Give glory to God
For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
your deeds shall return on your own head.
We are really good at talking about others, but we often ignore our own problems. I was talking with Toby this week about Obadiah, and it is interesting the way that divine wisdom can be twisted. So for instance, Obadiah 15 is really quite an interesting idea. Of course, God will bring perfect justice onto the world. But there is a problem when we assume the position of God. What God does and how we should act are two separate things. Look at the previous few verses. Verse 12 says, ‘Don’t gloat over the day of your brother…’ In other words, as much as it might be the case that God has brought a just end to the kingdom of Judah, don’t you gloat over it and feel justified looking down on them. Why? Because God will bring a similar day to all nations. All humanity will be held accountable to God, and the proper posture of any person to his or her fellow is compassion and grace and not necessarily joy in the downfall of judgment.
Obadiah doesn’t draw this contrast out as explicitly as Job. Job’s friends go around spewing the same sort of wisdom. Yes, perhaps something is a true statement, but you can only fully say such a thing if you are the all-knowing and all-powerful God. ‘He got what he deserved’ is mostly true, but it is not Christian in posture. It is said or at least implied as a justification for the politics of our day. Just recently, the Hennepin County Sheriff crashed a county-owned vehicle when he was drunk. I should hope he resigns, but if he doesn’t, wouldn’t we feel justified if he were voted out of office? He got what he deserved. Of course, some people feel like our former president should get what he deserved because of various things he did while in office. Others don’t think the government should be giving money out to people who don’t work for it. And often we aren’t consistent. Rand Paul criticized federal spending for one natural disaster, but supported federal spending when Kentucky got hit by storms. Unfortunately, this inconsistency and gloating is our acceptable discourse in politics and in the news. And this is what Obadiah is criticizing Edom for.
The biblical ethic is very different. So first, biblical ethics lays down pride. Edom imagined herself untouchable, and in their hidden mountain fortress, they mocked those who were being judged by God. We imagine ourselves untouchable and look down on our neighbor’s sin and the consequences as a just retribution. Little do we see our own sin and we rarely count it as something worth judgment. So we view our own sin as too small which harms our brother and sisters, and we look down on everyone else’s. Or like Job’s friends say, ‘Job, just do good, and you’ll be fine.’ But in our pride, what we’re really doing is taking the position reserved for God. And we don’t imagine that the just retribution is death for our sin.
And on a cosmic scale, we imagine that the world should be working our way. Sure, you might get sick from time to time, and sure you might have a speed bump, but at the end of the day, the American dream is that things go the way we want it to go. My job should give me satisfaction, my home should work just perfectly, and my family should make me happy. Edom was soaring on high like an eagle, they were happy with how their neighbor Judah was destroyed by Babylon. From the fight Esau had with his brother Jacob, to not allowing the wilderness generation to pass through Edom’s territory, to now rejoicing over their downfall, Edom’s fortunes were going their way. But Edom gloating over Judah had missed the fact that Yahweh is the God of history, and what he does isn’t a cosmic coordination to bring you happiness. Instead, God is at work to accomplish his will for his name’s sake. Gene Greene said, ‘Glory may be understood not only as God’s brightness and presence (Exod 24:16-17) but also the sum of his moral perfections (Exod 33:18-23; 34:5-8) and therefore is closely related to his holiness.’ So God is jealous to pursue his glory and fame through every one of his moral perfections (whether his perfect justice and mercy or grace).
Job teaches us to respond in a very different way than Edom. Instead of standing in pride, we are to bow in humiliation. This isn’t a shameful humiliation. It is a humiliation for which Jesus Christ paved the way. He was and is and forever will be God. But he added to himself full humanity and was spit on, beaten, crucified, and put to death. The proud Romans, Jews, and nations, all humanity, all Adam, acted like Edom. In their pride, they gloated over the death of the only begotten son of God. But they couldn’t have known that through this most terrible and wicked act against Jesus, the Son of God, God would accomplish salvation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And so Jesus, even though he was put to death, is said to have laid his own life down. He is said to have humiliated himself, and in so doing, he brought the greatest glory to himself so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. So this advent and Christmas season, lay down your pride. Admit your sin. Repent and turn in your humility to Christ who saves you from sin.