“Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7 (NIV)
What’s Going On? / When and Where Are We? / Who’s Who?
This group of prophets probably all lived during the same time period as Isaiah, right before the Fall of Israel. Not all of the prophets identify the time period they lived in, but the messages are all similar – REPENT! These prophets are speaking mostly to Israel in the time before it was conquered by Assyria. God is speaking to His people through His prophets that He loves them and doesn’t want to see them destroyed. Oh, if only they had listened. Oh, if only WE would listen.
Joel (?) Locusts. Can you imagine? It’s an attention-getter. I think of a swarm of grasshoppers, the closest thing I know of to locust, so thick they will block out the sun. And the noise they would make would be thunderous. They would eat and destroy everything they came in contact with. Joel says the locust and a severe drought are just an inkling of how things will be on the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” when Israel will be judged, even though Israel was looking forward to a ‘day of the Lord’ where Israel would be victorious over the neighboring lands. Joel tells the people to repent before the Lord’s Army comes in like the locusts and devours their land. But, the Lord says after the judgment He will pour out His Spirit on ALL people and not only will His people Israel be restored, but ALL who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved just as He had once promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
Amos (750) Although he was from a town in the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel and probably hung out near the makeshift temple that Israel had set up in Bethel so that they could worship without having to go to Jerusalem. But the temple in Bethel also offered a place to worship the gods of the nations around them and now those nations would be judged right along with Israel. Idolatry was the norm. Israel found herself at peace with the nations around her. Funny how when a nation prospers, morality soon declines. Amos spoke to both Israel and Judah about the coming judgment and a time of exile because Israel has turned her back on the Lord. But, Amos also tells them of God’s plan for restoration after the time of judgment is complete.
Obadiah (?) The shortest book in the Bible, tells what God has to say about Edom. Edom is the land of the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who thought himself the rightful heir to the land promised to Jacob (Israel). Edom was located on top of a mountain surrounded by sheer rock cliffs and thought itself higher than any other nation. God says otherwise.
Jonah (790-750) The story is probably familiar (who doesn’t love VeggieTales?) but the meaning comes to life now that we can put it in context. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh. That was the capitol of Assyria! Nineveh, an ancient city established in Genesis 10:11, was the very center of the nation God would eventually use to defeat Israel. It was a wicked place and Jonah didn’t want to go. Can’t blame him, really. He was being sent into the belly of the beast. So when he runs away, guess where he ends up? In the belly of a whale! He was heading for Tarshish, the place farthest away from Assyria he could go. If you look at a map, Tarshish may have actually been located on the shores of Spain all the way on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Of course, it only took being thrown overboard and eaten then thrown up by a whale to get Jonah to obey the Lord and actually go to Nineveh. Surprisingly, the Ninevites listen to Jonah, fear the Lord, and repent of their evil ways. It’s Jonah who has to learn the lesson that God will have compassion on anyone – ANYONE – who repents of their evil ways.
Micah (740-690) Micah prophesied during the time of Judah’s kings Jotham, who was mostly a good king but allowed altars to foreign gods, Ahaz, who was a horrible king who teamed up with Assyria, and Hezekiah, who was a great king who brought about religious reform in Judah, although only temporarily. Micah’s prophesies are all about the political climate of the day and all that was at stake for Samaria, the capitol of Israel, and Jerusalem, the capitol of Judah. It wasn’t long after he and the other early prophets predicted it that Israel fell to the Assyrians. And yet, there is a message of hope that will probably sound familiar. Bethlehem will hold a special place in the future of Israel.
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Joel 1-3
- Tuesday: Amos 1-5
- Wednesday: Amos 6-9
- Thursday: Obadiah, Jonah 1-4
- Friday: Micah 1-4
- Saturday: Micah 5-7