Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
BLESSED EFFECTS OF THE GOSPEL IN THE LATTER DAYS
Obadiah 1:17. Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
IT is curious to observe throughout the prophetic writings, that the richest promises relating to the Christian Church follow, and, I had almost said, arise out of, denunciations of vengeance against the enemies of God: the design of God being to display thereby, in a more abundant measure, the riches of his grace towards his chosen people. The great scope of Obadiah's prophecy is to warn the Edomites of the destruction that awaited them. But, regarding them as representing all the Church's enemies, by whatever name they are designated, he proceeds to declare, that the Church shall triumph over them, and, through the power and grace of Christ, be established in the full enjoyment of all her privileges. The time to which he looks forward for the accomplishment of these things is the latter day, when the Jews shall be restored to their own land, and be, in their national capacity, an emblem of the success that shall be given to the Christian Church throughout the world.
In elucidation of the prophecy, we shall consider,
I. The deliverance here spoken of—
It certainly, in its primary and literal sense, refers to the contest which shall take place, between the Jews at the time of their restoration, and their enemies who will oppose their settlement in the land of Canaan. But the spiritual sense is that which was most prominent in the writer's mind. The deliverance is certainly that which the Lord Jesus Christ had undertaken to accomplish for his Church and people Compare Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13; Romans 11:26.
This has already come to Zion—
The Lord Jesus Christ has come according to all that was foretold concerning him; and has entered the lists against the enemies of his Church, and has triumphed over them. "By his death, he overcame him who had the power of death, that is, the devil:" and having "spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphed over them openly upon the cross," he, in his ascension, "led captivity itself captive;" and has left his people to fight only with a vanquished enemy John 16:11. By his atoning blood he has delivered his people out of the hands of justice, which demanded the execution of the sentence denounced against them by the law. Having "found, and offered, a ransom for them," he has authoritatively said, "Deliver them from going down into the pit" of Hell. By his all-powerful grace, too, he has communicated this deliverance to thousands and tens of thousands, whom he has turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. To millions of prisoners he has said, Go forth, and show yourselves; and they have broken their bonds, and come forth to light and liberty.
It is also experienced yet daily—
How many witnesses are there in this place, and wherever the Gospel is preached with fidelity, who can set their seal to this blessed truth! Many can say, 'I was once a slave to sin, and led captive by the devil at his will: but now "the Son of God has made me free; and I am free indeed:" he has brought my soul out of prison, and set my feet at liberty. Nor am I any more "in bondage to the fear of death" and judgment; for "I know whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him" '.
But it will be yet more largely experienced in the latter days—
Zion shall then lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes; and all the nations of the earth shall flow unto her, as the center of their union, and the treasury of their bliss. Then shall "Satan indeed fall from Heaven like lightning:" then shall "the prince of this world be utterly cast out." Then shall Dagon fall before the ark in every quarter of the universe: and all the slaves of sin and Satan be brought "into the glorious liberty of the sons of God." Then shall the jubilee trumpet sound in every place: "the preaching of deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound," will then be accompanied with such power from on high, that it shall be to all, what the trumpet of the archangel shall be in the day of judgment, an effectual call, "as life from the dead;" so that all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
With this deliverance will be seen,
II. Its never-failing attendant—
In no place under Heaven, but in Zion, is holiness found. The semblance of it may be seen in many places; its reality nowhere. Let us understand what holiness is—
It is not a conformity to external rights, nor a practice of mere heathen virtues; but a real conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God. It is the image of God upon the soul; and an exhibition of it in the whole of our spirit and conduct. It is "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," and a "walking in all things as he walked".
This, from the time that deliverance is given to Zion, shall be found there—
It was the great design of our Deliverer to produce it in his Church: he "gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity:" and "he is called Jesus," not so much because he saves his people from destruction, as "because he saves them from their sins." Holiness is the characteristic mark whereby the people whom he has delivered are to be distinguished: they are "purified unto Christ, a peculiar people zealous of good works." Whoever professes to have experienced his deliverance, without being truly and universally "righteous, even as Christ himself is righteous," is declared by God himself to be "a liar 1 John 2:4; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:6-10." Believers are "his epistles" to the world, that they who will not look into the book of revelation, may see in them a living exhibition of his will. In every department of the divine life, the heavenliness of their minds, the sweetness of their spirit, and the blamelessness of their lives, they "shine as lights in a dark world:" the effulgence indeed is not equally bright in all: there are stars of a greater, and of a lesser magnitude; but in all it is manifest, both from the uniformity and continuance of their splendor, that they are upheld in their orbits by the power of God, and irradiated with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness: in a word, holiness is an essential part of the deliverance itself; and therefore must exist in every member of the Church of Christ. Deliverance, in this view, is most desirable: yet is its value greatly enhanced by,
III. Its ultimate effect—
Here the reference to the restoration of the Jews, especially as connected with the destruction of all their enemies, is more marked: "The House of Jacob shall possess their possessions;" every tribe having the portion peculiarly allotted to them verse 18–20. That they will vanquish all who oppose them, and finally be established in the quiet possession of their own land, is so plain, that it cannot reasonably admit a doubt See Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 30:18-19; Jeremiah 46:27. Zechariah 12:6-9; But there is yet a higher sense in which the prophecy shall be fulfilled. The land of Canaan was typical of a far nobler inheritance, which all the House of Jacob shall possess.
