Are You Your Brother's Keeper?
I. Last week, we looked at Obadiah 1-9 and saw that God deflates the prideful. Remember that pride is self-reliance instead of God-reliance. It is selfishly trusting the wrong things—placing our sense of security in something else other than God. Pride is sin and this sin deceives us into challenging God. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others. I’ll say that again— pride loves self instead of loving God or others. Is it any wonder that God opposes the prideful?
II. Obadiah demonstrates that Edom’s overriding and offensive sin was pride. Pride lies at the heart of their condemnation. We may be tempted to believe that pride can stay as “just pride”—that this sin doesn’t touch any other sin. We may even believe that sin can be compartmentalized—that one sin has no bearing on another sin, that sin doesn’t touch other parts of our life, or that sin doesn’t affect our relationships. However, this isn’t true.
III. This reminds me of a movie from my favorite video series Veggie Tales called Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed. There’s action, adventure, plunger-ears, and a butler named Alfred! What’s not to love? One thing this movie characterizes so well is that sin grows. In the Rumor Weed, Junior and Laura share a little gossip that grows and grows until the rumors threaten to destroy everything—not only themselves, but their home, their relationships, and their community. It may be easy to recognize that sins grow to become more and more destructive. What may be difficult to understand is that sins grow to produce other sins. And pride is no exception. We will see this demonstrated in Obadiah this morning.
IV. Turn to Obadiah 10-14 this morning. Right away in verse 10, God levies a charge through the prophet Obadiah against Edom. Look at what it says, “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” They have done violence to their brother Jacob. Here, the nation of Israel is being talked about in relational terms. Edom and Israel can trace their ancestry all the way back to Esau and Jacob. They are brother nations. Let’s look at a brief survey of the history of these two nations. We will see that Edom’s prideful roots go far back into time.
V. Jacob’s and Esau’s birth are shared in Genesis 25. God tells their mother, Rebekah, that these twins will be divided and that the older—Esau, who is the founder of Edom—will serve the younger—Jacob, the founder or Israel. When they were older, Esau sells Jacob his birthright for a cup of soup and since then, Esau despised his birthright. Later, Jacob tricks his dad Isaac into giving him the blessing meant for Esau. Esau hated Jacob for this and was intent on killing him. Jacob had a smart idea—he fled. Eventually, Esau and Jacob were able to repair their relationship, but since then, Edom rarely partnered with Israel and usually held animosity for them.
VI. This is evident in our next stop in the history of Edom’s prideful roots. In Numbers 20, Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom requesting safe passage through their country. Edom refused—amassing their army and threatening force. Then, throughout Israel’s history, there were constant battles with Edom. Many of Israel’s kings fought the Edomites—Saul, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram. These kings were victorious over Edom—the younger ruling over the older in a direct connection to Jacob and Esau. A bitter rivalry existed between them.
VII. Our final stop in this brief survey is the most catastrophic. We know from the book of Obadiah that God was very angry with the Edomites. While we don’t know the exact time Obadiah is written, some scholars believe it was written in relation to this historical event: the destruction of Jerusalem. When the Babylonians conquered Judah, the Edomites were full partners with them—ransacking Jerusalem, destroying the temple, and capturing and killing survivors. The Edomites were violent to their brother Jacob. Their pride popped up like a weed and led to violence. What did their violence look like?
VIII. Look at verse 11 with me. “On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried of his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates, and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” Prideful, shameful Edom begins their violence against their brother nation with “aloofness” or “indifference.” In the Hebrew, aloof means that they are standing “on the other side.” Like the priest and the Levite who stood “on the other side” when passing the Samaritan, Edom is avoiding Israel’s calamity. Strangers are carrying of Jacob’s wealth and Edom doesn’t care. Foreigners are ready to claim Jerusalem as their own and Edom is not coming to Israel’s aid.
