I'm currently reading through the minor prophets. I love the minor prophets, in a rather odd way. They're little snapshots of a time when Israel was slowly drifting away from God, getting further and further away. Yeah, there are brief moments of revival; Zephaniah's warnings are believed to have been the impetus behind Josiah's reforms of the religious system in Judah. Yet time and again, no matter how strident the warnings, the people always seem to drift farther from God yet again, forever forgetting just how great God is.
This is a common thread throughout the minor prophets. The people get so entrenched into their materialism, into their deep apathy, into their worship of other gods, that they forget how amazing the one true God truly is, how well He's taken care of them.
Hosea condemns this drifting in likely the strongest language--
For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully....the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. (Hosea 1:5, 4:12)
Joel speaks in the midst of physical destruction, just after a plague of locusts that is a judgment upon the people of Judah for their sin of idolatry. Amos rails against Israel's sins of gluttony and drunkenness, their lack of compassion for the poor, and their immorality.Obadiah speaks of Edom's attacks against "thy brother Jacob". Jonah's whole dilemma centered around the sin and immorality of Nineveh, as does Nahum's. Micah speaks of the greediness of the people of Jerusalem, of their apathy toward God, and their lack of trust in Him. In chapter two, he enjoins them to
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
Micah is referring to the place of rest and joy that was promised to the people of Israel all the way back in the Torah. Deuteronomy refers to the inheritance that God had promised (12:9). Even then, they'd not yet come to it, even within sight of the promised land of Canaan. Micah is warning the people that even this, this land of seeming plenty that he's talked about in the preceding verses, still isn't the one of ultimate rest that God has promised to his people. It is an illusion, built upon the greed of people, independent of the power of God; they've built it seemingly all on their own...and, in consequence, they've begun to listen to false prophets who speak to them only of further prosperity, rather than the judgment that Micah warns is coming.
Habbakkuk warns against wanton war, against robbing from others and enriching yourself through it. Zephaniah tells of Judah's spiritual adultery--trying to serve both the one true God and Molech, covering all the bases, per se. Verse twelve of chapter one tells of the people of Judah. They are
...[settled in complacency: they] say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.
They had denied the power that was God's, and refused to see the power that He held over all of them.
Yet consistently, these same prophets speak out powerfully about the power of God, affirming it over and over to God's chosen people, reminding them of His greatness. Habakkuk praises God most of all because
the Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Nahum takes the path of reminding the people of Nineveh of the destructive power of God's wrath:
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness will pursue his enemies.
Jonah documents God's saving grace, not just toward Nineveh, but towards Jonah himself. Obadiah highlights the illumination that will come after judgement (verse 18). Amos simply shows how great God truly is.
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, the God of hosts, is his name.
Joel speaks of God's saving power, His ability to follow through on His word, His power to do great things. Hosea declares that God is a loving spouse to a wayward Israel, constantly drawing her back, and He has power over all the angels.
My favorite passages that demonstrate this attention to God's power, however, are found in Micah and Zephaniah. Micah chapter 7 talks about how God is going to build up his people once more--regardless of their sin, regardless of how far they strayed; it is only temporary. Micah gives hope. Even despite all the transgressions, God will still hear. He still cares. We are His flock, His heritage, and He will build us up again--and "the nations shall see and be confounded at all their might..." He continues on, and gives the most amazing picture of God's power toward us.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
He is all-powerful. He will cow all nations. He is supreme. And yet he forgives. He cares about us, so far beyond what we can ever imagine. Zephaniah continues this theme, in chapter 3.
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
He is great, yet He saves. He is great, yet He rejoices over us. He is great, yet He will allow us to rest in His love. He is great, but he sings over me with great joy. God is mighty, yet He cares so wonderfully for each one of us. This was the thing Israel was consistently forgetting--God's power, and God's powerful love. I hope I never forget that truth, because it continues to amaze me every time I really, truly think about it.
- Kyla Denae