Every Square Inch! Obadiah 17—21

One of the joys of spending time in Israel is the privilege of making wonderful friends. As relationships grow, conversations arise on a variety of topics.

Sometimes a discussion turns to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the international pressure on Israel to give up more territory. With a heavy heart, I have listened intently to people who live with this conflict daily. If the moment is right, I interject, “But there is coming a day when HaShem will give every square inch of land promised in the Torah into Jewish possession. What He has declared, He will deliver.”

The responses vary from blank stares to surprise, joy, and even tears. Many of my Jewish friends have never heard such declarations from Christians.

With their faces in mind, I can only imagine the ancient response of the besieged Jewish people to the prophet Obadiah’s prophetic transition in verse 17. Beginning with the word but, Obadiah switched from proclaiming Edom’s judgment to promising Israel’s restoration.

This change often goes unnoticed, overshadowed by God’s judgment in verses 1–16 and 18. But it is there—a conversation-stopping shift to the cascading grace of three blessings to be poured out on Israel: “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (v. 17).

In Jerusalem (Mount Zion) there is, first of all, “deliverance” from the horrendous judgments and slaughter of Daniel’s 70th week, called the Tribulation. By God’s grace, there will be a promised, preserved remnant of Israel.

Second, “there shall be holiness.” Jerusalem will no longer house the common or profane. The city and everything in it will be sacred, sanctified, and dedicated to a holy purpose. The Scriptures are clear that only when God the Son, the Messiah, returns to take up residence in Jerusalem, surrounded by the redeemed of Israel, will the city again become the holy dwelling place of the Divine.

And that’s not all. As God gathers the Jewish remnant in the Diaspora from the four corners of the earth, Israel will finally possess all the land He promised it so long ago.

The details of this return are outlined in verses 19–20. From the moment God promised Israel the land, it has been the Jewish people’s inheritance. Yet they have not taken full possession of it, as they were commanded. Sadly, throughout the ages, they have never enjoyed all the daily blessings of the land due to their disobedience. But when the Messiah comes in power and glory, they will fully possess their rightful possessions.

The prophet declared this to be the day when reunited Israel (Jacob and Joseph) will finally devour the kingdom of Edom like gluttonous tongues of fire consume dry grass and underbrush. The destruction will be absolute, “and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (v. 18).

This event will occur after Jesus Christ comes in His kingly glory to redeem Israel. The prophet Isaiah said the glorious Messiah will personally judge the Edomites and bring salvation to Israel (Isa. 63:1–4).

I can almost hear the fist-pumping shouts and see the tears of joy as the Israelites heard Obadiah’s words. Reading them makes me want to stand on the Mount of Olives and shout that Israel is not forgotten; the Jewish people have not been forsaken. Their tormentors will be annihilated, and Israel will be blessed with salvation throughout the land.

How can such a thing be possible? To be honest, the situation today doesn’t look good. There is no human reasoning or political solution that can bring God’s promises to fulfillment. Yet God doesn’t need those things to accomplish His purposes. If He did, He would not be God.

Obadiah closed his proclamation of blessing and judgment at the end of verse 18, saying, “For the Lᴏʀᴅ has spoken.”

Regardless of how bad things look in the Middle East or how far-fetched the promises may seem today, the Lord’s Word is inerrant, true, and irrevocable. Someday Israel will receive every square inch of land God has promised it.

Years ago a popular bumper sticker proudly displayed by Christians declared in bold print, “God said it—I believe it—That settles it!” Whether someone believes God’s Word or not, God said it. That settles it.

Well-known biblicist Dr. James Montgomery Boice, who pastored Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for 32 years, said of this passage,

This is a great section of the Word of God for Israel. . . .This must be taken literally. It must refer to a period of blessing of God on Israel as yet not seen. Some do not take the words this way. Either they say that the prophecies have been fulfilled by the humble regathering of the nation in Judah after the Babylonian exile, or they apply these promises of blessing to the church and view them as being fulfilled spiritually in these days. . . . I do not see how either of these views is possible. Above all, I do not see how the promises can be spiritualized. The only possible way to interpret the first two-thirds of Obadiah is to take the work literally. It deals with a literal nation, a literal period in history, and literal sins. Even the third part foretells a period of literal judgment on Edom, as we have seen. How is it that all of a sudden, between verses 16 and 17, we have to shift gears and say that the last few verses of Obadiah must be spiritualized? I do not see how this is possible.1

When possession of the land is complete, then “saviors [deliverers]” from those military conquests will come to Jerusalem to rule with the Messiah in His Kingdom (v. 21). The promised Messiah-King unites Israel as a nation, conquers the squatters on covenant lands, and takes possession of David’s throne: “And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (v. 21).

This is the same King described in Jeremiah 10:10: “But the Lᴏʀᴅ is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.”

He is called “Faithful and True.” His name is “The Word of God” and “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11, 13, 16). He “shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:9).

Overcome by a powerful enemy and dragged from their land, the ancient Israelites needed a word of hope from the Lord. Obadiah brought that message. The closing proclamation of his book, “The kingdom shall be the Lᴏʀᴅ’s” is the only true message of hope for all Israel and the world.

Endnote

  1. James M. Boice, The Minor Prophets, Logos ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 255–256.

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