The days of Haggai and Zechariah have passed; their messages of repentance and encouragement of hope in the coming of the Messiah have grown callous in the eyes of Israel. Malachi, one of the final prophets of the Old Testament continues to speak to the people to try and ignite their passion for God and their compassion for people. Malachi was called by God to bring the people back into a genuine faithful relationship with Him. The people had become comfortable once again in their sinful lives; according to what we read through the words of Malachi much of the problem came from what we might call poor leadership. Israel’s leadership had become corrupt, there were issues surrounding true worship, divorce, justice and tithing. Through a series of questions and answers we hear how Malachi reaffirms the critical importance of repentance, the meaning of the law and the incredible blessings that are yet to come.
As I have mentioned throughout my reflections on the Minor Prophets we see many of the same thing happening in our world today. Many people today continue to struggle to understand what God wants of them; we get caught up in our own lives and fall blind to knowing Gods love. Malachi reminds the people of Israel and us today what is yet to come; we get a glimpse into the coming of the great day of the Lord.
Malachi’s reminder and encouragement to the people that God will be there to help them, that He will honor them for their faithfulness hold true to our purpose and calling today. Malachi’s calling like our own is to encourage people to turn their hearts towards God to put their faith and trust in Him to supply all their needs. Malachi not only encourages us to wait patiently for the Lord but to be aware of what He is doing in our lives right now.
Zechariah’s task, his calling was to continue building on the message Haggai had started, giving direction to the continued building of the temple and instruction of obedience in following God. God used Zechariah to provide the people with a better understanding of how they were to respond to His faithfulness in bringing them to this place. Zechariah had the privilege of sharing with them the things that God had planned for them; the judgment on their enemies, the promise of blessing on Jerusalem and the hope of the coming Messiah.
Reading the first six chapters of Zechariah has given me a glimpse into the faith and trust that Zechariah had that the Lord would continue to provide. I appreciate the fact that through the 8 different visions that Zechariah experienced he had to depend on and ask an angel to interpret them. We have it written for us in scripture, this for me is a reminder that we have the responsibility to bring everything before God for understanding. God used the visions and the angel to help Zechariah to understand and deliver these messages to the people. Today we have the word of God that helps us communicate the good news with others.
We continue to wait on the second coming of Christ, we long for the day when He comes to take us home. Is this the same longing the people of Zechariah’s time had for the first coming? We like them continue to have the same struggles around sin and disobedience, God still cries out for us to have repentant hearts turning to Him. Zechariah begins with a call to repentance and finished with a word of hope that one day we (the faithful) will sit and eat together with our Heavenly Father. Our message is the same today, it is my job to communicate that same call to repentance, to give that same picture of hope for something better.
Father I pray that as I grow you give me the strength and courage to boldly proclaim your message of hope and love to a city of lost and lonely people.
Haggai represents the beginning of what I believe is a change of speech/message towards the people of God who have now arrived at their final destination. We can begin to read Haggai in a new light, Gods calling on Haggai is to encourage the people to live obediently and begin rebuilding the temple, this in a sense is a message to “ignite the fire” of the leaders and the people of the remnant, a great reminder of who brought them home.
Placing myself into the situation of the people finally returning to Jerusalem I may have felt a sense of relieve as I settled into a “new life”, living without having to constantly be looking over my shoulder and waiting for the next round of destruction and devastation. I like the people then would have began the process of building my own home, working towards providing for the needs of myself and my family, after all I deserved it. I think this happens all the time, we become comfortable and self-sufficient forgetting to look to God for all our needs. Haggai reminds the people tells the people to “give careful thought to your ways” The blessing of coming home came because they were faithful in putting God first during their time of wandering, Haggai reminds them that God blesses them when they put Him first. The reconstruction of the temple and their commitment to obedience is what God wanted, “”Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so I may take pleasure in it and be honored.”
God was working in the lives of the people, He was with them and worked in them stirring up their spirit so that they would begin the work of rebuilding His house. Today through the work of the Holy Spirit we can experience the same stirring, when we come before the Lord and ask Him to do a work within us or through us He according to His will accomplish great things. The words and teaching of Haggai are a great encouragement and reminder that when we put God first He will supply our every need.
Reflection on the book of Zephaniah as a whole.
Continuing to work through the Minor Prophets I feel like I am always writing about the same things; judgment, a call for repentance and a promise of hope for the remnant of God’s people. This seems to be a forgotten message over and over again as the people continued to fall into a world of sin and disobedience. The prophecies given by each of the Minor Prophets are powerful reminders for us still today of how we all continually need to hear the message of judgment, repentance and hope.
As I read through Zephaniah I stopped to reflect around on the promises made to “all you humble of the land” (2:3) and “the meek and humble” (3:12). As we read about the judgment on those who fail to follow God it is those who humble themselves before Him that will be sheltered or hidden from the day of the Lords anger. Zephaniah’s call, was to help the people understand why God was going to cast judgment on them.
