Here we go, a message series on the ‘minor’ prophets. The categorization of ‘minor’ is deceiving. The name simply comes from the length of the books. There are four ‘major’ prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel (longer, more words). And there are twelve ‘minor’ prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (shorter, less words). But to call some ‘major’ and others ‘minor’ and attach greater or lesser value to them would be misleading. Each book has a powerful message. This series will spend one message on each minor prophet.
Some words from Eugene Peterson, The Message, from the introduction to the prophets. “Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center. The prophets insist we deal with God as God reveals himself. The prophets yell, weep, rebuke, soothe, challenge, comfort with words of power and imagination, whether blunt or subtle. They call us to stay alert and knowledgeable in cultivating faithful and obedient lives before God. The prophets purge our imaginations of this world’s assumptions on how life is lived and counts in life. Over and over again, God uses the prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live, putting them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the gospel, keeping us in tune with the presence of God.
The prophets were not popular people. They aren’t particularly sensitive to our feelings. They are not diplomatic. They have modest ‘relationship skills.’ If we tend to see God as ‘fitting into’ our lives, or we like to ‘make room for God’ in our lives, the prophets will challenge us. The prophets will break through the cocoon we spin around ourselves protecting us from reality. The prophets deal head on with the consequences of sin, help us face the reality of judgment, and lead us to embrace truth.”
Yet, it would be a mis-characterization to label the prophets as focusing only on judgment and sin. They lead us out of it to hope and an abundant life. The prophets’ purpose is to set the world and us right again. In my seminary education on the prophets, I was taught ‘6 hermeneutical principles for interpreting prophecy’ which I will exercise throughout this series:
- Stick with ordinary rules of exegesis.
- Need to understand the author’s original intention and purpose.
- Keep in mind the progression of God’s revelation in history.
- Progressive revelation demands an ever new hearing of the prophetic word. Ancient words – ever new hearing.
- Understand that the history of God’s revelation has moved beyond the revelation of God in and through Jesus Christ. A new era in Jesus has begun.
- Any proclamation of the prophets today must be in the light of the New Testament’s witness to Christ.
What this means is I will attempt to understand the original intent of the author for his time and context. Then see that message through the lens of the revelation of Jesus Christ. And then seek to move the meaning in light of these two things to our present day and culture. All of that to say, God’s word is timeless. It spoke powerfully then and continues to speak powerfully today.
We begin with Hosea and will progress with the order of minor prophets given in the scriptural canon. This one begins our series with a bang. It’s raw and seems ‘messed up.’ Yet, at the center of it’s message is God’s love for us. The life of Hosea the prophet is a parable of God’s love for his people. He is a living parable. Hosea is commanded by God to marry a common whore and have children with her. To know the core message of Hosea, is to know the core truth of God. And so we begin our series on the ‘minor’ prophets.
Progressing with fear and trembling, while at the same time, moving forward in the hope, confidence, strength, and love of Jesus Christ,