“As you have done, it shall be done to you; your reward shall return on your head!” Obadiah 1:15
Reward – Hebrew justice is based on the idea of measure for measure. It is summarized in this verse from one of the least known prophets. What you have done to others will be done to you. Of course, we know the positive reversal of this principle in the Golden Rule. But the Golden Rule has a flip-side, and it is the flip-side that applies to most people. We have a cultural idiomatic saying that captures the same thought. “What goes around comes around.” Actions have consequences.
It’s not always comforting to think of the measure-for-measure principle. We want forgiveness to wipe away the negative consequences of our damaging acts, but forgiveness is a legal matter. It deals with guilt, not consequence. So, God’s forgiveness removes the penalty of my sin in terms of His requirement for holiness, but it does not erase the consequences that result from my sin. Ask anyone. The spin of sin keeps on affecting others long after forgiveness blots out the guilt associated with my action. David is forgiven, but the son of David and Bathsheba still dies.
Now let’s think about Obadiah’s pronouncement. It’s aimed at the nation. The Hebrew word, gemul, means recompense or something deserved. Paul would have used the Greek word for wages. Obadiah tells us that we will earn exactly the same wages that we pay others. What does that mean? Just think of measure for measure.
Cheat someone, expect to be cheated. Lie to someone, expect to be lied to. Withhold due credit, expect to be overlooked. Inflate self-importance, expect to be diminished. Disrespect someone, expect to be slandered. Curse someone, expect to be cursed. Abuse someone, expect to be abused.
And at the national level:
Ignore the plight of the poor, expect to become poor.
Seek self-fulfillment at the cost of the unborn, expect to meet an early death.
Strive for power, expect to be stripped of power.
Idolize wealth, expect to be bankrupt.
Dishonor parents, expect to be humiliated.
Dishonor God, expect to be destroyed.
There is a lot of collateral damage in the measure-for-measure principle. Every human choice affects every interwoven arena of community. When the society gets what it has earned, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. If you think that God spares the righteous among the unrighteous, you better go read Jeremiah. When God deals with national apostasy, everyone feels the pain. These are perilous times, perhaps much more that we can imagine. These are times for national repentance, but even that might not prevent the delivery of earned wages. The solution is not political. It’s spiritual. It has always been spiritual, hasn’t it?
Topical Index: Reward