Zephaniah speaks of judgment and blessing, a severe and relentless judgment and yet this morning I am encouraged by the words of blessing for those who remained faithful. I was reflecting on the words of Jesus found at the opening of the Sermon on the Mount as a great reminder and encouragement. Blessed are the meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted and the merciful. Gods faithfulness to those who love and follow Him is unchanging, we have that promise today just like the faithful remnant in the time of Zephaniah. God continues to bless me and my family and I am thankful for the hope I can have in Him to one day bring us into a place where we can be with Him.
Reflections founded on the book of Habakkuk as a whole.
I can’t quite put my finger the how and why, but as I read through Habakkuk I feel like I have connected at some level with the experiences of Habakkuk more so than the other prophets. It may be that my recent involvements through the Alpha course where asking questions about life, faith and God resonate with the questions that Habakkuk directed to God. Habakkuk’s concern around the question of why God is allowing injustice, violence and suffering is a question that many people (both Christians and non-Christians) continue to ask today.
I believe that with our superior yet limited human minds we will never fully understand why God allows the good, the bad, and the ugly in our lives. Reading between the lines of Habakkuk’s poetic and prayerful writing we can be encouraged by the conclusion of his strengthened faith and trust in God’s greater plan. It is our continued faith in God, in His plan for salvation that should keep us going. Habakkuk writes: “the righteous shall live by his faith”, this is a faith in God that is higher and stronger than everything in this world. Living in faith and obedience to the Lord is how we will overcome the injustice, violence and devastation of our times.
Paul in Romans chapter 1 reminds us of that same faith that Habakkuk writes of in his day is the same faith that separates us from the wrath of God upon the unrighteous and ungodly today. For those living in faith we will continue to live in Christ through eternal life when He comes again. The words God spoke through Habakkuk teach us a timeless message of waiting upon Him, to be faithful to His plan and timing to be worked out in our lives. There is so much more to be gleaned from the words in Habakkuk, and as I reflect on his calling as a prophet I have to continue to examine the call the Lord has on my own life. God has the plan already laid out, it is up to me to trust in Him, to be faithful, to wait and listen for Him through the good times and the tough times.
Have you ever have to redo a job that someone else already did, pickup the pieces and start from the beginning? I wonder if that’s what Nahum was thinking when God called him to prophecy judgment on Nineveh. Approximately 150 years earlier in Nahum’s day and about a month ago I wrote of Jonah who prophesied to the same city where they experienced the mercy of God, a time where God accepted their repentant hearts and relented on the destruction of their city.
Nahum was called to a different task, we read that the people of Nineveh had turned from God and developed a taste for greed and violence toward His people. Nahum speaks words of destruction to the people, warning them of their ultimate destruction. Verse 6 of chapter one paints a picture of God’s wrath against Nineveh, “Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.” Even with the wrath and anger that we read about, the God of Nahum, our God is still good and loving and does not forget those who trust and take refuge in Him. Through the words of Nahum and the events that surround the destruction of Nineveh we get a glimpse into the power of and sovereignty of God, we can better understand how just He is and that He protects those who follow Him.
We have seen the mercy of God on a people with repentant hearts and the wrath of God on the same people with unrepentant hearts many years later. Sometimes I wonder if our culture has rebuilt the city of Nineveh around us today? Have we become the few that have taken refuge in Him? I am thankful that I serve a patient and loving God that continually through his Son allows me to bring my sinful nature with a repentant heart before him to seek and receive His forgiveness.
Reflections founded on the book of Micah as a whole.
“Why didn’t you listen when you were told before?” “We told you so” “Are you listening to us?” “Didn’t you hear us the first time?” “This isn’t the first time you have heard this!”
These are all statements or questions I imagine Micah and some of the other prophets would have had or possibly even said as they lived out their calling as prophets of God among the people of Judah and Israel. In his time Micah had the responsibility of telling the people that God had a plan, a plan of destruction that would wipe out the nation for their wrongdoings and evil ways. For generations the people have heard and mostly ignored the words of the prophets, their lack of listening and actions of disobedience bring us to hear a familiar message through the Minor Prophets.
Chapter 6:8 I believe sums up the words of Micah’s message to the people, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It seems so simple, and yet just like the people in Micah’s time we have difficulties understanding and following these words. In society today many of our leaders are just as lost and corrupt as they were back then, it’s hard to find direction when you don’t know who in leadership you can trust to follow.
