Reading 1 - Est 8:5,8
" 'If it pleases the king,' [Esther] said, 'and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces' " (Est 8:5).
But Haman's decree had been written in the king's name, and was thus -- by the law of the Persians -- unchangeable (Est 1:19; cp Dan 6:17). What to do?
"Now write another decree in the king's name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king's signet ring -- for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked" (v 8).
The laws of the Medes and Persians could not be repealed (cp Dan 6:8). And so, instead, another decree would have to be written into law (Est 8:9) -- which, in its carrying out, would neutralize the effects of the first (and unchangeable) decree!
Typically, this presents an interesting, and thrilling, parallel: God Himself has issued decrees that cannot be repealed ("Thou shalt surely die..."); so how to deliver HIS people without repealing this law?
The answer is Christ: a greater deliverer who can neutralize, and overcome the effect of the previous "law" -- the law of sin and death -- without overturning the law itself! Or, to put it another way, a God who can show mercy and forgive sin, while at the same time upholding His own absolute holiness and righteousness:
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, [covering] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" Rom 3:23-26.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man [the flesh]" (Rom 8:1-3).
Thus, in type, God's death sentence hangs over a sinful humanity, but He has also commanded a decree of salvation. Only by a knowledge of, and a response to, the second decree [cp Est 8:9] of saving grace -- through the Lord Jesus Christ -- can the terrible effects of the first decree of universal condemnation for sin be averted.
Reading 2 - Obad
The prophecy of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Briefly, it recounts how Edom is to be brought low (Oba 1:3-9,16), on account of its treachery against Israel in the day of Israel's calamity (Oba 1:10-14). And it promises that "the day of the LORD" (Oba 1:15) will reveal God's judgments upon all nations -- at the same time that there will be salvation in Zion and Jerusalem for the faithful remnant (Oba 1:17-21).
The country of Edom (called Idumea in the New Testament) extended from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, and was bounded on the east by the Arabian Desert and on the west by the land of Judah. It was a mountainous district with average elevation of about 2,000 feet. Its wild and rugged character is described in Oba 1:3,4.
This was the land occupied by Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites, after the death of his father Isaac (Gen 36:6-8). There his descendants, cousins to the Israelites, built cities literally in solid rock, in almost impregnable positions. They became rich by controlling and traveling the trade routes between Egypt and the East. Even in modern times, the ruins they left behind -- as at Petra -- stand as stark and magnificent testimonies to their power and achievements.
There is a long history of enmity between Edom and Israel, beginning with the bitter rivalry between the twins Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:19-34; 27:1-40; etc), and continuing all the way through the OT, until the time when Herod the Great, the hated Idumean (or Edomite), used his Roman connections to gain ascendancy over the Israel of Jesus' day.
And the same enmity continues to our day, in the struggles between the Arabs -- of Palestine and Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- and the Israelis, over the ancestral lands which they both claim.
1. Judgment on Edom: Oba 1–14
a) Edom's destruction announced: Oba 2–7
b) Edom's destruction reaffirmed: Oba 8–14
2. The Day of the Lord: Oba 15–21
a) Judgment on the nations but deliverance for Zion: Oba 15–18
b) The Lord's kingdom established: Oba 19–21
Initial Fulfillment(s): Who is Obadiah? When, and in what circumstances, was the prophecy first given? There are no details about the prophet himself; "Obadiah" is a common name signifying "the servant of Yahweh". And no time period is definitely specified in the prophecy itself.
Given the lack of a definitive date, several different times are possible as the initial context of Obadiah's "burden" upon Edom:
Judgments upon Edom for participating in a cowardly attack upon Israel in the days of David, when the king and his forces were occupied in Syria. This "stab in the back" -- from a people who were near of kin to Israel (cp Deu 2:4,5; 23:7) -- was swiftly answered by a punitive raid by David's armies, led by Abishai (1Ch 8:12), Joab (1Ki 11:15,16; Psa 60 title) and David himself (2Sa 8:12-14).
About 200 years later (c 860 BC) another "Arab" invasion of Judah was repelled by faithful king Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20). This confederacy included Edom along with Moab and Ammon.
During the reign of Hezekiah (c 720 BC), the Edomites gave enthusiastic support to the irresistible Assyrian invasion, and were utterly callous in their treatment of the desperate refugees from Israel and Judah (cp Isa 21:11,12; 34:5-10; 63:1-6; Joel 3:19).
