Meeting the Minor Prophets
The church I grew up in called itself “A New Testament Church.” As such, we seldom ever heard any preaching from the Old Testament. The great stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, like Noah and the Ark, were considered appropriate only for the teaching of children. The Major and Minor Prophets were irrelevant because our preachers took the position that all prophecies in the Old Testament had been fulfilled in the First Coming of Jesus.
Many times I heard our preachers declare, “The Old Testament was nailed to the Cross.” In their way of thinking, it had no continuing relevance. We were now “New Testament people.”
Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth. There is no way, for example, to understand the purpose of life and history apart from a careful study of Genesis. Nor can we even begin to understand the nature of God and Man apart from the insights which the Holy Spirit gave to the writers of the Old Testament books.
The book of Revelation in the New Testament contains over 300 references to Old Testament passages, not a one of which is specifically identified. How can Revelation be understood apart from a knowledge of the Old Testament? In fact, the book of Daniel fits together with Revelation like a hand in a glove.
And the idea that all Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the First Coming of Jesus is absurd. The Old Testament contains literally hundreds of prophecies about the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Many Christians today read the Psalms on a daily basis for spiritual enrichment and inspiration. Most are at least familiar with the Old Testament historical books and the Major Prophets. But how many have ever read a single one of the 12 Minor Prophets? Most know the story of Jonah, but how many could identify Jonah as being one of the Minor Prophets?
A Wonderful Discovery
I didn’t discover the Minor Prophets until I was 30 years old. And, Oh!, what a discovery they proved to be. Their messages jumped off the pages and grabbed me by the throat and shook me until my teeth rattled! What they had to say was as fresh as if the books had been written yesterday. And that was because the nature of Man, as well as his struggles and his needs, have not changed one iota since the books were written over 2,000 years ago.
It suddenly dawned on me that the Minor Prophets are relevant!
Hosea contains one of the greatest love stories in the Bible — a story that illustrates the unmerited love that Jesus portrayed on the Cross. For that reason, I refer to Hosea as “The Gospel in the Old Testament.”
Joel is a prophet of repentance who is crying out for his nation of Judah to repent of its sins. As the nation mourns the devastation of a locust invasion, Joel warns that if they do not repent, God will send something worse than the locusts — namely an army that will destroy the nation. It is a message our nation needs to hear and obey.
Amos is God’s prophet of social justice. He rails against the evils of the societies of his day and time. He focuses in particular on the sin of hypocrisy, condemning those who pretend to be spiritual but who live like pagans.
Obadiah speaks out against national arrogance, reminding people that God is the one who is in control, and He can bring down the mightiest nation overnight, just as He did the Soviet Union in 1991 and just as He will do to our nation if we do not humble ourselves before Him.
The story of the prophet Jonah reveals a God of mercy who is always willing to respond to repentance with forgiveness and compassion.
Micah assails political irresponsibility and corruption, and cries out for justice and righteousness, which he promises will one day flood the earth when the Messiah comes to reign from Jerusalem.
Nahum is a prophet of judgment who assures us that God is very concerned about evil, and although He may appear to be slow in responding to it, He ultimately will do so by pouring out His wrath, and thus vindicating “those who take refuge in Him.”
Habakkuk is God’s prophet of faith who must deal with the difficult reality that God sometimes punishes those who are evil with those who are more evil.
Zephaniah spits words like bullets as he condemns idolatry and social injustice and then guarantees that God will ultimately deal with all of it in a most decisive way when the Messiah returns as a “victorious warrior.”
Haggai is God’s prophet of priorities. He calls the restored remnant of Judah to get their priorities in order by putting God first in their lives.
Zechariah is a prophet of hope. He speaks words of encouragement to the discouraged remnant, assuring them of God’s love for them and His determination to spiritually refresh them and then make them the prime nation of the world during the reign of their Messiah.
Malachi is a prophet of God’s faithfulness as he assures the Jewish people that God will never forsake them and that one day “all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land.”
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