For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
It felt like she had been pregnant forever. The constant movement of the babies in her womb felt like her own body was at war within her. God had even told her that they were two nations!
But the pains finally had come and her water broke and now the midwife was on her way. The children were coming. Perhaps the war was nearly at an end…
It was not. The boys, Esau and Jacob were born to Rebekah that day, but only with more fighting – Esau was born first, but Jacob was holding his brother’s heel. The brothers were very different – Esau was hairy and a hunter. He was an outdoorsman. Jacob was a homebody. Esau was Isaac’s favorite and Jacob was Rebekah’s.
Esau gave up his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew.
Jacob tricked his father into giving him Esau’s blessing.
Esau became Edom.
Jacob became Israel.
These nations (as they eventually grew to be) were not generally at war, they were neighboring countries, but neither was large enough to protect or attack the other – so they were mostly indifferent. The Edomites were well But when the Babylonians came and defeated the Israelites, and sacked Jerusalem – the Edomites gloated and boasted and rejoiced over their demise. We don’t know the exact date and time that Obadiah wrote this oracle, but it is essentially God’s denouncement of Edom’s actions, God’s pronouncement of judgement on the nation, and the promise from God (as always) of redemption and salvation for all nations.
That is the whole story of Obadiah’s oracle – Esau’s descendants not only don’t help Jacob’s descendants – they essentially dance on the grave of Israel. Eventually running in and looting whatever bits and pieces the Babylonians had left behind and God holds them accountable for this and tells them that they will pay.
Obadiah is not usually a book that preachers spend a bunch of time on. As we talk about minor prophets (which is a classification that is based on the length of the book, not what the prophets have to say) Obadiah would be the minorest. It’s a little tough to take an application from a book that is so specifically directed at a specific nation for a specific set of circumstances and that doesn’t really have a lot of other ideas in it.
But there are two things that we can look at in Obadiah: God is not a fan of those who are prideful and actions have consequences.
God’s love still extends to those who mess up – if you were to look back through the story of Jacob/Israel and Esau/Edom you would think that the wrong guy was the recipient of the blessing – he was a cheater and a trickster. And he did experience the consequences of his actions.
But God’s plan always includes the idea of redemption: when we repent, we are offered a way out. We’ll talk about this more next week as we move on to Jonah, but one of the key takeaways for us from this Obadiah text is that even though our actions have consequences – and by the way, salvation doesn’t necessarily remove them – God is always waiting for us to return to him and move away from what we used to be to what God has called us to be.
This week, we will begin a season of fasting and reflection called Lent. It covers the 45 days prior to Easter and throughout, it is an opportunity for us to explore the places where we need to repent. Many people fast during lent – finding ways to realign their hearts and spirits with the work that God is doing in their lives. Remember that God has called us away from a life of rebellion to a life of renewal and transformation: Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, Paul writes in Romans. We need this season every year to help us identify new places God is at work in ourselves.
The kick off for this season of reflection is Ash Wednesday. We will celebrate it this year, as I announced earlier. I encourage you to come. As we prepare our hearts for Lent, we have a devotional on the back table that each family is encouraged to take and use for this period. I would also ask everyone to get a post-it note and a pen from the back.
In one of our songs today, Come Thou Fount, there is a line that says “Here I raise my Ebenezer” it is a symbol that Samuel used to remind the people of the work of God in their lives. In our lives sometimes we need symbolism to remind us of the work of God in our lives, too – and today we will do that by writing on our post-it note the one area we need to pray about and ask God to be at work in our lives – this could be a sin that you need to repent of, a life issue that is a burden, or anything at all. I’m going to ask everyone to pray about it for a moment and then write it down.
Once you have it written, we have this red jar here on the altar. Please come forward and put your note in it. Once everyone has put their notes in (don’t worry we won’t be reading them!) I am going to take them outside and burn them. The ashes will be used with some olive oil and spices on Ash Wednesday here for further symbolism – to remind us of our need for repentance and redemption and our hope that has created in us the beauty of lifelong transformation as Christ works in us and through us.
As we work through this, we will also speak together our weekly confirmation of God’s love for us…
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.