IX. There is a word in the Hebrew that is missing from the ESV translation. It’s the word “gam” meaning “moreover.” This conjunction connects Edom to the strangers and foreigners in the last phrase of verse 11. This charge is serious. “Moreover, you were like one of them.” Not only did strangers carry off your brother’s wealth. Not only did foreigners set claim to your brother’s land and treated their capitol city as a gambling bet. What’s worse—MOREOVER—you were like one of them. Prideful indifference is not indifference at all. Prideful indifference chooses sides against our neighbors.
X. Now, we may find ourselves thinking, “so pride produced indifference. As long as it’s not hurting anyone, does it matter?” Let’s look at verse 12. It says, “But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress.” Edom looked on the devastation of his brother Jacob and begins to lament and take care of his hurts and wounds… No, that’s not what it says at all. Prideful, shameful, indifferent Edom GLOATS over his brother’s misfortune and rejoices over their ruin. The word “rejoicing” carries with it a nuance of gleeful joy or merriment. The day that Jacob is ruined, destroyed, and has perished, Edom callously and arrogantly boasts about it. What was once “just pride” has produced weeds of indifference, gloating, rejoicing, and arrogant boasting. Edom should have joined Jacob in mourning and lamentation. Instead, they joined Jacob’s enemies in rejoicing and celebration. Edom should have sat appalled and terrified at the sight of Jacob in ruins. Instead, they boasted of their part in what happened. Watching from the sidelines, they began to cheer against them.
XI. Cheering from the sidelines doesn’t mean we want to join the game, does it? Sadly, the weeds pride produces can pull us in to produce more sin. Look at what verse 13 says, “Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity.” The prophet sounds like a beating drum—Do not, do not, do not, the day, the day, the day, calamity, calamity, calamity. Edom took 3 steps in this verse. Not content with cheering from the sidelines, they first entered the gate. Second, they examined and mocked all the evil done to their brother. Lastly, they found and sent away anything of value for their personal use. They seized the opportunity that was presented and tried to benefit from it. Like children swarming for candy after a piñata breaking open, the Edomites moved against the Israelites. Upon entering the gates, they were moved NOT to help, comfort, or restore. Instead, they looted their brother’s wealth. They took it and carried it away. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others and their pride continues to produce weeds that grow to produce other sins. Prideful, shameful, indifferent, boastful, and calloused Edom became opportunists who further perpetuated their brother’s disaster.
XII. It seems like Edom joined the game after it was done, right? Like getting to the buffet right before its put away. What’s wrong with helping yourself to what’s left? Look at verse 14, “Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress.” Not content to watch their brother’s demise and loot from them, Edom stood at the highway intersections and captured the few surviving escapees from Jacob. Edom participated as a fully ally with their brother’s enemies—killing and capturing survivors. How tragic! When they should have been a friend, relative, and ally of Jacob, Edom was an enemy. And at the heart of their sin lay pride. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others. It continues to pop up like a weed growing to produce other sins. Prideful, shameful, indifferent, boastful, calloused, and opportunist Edom was violent towards his brother and worked to wipe them out.
XIII. Pride grows to produce other sins. That’s our first point for today. Pride grows to produce other sins. It’s hard to watch it happen—we’ve spent 10-15 minutes on 4 verses watching pride produce worse and worse things in Edom. The division of Jacob and Esau eventually lead to whole nations being divided and great sins against Israel to be committed. Pride grew in Edom. It’s roots were firmly established back into time. It produced sinful weeds of indifference, boasting, callousness, an opportunist mentality, and violence in Edom. Pride took root in the Edomites and infected the whole garden.
XIV. From the sermon last week, we know how pride manifests itself on a national level. What does pride look like on a personal level? To answer that, let’s look back at verse 11.
XV. Just as Edom stood aloof, we too can stand aloof. Even believers can stand indifferent to each other and indifferent to a lost world. This harkens back to Cain and Abel—am I my brother’s keeper? As in, what business of it is mine? So what if I see sin in someone else’s life? So what if I see that their actions have set them on a path to destruction? So what if I see that they believe falsehoods, or that they are immature in the faith, or that they are hurting themselves or others in their relationships? What business is it of mine? Am I my brother’s keeper?
