Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Reading Through Obadiah and Jonah

Hosea to MicahWe now move into two of the shortest books of the Minor Prophets, Obadiah and Jonah, accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Harold Shank. Obadiah is a prophecy of the doom of Israel’s historical enemy, Edom. Jonah turns prophecy on its head as Jonah’s prophecy fails to happen and Jonah gets very angry with God because He is so gracious to the Assyrians. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Obadiah is brief book directed at the nation of Edom. The prophet calls the nations to battle against Edom because their sins of pride and self-sufficiency have turned them away from God and against God's people. Instead of helping Jerusalem, they joined her enemies in committing atrocities against her. God's principle of justice is that "what you have done to others, God will allow to be done to you." The book ends with a reversal in which God's people will, not only receive back their own land, but will possess that of their enemies as well.

Instead of suggesting vengeance, Obadiah points to coming justice, that certain deeds must be punished (cf. 2 Thess 1:5–10). Obadiah lists the evil deeds done by Edom against Israel for which God will seek justice. According to Obadiah, justice will be done not only because of their evil deeds, but because of their self-sufficiency and pride that prompted their betrayal. Obadiah, 304

Despite the way things looked when Edom betrayed Jerusalem, on the coming day of the LORD even the mountains of Esau will be ruled by the LORD. To all despised peoples who feel powerless to throw off their oppressors, the final promise offers hope that one day the LORD will govern, allowing all the dispossessed to “possess” (vv. 17, 19, 20) their lands again. Obadiah 19-21, 322

Jonah is a most unusual book among the prophets. It contains the prophet’s actions rather than his words and ends with an open-ended question. While Jonah is trying to avoid the Abrahamic command to bless the nations he ends up blessing the sailors and the Ninevites. Jonah reminds us, humorously, that, our responsibility is to use God's blessing to bless others.

Jonah argues against any who decide that some person or some people will not respond. Faith appears in the most unlikely places. Jonah, 331

The story begins with Jonah's disobedience as he disobeys God's command to go to Nineveh. He tries to avoid the pagan sailors and God, but the storm and the lot force him to announce his allegiance to God. The only way to  calm the storm is to throw Jonah into the sea and the sailors respond to the miracle by worshipping God. Meanwhile Jonah is saved from the sea by being swallowed by a great fish.

Their promise to the LORD stands in contrast to Jonah’s refusal to obey him. They willingly seek out what he has intentionally rejected. God who calms the storm, showing his power over nature, also moves the sailors to fear and faith (as he will shortly do to the Ninevites), and finally stops the retreat of his prophet. Jonah 1.15-16, 344–345

From within the fish Jonah repents of his disobedience and asks for rescue from the fish. As he asks he is vomited on to the beach and recommissioned to preach to Nineveh. He says only what God specifically told him to say and Nineveh overwhelmingly turns to God. However, this makes Jonah angry and he says that the reason he did not want to preach in Nineveh in the first place was that God might forgive them because that is his character. Jonah typifies the person who is happy to receive God's grace and forgiveness, but is unwilling to extend the same grace to others. Jonah can quote scripture, but he doesn't really understand God's message. 

Just as the sailors and their captain had obeyed the LORD, now the Ninevites and their king obey God. None of this is due to the talent of reluctant Jonah who merely serves as a carrier of the divine message. Jonah 3.4, 353

(Jonah) immediately prays words that appear throughout the OT as the most comprehensive description of the Hebrew God (cf. Exod 34:6–7; Num 14:18; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8; 2 Chr 30:9; Neh 9:17; Nahum 1:3; Joel 2:13). He is a God weighted more toward grace and forgiveness than punishment and judgment. Jonah 4.1-2, 357

The God who had presented Jonah with a fish and a vine could also present Nineveh with salvation. No one, not even God’s prophet, has a right to be angry about who receives the grace of God. Jonah 4.10-11, 363

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