The transfiguration of Jesus – which we commemorate today – most likely took place on Mount Hermon near Caesarea Philippi. It was the highest point in the region where Peter had declared just a few days before that Jesus was the Messiah – the Son of God. On the mountaintop – with Moses and Elijah as witnesses – Peter, James, and John saw Jesus not just as the Son of Man – which was His favorite name for Himself – but also as the Son of God. Peter had declared it – and then they saw it.
But we didn’t read the familiar passages from Matthew, Mark, or Luke today. Instead, we read about John’s vision of a glorified Jesus from Revelation 19:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
That was an equally – if not more – terrifying vision of Jesus in His heavenly glory – because in this scene, Jesus is going to wage war on the forces of evil and bring justice for those who have suffered for their faith.
We looked last week at the Hebrew prophets’ concept of “The Day of the Lord.” In his vision, John gets a glimpse of the great and final Day of the Lord.
And as we talked about last week, The Day of the Lord took about 500 years for the Edomites – who had dealt treacherously with their distant kinfolk in Judah. Today, we will look deeper into the Day of the Lord in Obadiah’s prophecy – because God’s justice is a two-edged sword.
We know that a sword sharpened on both edges works in both directions, as does God’s justice. It both punishes and restores.
God’s justice demanded that Edom be punished – and that Judah be restored, be made whole again. And so it was when the people returned from exile in Babylon, repaired the walls of Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple. God had made the victims of Edom’s crime whole.
Judah, however, did not learn from Edom’s suffering. The people soon resumed intermarrying with their pagan neighbors and falling back into idolatry. Their gracious overlords – the Persians – were replaced eventually by the Greeks and then the Romans – and their suffering got worse. Even then, they did not learn.
Finally, they rejected Jesus as their Messiah and cried out for His execution. 40 years later, the armies of Titus sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and slaughtered the people. The survivors were scattered across the world.
If you think the Day of the Lord for the Edomites was long at 500 years, it was 1878 years long for the people of Judah. God did not return them to their ancient homeland until 1948. That could be a fulfillment of God’s promises in verses 19-21:
People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau, and people from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines. They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will possess Gilead. This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev. Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau.
But the prophecy describes a return to the land that would include most of ancient Israel and Judah – which is more area than modern Israel. Unless another Middle Eastern war enables Israel to expand into Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, then Obadiah must be talking about something else. Many Christians believe and some hope for such a war, believing that it will signal Jesus’ imminent return to earth.
I disagree. I believe the key to the prophecy is found in the last words of Obadiah: “And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.” The word he uses for Lord is Yahweh, the very name of God.
And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s. The Lord’s kingdom is so much larger than Israel or Judah. It is the whole company of God’s people: living, dead, and not yet born. In the Hebrew Bible, Israel and Judah were God’s people – but they were a foreshadowing of what would come later: the Church of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Kingdom stretches far beyond the boundaries of any earthly kingdom. As we sang just a few weeks ago,
“In Christ there is no east or west; in Him no south or north.” His kingdom includes the entire universe.
And John’s vision of Jesus Christ in Revelation 19 is of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, riding out on the final Day of the Lord – when all evil will be destroyed and God’s people – who have suffered persecution and displacement because they belong to Him – will be restored. Jesus’ two-edged sword of justice will punish sin and make His people whole.
Which is why it is not up to us – as the Church of Jesus Christ – to seek revenge on those who hurt us –
or worse. This is how Paul could write to the Roman Christians – who were in the heartland of persecution –
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
So Obadiah’s message to Edom was that punishment would come for the nation’s sins – but to Judah that the nation would be made whole in time. And that message is also for us, when we want to strike back at those who ridicule, criticize, condemn, threaten, hurt, or kill us because we belong to Jesus. He will take care of it
in His time. Our King of Kings is coming, their sin will be punished, and we will be made whole. Amen.