Do you know what that one-word title means? Websters.com defines it as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” But in the way I’ve heard it commonly used, it usually refers to enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others to whom you’re hostile. To be clear, you might or might not have a reason to be personally hostile. Let’s say you have someone you “love to hate” in the public sphere with whom you disagree politically, or who is embracing a lifestyle you find repugnant, or maybe you’re just envious of their success. And then you hear about a terrible tragedy or huge setback in their life; maybe they just got arrested, or they just announced that they have a life-threatening illness. And you say to yourself “It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy! Good riddance!” That’s Schadenfreude.
And that’s the topic of today’s passage. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the Edomites, despite being relatives of Israel, had always been unfriendly to them. Israel had really attempted to befriend them, or at least not have mutual hostilities. As best as we can determine, this attempt to reach out to them had never been reciprocated. Their attitude and actions towards Israel ranged all the way from a “cold war” to open aggression.
We’re not exactly sure what event to which Obadiah is referring, and it’s not all that important. What is important is that Israel (referring to the entire nation, not the northern kingdom) was being invaded by a foreign power. Edom stood by and cheered them on, and later joined in the plunder. While their Jewish brothers were dying, they were standing off to the side and called out “Hit 'em again, harder, harder!”
And then they did worse than that. Any major invasion or battle is going to produce refugees, people who’re fleeing the danger. Did the Edomites show any compassion at all? No, quite the contrary. They killed or captured as many of these poor helpless souls as possible and sold any survivors back to the invaders.
Now, it’s quite likely that that this trouble on Israel was her own fault. Time and time again the Lord warned his people, and after enough futile warnings, he used other nations as his rod of discipline. He'd hand Israel over to her enemies for a short (or not so short) time as punishment, and she’d experience multiple casualties, loss of land, loss of resources, and loss of people to exile.
But that in no way excused Edom’s actions which were based on horrible attitudes. Along with hatred of brothers, they were also guilty of overweening pride in their (internationally famous) wisdom and a false sense of security in their own defenses. They were sure no one could ever touch them.
But they were wrong. Dead wrong. God was watching all this, and he’s the Lord over all nations. His Day was coming in which he’d sit in judgment over every country and tribe and person in the world. And in response to their conduct, Edom would be. . . wiped out completely. Israel would be punished, but she’d eventually recover: Her remnant would come back from the brink. But not Edom. A thief would only steal what he wanted and would probably leave something behind. But when the God of Israel was done with them, there’d be nothing left.
So what can I take from this? What is the Lord trying to tell me today? Maybe I’ve been too prideful in my own accomplishments, in my own “wisdom.” Maybe I feel secure in my own resources like Edom did, thinking nothing can touch me. Or maybe I’m harboring an unresolved conflict with my sibling in Christ.
If anything of these apply, I need to deal with them now. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Today.
How about you?
Father, I see a lot of Edom in me sometimes. I may not have carried it to the degree they did, but that’s because of your grace, not because of any goodness in me. Please search me out, from top to bottom and inside-out. Whatever you see that doesn’t look like you, please cleanse and remove.