The last twelve books of the Old Testament are known as the Minor Prophets. The combined length is 67 chapters about the same length of Isaiah. These are minor as their length is shorter. The message of these books is still large as it comes from the Lord. The minor prophets have many different attributes that make them specific. Generally, they are written directly to a people. Sometimes that is Israel sometimes that is against a pagan nation. The minor prophets reveal great things about the character of God, the coming messiah, and our ourselves. It has probably been challenging to even find them in your Bible as many times they are seldom referenced. As you become used to them, hopefully you will start to desire to turn to them more often.
Hosea 1:1-10; 3:1-5
Hosea is called by God to prophesy during the last days in Israel. Israel was the northern kingdom, and they continually followed after idols. Israel separated under Rehaboam. All the kings that ruled over them were wicked. In the Bible worship of false deities by Gods people is adultery. Israel whored after false Gods. In the Mosaic Covenant God told Israel that this would break the covenant and that they would be punished for it.
Hosea’s was commanded to marry a women (Gomer) who would commit adultery. This is an intense illustration of Israel’s national tragedy. This is a story of one sided love and faithfulness between a prophet and his wife. This one sided love and faithfulness is a parallel for God’s love of His people.
Hosea Can be broken in two large parts. Part one is the adulterous wife and faithful husband (1:1-3:5). Part two is the adulterous Israel and the faithful Lord (4:1-14:9). Idolatry and worshiping false deities, are sins that Israel and Judah both got in trouble for. This sin is the sin that Israel is continually guilty of and the most prominent sin recorded in the prophets. God parallels this act to that of a spouse cheating on the other who is faithful and loving. Hosea list over 150 statements concerning the sin of Israel, over half these statements are concerning idolatry.
Think about this illustration that God is giving to the people of Israel. If you were Hosea how would you feel knowing that your spouse is going to cheat on you? That they are going to leave you for another and shack up together for a while. Not only is this going to happen but you are going to have to redeem them. Redeem means to buy back or buy out off. Hosea did just that, he went and redeemed his wife. Is this not a beautiful picture of the faithfulness and love of God for His people? If you are the faithful spouse would you not be heartbroken at what your spouse did? Would you not be saddened? This is the paradigm of how God loves His bride.
Some of you have experienced this unfaithfulness in reality and for this I am truly sorry. This sin has had horrible effects on many areas of your life. Know that God can heal the brokenness you are experiencing. God displays his steadfast love to His people as an example of what can be found in Him. He gives us an example of how we are to love in the gospel. All of us have sinned and put something before God at many points in our life. God calls us to repent of these actions and to show pure love from a faithful heart. Hosea portrays God’s faithfulness, justice, love, and forgiveness toward His people. For those who are His people we are told that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. What sin are you holding onto, confess this before God, repent and ask God for help. Throw yourself on His mercy, and grace. Do not commit spiritual adultery with your sin. By continuing in sin you are committing spiritual adultery. Lay your sin before God.
Jonah was the selfish prophet. God called him to go to Nineveh to warn them of coming judgment. Nineveh was a most brutal people and they were heathens (meaning they did not know God). Jonah did not want to go, so much so, that Jonah ran the other way rather than obeying God. Take note of a large theme in Jonah: the sovereignty of God. First, God commands Jonah to go. Second when Jonah disobeyed God and got on a boat to flee, God ‘hurled’ a great wind onto the sea and this created a great tempest so that the boat would soon be destroyed. This word “hurled” implies throwing far with great power. It is used four times in the chapter indicating direct action with intent. Third after they cast Jonah into the seas the seas went still. Fourth, God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. Fifth, God spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah up. Sixth, God commanded Jonah again to go to Nineveh. Seventh, God appointed a plant to grow up. Eighth, God appointed a worm to eat the plant. Ninth, God appointed a scorching wind from the east. We see the sovereignty of God laid open in this book.
Jonah knew the character of God, in chapter 4 verse 2 we see that Jonah knew what God would do if the people repented. That is the very reason Jonah left to Tarshish, do you see the compassion of God? Jonah has declared the greatness of God (1:9; 2:1-9), yet Jonah is upset that God does not bring destruction on Nineveh. He even responds back to God upset. God does not strike Jonah down as he deserves but teaches him a lesson on the sanctity of human life and that God has compassion for His creation (4:11).
Jonah can teach us a lot! What God commands us to do, we must do. We do not hear directly from the Lord now, but we do have God’s Word and the expectation is that we are obedient to it. Proclaim the greatness of God. The sailors heard about the greatness of God and they saw it. Proclaim His greatness and let him work through the situation. When the sailors saw the power of the Lord they feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice to the Him.
Even in the midst of his deserved punishment Jonah cried out to God and was heard. In chapter two we see some beautiful proclamations of God. Jonah looks to God as his salvation and proclaims the glory of God. We can understand God’s sovereignty and obey His commands, but there is something very different about having the same heart as God. We see by the end of the book that Jonah knows who God is but is not in sync with some of God’s attributes. Where is your knowledge of God correct but you do not practice your theology (understanding of who God is) based on his character? How are you not trusting in God’s sovereignty? Where are you fighting for control of your life, rather than accepting God’s wise, good, and sovereign hand?