Believers "do now enter into rest"—
Our blessed Lord promised rest unto all who should come to him weary and heavy-laden with their sins: and this rest he now bestows: and the Canaan which the Israelites entered into, is but a shadow of it. That "land indeed flowed with milk and honey:" but who can tell what delicious repasts are provided for the soul that believes in Christ? Who but He who possesses "the white stone, can tell the name that is written on it Revelation 2:17." Who can adequately inform us what the peace of God is, or what "the joy of faith?" The one, we are told, passes understanding; and the other is altogether unutterable. These, with a multitude of other blessings, are even now the believer's portion; and he so enters into the possession of them, as to be able to defy all his enemies to rob him of the enjoyment of them? Romans 8:35-39. It was not the power of their enemies, but the greatness of their sins, that expelled the Jewish people from their land: nor shall any enemy be able to prevail against us, if only we are faithful to ourselves. And, happily for us, that stability is ensured to us by God himself, who "will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it."
But the full possession of it is reserved for another world—
There is an inheritance prepared for them from the foundation of the world: and in due time they shall enjoy it in all its fullness. The believer may now look forward to it with assured confidence. Here he is a minor only; and therefore, though the heir, he differs but little from a servant: he has so much of the inheritance as is suited to his condition, and sufficient for his necessities: but in the last day he will have the very same possession of his inheritance that Christ himself has: his vision of Jehovah will be most bright; his communion with him most intimate; his communications from him most abundant: and he will know that eternity itself will be the duration of his bliss. "He shall be a pillar in the temple of his God, and shall go no more out."
1. Those who oppose the Church of God—
As in their journey to the land of Canaan, the Edomites and other nations opposed the progress of the Children of Israel; and as in the latter days there will be a confederacy of many people to prevent their re-establishment in their former inheritance; so now at this time, and indeed in every age, the men of this world "have evil will at Zion," and exert themselves in every way to obstruct the progress of all who are going thitherward. But what success had their enemies against Israel of old? or what shall they have in the day spoken of in our text? Truly the strongest of them will be only "like sheep before a lion, who will go through, and tread them down, and tear in pieces; and none shall deliver them Micah 5:8." Thus shall it be with those who now oppose and persecute the Church of God. We say not that the people of God will be the instruments of God's vengeance; for that they cannot be, seeing that "the weapons of their warfare are not carnal:" but this we say, that "no weapon formed against God's people shall prosper;" and that all who seek their ruin shall be put to shame: they "fight against God:" they "kick against the pricks:" and in due time a suitable recompense shall be given them. God, when denouncing his judgments against Edom, reminds them of particular evils, which, however gratifying they were to their malignant spirits at the time, they should not have committed: thus also will he bring to the remembrance of his enemies all the evils they have committed, and especially the treatment they have shown to his Church and people: and then they will find, that it would have been "better to have had a millstone tied round about their necks, and to have been east into the sea, than to have offended one of his little ones." The Lord grant, that men may no longer make Christ a stone of stumbling, lest "it fall upon them, and crush them to powder!"
2. Those who are looking for redemption in Jerusalem—
It may be that some are discouraged, because they have not yet experienced deliverance to the extent they wish: they seem to themselves as if their long and willing captivity to sin and Satan precluded them from the hope of mercy: and they are ready to say with Israel of old, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered?" But our answer is, like that of the prophet, "Yes; thus says the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children Isaiah 49:25-26." Be not afraid: though you are but as "a worm, yet shall you thresh the mountains Isaiah 41:14-15;" and the weaker you feel yourselves to be, the stronger in reality you are, because God has pledged himself to "perfect his own strength in your weakness." Expect then deliverance, with all its attendant benefits: and rest assured, that none shall pluck you out of the hands of your great Deliverer. God has sworn, that "he will plant you in the heavenly land, assuredly with his whole heart, and with his whole soul:" and "what he has promised, he is able also to perform." "Faithful is He who has called you; who also will do it."