Deliverable or Damned?
I. Remember the toy, jack-in-a-box? You’d wind up the crank on the side of the box and hear some music playing knowing that at some point, a clown would jump out of the box and surprise you. I didn’t like it. For me, the music that played while winding up the crank might as well have been the theme from the movie Jaws. That toy scared me. And yet, for others, they loved the toy—the surprise was a joy and delight to them. Crazy people… Probably say “Duck duck goose” instead of “duck duck gray duck” too…
II. In some ways, the day of the Lord is similar to a jack-in-the-box. It will definitely happen and it is near—but we don’t know exactly when it will occur. Some may react to it with fear while others may react to it with joy and delight… The day of the Lord is a concept that is present throughout the entire Bible. It is the phrase denoting the end of time, a day that inaugurates the eternal, universal rule of God. When we think of the end times, many people may want to focus on what will happen on the day of the Lord. We may wonder, “what is the mark of the beast and how does it function?” or “is the antichrist alive right now and who could it be?” With the future being uncertain, our first inclination is to make it certain—knowing what will happen, how it will happen, and when it will happen. However, we must ask ourselves: is what will occur most important? Or is it more important to know who is in control of what will occur?
III. Let’s look at what God says through the prophet Obadiah about the day of the Lord. Turn to Obadiah verses 15-17. Let’s zero in on this first phrase of verse 15. It says, “For the day of the Lord is near.” The word “for” is important—it is answering the question of “why”. When we see this word, it tells us that we need to look back at the previous verses. Verses 1-9 detailed the pride of Edom. They placed pride, trust, and security in their defenses, ability to rebuild, wealth, allies, intellect and wisdom, and their mighty men. Edom’s pride deceived them into being self-reliant—they trusted in their own strength and knowledge and not in God. This pride led them to commit heinous crimes against God’s people: the Israelites. These crimes were detailed in verses 10-14. The Edomites were indifferent, boastful, calloused, opportunist, and violent toward their brother Jacob. At the root of these sins lay pride and pride is love of self instead of God and others. Throughout verses 10-14, Obadiah resounded like a drum: do not do this on the day of his calamity. Do not do this… why? Why should the Edomites not be prideful and trust in the wrong things? Why should they not be indifferent, boastful, calloused, opportunist, or violent towards their brother Jacob? Why? Verse 15 tells us why: “for… because… the day of the Lord is near…” Do not be indifferent for the day of the Lord is near. Do not gloat because the day of the Lord is near. Do not loot or be violent for the day of the Lord is near.
IV. “For the day of the Lord is near…” The Hebrew word for day (י֣וֹם) is used 10 times in verses 11-14. The repetition hammers home the seriousness of Edom’s crimes against its brother. The concentration on Edom’s crimes in the day of their relative’s need connects directly to verse 15. “Do not do this on the day of their calamity.” Why? “for the day of the Lord is near…” The day of Edom’s crimes is being contrasted with the day of the Lord. For Jacob, the day of Edom’s crimes was a day of disaster, destruction, and trouble. For Edom, the day of the Lord will be far worse.
V. “For the day of the Lord is near…” The literal Hebrew reminds us that God is personally present. It says, “For the day of Yahweh is near.” This is the day God reveals his majesty and omnipotence in a glorious manner, to overthrow all ungodly powers, and to complete his kingdom. Obadiah reflects prophetic truths. Two nations had become violent enemies—Edom had let pride grow into hatred and betrayal of their brother Jacob. Obadiah’s message could have been a get-even speech of hatred, jealousy, and revenge. But this is not Obadiah’s message—it is God’s. God did not call on Israel to take revenge. He did not call Israel to arms. God promised to win the victory himself.
