline. That is the promise of Obadiah and of many of the teachings of Jesus.

In Romans 2:16, Paul says that God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ. That means that all people will be judged in this way and that this judgment will be thorough. God will not leave any stone in the human heart unturned. Like that Dutchman who turned in the Franks, we cannot hide forever. There is good and bad news in Paul’s statement and the key is found in these words, “by Jesus Christ.”

The judgment of God over the evil and good works of all people will pass through Jesus Christ first. Jesus says there are two groups of people on this day – the righteous and the unrighteous. Both groups will be judged by and through Jesus Christ. Our question should be, “Which group am I in and how did I get into that group?” We are either standing in that holy courtroom by grace through faith or we are standing there on the basis of our own works.

The bad news is that anyone who is standing there before God without being united to Christ by faith will be judged according to what their deeds deserve. We will be standing there with the Edomites. We will be standing there naked because even our good works are stained with sinful intent. This group of people will be judged by the words of Christ and through Christ. Jesus has given us the standard that we must meet in order to enter into the kingdom of God. He says, “Be perfect.” Each person standing before God on the basis of their own good works is not perfect, and that’s a problem. Remember that justice that we all longed for? Well, God is a God of justice and He will punish every act of evil.

The good news is that we don’t have to stand under the judgment of God on the basis of our own good works. Those who stand by faith and through grace are united to the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has already suffered the full wrath of God on the Cross. If we are united to Christ, then we will be judged through Christ. Jesus was perfect. His sacrifice was sufficient. We will be declared not guilty because of the vicarious suffering and perfection of Jesus.

In Jesus, we see with clarity what Obadiah could only declare in a mirror dimly. Our longing for the judgment of evil and sin is coming. Our job in this life is to walk by faith in Jesus. You see, we all deserve to be judged as Edomites. We have not only betrayed others, but we have betrayed God. Israel did not deserve for God to judge the Edomites nor did they deserve to be returned to their Promised Land. They were also sinful people – just like us. But God has not left us in the misery of our sin. He has loved us with the same everlasting love that he loved the people of Judah.

He sent his son to take on the judgment that we deserved so that we could have all of the goodness in the Kingdom that His Son deserves. This truly is a great exchange worth pursuing.

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