Minor Prophets, Major Message

Posted: December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

“O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD” (Hosea 14:1). These words of Hosea are reflective of the Minor Prophet theology of repentance – a turning away from sin. This theological message is portrayed in some way in all of the books of the Minor Prophets but in particular in the books of Hosea, Micah and Malachi. In each of these books, we see a calling of the people to repentance not simply to improve morality but rather in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. In these books, we see these prophets lay out the charges against God’s people in great detail and let them know the reasons for the judgments against them but then each offers a message of hope. If through judgment, the Jewish people repent, then, they will receive the blessings associated with the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom. Clearly, the Old Testament is not Old. This message rings clear today as much as it did in ancient Israel.

 

In Hosea, God gives Hosea a command to “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). The story of Hosea and his harlot wife, Gomer, pictures God’s relationship with Israel. God is the faithful husband who is married to an unfaithful wife, Israel. The return of Gomer to her life of harlotry is an example of Israel’s cycles of rebellion against God. Homer’s reaction of buying her back from slavery, when he had all reasons not to do so, is an example of God’s faithfulness to His chosen ones, the people of Israel. The vast majority of the book symbolically displays Israel’s unfaithfulness to their covenant relationship with God. The fact that this message is visually played out in the marriage of Hosea to Gomer makes Hosea’s words to Israel all the more powerful. He is living the message that he brings. The political uncertainty of the period in which this book is written speaks of unfaithfulness of Israel. Hosea was written mostly before the death of the northern kingdom’s ruler’s (Jeroboam II) in 753 BC. As Rooker states, “the period was characterized by political vacillation between obedience to Assyria and rebellion against Egypt.”[1] During this time period, the kings of Israel, basically, allied themselves with whichever foreign power that would give them the best deal. Rather than relying on God to provide for them and for their protection, they decided to attempt to control their own destiny through alliances with the power broking nations around them. Gomer’s harlotry after her covenant of marriage is symbolic of this political reality of Israel. Yet, we come to Chapter 14, all of the symbolism is through. The final message to Israel as a whole is the same as Hosea’s message to Gomer through his redemption of her from slavery. We read, “say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy” (Hosea 14:2b-3). Hosea goes onto state that God will heal them of their apostasy. The key to it all is repentance. God’s faithfulness to his promises to His chosen people, regardless of their past sin, is a message that resonates in the New Testament. Paul quotes Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 to demonstrate God unconditional love for all who come to Him in repentance. According to Barker the message of Paul was that by using the example of the restoration of Israel, no matter their past sins, to demonstrate that the Gentiles that God delights in making people that are not his people into His people.[2] No past is so greatly disturbing to God that cannot be restored through repentance. Through repentance all will share in the Messianic future in which God says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily” (Hosea 14:5). I think Peter says it best when he writes that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

 

In Micah 6:8, we find the basic message of repentance again when we read, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Repentance requires submission to our Father. To submit our will to His requires humility. As with Hosea, Micah’s message is one that shows how God’s judgment is tempered with mercy. His mercy, though, is contingent upon repentance. According to Rooker, “Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham (750-732), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezakiah (729-686), kings of Judah,…Micah ministered in a time characterized by both political and social unrest, although the period was one of the most economically prosperous times in Israel’s history.”[3]Thus, Micah mostly likely was written prior to the 722 BC conquest of the northern kingdom by Assyria. Micah message of coming judgment was out of step with what Israelites perceived as a period of unending prosperity which must be because God was pleased with them. Micah was a contemporary of the prophet Amos. Whereas, Amos’ message was one calling out Israel for its treatment of the poor, Micah calls out the religious and business leaders of the day for their greed which resulted in the oppression of the poor. As Bratcher states,

 

“By the time Micah began his ministry, Isaiah of Jerusalem had already been addressing the same questions for 20 years. The Northern Kingdom had already been destroyed, or would be in a matter of months. And as both prophets looked at the Southern Kingdom of Judah, they saw much the same conditions as had existed in the Northern Kingdom. Judah’s future was not certain. But both Isaiah and Micah consistently proclaimed that a change, a return to faithfulness to God, was essential if the Southern Kingdom was to have any future.”[4]

 

