Who says there isn’t anything good in the last twelve books of the Old Testament? It is packed full of many verses we see on calendars, daily scripture flip charts, and encouraging verses of the day. Yah sure there is some of the difficult stuff we don’t understand because of culture and when it happened, but who doesn’t like “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” (Nahum 1:7)? That is hopeful material!
Rather than just jamming through each of these small books, take just a wee-bit of time to peer into the personality of the author, his plight, and his message. There is some really cool and powerful insight into Father, as well as why the Holy Spirit included these books into the canon.
Hosea- Most concerned with the unfaithfulness of Israel to the LORD and to covenant. The symbolism of Hosea’s marriage to a harlot is used as the metaphor of God’s covenant with unfaithful Israel. I can’t imagine the agony Hosea went through with Gomer. But his anguish helped him understand how Father feels. Despite the numerous proclamations of judgment, Hosea is filled with love language as the LORD yearns for a renewed relationship with his people. The book also offers significant glimpses of hope and restoration.
I love the parting words in so many of the Bible books- to the folks who would have had this spoken to them, maybe the only words from the LORD, ever in their lives, the last thing to ring in their ears… “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them” (Hos 14:9).
Hosea and Amos are the only two prophets who speak to the North, Israel. They do so before the national destruction. Amos is circa 760 B.C. and Hosea is 750ish B.C. right down to the 722 B.C. Assyrian deluge.
Amos- He identifies the offenses of Israel in his fiery condemnation of the injustice of their society. Evidence appears in the moral and social collapse, political corruption, and religious apostasy. He urges the people to do what is right and to reform society. Amos loves the ‘x + 1′ language in his oracles. Have you seen the lion metaphor show up in so many of the prophets? The lion is the strong invading armies of the North and East- Nahum 2:11; Hosea 5; Amos 3:8 just to name a few. I also love the pictorial representations of God and us he makes- baskets of fruit, plumb-lines, locusts, fire, etc.
Parting shot for Amos- All of 9:11-15 are good, however, last words, “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God” (9:15). See whose God it is?
Joel- The occasion for his prophecy is a locust plague. These were common enough in the ancient world and devastating to the economy, which was largely agricultural. Joel interprets this as a judgment of God. He makes it clear that the plague is going to get worse before it gets better. He calls the people to repentance and they respond. This response is unusual in the prophets. Most people could care less. Peter quotes Joel in his famous Pentecost sermon.
Last line of Joel is similar to the last line of Ezekiel- “The LORD dwells in Zion!” (Joel 3:21).
Joel and Obadiah are similar in that there are no kings listed at the front end, thereby making dating difficult. In Joel the temple is in operation, however, Israel is already scattered (Joel 3:1-2).
Obadiah- This, the shortest of all Old Testament books, focuses on judgment of the enemies of Israel. The Edomites were descendents of Esau, who ruthlessly and relentlessly brought treachery against Israel.
”Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD’s” (Obad 21).
Jonah- Jonah is from the North, Israel, and is sent from his home near Joppa during the kingly reign of Jereboam II (793-753 B.C.) to preach to the capital city of Assyria, Nineveh. He is mad at the king and the kingdom, not really wanting them to repent and know Father, Jonah is furtive in his message. No mention of Yahweh, why, or how. His hopes are that they will not repent and be destroyed. Instead great revival spread throughout the land when in 760 B.C. Assur-Dan III calls for a fast and worship of God.
The book of Jonah teaches that compassion and grace are not given by God based on what we deserve, but based on our responsive steps in the right direction. When people respond to God, he responds to them. This is an important message to include among the prophetic books were the prophets are continually giving oracles of judgment against Israel and Judah. What does God expect from them? Even small steps in the right direction will bring gracious and compassionate responses. It worked for wicked and uninformed Nineveh, why not for God’s precious and covenant people?
”Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11b). (Interesting how many books end in words about dwelling, presence, and cities!)
Micah- A contemporary of Isaiah to Judah and Jerusalem, preaches around 730 B.C. He is the only prophet who actually states his purpose, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin” (Micah 3:8). A number of sections offer hope and deliverance to a remnant of the people. Micah’s most familiar prophecy concerns the birth of the future ruler in Bethlehem. The location he names is not simply arbitrary. Most rulers in the line of David would be expected to be born in Jerusalem. The choice of Bethlehem indicates a fresh beginning for the line of David since Bethlehem was his birthplace. Micah therefore announces the coming of a new David.
The last one, Nahum- Nahum’s oracle of judgment on the Assyrian capital of Nineveh can logically be placed between 655 and 650 B.C. when Manasseh, toward the end of his reign, decided to rebel against the Assyrians. Nahum prophesies the fall of Nineveh (a century after their reprieve in the time of Jonah), which could have encouraged Manasseh to ally himself with the Babylonian revolt against Assyria in 652 B.C. The revolt failed and Manasseh was disciplined by the Assyrians. Nahum’s prophecy was fulfilled a generation later in 612 B.C.
”Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” (Nahum 1:15).
Isn’t it interesting how many warnings the LORD gives on the front end of discipline in one’s life? How many times has the LORD warned you and me through friends, family, bosses, co-workers, siblings, children, pastors, the Word, and others before we fall on our faces? We in our pride, ignorance, and rebellion, can refuse Godly warning and advice when the answer to our ills is right in front of us. Let’s heed the love and courageous warning placed before us and eliminate difficulty in our lives. The LORD will not be mocked, we will reap what we sow.