Let’s continue our reading of the book of Obadiah to find another kind of self-protective sinful strategy. Verse 4 says, “‘Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord.”
Remember, God is speaking to the Edomites and Christian pastor and teacher J. Vernon McGee gives this explanation about verse 4: “The eagle is used in Scripture as a symbol of deity. The Edomites were going to overthrow God, as Satan had attempted to do, and they were going to become deity. They were going to handle the business that God was supposed to handle. ‘And though thou set thy nest among the stars’–this was the sin of Satan, that he sought to exalt his throne above the stars.”
The self-protective sinful strategy described in this verse is when we are trying to be our own god, which relates to pride. Our instant reaction might be something like, “Well, I know I can never be like God or take the place of God. I would never set myself up like a god. How silly.” But this sin can be so subtle that we can be living in it and barely recognize it.
The Edomites’ strategy was to think no one could conquer them. What they were doing would guarantee their safety. No wonder they thought they lived like an eagle and soared close to the stars. Their attitude was not, “Whatever you desire, Lord”–the humble heart cry of surrender to God. Their cry was, “We will make sure we are protected and even God can’t defeat us.”
How is that related to us? Pride and us being a god says, “I know best. I must make this happen the way I think best.”
My mother-in-law, Audrey, lived that out when she and Larry’s dad, Don, decided they would move after Don retired. At that time, Don was in a cult that had brought great division and tension into our family. Audrey told me later that as they considered where to move, she agreed to a place that was a long way from the nearest church building of Don’s false religion. She figured that since the distance was so great, he would stop going to his church.
She was wrong. Instead, he drove the several hours trip back and forth and she was left alone for that day. Her plan backfired. She thought she knew what would bring him out of his cult but it was in her own thinking. And the place she chose was a great distance from us which limited our availability to visit.
Her story reminded me of Rebekah who fixed up Jacob to look like Esau and then reaped separation from Jacob when she had to send him away to spare his life. Here’s Rebekah’s proud way of trying to be her own god:
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?” (Genesis 27:43-45 NASB)
The sad thing is Rebekah’s plan hatched a separation from her beloved son that lasted a lifetime. She never saw him again.
To God’s glory, Audrey’s story had a better ending, although one that took a long time. God worked in Don’s life after more than twenty additional years and he turned away from the lies of that cult. He became a true born-again Christian in whom we saw an amazing transformation. It came about, not because of any of our schemes to convert him, but through God’s work.
Of course, there are times when wisdom will direct us to make plans. But what is the intention of our heart? Are we determined to make something happen or prevent something from happening? It’s all about the heart. One person can make a plan that is based in surrender to God. Another person could choose the very same plan in a similar situation but it is based in a heart that is building high like an eagle and soaring as high as the stars in a self-protective sinful strategy.
Pride and trying to be god are two possible self-protective sinful strategies. You’ll be amazed that there are more mentioned in Obadiah about the Edomites. Stay tuned for the next one in the next post.