Micah repeatedly throughout his book offers up the hope of repentance to a nation that is destined for judgment. These save-yourself-before-it-is-too-late commentaries can be found in Micah 2:12-13; 4:1-5:15; and 7:8-20. Otherwise, the judgment was coming and it was sure. However, Micah stresses that there will be a remnant that hears the call because of the promise to Abraham and in the promises of the Law of Moses. Since God is truth, He will not totally eviscerate His promise. His promises are everlasting. Thus, no matter what form that may take, Israel will play a role in God’s plans as enunciated in the promise to Abraham. However, only those who submit themselves fully to the spirit of the Law of Moses will be in a right relationship with God. Through them, the Abrahamic promise, to be a blessing to all peoples, will be executed (Genesis 12:3, Micah 4:1-4). Through its Messianic prophecies forthtelling the first and second advents of Christ, Micah 5:2 is captured in Matthew 2:6 to tell us that Christ was born in Bethlehem and that the Messiah is here to usher in the last days promised by Micah (Micah 4:1, 5:10). With these tie-ins of Micah to the NT, the message to Christian believers is clear that regardless of wealth or circumstance, we must walk humbly before the Lord and seek justice, love mercy.

 

In Malachi, it is appropriate placed at the end of the Minor Prophets and at the end of the OT canon. In Malachi more so than any other prophetic book, the language is very clear, lacking symbolism and is straight to the point. In other words, in Malachi, the gloves come off. Like Micah and Hosea, Malachi spends the majority of his book indicting the Jewish people for their failures in maintaining their covenant relationship with God. In contrast to Micah and Hosea, however, the indictments of the people are reviewed from the point of view of God himself. As stated in my research paper on this prophet’s book, Malachi basically accuses the Jewish people of giving God their leftovers – what’s left after all the choice foods have been taken. Micah says this leftover mentality permeates the whole society from its spiritual leaders down to the everyday person on the street. They were lackluster in their worship of God, their service to God, their sacrifices to God and in their financial stewardship toward God. In Malachi we see God saying that He is the Sovereign of the Universe and that He deserves to be honored as such. Malachi says that God deserves our very best in everything that we do. In Malachi 1:6-14, we see him indict the spiritual leaders, the priests, for their lackluster leadership of worship, for their acceptance of less than perfect sacrifices, their lack of study of God’s Word, and their lack of belief in what they were doing such their leadership was responsible for people stumbling in the walk with God. Next, in chapter 2 we see him attack the nation in their lack of honor for God in bringing their leftover animals for sacrifices, for their willingly marrying women who do not worship God, their lack of honor for their covenant of marriage with the wives of their youth. In chapter 3, he chastises the nation for their lack of honor toward God with respect for the tithe. In each of these chapters, the solution is repentance. To return to God is to turn away from lackluster worship of God. To return to God is not making ourselves God and picking and choosing which covenant requirements we want to keep. The road to repentance is complete submission to our covenant relationship with our Sovereign God – giving him the due honor He deserves. This sentiment is echoed in the New Testament Revelation 3:15-18 where Jesus rebukes the church at Laodicea for being lackluster, halfhearted (i.e. lukewarm). In chapter 4 of Malachi, he echoes the sentiments of Micah and Hosea, repentance of those who will hear the message will lead to a restoration of God’s people under the kingship of the Messiah. Those who do not hear this message will be destined for eternal damnation. Repentance is the key. As the New Testament tells us in James 4:8, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The message of Malachi to modern day believers is that through honoring God with our time, our talents, our service and our resources through humble submission to the covenant with God as laid out in His Word, we will experience blessing – submission leads to freedom in Christ!

 

Thus, as you can see, the message of these three books is loud and clear. Repent! Turn away from establishing yourself on the throne where God belongs. Lose your pride in who you are. God is the Master not us. Honor him. In honoring Him, He will bless us. We must trust that!


[1] Rooker, Mark F., “The Book of Hosea” (Chapter 27) in Eugene H. Merrill, Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: an Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN.: B&H Academic, 2011), 415.

 

[2] Barker, Kenneth, “Hosea” in Frank E Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 7, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Nashville, TN: Zondervan Publishing, 1987), 651.

 

[3] Rooker, Mark F., “The Book of Micah” (Chapter 32) in in Eugene H. Merrill, Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: an Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN.: B&H Academic, 2011), 453.

[4] Bratcher, Dennis, “The Book of Micah” in “The Voice:Biblical and Theological Resources for the Growing Christian (http://www.cresourcei.org/books/micah.html), accessed December 1, 2012.

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