“Again and again the Lord had sent prophets to warn both Israel and Judah to turn from their evil ways; He had warned them to obey His commandments which He had given to their ancestors through these prophets, but Israel wouldn’t listen. The people were as stubborn as their ancestors and refused to believe in the Lord their God.” 2 Kings 17:13-14 (TLB)
What’s Going On? When and Where Are We? Who’s Who?
The next three books probably took place during the Divided Kingdom, right before and during the early years of the prophet Jeremiah, before the fall of Judah. During this time the nation of Babylon will defeat Assyria, conquer all of their lands, and set its sights on Judah who has just recently seen young Josiah take the throne. He will be responsible for a spiritual turn in the nation, possibly as a result of the warnings of these prophets that Babylon is approaching and Judah should not let down her guard but should, instead, repent of her sin.
Nahum (663-612) Nahum prophesied that Nineveh/Assyria would fall, even though Jonah had gone there earlier and there had been at least a temporary delay in its destruction. But God takes vengeance on His foes and the brutality of the Assyrians under their kings Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal would not go unpunished. The book is addressed to Nineveh, but was meant to give comfort to Judah.
Habakkuk (609) Near the end of the Assyrian rule, God says He will raise up the Babylonians to defeat the Assyrians. We can certainly identify with Habakkuk’s cries of injustice, his plea for mercy and help in times of trouble. They are written in the same way as Job as well as many of the Psalms. He questions Gods intentions but then vows to wait patiently and rejoice, choosing to rely on faith, not sight – a message for all of Israel and Judah who will have to wait for Gods justice in His perfect time.
Zephaniah (632) Unfortunately, Judah has not completely given up her false prophets, false gods, and false hopes and as a result will be judged and punished for her sins, just as the nations around her will be. But humbled Judah will again find Gods favor and will be restored. He is mighty to save.
The final three books in the Old Testament take place after the fall of Babylon, right before and during the time that Israel (which now refers to both of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) is under Persian rule. No longer ruled by her own kings, Israel/Judah is now under the rule of Persian King Darius, following King Cyrus who had already issued a decree that the exiles could Return to their homelands. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther take place during this same time period.
Haggai (520) This book is the Lords message to Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jehoiachin and acting governor, and Joshua (Jeshua), the High Priest, in Jerusalem. The work of rebuilding the Temple had begun but come to a halt as people were building their own homes. Haggai delivers the message to get back to work and finish what had been started. It had been seventy years since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and now it is time for the Glory of the Lord to return to Jerusalem.
Zechariah (520-480) Like Ezekiel and Daniel (and Revelation) the book of Zechariah includes visions and oracles of an apocalyptic nature. The theme of judgment and redemption are underneath the visions and shines light on the Messiah as the ultimate hope for complete restoration.
Malachi (439) The last book in the Old Testament brings the Word of the Lord to His people, Israel, through His messenger Malachi. The Temple has been finished, the Wall of Jerusalem restored, and the people beginning to find rest in their new homes. But Jerusalem is still struggling with the question of God’s purpose for her and how they are to live their lives in the way that pleases Him. They continue to hold on to the promise that He will send One to be their Savior.
“I will send My Messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:1
Weekly Reading Schedule:
- Monday: Nahum 1-3, Habakkuk 1-3
- Tuesday: Zephaniah 1-3, Haggai 1-2
- Wednesday: Zechariah 1-5
- Thursday: Zechariah 6-9
- Friday: Zechariah 10-14
- Saturday: Malachi 1-4