I have often wondered how it is that someone can transform from a kind and caring person into a hateful one. What makes someone turn from loving their family members to rejoicing in their destruction?
It’s a question that humanity has been trying to figure out for as long as we’ve been around. It’s the backdrop for countless TV shows and novels, which would mean it should be no surprise that the Bible talks about it too.
There’s an interesting story that takes place in Obadiah. The author, Obadiah, addresses an issue between Edom and Israel and in fact calls for action to be taken against Edom, right in the beginning of the book.
Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom. We have heard a report from the Lord, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle.”
Naturally, you would wonder who Edom is and why Israel should rise up against it? As it turns out Edom and Israel are two different nations that come from the same family line. It goes all the way back to the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau’s family line turned into the Edomites and Jacob’s family line turned into the Israelites.
It’s a pretty messed up situation. Basically, the two nations hated on each other for generations all the while being distantly related.
So, how does this happen? How do family members start killing each other?
It happens in a progression. Obadiah explains this in verses 10-14, take a look.
(Addressing Edom)“For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side—In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem— Even you were as one of them.
“But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother on the day of his captivity; nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of distress.
You should not have entered the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity.
You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped; nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained in the day of distress.
Do you see the progression in Edom’s sin? Basically, it works out like this.
1. First, they did nothing, when Israel needed help. It’s a non-action not unlike when we walk past someone in need without stopping to help or involve ourselves.
2. Then Edom rejoiced when Israel was hurt. This is like when are pleased that someone gets what’s coming to him or her. That satisfaction we feel when someone we don’t like gets a speeding ticket or receives a rude comment.
3. Then Edom took advantage of Israel’s venerable state, taking things from them when they couldn’t defend themselves. Of course, we’ve never seen this play out at a church board meeting or inside our places of work.
4. Finally, Edom joined in the violent acts taken against Israel.
Did you see the progression? Sin wins not when it turns you into a murderer but when you make one small compromise in that direction. Sin wins by moving you slowly. No one is transformed into a hateful person overnight, it takes time. We have to guard ourselves against the small transgressions against one another because it only leads to our destruction.
It’s also worth pointing out that Obadiah hints at the fact the Edom represented all of humanity. Edom (אדם) is actually derived from the Hebrew word for humanity. This isn’t just a problem for Israel and Edom; it’s a problem for everyone.
But if sin can win the day by moving us slowly towards its side then so can Jesus. How will you react the next time you see someone hurt? Will you ignore the request for help?
Father, help me to recognize the next divine appointment you have placed in my life. Help me to see those that need help and have the courage to reach out to them. Guard me, my church, and my community against following the example of Edom. Help us to walk in the other direction. Amen.
Johnathan Coker is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently a teacher at Chisholm Trail Academy.