Lately I have found myself more and more interested in obscure portions of scripture. In other words, I desire to study parts of scripture to which most people don’t pay attention. Everyone knows about the Major Prophets and most of the books in the New Testament. However, very few people know anything about books like the twelve books of the Minor Prophets, which are sandwiched right between the Major Prophets and the New Testament. As a matter of fact, that’s where the desire came from for this blog series. I wanted to dig a little deeper into these lesser known books of the Bible.
The Minor Prophets, or the Book of the Twelve as they are known in the Hebrew Scriptures, are an extremely important part of the Bible. If we truly believe that every portion of scripture is inspired by God, then we certainly must include these books. In reality, these prophets played an extremely important role in Israel’s history. They cover the time period from the end of the kingdom age all the way up past the return from exile. Their story is ancient, but still very relevant even for today.
What do you think of when you hear the word “prophet”? Do you think of someone who can foretell the future? If so, then you view the word “prophet” in much the same way as almost everyone else. However, the word “prophet” simply refers to someone who speaks for God. In the Old Testament, the prophets certainly forewarned Israel about future events, but their main message was one of repentance in the “here and now”.
As we begin our study, you will find this pattern all throughout the Minor Prophets. They are mainly concerned, although not in every case, with warning the nations of Israel and Judah about the judgment that will result if they continue in their disobedience. They weren’t fortune tellers, but rather men of God who were given the job of attempting to get Israel back in line with God. Their main message dealt with covenant obligations, and Israel’s refusal to follow those obligations.
However, what makes the Minor Prophets even more interesting is that they DO have an eschatological element to them. There are passages that deal with the Messiah, and almost every Minor Prophet deals with the age when the Messianic Kingdom will be established on earth. That’s part of what makes these books so fascinating. They warn Israel of the judgment that is coming if they do not repent, but also reassure her about the mercy she will be shown in future times.
Yet, even that is not the full scope of the Minor Prophets. We will get into more depth when I cover each book individually, but several books also talk about a time when the Gentiles will worship along with the children of Israel. The reality is that these books aren’t just meant for Israel, but rather they apply to anyone who is in covenant relationship with God. The fact is that God still feels the same way about disobedience to his covenant now as he did then, even if it is a different covenant.
The Minor Prophets stress the blessings that come with obedience to God, and the judgment that comes with disobedience to his covenant. This applies to any follower of God in any age. The judgment may be different now than it was then, but the principle still applies. In order to be in right standing with God we must hear and obey his voice. The Minor Prophets teach us the absolute importance of both of those things.
Context is extremely important with the Minor Prophets, just as it is everywhere else in the Bible. The unfortunate thing is that too many people take scriptures from the Minor Prophets and twist them into something that they were never meant to be. We must remember that the message of the word of God is powerful enough on its own, and that we don’t need to “help” it. There is true beauty when we look at these books as they were originally intended to be, and apply the lessons to our own lives.
I hope that you enjoy this series, because I have certainly enjoyed studying these often forgotten books. Along the way, I desire that you would learn something new about each book, but that is not my real point. My main desire is that these books would teach you something about yourself, that revelation will come, and that you will be changed by the message of the Minor Prophets. I pray that the same Spirit that spoke to these men over 2,500 years ago would still speak to you today.