XVI. Of course we are! We have a responsibility to share the Gospel—to have a heart for the lost. We have a responsibility to look out for others and a special responsibility to those within the family of God—which is the church. God holds us accountable. Where we can share the Gospel, we must share the Gospel. Where we can help, we must help. Where we can encourage, we must encourage. Where we can defend, we must defend. We are tempted to hold each other at arm’s length and believe that our shallow fellowship is good enough. To the degree that we do this is the degree that we handicap our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Opportunities are open all around us. We must fight the temptation of allowing pride to blind us. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others. We must weed out this barrier between us and God and us and each other.
XVII. Verse 12 reveals that prideful indifference can produce weeds of calloused boasting. As Edom watched from the sidelines, they began to cheer against Israel—enjoying their misfortune. Some Christians are like that. Instead of learning from Christ to look for the plank in our own eye, we may boast over the speck of dust in another person’s eye. We may mock the unbeliever for their sinful and arrogant ways. We can kick other Christians while their down so that we can feel better about ourselves. We can see sin in someone’s life, make no effort to restore them, and then rejoice over their downfall. “They got what was coming to them,” after all. We can forget that we are servants of the Lord and that before the Lord, we stand or fall.
XVIII. It’s unfortunate… no, it’s more than unfortunate. It’s an absolute tragedy that some Christians rejoice when something bad happens to unbelievers. It’s heartbreaking that some Christians rejoice when other Christians sin. It’s regrettable that some Christians sit along the sidelines and watch others fail because they don’t believe exactly as we do or we do not go towards reconciliation over a past hurt. In fact, it’s more than a tragedy, more than heartbreaking, and more than regrettable. It’s sinful. If we saw ourselves on the same level of others, we would mourn with them and turn to God in humble thanksgiving that we have been spared, though our sins are also many.
XIX. Indifference can lead to calloused boasting and calloused boasting can lead to further hard-heartedness. Edom’s hard heart manifested itself in an opportunist mentality in verse 13 and violence in verse 14—trying to benefit from Israel’s misfortune and making sure Israel received full punishment for perceived past sins. Pride can manifest itself in similar actions in our lives too. We are often tempted to not give slights and hurts over to God. It’s the law of the West—seek your own justice. Remember how pride is self-reliance instead of God reliance? Remember how pride is trying to take the place of God?
XX. The temptation of pride is to enforce our will on everyone else. When someone is down, pride tempts us into seizing the opportunity for our own benefit. “So what if it causes more hurt and division? I was right all along. So I’m justified in my actions,” we may rationalize. And when someone is down, pride tempts us to keep them there until they have received their punishment in full. We struggle with wanting our eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. We struggle with wanting to exact our own brand of justice instead of giving it over to God. We struggle to extend grace and compassion to others. Because of pride, we struggle. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others.
XXI. Pride is revealed through actions. That’s our second point for today. Pride is revealed through actions. What does God do when pride is present?
XXII. To answer that, look back at verse 10, “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” All of the cruelties described in verses 11-14 are called “violence” by Obadiah here in verse 10. Because of this violence done to their brother Jacob, shame will cover them. In the Hebrew, shame will “cover,” “engulf,” or “overwhelm” them. It will be their new reality. And they will be cut off forever. When God says he will cut them off forever, he is meaning that he will destroy them permanently. And what God says he will do, he does. Edom is no longer a nation—no longer a thought in anyone’s mind. They were destroyed in 125 BC with only a few descendants surviving—until even they fell into obscurity. So, what does God do when pride takes over? God goes for the root. He cuts down the prideful. That’s our third point for today. God cuts down the prideful.
XXIII. Point #1 is that pride grows to produce other sins. Point #2 is that pride is revealed through actions. And finally, point #3 is that God cuts down pride. That leads to our BIG IDEA for this whole passage. Obadiah 10-14 is summed up in this statement: Pride breeds a number of sins and harvests God’s wrath. Pride breeds a number of sins and harvests God’s wrath.
