“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You are greatly despised.” (Obad 1:2 NAS95)
I normally look at promises as good things. But in this case, they are rather foreboding. “I will make you small.” There are at least a couple of others in the book of Obadiah that match the mood: “I will bring you down” (Obad 1:4 NAS95); “You will be covered with shame,”
(Obad 1:10 NAS95). Not good. And it is true, that these words are words of judgment on Edom, especially because of their treatment of Israel.
But I can also see a fulfilment of these words/promises by Christ. To the prince of the universe, God says, “I will make you small.” To the eternal Son, he says, “I will bring you down.” To the Glorious One, it is said, “You will be covered with shame.” Was it because he committed Edom’s sins. No. But because he bore Edom’s sins. He takes our punishment.
But here we must take another step. For as the apostles accepted Christ’s order of events - that is, suffering precedes glory - it seems that the church also must accept that same order. And so if Jesus was willing to accept these words as personal promises, then so should I. “I will make you small.” Insignificant. Invisible. Buried.
Being consigned to smallness renders conversation about size irrelevant. It’s a discussion from which you walk away. But smallness did not mark the end of Jesus’ ministry. It provided the context. Bethlehem. Nazareth. Galilee.
Philippians 2 offers a template of the Obadiah promises. Jesus left heaven’s glory for earth’s servitude. “I will bring you down.” Adoration will be followed by criticism. The audience of many will largely abandon him. One who had looked to him for guidance now betrays him to enemy soldiers. Should we expect any less? The leader will be lonely, not only because he is out front of the pack, but because the pack hates his guts. Crucify him.
Self-esteem must give way to God-esteem and Christ-esteem. Because once you are covered with shame, that self-esteem thing just doesn’t work very well. Not only do other people hate you; you hate yourself. You can’t stand to be you, living where you live, and doing what you do. But that is hardly the issue, is it? It is so much more about who God is, and where he makes his presence known, and what he wants to do.
2 Peter says “great and precious promises.” “I will make you small.” “I will bring you down.” “You will be covered with shame.” Am I sure that I want to be a follower of Christ?