Habakkuk 2:1-5; 3:1-19
Habakkuk prophesied just before the fall of Assyria to Babylon. Habakkuk asks a great question, “Why are the wicked prospering in the midst of God’s people, why are the righteous beaten down, why does it seem that God is inactive?” How many times have you wondered this question?
God gives Habakkuk an answer. God tells Habakkuk that he is going to use the Chaldeans a wicked nation, more corrupt than Judah, as a rod of chastisement. Habakkuk reacts with shock and dismay. God patiently teaches Habakkuk, until Habakkuk is able to sing a psalm of praise to God. In Habakkuk we see a very different faith than what is in Jonah. God called on Jonah, Habakkuk called on God. Jonah ran from God and Habakkuk ran to God. Jonah ends in foolishness; Habakkuk ends in faith. Jonah sent to save Gentiles from destruction, Habakkuk shows the sovereignty of God over the Gentiles. Jonah waits for destruction; Habakkuk waits for God’s glory.
Habakkuk wrestles with tough issues of faith. He does not try to hide these questions but honestly ask God and awaits and answer. God’s response here is interesting, it is certainly not what we expect. God created everything and has the right to do with everything as He wishes. God does not have to answer Habakkuk, nor does He have to be patient and show Habakkuk what He is doing. Yet God’s response is amazing, He declares to Habakkuk what He is doing and shows Habakkuk His might, power, and wisdom. Habakkuk responds in awe and wonder composing a hymn or psalm of praise. Habakkuk comes to know God in a way that changed His perspective.
Habakkuk 2:4 …but the righteous shall live by faith. A verse quoted by Paul in the New Testament. God tells Habakkuk this is the standard for the righteous, that they live by faith. This faith is in God, they are not puffed up when they are living by faith. God proceeds to make clear to Habakkuk what this really means, “to live by faith”. This is not to trust in strength of an army, or in wicked men, but to trust in the one who raises up and tears down kingdoms and nations. Habakkuk declares this faith in the last part of chapter 3. If the vine is bare and the flock is cut off I will still praise God. Can you do this? If everything you owned turned to ash, all of your possessions gone and you did not know where your next meal would come from, could you praise God? Can you trust in His perfect plan? Are you waiting to see the great work of God?
For a dozen years or more the task of rebuilding the temple has stood half completed. Zechariah is commissioned by God to encourage the people to finish the temple. Zechariah reminds the people of the future importance of the temple, that one day the Messiah will come and inhabit it. Zechariah reminds them that this future blessing is built on their present obedience. This great hope of the Messiah coming is the encouragement to get the people to be excited about the temple being rebuilt.
Zechariah uses a series of eight visions (1-6), four messages (7-8), and two burdens (words that weigh heavily on the prophet, solemnly proclaimed) (9-14) to help show the future plans of Israel. This future is not one of gentile domination but of the Messiah ruling.
Chapter 3 is part of the vision section. Joshua is in the temple working, He is a priest and his clothes are filthy. These filthy garments are representative of iniquity and they are removed, symbolizing the purification of sin. That sin has been dealt with. The text goes on to give covenant language: if you will walk in my…. If the people obey and walk in my ways, then the Branch of Jesse (Jesus) will come and remove sin one day. This is a prophecy concerning Jesus making atonement for sin. This is a beautiful promise of blessing which is for the eternal state, the true promised land, this is the eternal rest proclaimed.
Only by the Messiah coming can sin be atoned for, only by the Messiah, the branch of Jesse are we made spotless, our iniquity taken away. Do you see the precious promise in this verse of the coming Messiah? Zechariah is telling the people this can only be fulfilled when the temple is rebuilt, because that is when the priesthood will be reinstated. How beautiful is it that our filthy garments are taken away?
Malachi 3 & 4
Malachi marks the close of the Old Testament. He was a prophet during the days of Nehemiah. Malachi directs his message at the corrupt priesthood in Israel. He proclaimed that they are not prospering because of their wicked practices. The nation of Israel is so corrupt with divorce, hypocrisy, infidelity, mixed marriages, false worship, and arrogance. After Malachi is 430 years of God’s silence to the people of Israel.
In Malachi a series of questions and answers are used to probe the hearts of the people. In each case a divine accusation is given and denied. The people don’t consider themselves that bad. They have allowed the view of an amazing God to become clouded and can no longer see the importance of keeping His commands with a right heart. These penetrating questions are ones we should ask of ourselves. Are we, in this age, guilty of the same sins as the people of Israel? We see the promise of the coming Messiah as we end out the Old Testament.
There is a lot of great bible study to be done in the Minor Prophets. I pray you will continue to seek time in them and study them further than we were able to this week. I recently preached through Habakkuk if you are interested in a further bible study there.
You can find the sermon audio at: http://www.olivedrivechurch.com/habakkuk/
Next week we will turn to the New Testament and cover many of the key figures there as we approach the end of this year’s reading which will conclude at our Annual National Run. I look forward to what God has in store for us in the coming months.