XXIV. We must not become complacent with pride. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others. We must root it out whenever we see it. Obadiah confronts the problem and sin of pride. He shows us how it grows, how a prideful heart reveals itself through actions, and how God roots it out. On varying levels depending on our season of life, we all deal with this problem. What are we called to do? What is the answer to this problem?
XXV. The answer lies in pride’s polar opposite—humility—true, Godly humility that is only possible for a believer. We talked about that last week—how we must humble ourselves and accept God’s free gift of grace and salvation given to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. We talked about how we must imitate Jesus and his humility. But what is humility? What does it look like? Jesus teaches us the answer in the parable I mentioned earlier, the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37.
XXVI. Follow along as I summarize this passage. In the passage, there is a lawyer decides to put Jesus to the test by asking what it took to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him if he has read the law. The lawyer answered well—pointing to loving God and loving your neighbor. Then we read this verse, “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The man wished to justify himself—he wanted to be proven right. Jesus addressed the pride of his heart with a parable. In this parable, just like Israel in Obadiah, a man was robbed, beaten, and half dead. Just like the Edomites standing aloof—or opposite of Israel—a priest and Levite pass by on the other side of this man. They leave him alone. They ignore him.
XXVII. Then a Samaritan comes along… Imagine Jesus audience here. “Samaritans—worst of the worst. We’re going to see some bad things here.” Imagine Jesus continuing, “A Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him…” and then he pauses. Oh, the anticipation. Was the Samaritan going to ignore him like the Edomites? Was Jesus going to say, “…and when he saw him, he mocked and snickered at him. ‘Serves you right!,’ he said.” Or worse? “…and when he saw him, he checked his pockets for money?” Or what about, “…and when he saw him, he kicked him a few times?” Who are we kidding? It’s a Samaritan! He probably did all of those!
XXVIII. Then Jesus finishes, “…and when he saw him, he had compassion.” Compassion. A Godly attribute that is so important to exercise. Compassion considers the other person first. It cares for the other person. It requires empathy. Pride loves self instead of loving God or others. Humility loves God and others more than self. What is humility? Humility loves God and others more than self. What does this love look like? Having compassion on others. Instead of focusing on ourselves, it focuses on our neighbor. Humility loves God and others instead of self. The first step in growing in humility is to cultivate and hold Christ-like compassion for others.
XXIX. The second step comes in what the Samaritan did next. He went to this hurting man and bound up his wounds and brought him to an inn. He paid the inn keeper 2 denarii—the equivalent of two days wages—to help with his further care. Just as a prideful heart is shown in actions, a humble heart is shown in actions. The Samaritan didn’t ignore the man, he became directly involved and worked to help him recover. He didn’t gloat, but bandaged. He didn’t loot, but gave sacrificially. He didn’t hurt him, but cared for him. What is humility? Humility loves God and others more than self. What does this love look like? It’s giving of ourselves sacrificially. We spend our time and money in service of others, not for ourselves. Pride says I do what I want when I want with my time. Humility says… love says… that time is sacrificially spent for God and others. The second step in growing in humility is to spend our time sacrificially for God and others.
XXX. Finally, how to grow in humility comes in the last action of the Samaritan. He says, “take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Not only did the Samaritan take care of the man’s immediate needs, but sought to help him in the future as well. He wasn’t done after the initial crisis, he was committed to the man’s full healing. What is humility? Humility loves God and others more than self. What does this love look like? It’s committed to pursuing full restoration. Pride only commits to pursuing our own ends—our own vindication. Humility is completely opposite. Humility loves God and others more than self. The third step in growing in humility is to commit ourselves to pursuing full restoration.
XXXI. Jesus teaches us to be humble—to love God and others more than self. We will show this in our compassion for others, giving of ourselves sacrificially, and pursuing full restoration of others. We will be outward focused and not inward focused. This is our call. This is our mandate. Let us humble ourselves before God and others.