Obadiah 12  But you should not have gloated over your brother on the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah on the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted on the day of distress.”


The prophet Obadiah cries out in the face of terrible betrayal.  As the people of Jerusalem are fleeing from the armies of Babylon, the people of Edom caught them and turned them over to the enemy.  Edom probably believes they are justified.  These are the people descended from Esau, the twin brother of Abraham’s grandson Jacob, who became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  If you remember Genesis, Jacob cheated Esau both out of his inheritance and his father’s final blessing.  It has been a thousand years, but the people have not forgotten and when the descendants of Jacob are being punished for their sins by Babylon, the descendants of Esau see a chance to even their own score as well.  Apparently Edom is pretty happy about the way it all turned out, but God speaks through Obadiah to remind them that rejoicing in the misfortune of another is not God’s way. 


Today Saddam Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging.  I heard the news right before church and felt overwhelmed with sadness.  But every commentator I heard agreed that this was a good day for the people of Iraq.  Perhaps it was a necessary day.  Perhaps it was a day of justice.  But I don’t see anything “good” about it.


It was a day when we remember the innocents who died brutally and needlessly at Saddam’s order.  That is not good.  Many years ago an Iraqi woman gave birth to an innocent child and named him Saddam.  Somewhere across his life, cruelty and evil took up residence in his heart and a child made in the image of God became a man who did unspeakable things in God’s name.  That is not good.  Today the system of justice felt it had no recourse but to sentence a man to death.  That is not good.  Necessary, perhaps, but not “good.”


I understand why there are some who are dancing in the streets.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to live under such fearsome oppression and what a relief it must be to feel that their feelings were vindicated and to have the blood of loved ones avenged.  But I cannot call it “good.”  From the people who have suffered and died to a life gone terribly wrong to the war that it started to the sectarian violence it has ignited to the soldiers who have died to the nation whose future teeters on the edge of a Mehdi militia knife, it all seems occasion for tears and somber reflection.


And so from the smallest of the prophets…the shortest book of the Old Testament, we hear the word of the Lord.  Don’t gloat in the face of another’s misfortune; don’t rejoice at the ruin of others; don’t boast that others are in distress.  Even if they deserve it—even if they had it coming to them.  As Obadiah relates down in verse 15:  “For the day of the Lord is near against all the nations.  As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.  To dance on the grave of Saddam is to ensure that someone, someday will dance on our own.


God who made every human being in your image, bring us peace.  Amen.


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