Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Compassion for Lost People

My lesson for March 22 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever been on the road and had another driver blow past you, fast enough that you hope that a cop is ahead to catch them? And then it turns out they do in fact get caught and you get a little thrill, that the driver "got what they deserved?"

The Germans appreciate this feeling so much they have word for it: Schadenfreude, or “pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune.”

While the belief that justice was done might be warranted in some situations, the attitude of compassion takes a different approach. A person of compassion humbly admits, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

When we view another’s judgment, we may think we’re viewing it through a window when actually we’re looking in a mirror. An attitude of compassion helps us remember that from which we ourselves have been delivered.

*** QUESTION - When we rejoice over someone else being judged, what does that reveal about how we see ourselves in relation to them?

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

This week we continue our tour through the minor prophets of the Old Testament. We've talked about Nahum and Zephaniah, this week we'll talk about Obadiah.

*** Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament.

*** Nothing is known about the author. Obadiah means“servant of the LORD” and occurs 20 times in the OT, referring to at least 20 other OT individuals.

*** It was written about 586 B.C., right after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem.

*** Now the judgment focuses on Israel’s neighbor, Edom, which was a kingdom populated by the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s twin brother).

*** Obadiah prophesied against the Edomites for acting with prideful disdain toward the people of Judah during the Babylonian invasion.

CHECK YOUR ARROGANCE (Obad. 1-4)

1 The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord GOD has said about Edom: We have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up, and let us go to war against her.” 2 Look, I will make you insignificant among the nations; you will be deeply despised. 3 Your presumptuous heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, “Who can bring me down to the ground?” 4 Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** Pride and prejudice.

--- Through His prophets Obadiah and Jeremiah, God promised Edom would be wiped out: Jeremiah 49:14-16 parallels Obadiah: I have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: Assemble yourselves to come against her. Rise up for war! 15 Look, I will certainly make you insignificant among the nations, despised among humanity. 16 As to the terror you cause, your presumptuous heart has deceived you. You who live in the clefts of the rock, you who occupy the mountain summit, though you elevate your nest like the eagle, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** The Edomites showed a prideful heart.

--- Verse 4 says that they saw themselves as above the fray and out of reach of predators. Edom’s capital, Sela, was surrounded on virtually every side by natural fortifications, making it relatively easy to defend. Thus, the Edomites felt they had a secure home on the heights, where no enemy could conquer them.

--- In their arrogance they assumed that their past success and blessings guaranteed future success and blessings.

--- God tells them through Obadiah that you can’t hide from Him. Though these actions would come down the road in our time, for Him judgment was as good as done.

--- As the Edomites had disdained the people of Judah, so the Edomites would feel the sting of being thought of as nothing.

*** QUESTION - How can pride make us vulnerable to calamity and destruction?

*** QUESTION - In what ways might followers of Christ be tempted to display a prideful heart toward some unbelievers? Colossians 4:5-6 - Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. What help can Colossians 4:5-6 offer to believers in their attitude toward lost people?

SHOW MERCY AND GRACE (Obad. 10-14)

10 You will be covered with shame and destroyed forever because of violence done to your brother Jacob. 11 On the day you stood aloof, on the day strangers captured his wealth, while foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were just like one of them. 12 Do not gloat over your brother in the day of his calamity; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction; do not boastfully mock in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you—do not gloat over their misery in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off their fugitives, and do not hand over their survivors in the day of distress.

*** Jacob and Esau’s rivalry continues.

--- The twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau struggled even in your womb, so much that Genesis 25:23 says that “two nations are in your womb.”

--- Their descendants, the nations of Israel and Edom, were perpetual enemies. When Israel came out from Egypt, Edom denied their brother Jacob passage through their land, located S of the Dead Sea (Num. 20:14–21). Nevertheless, Israel was instructed by God to be kind to Edom (Deut. 23:7 - Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you.). The Edomites opposed Saul (ca. 1043–1011 B.C.) and were subdued under David (ca. 1011–971 B.C.) and Solomon (ca. 971–931 B.C.). They fought against Jehoshaphat (ca. 873–848 B.C.) and successfully rebelled against Jehoram (ca. 853–841 B.C.). Herod the Great, an Idumean, became king of Judea under Rome in 37 B.C. In a sense, the enmity between Esau and Jacob was continued in Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus. The Idumeans participated in the rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome and were defeated along with the Jews by Titus in A.D. 70. Ironically, the Edomites applauded the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (cf. Ps. 137:7) but died trying to defend it in A.D. 70. After that time they were never heard of again. As Obadiah predicted, they would be “cut off forever” (v. 10); “and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (v. 18).

