Unit: Early Minor Prophets (Obadiah, Joel, Jonah)
Theme: Where Are You?
Lesson text: Joel 2:28-32; Obadiah 15-17
Supplemental texts: Acts 2:17-21; Isaiah 55:6; 2 Peter 3:9-13; Romans 10:8-13
Aim: Call on him, for the day of the Lord is near.
_ _ _
Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_June26_2022.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive PDFs of the lesson material each month.
_ _ _
By Mark Scott
The flip side of salvation is condemnation. We usually do not like to speak about it, but God’s patience does have an end, and we should not presume upon it (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9-10). The day of the Lord has come, is coming, and will come. It, of course, refers to some kind of judgment by God. James Smith wrote in The Minor Prophets, “Every local judgment is a harbinger of that final day when all sinners meet their doom at the judgment bar of God.”
The early prophets Joel and Obadiah each had something to say about the day of the Lord. For Joel it was the signal that God was turning a new page in history. The locust plague and the drought were over, and God’s kingdom was coming through his Spirit. For Obadiah it was that all nations should take a cue from the defeat of Edom for how they treated God’s people.
Be Ready for the Spirit
And afterward is the start of this passage. After what? After God took away the locust plague and drought. After that, God’s people could experience a fresh start and a new beginning. Joel did not tell his immediate audience exactly when this new day would come, but evidently it would unfold in layers.
This passage is quoted almost verbatim in Acts 2:17-21. While it is a good caution to not always borrow freight from the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament, nonetheless some passages are best understood in their prophetic fulfillment (what the scholars call “sensus plenoir,” meaning the fuller sense). At times what seems piecemeal and fragmentary in predictive prophecy can be abundantly clear when fulfilled.
When the Holy Spirit comes before the day of the Lord, the distinguishing mark will not be gender (as sons and daughters will prophesy), or age (as young and old will receive divine revelations). Cosmic signs (miracles) will break loose, but even those will not be the distinguishing marks. The main thing is that salvation will be available in Jerusalem.
The $20 million question is, “When?” It might have been that these cosmic signs (wonders in the heavens and on earth, blood, fire, and billows of smoke, the sun turning dark, and the moon becoming blood red) already literally happened during the days of Joel (none of us were there). It could also have literally happened on the Day of Pentecost (none of us were there either). It could just be figurative language for God turning a new page in history and judging nations (certain Old Testament passages do use language that way). It could refer to a time yet in the future. Or . . . it could refer to the “beginning of the end.”
In other words, the fulfillment of it could have started in Joel’s day, come down through Pentecost, and ultimately will be fulfilled in the judgment of God at the return of Christ. Having the Holy Spirit makes one prepared for any day of the Lord.
Be Ready for Deliverance
The book of Obadiah is the shortest prophetic book in the Old Testament. The prophet might have been the first to write his prophecy (maybe 845 BCE—although some would date it way later, e.g., 586 BCE). Obadiah means “servant of Yahweh,” and 12 people in the Bible have this name.
His primary concern is the nation of Edom. This nation had its origin during the time of the patriarchs (Genesis 25:30). The children of Esau formed a great nation. But they opposed the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. God punished them more than once for this lack of kindness. Their land mass was large, but they would be made small by God’s judgment. They were proud of their place, wealth, alliances, intelligence, and armies (vv. 3-9). They were guilty of harming God’s people or being indifferent to them, gloating over the misfortunes of others, and looting the properties of the unfortunate (vv. 10-14).
So all nations should learn from Edom. God would pay them back (v. 15). Judgment would come home to roost. They desecrated sacred space (drank on my holy hill). Other nations would treat them as if they never existed. On the other hand, God would provide deliverance. Mount Zion would be a place of salvation, holiness, abundance, unity, victory, and expanse.
The last line of Obadiah is “and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (v. 21). James Smith wrote, “The rest of prophetic literature is to a certain extent an exposition of the last line of Obadiah.” Openness to the kingdom makes one ready for the day of the Lord.