VI. God is sovereign and personally active in the affairs of human history. In difficult times, we often reaffirm the truth that God is control—that he is on his throne. However, God’s sovereignty is dependent on neither our surrender to it nor on our good or bad seasons of life. God is in control. Period. Whatever we are going through in life, this fact does not change. Praise be to God for this! Praise God that he is with us! And whatever the day of the Lord may bring, we can trust that God is in control and that he will keep his people in his love and grace. We may not know when the day of the Lord will “jump out of the box,” but we should know that God is control of it.
VII. “For the day of the Lord is near…” Now, we need to understand this word “near.” The Bible’s view of “nearness” is more what we would intend by the word “imminent.” Imminent means, the judgement is near in the sense that it can occur at any moment. It could jump out at any time just like the jack in the box. Imminent also means “threatening to occur immediately, impending.” An imminent event does not necessarily occur immediately… but it could. Therefore, we must be ready for it. There are times when things are quiet and we do not anticipate the day of the Lord. At other times, we hear of wars and rumors of wars and we wonder if God’s final intervention in history is just around the corner. We become anxious. But. Know. This. The day of the Lord is no less near in quiet times than in stormy times. This is why Jesus exhorts us in Matthew 24 to “keep watch” for we “do not know on what day the Lord is coming.” There is an intensity of being in continual alertness for the day of the Lord. It is a sustained watch—one of the joy of a parent or child waiting for a loved one to come home, and one of dread for those who fear what they do not know.
VIII. “For the day of the Lord is near…” But it has not yet come. The day of the Lord has not yet come in order that God might show more grace to more people. 2 Peter 3:9 says this “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God is delaying the ultimate working out of his judgement on the nations until those whom he will call to faith in Jesus do come. He has sheep who are not of this pasture who he must bring in as well so that there will be one flock with one shepherd. Today is a day of patience. Today is his day of grace.
IX. All of this leads first point for today—the day of the Lord will show God’s sovereignty and imminence. The day of the Lord will show God’s sovereignty and imminence. We know the clown will pop out of the box, and we know that God is in ultimate control of it all. The day of the Lord is imminent and under the control of our sovereign God. With that as our foundation, what will the day of the Lord look like?
X. One aspect of the day of the Lord that receives a lot of attention is judgement. What will this judgement look like? Let’s finish the first phrase of verse 15. “For the day of the Lord is near upon all nations.” Now, why does the book of Obadiah suddenly shift from Edom to ALL nations? Why doesn’t Obadiah continue to focus on Edom and Edom alone? It’s because God is just. Edom is not the only prideful nation. The day of the Lord will not only deal with Edom’s sin, but with ALL nation’s sins—all people’s sins. But the day of the Lord is for evil people and nations, right? What do we have to worry about?
XI. It’s a naturally prideful thing to rationalize everyone else as needing judgement. But we need to understand that the day of the Lord is a fearful thing for everyone—Christ followers included. Other prophets talk about this day. Turn to Joel 2:1-2. It says, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!” Notice the similarities to Obadiah. Both affirm that this is the day of the Lord and that it is near. Notice the differences, it is an alarm not only to all the nations as in Obadiah, but to the inhabitants of God’s holy mountain. And what are the inhabitants of God’s holy mountain supposed to do on this day of darkness and gloom? Tremble. They are to tremble with fear.
XII. Let’s survey another passage. Turn to Amos 5:18. It says, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness and not light…” Amos joins Joel in saying that the day of the Lord is darkness. And, whereas Obadiah generalizes that the day of the Lord is for all nations—which implies that Israel is included—Amos is more specific. He outright questions why Israel is looking forward to this day because this day will be one of judgement even for them—even though they thought it would be a day of their vindication. They apparently longed for this day, thinking it would mean deliverance for them and judgment for their enemies. Amos turns the tables and maintains that they—along with the heathen nations—will be judged.
