Message of Obadiah: Does God Have Enemies?
Does God have enemies? How would you answer this question? Mark Dever introduces Obadiah’s prophecy in this manner:
“If you are like most Americans, you probably find the whole question strange, maybe to the point of being absurd: ‘God? Have enemies?’ perhaps the last time most Americans would have said yes to this question would have been in the 1950s, when God’s enemies were ‘those godless communists’! But these days, the whole idea of God having enemies seems to go against the whole definition of God. Having ‘enemies’ is not something God does, right? People have enemies, sure, but not God!
“Well, it is true that people do have enemies. Our lives confirm it daily. Everything from the personal trials we face to the terrible actions of 9/11/2001, reminds us that humans simply make enemies of one another. Faced with the ‘ubiquity of conflict’ in this world, Samuel Huntingdon has observed, ‘It is human to hate.’ Most of us can agree with this much.
“But the idea of God hating? That sounds more alien. Another observer of international affairs, Bernard Lewis, reflecting on the phrase ‘enemies of God’ in the context of the Iranian government, said that such phrases ‘seem very strange to the modern outsider, whether religious or secular. The idea that God has enemies, and needs human help in order to identify and dispose of them, is a little difficult to assimilate.’
“So, does God have enemies? I am not asking whether there are political or religious organizations that use such language to emotionally intimidate and bully people; we know that there are. I am asking whether the God who exists actually has enemies. If he does, surely we want to know who they are. We know how implacable some humans become once they turn against us; we can scarcely imagine what having the Almighty himself as an enemy would be like!” (Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made [Wheaton, Ill.: CrossWay Books, 2006].)
‘Does God have enemies?’ is one of the eternal questions raised by the series of books we are presently surveying in the Old Testament called the ‘Minor Prophets.’ The Minor Prophets are the shorter books at the end of the Old Testament. ‘Minor’ does not mean ‘unimportant’; it just means ‘short’ as compared to the generally longer ‘Major Prophets.’ In this study, we will look particularly at the shortest book in the Old Testament – the book of Obadiah.
Dever remarks that as he reflected on the book of Obadiah, it occurred to him that this book, perhaps uniquely among the prophets of the Old Testament, speaks more directly to a time like our own. Most of the other prophets speak to Old Testament believers – and to Christians in churches. But Obadiah proclaimed a vision from the sovereign God to a people who knew no theology and who had no place for the knowledge of God in their lives. Unlike the audience of the other prophets, Obadiah’s audience made no pretense of acknowledging God. In other words, he spoke to a society much like our own.
In this little book, God teaches us about who he is, who his friends are, and who his enemies are. In this brief prophecy of Obadiah, he prophesies God’s judgment on the people of Edom, the people who lived just southeast of Judah.
Historically, Obadiah appears to have been written sometime after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 587 BC. Amid this terrible plight among God’s people, their next-door neighbors, the Edomites, did nothing to help (to put it mildly!). In fact, the Edomites cooperated with the Babylonians in the demise of Israel. The Edomites were the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (see Genesis 36).
Of course, this begs the real question. If God has enemies, are you an enemy or a friend? Join us this coming Lord’s Day as we consider this eternal question through the prophecy of Obadiah. Does God have enemies?