As I have been reading through the Minor Prophets I can’t help but think about the small remnant of faithful people that have the strength and courage to continue being faithful even as they suffer the same punishment as the unfaithful. Micah near the end of this book offers those faithful few a picture of hope, a hope that continues to keep them on track with God. Today we can be encouraged by the words of hope that Micah presents, we (the faithful) who are trusting in the Lord have the hope of His return and the heavenly blessings that come with that faith and trust in Him. We have the promise of eternal life through Christ and that knowledge is what keeps me going, it is that hope that drives me as I navigate through a life of servant leadership in His name.
Are we like the people that Micah was prophesying to? YES I believe that our culture has fallen into the same problems like that of the people of Judah some 2700 years ago. What is our response? I believe that it is our responsibility as leaders to be working toward a better understanding of what it means to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly before our God.
Reflections founded on the book of Jonah as a whole.
Jonah like many of the other prophets had a specific call to ministry and when I read through his story I begin to see how his response to Gods calling is very different than the other prophets. The example or trend that I have seen so far through the Minor Prophets has been God calling men to a specific task and each of those men have been obedient to that call and do what God has asked.
The story of Jonah throws us a curve ball when we read that Jonah refuses to obey the command from God to go the city of Nineveh and preach a message of destruction because of its wickedness, Jonah then attempts to run away from God. Through the very memorable events of the storm and Jonah being tossed into the sea and swallowed by a giant fish we begin to see even through his disobedience how God is using him to reach the lost. Take a look at 1:16, “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him”. I think we often overlook what happened with the sailors on the boat, they are introduced into the story as men who cried out to their own gods and here they are have witnessed the power of God at work and their lives are changed, I think this is important to note, this was God working through Jonah.
Through Jonah’s journey we begin to understand how much God loves us no matter how far we turn. Jonah eventually does make it to Nineveh and God continues to use him not only to turn the people towards Him but also to use Jonah as an example of His love and compassion. God gave Jonah a second chance because He loved him. I am encouraged because God has called me and sometimes I feel like running the opposite way because of fears and inexperience, but God promises to be with me and I know He loves me. I am also encouraged that through Jonah’s story we see that God answers prayer, he answered the prayers of the sailors, the prayers of Jonah and the prayers of the Ninevites. God is Good.
Reflections founded on the book of Obadiah as a whole.
Pride…“A feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements.”
Obadiah faced the challenges of making Gods voice heard by the people of Edom, tasked by God to deliver a message to a people who were deceived by their prideful hearts. The people of Edom were literally living “on high” in the mountains believing that they were untouchable by their enemies. Proud of their accomplishments and victories over some of their own people they were blinded to the message of devastation that Obadiah presented. Obadiah’s specific calling was to prepare the people of Edom for what they deserved, their pride and selfishness had forced the hand of God to do to them what they had done to His people. (As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” v.15b).
Obadiah name means “servant of the Lord”, it was the service of sharing the vision the Lord gave Obadiah that became his mission, proclaiming the “Day of the Lord” (v.15). As with some of the other Minor Prophets already discussed, this mission of declaring judgment to the people comes as a heavy task. Today as Christians we often like to focus of the positive and exciting changes that come with planting a seed of hope in someone’s life, most often we shy away from talking about what will happen on flip side of the coin. Much has changed since the days of prophecy through Obadiah and the other prophets but one thing still remains, God’s love and promise of eternal life with Him. Outside of a covenant relationship with God through His Son, with a prideful and selfish heart we are living so dangerously close to the same fate of the men and women who fell in the destruction of Edom.
Reflections founded on the book of Amos as a whole.
I never really have spent much time in the book of Amos even after reading through it a few times this past week I found it to be a difficult read. One thing I can identify with is who Amos was, he was a regular guy who had a regular job and was called out of that life by God to a specific ministry. Amos was called to a ministry that carried the heavy weight of bringing a message of warning to people of Israel who once again have forgotten who God is and the covenant they made with Him. Amos was dealing with people much like those in the culture that surrounds us today, a wealthy, greedy, self centered and materialistic group of people.
Through the words of the Lord Amos became noticed by the priests and the king, the words Amos was prophesying were making waves; they were reaching people and making them uncomfortable. God chose Amos for a reason, just as he chooses each of us for a specific purpose or purposes. Amos was chosen for an extraordinary task, an everyday ordinary guy proclaiming the doom and gloom of the judgment of God as a warrior over all those who opposed Him. I often put myself into shoes of the person or situation that I am reading about or try to relate with how their lives translate into our culture today. Sometimes I get pretty comfortable sitting behind my desk learning and reflecting on what God has done in the past; often I am inspired by these men of God to take action in being on task with presenting the good news to others.
It isn’t right till the end of the book of Amos that we hear of the hope that gives us a picture of God’s great love and mercy for his people. Here Amos tells us of the few faithful people that will be left standing to carry on with the work of the Lord, a following that would one day see the fulfillment of the promised blessing of the Lord. Amos was an ordinary man and did extraordinary things through the power of God; we should be expectant and hopeful that God will do the same with us.