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reality bites: obadiah

Friend or ally. Enemy or foe. What’s the difference? Obadiah shows us.

Judah (Jacob’s descendants) had been feuding for generations with their cousins, the Edomites (Esau’s descendants). Bitter unforgiveness carried over from one generation to the next—until the great, great, great grandchildren had no idea why they hated relatives they had never even met. The cousins were enemies—that is, once an enemy always an enemy. Nothing will ever change that.

PRIDE IN LOCATION. The Edomites lived on elevated mountains, 5000 feet above sea level, which essentially made them inaccessible to invading forces. And yet, “the pride of your heart has deceived you,” God says to Edom, “you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (3-4). The Edomites were like eagles; they literally looked down on the lower plains of Judah.

PRIDE IN THEIR ALLIES. Allies may appear as friends, but they’re not. Allies are merely the enemy of your enemy. Merriam-Webster defines “ally” as a verb: “to unite or form a connection or relation.” However, in recent years “ally” has become a noun. So, it is not enough for allies to form a relationship; allies must now actively affirm and advocate. That’s all well and good—until you find out that your connection is faulty. God warned Edom: “All your allies have driven you to your border; those at peace with you have deceived you; they … have set a trap beneath you—you have no understanding” (7). Today’s ally can easily turn into tomorrow’s foe because the connection itself is based on self-interests. So, foes are former allies—which makes allies and foes two sides of the same coin. 

SCHADENFREUDE (schaden “harm” and freude “joy”). Notice when Babylon descends on Judah, the Edomites “stood aloof, on the day that strangers … entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem” (11). They didn’t just say, “It’s none of my business. I’m not getting involved. It’s their problem.” No, they smirked. Harm-joy is the blissful feeling of satisfaction when learning of the troubles or humiliation of another. (No one admits to doing this, of course, but when I do it, I always end up feeling like the coyote in the road runner show). Experts tell us that schadenfreude has been detected in children as early as 24 months and may be an important social emotion establishing “inequity aversion.” (I’ll leave that there for you to sort out).

Does the Lord notice when we secretly delight in another’s misfortune? “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” because the coyote always ends up in his own cockamamie contraption (12-16).

FRIENDS ARE DIFFERENT. They don’t gloat when things bite you in the butt. They lay down their lives for you (John 15:12-15). What a friend we have in Jesus! He’s not our ally. He has our best interest at heart. And there’s nothing we can do to change that.