A little something different for you this morning. Yesterday’s post was the final post from one of the Minor Prophets for a little while. I have finally made it through all twelve of them. When I first started this journey last August with this post, I knew that I want to spend some time reading them closely because I hadn’t before. I figured it would take a few weeks at best. Here we are almost exactly a year later. For me it has been an enriching one and I hope that’s the case for you too. This morning I wanted to reflect with you for just a couple of minutes on what I have learned from it all.
I don’t want to take your time this morning to rehash every single detail, but I do want to touch on some themes that have come back again and again throughout this amazing collection of prophecy. And I really do mean amazing. The Minor Prophets are called that because they are shorter than the Major Prophets, not because of their assumed importance. That’s a good thing too, because there is a wealth of wisdom and encouragement and challenge to be found here which, with a bit of cross-cultural translation (and sometimes only a very little bit), is all incredibly relevant to our lives today.
So, what are the key themes that keep getting revisited in the Minor Prophets? What was it that God thought it important enough for us to know that He kept saying it again and again over the span of a few hundred years?
The first thing is this: God is really concerned with matters of justice. This, of course, is because He is a just God. Justice is fundamental to His personal identity. It is part of who He is. It is only natural, then, that He cares about His character being reflected in His creation and specifically in the behaviors and patterns of the creatures He created to bear His image. We see calls to live justly and indictments for failing to do so over and over again in the Minor Prophets.
Okay, but what does this actually look like? Well, God wants us to do what is right. Fine, but what does that mean? Let’s look at His character a bit more closely, because there’s where we’ll find our answer. In addition to being just, God is also love. What’s right will always be the most loving thing to do. Love being defined, of course, as being intentionally committed to seeing someone else become more fully who God designed them to be. Justice will always see someone who does not have the means to do so on their own from some reason moved intentionally in the direction of Jesus.
God is also merciful. This is a facet of His character of love, but it can stand on its own to a certain degree. Applied here, what is just will always involve seeing mercy extended to those who cannot make ends meet on their own. Where they are not so able, injustice is almost always lying at the root of the reason why. Justice, therefore, involved a reversal of this situation. When justice is flowing, the hungry are fed, the thirsty are sated, the fatherless are mentored, the widowed are loved, the prisoners are visited, the downtrodden are uplifted, and so on and so forth.
One more key aspect to God’s character is that He is holy. Pursuing justice, therefore, will always involve standing out as different from and morally superior (as a matter of fact, not merely arrogant opinion) to the world around us. This is not simply so that we can bear the distinction, but so that we are more accurately reflective of the God who created us.
This pursuit of justice through holiness will work itself out through another major theme. God is concerned about our religion and that we get it right. Religion, we are taught, is something negative and restrictive. In truth, it is simply an organized approach to seeking a relationship with a higher power. Understanding that, God cares about the state and practice of our religion because He wants to be in a relationship with us. He is incredibly concerned that our religion point us toward Him and not away from Him. In the same vein, He gets ferociously angry over religion done poorly because it actively points people away from Him. It is an indicator that we are not taking a relationship with Him seriously. He doesn’t take kindly to that.
That brings us around to a third theme: judgment. There is much judgment foretold and forthtold in the Minor Prophets. This is what they are most commonly known for. This too flows out of God’s character of justice. Because He is just, sin will eventually be punished. Sometimes that eventually comes with a long fuse, sometimes it doesn’t. This actually comes out of His desire for a relationship with us. He is so committed to that relationship that He will destroy anything that threatens it. At the same time, He will ultimately let us choose whether or not we want that relationship. And, if we don’t, He will finally deliver us over to the destruction we have chosen instead of life with Him. This isn’t a comfortable theme, to be sure, but it’s blow is softened a bit by a fourth one.
God would much rather show mercy than exercise judgment. We see that again and again in the Minor Prophets too, especially, for example, in the story of Jonah. Over and over again in this collections of prophecy we see God come right to the brink of destruction and cleansing judgment only to pull back in mercy. He waits just a little bit longer for them to pull it together. He assured them that if they will only stop going down the path they are walking, He will pull back from judgment and show them mercy.
This is extended into one final theme: Judgment is not going to be the end of the story. Eventually, judgment will come. We see that promised again and again. Israel experienced it in many ways in their time. Some of the judgment God talks about over these collections of prophecy looks further down the road than that. We today see it in John’s vision of the future in Revelation. But, judgment is never the end of the story.
For Israel, God promised restoration on the other side of judgment. They were living in a season of restoration and He promised a bigger, more comprehensive one in the future. My friends, that is what we live in and look forward to now in Christ. Everything He said in the Minor Prophets ultimately looked forward to Jesus. We have Him today. He has come. We can begin enjoying the life He promised then now.
That’s where all of this ends up: Will you accept the offer of restoration and life God has made available in Christ? Over and over again we are pointed toward who He is and what He accomplished. And if we will give ourselves to it fully, the blessings will be ours now and, eventually, forever.
And with that, we’re finished. I hope and pray this has been fully the growing and learning experience for you that it has been for me. We’ll be in a bit of a hodgepodge season starting next week as I prepare for the next big journey we will take together. I can’t wait to have you with me for that one too.