I went ahead and ripped through the rest of Zechariah and Malachi. Hard to believe we knocked out that much reading in 67 days! Quite an accomplishment with everything else going on in life. Stay faithful friends and saints. The riches of reading all of God’s words far outweigh any knowledge and satisfaction gained from watching Celebrity Apprentice.
Just a few books to highlight and we are moving on to the New Testament~~
Along with Nahum (who was discussed yesterday), Habakkuk and Zephaniah all work within about 20 years of each other right at the end of Manasseh’s reign and the start of Josiah’s. For Hab and Zeph, the year is c. 630 B.C. They have yet to see the first full onslaught by the Babylonians, so they are preparing for it’s arrival. The short book of Habakkuk focuses on a central issue– God’s justice in dealing with nations. The book opens with a lament: Why does God tolerate injustice in his people? The Lord’s answer is an oracle of judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. The astonishing fact that the invaders would be Babylonian rather than Assyrian, I am certain was a surprise to Habakkuk, as well as his hearers. God’s answer perplexes Habakkuk as he cannot understand how God’s justice can be satisfied by punishing Judah using a nation even more wicked. A second oracle indicates that the Babylonians too will be punished in due course.
The book closes with a prayer of submission to God’s plan. So many times in scripture there is a “But” or a “Yet.” These follow a complaint or lament or frustration on the speakers part, however, then turns to the big picture- The LORD. The Biblical writers provide a big fat pivot in their thinking. A big fat ‘but’ or ‘yet’ refocuses the attention on where the attention should have been focused in the first place. Rather than looking at the circumstances, the focus must be trust and faith in Father.
Look at the end of Habakkuk, specifically 3:17-19~
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet, I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Zephaniah- This prophet proclaims the coming of the day of the Lord (1:14), which would bring judgment on Judah (I can’t wait for the NT to start, all this negativity is getting me down). The day of the Lord is a time when the current state of affairs will be replaced with the Lord’s intended order– a time of justice and covenant fulfillment. The prophets drive home the point that covenant fulfillment includes not only the covenant promises but also the threat of curses for unfaithfulness. In anticipation of the day of the Lord, Zephaniah instructs the people to seek the Lord. He projects a time of restoration when the nations will be judged.
”On that day you will not be put to shame…But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD. Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, … The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3: 11, 12, 14, & 17).
Haggai and Zechariah- This tandem works in Judah c. 520 B.C. Babylon crashes at the hands of the Persians in 539 B.C., the exiles from Judah are allowed to leave to repopulate the land in 538 B.C. After some foot dragging, the wall around Jerusalem and the temple within are completed in 515 B.C. It took the encouraging words of these two prophets to help the process. Haggai accomplishes this through four short prophetic sermons over the span of four months. He supports the work of the leaders of the community, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, as they undertake the completion of the temple project. Zechariah’s visions also undergird the construction project. However, he makes it clear that building the temple is not all that is needed. The people have to deal with the sin that led to the destruction of the temple and rebuild their covenant relationship with God. He has lots of talk about the coming Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom of God.
Malachi- The last of the “Book of the Twelve.” Malachi uses a literary device called ‘disputation’ in which the author anticipates objections from an audience and refutes them. Malachi is pretty straightforward in his teachings about God:
God should not be shortchanged in what we give him.
God’s name is respected worldwide and is to be honored.
God does not change.
God has a claim on a portion of our income.
God makes note of those who honor him.
God purges his people.
Long after Esther becomes queen of Persia in 478 B.C., Ezra’s return to Jerusalem in 458 B.C., and Nehemiah’s return in 445 B.C., Malachi prophecies to the nation c. 430 B.C. His book serves as a prophetic bridge to John the Baptist and Jesus, who both used many of Malachi’s themes in their preaching. The portrayal of the religious leaders at the time of Christ suggests that Israel had failed to respond to the basics of Malachi’s message.
Now that the Old Testament comes to a close, recall that the Bible is God’s revelation of himself and we read it not to learn about the people but to learn about God so that we might know him and respond to him.
Lots of help from Walton, Strauss, and Cooper. The Essential Bible Companion. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006).