14 April 2016

Guide to the Bible (6) Major Prophets - By Jack Lewis

Today's "Guide to the Bible" post is probably the most difficult one to do, the Minor Prophets, but hopefully it will be a good read. These are the books many of us have never heard of before, but hopefully after reading this, you might have a clearer idea about one or two that could be worth a read! 

After Daniel comes the 12 minor prophets, starting with Hosea, a prophet to the Northern tribes of Israel. Perhaps his most famous act was marrying a prostitute, as instructed by God! Next up, is Joel, a short book detailing a disaster caused by a massive army of locusts. Joel compares the locusts to an army bringing justice upon the unrepentant people. Sticking with animals, the next prophet was Amos, a shepherd, who more or less prophesied in his spare time! His message was a warning to the now rich and prosperous Israelite's that God wanted them to worship him with their whole lives, not just in their worship services and ceremonies, and in many ways, his message can be well applied to our western society today. After Amos, is the tiny book of Obadiah. In fact it's the shortest book in the Old Testament, containing only one chapter. He warns the the complacent Edomites that their defeated enemies Judah will rise up and destroy them if they continue, and history shows us that this is exactly what happened. Next, is the famous story of Jonah. You will no doubt heard the story of Jonah and the "whale," but the whole book is a good read, right from Jonah's refusal to go to Nineveh to his anger at the death of a plant! The message delivered by Micah was very similar to the one given by Amos. In fact, they were around at the same time; Amos prophesied to the Northern Kingdom, and Micah to the southern. Following on from Micah is the short book of Nahum. He warns the country of Assyria (who were Israel's enemy) that God would punish them for oppressing his people. Nahum also foretold the destruction of Nineveh, (Assyria's capital) who was at the time one of the world's greatest powers, although within 100 years, it was just a pile of rubble! After Nahum, is the unusual book of Habakkuk. Rather than prophecies to a group of people, the book details a conversation between Habakkuk and God. He also lived around the same time as Jeremiah. That brings us onto Zephaniah, who also happened to be a descendant of King Hezekiah. He spoke passionately against their sinful practices including child sacrifice, and his message hit home as high as officials, rulers, prophets and priests. Next, is Haggai. He told the people of Israel that the many problems they were experiencing were because they had abandoned building the temple and had instead focused on rebuilding their own places. Haggai told them that if they focused more on God than themselves, then their problems would become far less. The moral of his story is simple, putting God first is our own gain. The penultimate minor prophet, is Zechariah. He also encouraged the Jews to continue rebuilding the temple, and he prophesied of the new Jerusalem on the perfect new earth. His message was very encouraging and it obviously struck a cord with the people, as they went back to building the temple. Finally, is Malachi. He was the last of the prophets and after his death God remained silent for 400 years. His message was for the discouraged people, who were getting impatient for the coming prosperity that God had promised them. They had started to do half - measure's, and were sacrificing diseased or imperfect animals as sacrifices. The priests also did their basic responsibility, but their hearts were not really for the Lord. Malachi reminded the people that God wanted their best, and not just their excess stuff. He told them that if they devoted their whole lives to God, he would bless them fully on Judgement day. That's a message that still applies today!

If you've read all this, and enjoyed and learned from it, then great! However if you've just woken up... :(