Saturday, November 10, 2007

stand by or stand with?

I've been offline for a few days due to Comcast and other comedy of errors. One blog post which struck me tonight in my reader was this excellent piece by Mike Cope (see link at right). History is an excellent teacher to the present day and this is a fresh look at both old testement and new testement ideas.

Published by Mike Cope on November 8, 2007

The story of Obadiah begins in Genesis 25 with the birth of the twins: hairy (Esau) and heel-grabber (Jacob). Rebekah was told that two nations were in her womb — more, I think, than most women are wanting to hear. The older would serve the younger.

Fast forward to Deuteronomy (2:1-8; 23:7) and you learn that this relationship still mattered centuries later when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land after the exodus. The Edomites (descendents of Esau) were to be treated respectfully, because they were relatives.

This area of Edom was just south of the Dead Sea — about 70 miles north-to-south and just 15 or 20 miles east-to-west. It’s a hilly area that felt to the residents like secure protection.

One famous Edomite in the New Testament was (apparently) Herod the Great. His father, Antipater, was an Idumean, or an Edomite. Herod married into the Jewish royal family and kept the Jewish law. Ok, some of the Jewish law. He had minor lapses like the propensity for killing off family members.

Despite the warnings to treat the kinsmen Edomites well, when you move ahead many centuries later, the Edomites are roundly condemned. Check out Psalm 137, Lamentations 4, Ezekiel 25 and 35, and Jeremiah 49.

There’s something vile the Edomites did when Neduchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. But what was that?

It’s in Obadiah that we find out.

For the most part, their sins were not sins of commission but of omission. While Jerusalem was attacked, they kept their distance from the south, up in their mountainous crags, and cheered on the defeat of Judah. They are the nanner-nanner-nanner people of the Bible.

Their central offense appears to be that they stood by when they should have stood with their relatives being attacked.

If that’s true, then could this, the shortest book in the Old Testament, be a piece of prophetic literature that has a fresh word for the church today?

It invites us to ask how we are standing by rather than standing with. Wasn’t that what offended so many religious types about Jesus? He kept stepping into the messes of the world. He refused to stand at a distance condemning.

The conflict at his home town synagogue (Luke 4:16ff) was over his examples of how God wants his people to move beyond their own safe, gated communities. His story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16) highlights the evil of standing by while another is in need. (Note that there’s no evidence the rich man was actively doing harm. He just stood by.) When he talked of judgment (Matthew 25), the key questions weren’t about obtuse questions of doctrine but about standing by or standing with. When you see him naked, thirsty, hungry, and in prison, what is your response?

Obadiah says that the moutains of Seir would not protect the Edomites: “‘Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord.”

Apparently God takes this seriously. His final evaluation isn’t based on the edict: “Do no harm.” It goes beyond that: when we see Lazarus . . . when we see the person beaten along the road to Jericho . . . when we see someone hungry, hurting, or lost — what is our response?

Do we stand by? or stand with?


Caroline said...

very interesting thoughts

Caroline said...

glad to hear Dave is coming home.