And finally, the prophecy could be dated as late as 588 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon devastated Jerusalem and its Temple, and once again men of Edom -- like loathsome jackals or vultures -- joined in to pick the bones of their cousins (cp Jer 49:7-22; Lam 4:21; Psa 137:7; Eze 25:12-14; 35:1-15). In favor especially of this possibility is Oba 1:16, which pictures Edom "drinking [from the holy vessels?] upon my [God's] holy mountain" (cp Jer 25:15-26, esp v 21): So far as is known, none of the earlier attacks upon Israel in which Edom took part resulted in the actual capture of God's temple mountain.
The Last Days Fulfillment: But even if we cannot be certain which of Edom's many atrocities upon Israel provoked the tongue, and pen, of Obadiah -- it seems certain that we are intended to read Obadiah's prophecy as a Last Days prophecy as well: Oba 1:15,17,21.
Such language can only be absolutely fulfilled with the return of Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom. Seen as a Last Days preview, Obadiah's words corroborate certain details of the general picture:
This Edomite enemy will be a member of an alliance: Oba 1:11. Edom is a member of the 10-nation Arab alliance described in Psa 83.
The controversy of the Last Days will concern God's holy mountain, mount Zion. There the enemies of Israel, including Edom, will rejoice over her: "Just as you drank on my holy hill...." (Oba 1:16). And there also will God bring retribution upon these blasphemous enemies: Oba 1:15-17. This observation lends credibility to the idea that the last great conflict in and around Jerusalem -- a conflict which will bring on the literal Return of Christ -- will be a religious conflict, between two peoples desperately struggling to lay claim to the same "holy places".
At this point the prophecy dramatically changes tone. The people of Israel are saved from their adversity and are spiritually regenerated. They receive back the Land promised to their fathers, to its fullest extent, and the rescued and redeemed state of Israel becomes the nucleus of the Kingdom of God: "But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy... The house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; the house of Esau will be stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau... Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD's" (Oba 1:17,18,21).
Territorial Expansion: Oba 1:19,20 go into detail as to which lands the redeemed people of Israel will recover and occupy:
People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau.
People from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines.
They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria.
Benjamin will possess Gilead.
This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath.
The exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev.
Certain of these territories (ie, Samaria and Ephraim and part of Philistia) were conquered by modern Israel in 1967. [Will some of this territory be returned as a result of the current "Peace Process"?] Zarephath, in southern Lebanon, is increasingly coming under Israel's influence since the incursions of 1982. But other territories (ie, Gilead and the mountains of Esau) remain today in Arab hands.
Will Israel, as presently constituted, conquer all these lands prior to the return of Christ? Or will Israel need to suffer a serious defeat, losing the very lands which it now possesses (together with its own sovereignty?) before a chastened remnant will repent and turn to God?
In short, is Oba 1:19,20 being fulfilled right now, or do they await a future fulfillment?
The order of Oba 1:17-21 suggests an answer: First, there must come a deliverance to mount Zion (v 17), and not just a military victory such as in 1948 or 1967: "But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy [or 'there shall be holiness': AV], and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance."
And so this "deliverance" will of necessity involve "holiness" -- and for this there must be true repentance and forgiveness of sins. Only then will Israel -- ie, a renewed and glorified remnant of Israel -- go forth to possess all the lands promised to the fathers (cp Gen 15:18-21; Exo 23:23; Deu 1:7; 11:24; Jos 1:4; Psa 72:8), as detailed in Oba 1:19,20.
This last territorial expansion will never be set back or thwarted in any way. Why? Because "Deliverers ['saviours': AV] will go up on Mount Zion... and the kingdom will be the LORD's" (Oba 1:21).
Reading 3 - Heb 3:5
"Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future" (Heb 3:5).
"It must also be borne in mind that Jesus does not present his death as an isolated act; it was the fulfilment of his life. He came to serve, and service was consummated in the death of the cross. His atoning work did not begin with Gethsemane or Golgotha, but with his baptism, and it was the completed life of obedience which was offered to the Father. Moses, whom the Jews called 'the first redeemer,' as Messiah would be 'the last,' had been willing to offer his life for the people: 'Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -- and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written'... But Moses, forbidden at last to enter Canaan, could not offer the perfect life; he was a great servant of the Lord and of Israel, 'faithful in all God's house,' but he could only provide 'a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken' (Heb 3:5, RV). He could only bear witness as a type to the greater Redeemer, whose whole life was an offering which his death perfected" (LG Sargent, "Gospel of Son of God" 148).