XIII. Now, come back to Obadiah. All nations will be judged—everyone will be judged. This includes God’s people. How will we be judged? That answer is present in the rest of verse 15, “As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” How will we be judged? Justly. God is just in his judgement. All nations, meaning everyone, will be judged in a way that is appropriate with their deeds. As they have done, so it will be done to them. Justice will be a part of the day of the Lord. Everyone whose prideful and immoral behavior that has violated the holy standards of God shall face God’s justice in the same way. Their deeds will return on their own heads. Verse 15 is summed up with this statement—the day of the Lord will occur, is imminent, is for all nations, and is concerned with justice.
XIV. God’s just judgement is further described in verse 16. Look at what it says, “For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been.” The drinking being done on God’s holy mountain is what would usually happen after a conquest. This is a time of celebration for the conquering nations. The drunkenness of conquest that took place on the day Jerusalem was overrun—in that day, Edom drank on God’s holy hill. They think that they have conquered God’s people. They forget that they cannot conquer God. God levies a charge against them of drinking on his holy mountain. The word “holy” is usually translated as an adjective into English—describing the mountain. However, this word is better understood as punctuating what God is saying as he pronounces judgement on all nations. We should read it like this, “As you drank on my mountain, MY HOLY ONE, so all the nations shall drink continually.” Any who violate God’s holiness will be punished continually.
XV. Obadiah is setting up dual clauses. As you have done, so shall it be done to you. As you have drank, so all nations shall drink. The sense of this verb “to drink” when it says, “they shall drink and swallow” is in the perfect tense. Perfect verbs are actions that have already been completed—even if in future time. There is a finality to this future action. Watch any time-traveling movie—the most recent being Avengers Endgame—and you’ll see people trying to change the future. This verse shows that this is impossible. We cannot stop or change the judgement of God. Obadiah is showing that this cup of enjoyment of the fruits of conquest will become one of bitterness and divine wrath. The nations shall drink and swallow, “and shall be as though they had never been.”
XVI. What does it mean that they shall be “as though they had never been?” In this world, the ungodly seem to flourish and the godly are stricken. On the day of the Lord, God will bring about justice for both the ungodly and the godly. Though evil may seem to prosper, though the person or people may be well known, God will make it as though they had never been. God will bring their evil to a just end. He will bring their prosperity to a just end. This is the common lot of all nations. All nations will disappear from history and be forgotten so thoroughly that it will be as though they had never existed at all. After the day of the Lord, only one kingdom will be left—and it will be God’s and God’s alone.
XVII. All this adds up to our second point for today—the day of the Lord will bring just judgment. The day of the Lord will bring just judgment. The judgement of God is final and just. And as a result of that just judgement, all nations, meaning all people, will be utterly destroyed—as though they had never been. It seems like there isn’t any hope. Or is there?
XVIII. Look at Obadiah 17 with me. Three phrases make up this verse. The first says, “But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape.” Mount Zion is the place where God dwells. It is the place marked by holiness in verse 16. God, through Obadiah, is setting up a contrast. In the world, there will be just judgement and destruction. But…the key word is but… there will be place apart from this—a place that is different. What does this place look like? It will be occupied by those who escape. The word for “escape” in the Hebrew, means “escape” or “deliverance.” The ESV translates this word to mean a group of people who have escaped. Look at what IT says, “But in Mount Zion, there shall be those who escape.” This noun can also be translated to mean the concept of deliverance like the KJV does. It says, “But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance.” I like this translation more because it is marking Mount Zion as a place of deliverance. Obadiah is promising that the day of the Lord will mean deliverance for God’s people. For Israel, this deliverance is from all earthly enemies. For Christ’s disciples, it is deliverance from sin’s power. Not just the salvation that we already have, but sin’s final defeat.
XIX. The second phrase of verse 17 is, “and it shall be holy…” This phrase uses the same verb as the first phrase, but in a different tense. The tense of this verb is perfect—carrying the same finality to it as the verb we read earlier. There is no questioning of or changing the fact Mount Zion will be a place of holiness. Not only will there be deliverance in Mount Zion, there will be holiness. Obadiah is looking to a great future day—a day not marked by the evil atrocities of Edom but one of holiness; one where what is right will be right and what is wrong will not exist. Mount Zion will be without blemish. The day of the Lord will be marked by deliverance and holiness.
