Obadiah Messenger of Judgment
5. Everlasting Righteousness
"But on Mount Zion there shall be those who have escaped, and it shall be a sanctuary, and the House of Jacob shall possess it in peace" (v.17*). The Authorised Version renders this verse "Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance" but the thought behind both renderings is the same. After all the tribulation and trouble that has been brought upon the people of the Lord by the evil machinations of the Edomites, the Lord has opened a way of escape and delivered his people into the calm and security of the Holy City. Despite all the assaults of the enemy and the vicissitudes which befall Jerusalem, the time comes at length when God ushers into "an afterward of peace" all those who have demonstrated their sterling faith and stood firm. They have escaped the designs of the Evil One and have won the heavenly crown. Mount Zion is exalted in the top of the mountains and all nations are ready to flow into it. Edom has been finally overthrown and destroyed, and Jerusalem "is inhabited again in her own place, in Jerusalem".
Just for a moment, at this point, it might be desirable to take a backward glance to the literal fulfilment of the prophecy. We have been talking of spiritual Israel and her treatment at the hands of those we have called spiritual Edomites, and set all this against the background of the Gospel Age. Now all this, although a legitimate and true application, and moreover the interpretation that is of the deepest significance to us today, is not the only interpretation. The prophecy is equally applicable in a more literal sense to Obadiah’s own time and people, and their own ultimate triumph when at last literal Edom is laid in ruins. But the important thing to notice is that although the two interpretations have their commencement at different points of time—the literal fleshly Israel one, in Obadiah’s own time, six hundred years before Christ, and the spiritual Israel one at Pentecost and onward into this Gospel Age, yet they both reach their culmination at the same time, the Time of Trouble which ends "this present evil world". So in considering this seventeenth verse we may well see two classes of people pictured, each entering upon its reward after tribulation, but in different spheres or aspects of God’s plan, and both at the same time, the end of this Age.
"Those who have escaped," therefore, in this verse may well refer, first to the Church, who at the end of this Age enter upon the eternity of fellowship and service with our Lord which is the goal of all their hopes, and second, to the earthly representatives of the New Kingdom, raised from the dead to take up the administration of the new Millennial order of things. These, too, have been "perfected through suffering" even although it has perforce been that, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us at the end of his eleventh chapter, "they without us should not be made perfect". And following these, regathered and purified Israel takes up its position in the Divine scheme of things. "The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions".
At this point, therefore, we are carried into the opening scenes of the Millennial Age. The Time of Trouble is over, the powers of evil have been restrained, the people will no longer be deceived by the pretensions and false doctrines of oppressive State and apostate Church. "Out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem". That is the ideal combination of secular and sacred control which is to be so characteristic of that glorious Age; a time when the Ruler will be a Royal Priest—a priest upon his throne. Just as Melchisedek of old ruled his people in both the things of man and the things of God, so will it be in that great day when the saviours have ascended Mount Zion and the House of Jacob has taken control of its rightful possession.
"The House of Jacob shall be a fire, the House of Joseph a
flame, and the House of Esau shall be as stubble, which they shall ignite and
consume until nothing is left of the House of Esau.
There are two Scriptural themes which have a direct bearing on that verse and serve to illuminate and explain it. Logically enough, one has to do with those spiritual rulers, the Church, and the other with the earthly rulers. The one is found in Matt.13 and is enshrined in the well‑known parable of the wheat and tares. When the end of this Age comes, those who are represented by the wheat, the true and faithful Church, are taken away to "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father" but the tares are consumed in a great furnace of fire. Those tares are precisely the same as the ones we have in this series of studies been likening to spiritual Edom, which, in this verse 18, are to be as stubble, which is ignited and consumed until nothing is left. So here we have a vivid picture of the final warfare when the Lord Jesus "shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God". The Revelation picture of a Rider upon a white horse, followed by the armies of heaven, descending to earth to wage victorious battle with the kings of the earth and their armies, allied with the Beast and the False Prophet, is but another presentation of the same thing. This intervention of spiritual forces at the culmination of the Age to overthrow man’s final resistance to the incoming Kingdom is a very real thing and the prophetic pictures are not one bit too extravagant in their portrayal.
The other theme, having to do, not with the spiritual rulers of the new earth, but the earthly rulers, is expressed best in Zech.12:6 "ln that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem". It is impossible not to perceive the resemblance between these words and those of Obadiah’s eighteenth verse. Here again the enemies of Israel are to be consumed as by fire, a fire which emanates from those "governors of Judah" who are the "saviours" or "those that escaped" of Obadiah’s prophecy. In some way analogous to the descent of the Rider on the White Horse—perhaps in some way as part of the same process—they will play their part in consuming, as by an all‑devouring fire, every trace of resistance to the new Kingdom, every shred of antagonism to the people who have put their trust in God, and eventually, every relic of evil itself. "As truly as I live, the whole earth shall be filled with my glory."
It may well be that in verse 18 the dual reference to the "House of Jacob" and the "House of Joseph" may be an oblique hint that there are two victorious peoples here involved, the natural rulers (Jacob) and the spiritual rulers (Joseph) working together in harmonious unity. The Church is sprung from natural Israel just as Joseph was sprung from Jacob, but the Church becomes the life‑preserver of Israel just as in history Joseph was to Jacob.
"Then the people of the southern desert shall inherit the Mount of Esau, and the people of the sea‑side plain, the land of the Philistines. Ephraim shalt inherit Samaria, and Benjamin shall inherit Gilead. The Israelite exiles in Halah shall inherit Phoenicia as far as Zarephath, and the Jerusalem exiles in Sepharad shall inherit the cities of the desert" (19‑20)
All this reads much like a geographical medley and really.it is necessary to put geography and history together to make much out of it. The whole passage is intended to convey the absolute nature of God’s victory over his enemies and restoration of peace and righteousness. The various place‑names and allusions are intended to suggest ideas. Thus those who lived barren, desert lives because of the oppressions of their Edomite enemies will now come into their own—they will inherit their enemies’ land. Those who had been oppressed by the people of the world, the Philistines, who had felt the persecution of men fall heavily upon them, will move into the place of prosperity formerly appropriated by the world. "Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, sit down in the Kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out." Ephraim, for long unable to move into her rightful possession in Samaria because of the resistance of "the people of the land" will at length achieve her desire, and so will Benjamin in Gilead. The Israelites taken captive by the Assyrian hosts and removed far away to Halah will come back to a greatly enlarged and extended home‑land in northern Israel, even embracing Phoenicia, and likewise the Jerusalem exiles taken away by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon will return to the wide open spaces of Judah where they can settle in peace and flourish. The passage can well bear a natural and a spiritual application and in either case teaches the "gathering home" and abiding prosperity of those faithful souls who, "hungry and thirsty, their soul fainting in them, cried unto the Lord, and he heard them, and delivered them out of their distresses, and led them by a right way, and brought them into a city of habitation". That is the great lesson of the Book of Obadiah, one that should bring us confidence as well as cheer in this day when it seems as though the power of evil is being prolonged so much beyond its appointed time.
"And those who have escaped shall come from Mount Zion to rule the Mount of Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord’s." (vs:21).
The victory is complete! What more is there to say? The way of the righteous has been triumphantly vindicated, the judgment of God has done its work, and henceforth there is only glory—a glory that is eventually to enshroud all the world of men in its radiance.