*** The Edomites had received compassion and mercy from a God they did not worship. They should have shown compassion and offered grace to the people of Judah, who were suffering the consequences of their own unfaithfulness to the Lord.

--- Judah was their brother nation with a shared heritage. How would you feel if your sibling suffered consequences, and caught you gloating?

*** God gives Edom eight prohibitions:

--- First, the Edomites were not to gloat over the disaster that happened to Judah and Jerusalem. The implication is that the Edomites enjoyed watching the people of Judah suffer.

--- Second, the Edomites were wrong to rejoice over another people’s destruction.

--- Third, they were wrong to boastfully mock Judah in a time of distress. It suggests engaging in scornful laughter.

--- Fourth, the Lord prohibited the Edomites from entering the gate of My people. To join the Babylonians in the plundering Jerusalem instead of extending compassion would have added insult to injury.

--- Fifth, the Edomites were warned further not to gloat over another people’s misery, or affliction. (The Book of Lamentations explicitly describes these horrors of war (see Lam. 4:9-10; 5:11-13).

--- Sixth, the Edomites were prohibited from looting the possessions and property of the people of Judah. Instead of helping, the Edomites evidently joined in the pillaging of a defeated city and nation.

--- Seventh, the Edomites were warned against stopping Israelite refugees who were fleeing from the Babylonians.

--- Eighth, the Lord warned the Edomites not to hand over Israelite survivors to the Babylonians.

*** QUESTION - What attitudes can you cultivate that help curb judgmental tendencies and promote acts of compassion?


EXPECT RETRIBUTION (Obad. 15-16)

15 For the Day of the LORD is near, against all the nations. As you have done, so it will be done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head. 16 As you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and gulp down and be as though they had never been.

*** The Day of the Lord is coming.

--- We read a lot about the Day of the Lord in Zephaniah, when God would judge all nations.

--- The prophets Isaiah and Amos described it as a day of God’s judgment against His enemies (see Isa. 13:6-9; Amos 5:18-20). Malachi described it as a day of refining God’s people as well (see Mal. 3:2-4). In the New Testament, Paul described it as a day of salvation for God’s people (see 1 Thess. 5:2-5,9).

--- Obadiah’s warning about judgment for the sin of pride and for ignoring the suffering of others applies to us as well.

*** QUESTION - How dangerous is a prayer for God to grant you justice? When is it appropriate to pray for justice?

LIVE IN HOPE (Obad. 17)

17 But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion, and it will be holy; the house of Jacob will dispossess those who dispossessed them.

*** A Promise of Restoration.

--- As with Zephaniah, a promise of God's wrath is followed up with a promise that God will deliver His people in the end, and we will have eternal victory. Moreover, from Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, would come the ultimate deliverance from sin when Jesus Christ laid down His life as an atoning sacrifice. In His death on the cross, Jesus took on Himself the wrath of God that we deserved. In His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave.

--- God also calls us as followers of Christ to extend compassion to those who need His salvation or who are experiencing His discipline. God reached out to us through His gospel, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we became His children. We need to ask the Lord to give us compassion for lost people. God cares deeply for them, and He wants to use us to reach them.

*** QUESTION - What does it mean to you as a believer that Christ has made you holy (set you apart) to serve God? To what extent has God’s grace toward you given you compassion for lost people?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

In the mid 80s there was a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who set a world record while playing a convenience store video game called “Tapper.”

After standing in front of the game for fourteen hours and scoring an unprecedented seven and a half million points on the game (all on one quarter), her fiancé called the news and a TV crew arrived to record her efforts.

She continued to play while the crew, prepared to shoot. However, the video screen suddenly went blank. While setting up their lights, the camera man had accidentally unplugged the game, thus bringing her bid for ten million points to an untimely end! The effort to publicize her achievement became the agent of her ultimate failure.

*** Unchecked pride and selfishness is a road to ruin.

--- Choose a path instead that leads to refuge and restoration. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

*** Commit to imitate the compassion of Christ as you encounter others this week.

--- Even after Jesus was tortured and while He was dying on the cross, He still demonstrated compassion for His attackers.

*** How can you show compassion this week to someone who is dealing with the consequences of a bad decision they have made? How can we mourn that bad decision without sitting in judgment over them?

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