XX. Lastly, the third phrase of verse 17 is, “and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.” Put yourself in the place of Obadiah’s original audience. God’s people have been conquered, escapees have been caught and/or killed, evil is reigning, and their possessions are being carried off. And God reminds you through the prophet Obadiah that one day, justice will reign. Instead of escapees being captured and/or killed, they will be delivered. Instead of evil, there will be holiness. And the possessions that are being taken away from them will come back into their own possession. The house of Jacob will possess its possessions. They will be restored. For Christ’s disciples, we too will possess our possessions. We will grasp hold of an eternity with Christ in his glory. He is our greatest treasure—the object of our faith.
XXI. Now look again at verses 15-16. These verses almost make it seem like the day of the Lord held no hope. But is there hope? Verse 17 shows that there is. And that is our third point today: the day of the Lord brings hope. The day of the Lord brings hope.
XXII. There is hope—such great hope. But this hope is not for everyone. Judgment is for ALL of humanity. There is not a single one of us who will escape it. We won’t escape it because we don’t deserve to—we’ve all violated God’s holiness. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The hope that is detailed here includes only a select few—God’s people. This then brings us to our BIG IDEA for today. Verses 15-17 can be summed up with this statement: On the day of the Lord, God will justly judge and will deliver his people—so be deliverable. On the day of the Lord, God will justly judge and will deliver his people—so be deliverable.
XXIII. Our 1st point was that the day of the Lord will show God’s sovereignty and imminence. Our 2nd point is that the day of the Lord will bring just judgement. Our 3rd point is that the day of the Lord will bring hope. And our BIG IDEA is that on the day of the Lord, God will justly judge and will deliver his people…so… be deliverable. Be deliverable. Because we know that the day of the Lord is near; because we know that God will justly judge; and because we know that God will deliver his people—because we know all of this… therefore we should respond by being deliverable. Two paths lay before you today: be damned or be deliverable. Which will you choose?
XXIV. But, how can we be deliverable? What can we do to make ourselves deliverable? The problem is, we can’t. We cannot do anything to earn our right to be delivered. Only God is able to deliver us. Only God. We must lay aside our pride and humble ourselves before him. We must rely solely on him. God secured our salvation entirely by himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Remember in Obadiah verse 16 how all nations shall drink and swallow? This metaphor of drinking the cup is taken up in the New Testament. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took the cup and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” “This cup is poured out for you…” meaning, they would not have to drink this cup of divine wrath. Jesus is pouring out the cup so that we wouldn’t have to drink it. But how? How is he able to do that?
XXV. After the supper, Jesus, when Judas betrayed him, tells Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” This is the cup of divine wrath—a cup meant for us that we would have to drink continually in the fires of hell. Only Jesus could fully drink this cup. Only he could finish it because only he was perfect. Jesus took the cup meant for us—he became our substitute—and died in our place. It is only because Jesus drank the cup completely that it has been poured out for those who follow him. There is not a drop left in that cup for anyone who places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus drank it all. And when every last requirement had been fulfilled, he cried out on the cross, “It is finished!”
XXVI. But do you truly trust that it is finished? Give serious thought to this question. Have YOU fully surrendered to God? Or do you pridefully think you can still earn salvation? Do not dismiss these questions. Pride wants to deceive us into thinking that we’re alright. Pride does not want us to sincerely think about these questions. But we must. We must sit in the tension of our own failings and our need for salvation because there, we will meet a gracious and loving God… Where will you be on the day of the Lord? How will you greet it? With fear? With hope? Will you drink the cup…continually? Or has it been poured out for you?
XXVII. If you’re uncertain about what’s going to happen to you on the day of the Lord, come talk to me. I’d love to talk to you about how to be deliverable. I’d love to talk to you of the grace of our loving God…