. . . and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s
There are different ways to think about what is just and right in the world. For centuries, God’s people lived by the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” system of Leviticus. Whatever one inflicted upon another, one must endure in punishment.
But the prophet Obadiah brings a different message, not to Israel but to Edom. The Edomites were terribly cruel to the people of Israel when the Babylonians took them into exile. They didn’t just look on and laugh—they also looted the homes and cities and turned refugees over to Babylon to be enslaved or killed. They heaped great misery upon Israelites already overwhelmed with sorrow.
Obadiah’s message to Esau was a warning that the people of Israel hadn’t forgotten what the Edomites had done. They would be back to take over Edom and rule over them. Such a message must have caused some anxiety as the people considered what Israel might do to them in retaliation.
But the last verse in this short book describes how Israel was to rule over the Edomites. “The kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” The kingdom of God’s people shall be marked by justice, fairness, mercy. As Eugene Peterson puts it: “a rule that honors God’s kingdom.”
As God’s people, we are called to live by a different standard. We’re part of a new kingdom, not ruled by human leaders or driven by nationalistic agendas. We seek not to dominate but to serve, not to conquer but to care, not power but purpose. We seek not our own glory but justice for those who need it, not to strike out at those who strike us but to turn the other cheek instead.
This is what we wait for in this Advent season, but it’s also what we’re called to strive and work for. This kingdom of justice and fairness and mercy, established by Christ, is in our hands. If “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” as Ghandi said, then in God’s kingdom, may all who are part of it see and hear and experience true justice and true peace.
Julie King is the pastor of Macon Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church, Brookfield (PCUSA) in northern Missouri.
©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.