An Agonizing Allegory
Hosea was the prophet of the love of God to the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel during the divided kingdom. The people of Israel had turned away from God and worshiped idols --spiritual adultery. Hosea married a prostitute and loved her unconditionally as a living illustration of God's love. Because of Israel's spiritual unfaithfulness, these ten tribes would never be heard of again, yet Hosea prophesied their spiritual return to God one day.
The Day of the Lord and the Locusts
Joel's message of "The Day of the Lord" mixes prophecies about current-day events, coming historical events, and ultimate end-time events. The Day of the Lord, as Joel uses the expression, can refer to a variety of events in which God works: chastisement, judgment, deliverance, blessing, and more. Joel exhorts us that each day - past, present, and future - should be considered the day of the Lord and challenges us to see the hand of God in everything that happens to us.
The Lion Roars and Amos Sees it
Amos was a common man, a fig picker and a shepherd, yet God chose to use him as one of His prophets. Amos prophesied to the Northern Kingdom about the coming Assyrian captivity. He ministered during a prosperous time in the Southern Kingdom. In fact, God says that those who are spiritually advantaged will be judged by a higher standard. According to Amos, the hearts of Israel's people will one day turn back to their God.
The Edom Experience
In the shortest book in the Old Testament, we can learn big lessons. God spoke through Obadiah to condemn the nation of Edom because its people had rejoiced and gloated when Judah fell. The story of the enmity between Israel and Edom goes back to the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. These brothers represent the difference between those who are spiritual, who seek God and obey His ways, and those only interested in the material world and their selfish desires.
He is Not Going and He is Not Coming
Nineveh was the capital city of Israel's worst enemies in the days of Jonah. So when God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach a message of coming judgment if they didn't repent, the prophet ran and tried to hide from God. But God made Jonah repent of his willfulness when he was swallowed by a great fish. After three days in the belly of that fish, Jonah prayed and repented, and vowed that he would obey God.
The Prejudiced Prophet
In chapter 1 Jonah did not come to God. In chapter 2, from the belly of the fish, Jonah comes to God, saying "I will". In chapter 3 Jonah goes to Nineveh for God. The primary theme of the book of Jonah is God's love for all people, even people as hated as the Assyrians in Nineveh were. Though Jonah was very prejudiced and was angry that God would forgive the Ninevites, God patiently showed Jonah His great love for that city.
The Political Prophet
The Book of Micah records three great sermons. This prophet was born a farmer, yet he was called to preach God's words to the political and spiritual leaders of the capital cities of both Israel and Judah. Micah placed the blame for the moral and spiritual corruption of the people of God on the leaders. Micah preached the only way they could be rescued from their failures was for God to send a perfect Ruler: the Messiah.
God's Final Solution
In Micah's third sermon he preached; "God desires that His people live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him." After addressing the moral failure of government and spiritual bankruptcy in Israel and Judah, Micah preached a message of hope through a Messianic prophecy. Where human government had failed in Jerusalem and Samaria, Christ's ultimate authority would not fail, and He would bring true peace to His people. He would be the perfect example of a Prophet, Priest, and King.
Ho-hum or Nahum
Nahum prophesied against one of the most vicious enemies of God's people. The Assyrian Empire conquered and enslaved all the nations of the world with indescribable cruelty. God had made a covenant with Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." Nahum spoke words of comfort to Judah: Nineveh, the capital city of their enemy would soon be destroyed. God would deal with the Assyrians harshly and punish them for their cruel sins.
The Original Talk Show
Habakkuk was a priest and a minister of worship and music, who lived when the threat of Babylon's invasion was clear to all. But while Jerusalem's watchmen were in towers looking for the coming army, Habakkuk stationed himself in a spiritual watchtower to hear from God. He is known for repeatedly asking God, "Why?" as he wrestles with the questions all of Judah must have been asking. Habakkuk encourages Judah to live by faith and to keep their hope.
Clean Sweep from Top to Bottom
Zephaniah prophesied about the Day of the Lord. He focused entirely on the final days when Jesus returns and God judges the world. He described an event that would affect every man and beast in the world. This judgment will be a result of the sin of the nations, Zephaniah urged repentance and faithfulness. God will always preserve and care for those who are faithful to Him. In the end, every person on earth will acknowledge the Lord as God.
Haggai preached to the first group of exiles returning to Jerusalem. Because of the hostility, the people of Judah stopped rebuilding the temple and were building their own homes. "Give careful thought to your ways," Haggai preached. He cried out for God's people to remember their priorities, regain proper perspective, be motivated to continue, and stop being afraid. His words remind us of our need to stay focused on God's mission and His will for our lives.
Focus Your Faith
The prophet Haggai shows us how to set our priorities for life. To those who are going through a spiritual drought or who find that their work is not being blessed by God, Haggai says to "Consider your ways" and to "Consider God's ways." God wants us to focus on the work He is doing today that He plans to do in the future. We are to let our faith focus our priorities, our perspective, our motives, and our fears.
Through Zechariah's preaching, God was calling His people not just to a city or a temple but return to their spiritual "homeland" of a relationship with Him. His primary message was that if the people returned to God, God would return to the people. Zechariah is one of the most important prophetic books, containing more detailed prophecies of the coming Messiah than any book, other than Isaiah. Zechariah prophesies that God would give His people His Spirit and bless them forever.
What You See is What You Get
God gave eight visions to Zechariah to encourage and strengthen His people who were powerless and discouraged. The exiles had few weapons, many enemies, and an enormous task. They were focused on problems and could not see how they would ever rebuild the temple with so many obstacles and problems. But Zechariah's visions pulled back the veil and showed them how God was working to accomplish His purposes. His prophecies gave hope and strength to God's people.
Malachi is the last prophet in the Old Testament. He preached after the time of Nehemiah, when the people of God had a form of religion yet denied the reality of a relationship with God. The message of his heart was that God wanted to have a love relationship with His people. They did the rituals they thought God wanted, but they were spiritually cold and apathetic. Malachi became a messenger of repentance God used to draw His people back to Himself.
Seven Blueprints for a Burnout
There are seven examples of the people of God talking back to Malachi. These seven dialogues can be called, "Seven Whispers of a Heart Growing Cold Toward God," because they describe the symptoms of people who have lost a love relationship with God. The mission of Malachi was to restore their relationship with God. Malachi prophesizes the Second Coming of Christ for the faithful, severe judgment for the cold-hearted, and John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for Jesus.