When studying the books of the bible we have to remember that there are what is called different literary genres. what I mean by that is there are poetry books, bible studies, books of law and history books. You wouldn’t study a history book the same way you would a poem, because they are written completely differently.
That may seem strange but what we are looking to is the way that the bible is actually written. Remember it is a Jewish book and so we need to come at it from a Jewish mind. So what do I mean by that. Quite simply that prophecy isn’t predictive but pattern. Therefore, things which we see happen can be repeated time and time again until its final fulfilment. Each repeated pattern giving a little bit more.
Now midrash is the name of this pattern and it was the Jewish way of teaching that you see Paul and Jesus use. Another connection or type of midrash is the Mashal/Nimshal format seen in Proverbs or the parables, where physical things are representative of things spiritual.
the rule to applying Midrash is that it helps to explain what we already have in the plain text, and does not form the basis of our doctrine, it merely helps to explain it or give it an example.
i.e. the Passover lamb, (a physical element) describes what Jesus would do on the cross, but we don’t get our doctrine of salvation from the Passover lamb, it just illustrates it.
As we look at these Prophecies we will be asking these four questions.
1, What was the meaning to the people of the time
2, What is the application of that meaning to us as individuals and as a church
3, Does the chapter point to Christ, in either His first or second comings, and what does it tell us about Him, or the events surrounding Him
4, are there any other interesting Spiritual points, types, Numerical understandings or patterns which have not been covered.
The minor prophets used to be one book. so they are put together with the idea that you would read one after the other, thus the Holy spirits design gives us a flowing message.
Hosea told us about what happens when you stray into unbelief.
Joel tells us where that unbelief and tells you exactly how that unbelief will end, and why you need to be on the right side of the day of the Lord.
Amos tells us to be careful to see that it is the right Lord we are grabbing hold of, and to open our eyes to what is plain in front of us, as we are shown what a counterfeit religion looks like, and why they are set up. And through them all is the rich seam of a promise of a remnant restored and salvation amongst the gentiles.
Then Obadiah takes us into this gentile world with a teaching on how sons of promise become Gentiles, by rejecting their birth right because they reject the eternal for the here and now. Those who remained in the northern Kingdom would be carried away, bred out of existence, the sons of promise, will become common Gentiles
And Jonah, by His life shows how the remnant of Israel who don’t reject their birth right will reject its calling, be cast as dead for a time and then return and preach the gospel to the Gentiles
Micah then taught us that just because the Northern kingdom had gone the disease of sin had not, and in fact it would be pandemic and consume the whole world in the end, there was no cure, the only option is to turn to the Lord to save us, by providing us with a brand new body, eternal, perfect and untainted by sin.
the book of Nahum outlines to us what happens to them in the judgment, an event not having happened yet. It does this by showing us Nineveh’s death because of the outpouring of God’s wrath, which was not the judgment, but all death leads straight to the judgment. The message is directly to Nineveh, but its application can be applied to all of the kingdoms of men, all that stand against the Lord, and it even has an application found Revelation 20:7-9 an event which is after the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Habakkuk then shows what is the inevitable question, when you understand a just God will punish the wicked, and you realise that the people of Judah are just as wicked as the people of Nineveh. Habakkuk had a doubt about how God could keep His promise of a remnant and remain Just. The answer he got from the Lord is that it was God who was establishing His kingdom and all things will be as He said them. So Habakkuk writes a hymn of praise, asking the Lord to fulfil all prophecy as soon as possible.
then Zephaniah, the last minor prophet before the exile, brought together all of these messages, and showed that even under a revival like Josiah’s, it still didn’t eradicate the problem. So his message was not what to do, but of the hope that is to come. Yet Zephaniahs hope was not to kings or nations, but to the individuals who were both Jew and Gentile. Judgment may come on the nation, but the Lord was sending salvation to the person within, and the hope he showed was. an image of the restoration of Jerusalem,
Then Haggai takes us into the post exile world and the beginning of the restoration period, a period we still live in today. And His message was to the discouraged to start once again to rebuild. Delivering four messages, he showed that what they did in the physical would have real physical manifestations on the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, on the coming of the Messiah as the Heavenly king, and on the promise of restoration that all the prophets had shared.
Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and shows the Spiritual affects of the physical building and the real enemy and the war going on. But it also reveals that after this long journey, the people still weren’t able to build the temple correctly, and only Jesus would be able to. The people were stuck in religion, but the Lord wants relationship, so to Israel the message that they would again go into captivity, but in the end, it would be Christ who restored, not the nation, but the individual, along with he Gentile, to be His house of Israel, His bride and His church
We finish with Malachi which translated means Messenger or Angel. As such this book, which is the last in the Old Testament, is like the last in the New testament, with its seven letters addressed to the Angel, or in Hebrew, to the Malachi. As the book of revelation comes back to the beginning of the Church age in order to equip us for the years we wait for Christ's return Malachi also prepares Israel for Christ's first coming. But the audience of Malachi do not want a relationship with the Lord as He does with them, they want a prescribed religion with a list of do’s and don’ts and yet, even with that version of religion, the one they actually want, they despise doing it, and they despise the Lord they do it for. But that’s because a relationship built on a mutual trade agreement, is one where each party is only bound by agreement, and if they can find a way around that agreement then they will. this relationship I describe is the one of religion, one which see’s a group of people doing the least they can in order to get what they want. they have somehow come to prefer the relationship of a slave, and to project the nature of a God who is an unjust master.
In seeing that we can start to answer the question we often have about the life and times of Jesus. we often wonder how did the Sadducees who only believed in the moral law and denied the spirit of God and an active God, and how did the Pharisee’s a self righteous mob who bound men in the traditions of the elders; ever come to be? the answer is that this is where religion takes you. In attempting to live only by law and rule, the very essence of the law is lost.
For as Jesus said the law is summed up by love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, which the Sadducees reject
and to love your neighbor as yourself, which the Pharisee’s by lifestyle rejected,
they have in fact rejected the religion they follow
and since prophecy is pattern, and there is nothing new under sun, then we see in the end, to the church, the same warnings, of coming apostasy, where either they will lose love for the Lord, or the love for the neighbor. and as we see in Revelation 11:1-14, two witnesses, one in the power of Moses, and the other in the power of Elijah will come to the earth, and for a time, prepare the way of the Lord once again, that none may fall in judgment, but that all may come to repentance.
for our journey through the minor prophets ends with the lesson we don't need a religion to save us but a relationship with Christ.
if you want to know more, why not click on our Minor prophet messages and enjoy these studies.