Summary of the Minor Prophets.

Zephaniah.
Zechariah.
The Man Jonah.
Obadiah.
Nahum.
Micah.
Jonah 2.
Jonah Chapter 1.
Joel.
Hosea.
Haggai.
Habakkuk.
Amos.
Jonah.

Advertisements

Zephaniah

ZEPHANIAH

Zephaniah’s name means: “He whom Yahweh has hidden or protected.” He prophesied during the reign of good King Josiah in 640 – 609 B. C. This was before King Josiah launched his reforms in 621 B. C. Perhaps these were as a result of Zephaniah’s prophecy. He was probably a prince of the royal house of Judah. He lived in Jerusalem. Manasseh and Amon had brought the religious life of the Jewish people to an all time low. “The day of the Lord” meant in the minds of the people untold blessing to God’s people and destruction of His enemies. He preached before the people of Judah went into captivity in Babylon. There was an impending day of wrath for Judah.

The key theme is: “The Lord is a jealous God. He loves His people so much that He cannot tolerate a rival and demands their wholehearted devotion. He will do everything He can to secure this, even if it means awful judgements.” Cowper said: “Chastisement is the graver countenance of love.” Those who worship Baal caused distress to God. He would wipe them away. The book starts with gloom and sadness but ends in joy and Israel’s repentance, restoration, humility, sanctification, rejoicing and deliverance.

For 50 years beforehand, Assyria reigned supreme in the region. Manasseh had ruled in Jerusalem almost as a puppet king for Assyria. Manasseh carried out the agenda of the Assyrians. During the reign of Josiah the power of Assyria declined. Babylon took control as Assyria went into decline. Babylon would invade, but the prophecy looks to the final invasion of Israel at the end of the World. By that time God will be in the midst of His people. As in the days of Jesus, the opposition from the enemy will be at its height. The leaders of many Islamic nations have declared their intention to destroy the Jewish nation and dismantle the Jewish state.

Zephaniah foretold the doom of Nineveh and denounced various forms of idolatry. There is a warning of destruction as a consequence of sin. The people had worshipped false gods as well as Jehovah. Compromise is dangerous. God will not tolerate any other god. There will be punishment for those guilty of idle indifference. The prophecy presents an awesome picture of judgement for everyone, even those who once worshipped the Lord but turned back and no longer follow the Lord. There is also punishment for those who turn back, strengthening the view that salvation can be surrendered.

Ch 1 v 12. Baal was the Canaanite god of fertility, whose worship involved sexual licence and prostitution.
v 5. Milcom was the god of the Amonites. He is also called Molech or Moloch. They were the product of Lot and an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Gen ch 19 v 38. The spirit of incest was probably passed down and had a grip on the people. Solomon introduced this god. 1 Kings ch 11 v 5. When he married foreign women, they brought their gods into the land. These were worshipped on high places – mountaintops. Psalm 121 v 1. “I to the hills will lift my eyes. Whom shall I worship?” The answer is – “Not the gods who were worshipped on the hilltops but the one who created the hills in the first place.” Josiah demolished these places of worship on the tops of the hills.

The Philistines will also be punished but a remnant of the Jews will stay in Judea. Nineveh is warned of a dreadful punishment. The picture of judgement and punishment is awesome. Corruption and injustice fill the land. There would be a time when Canaan would lie desolate. It did until the late 19th century. The nations will be judged and the people of Israel will be restored. The Ethiopians will ask God to be their God again. God will restore their fortunes again. A remnant will be saved. v 1-7 refers to Jerusalem. The local enemies around Israel have been dealt with by God. The Worldwide enemies are still to be dealt with by God.

Religion and morality had come to an all-time low. Corruption and injustice filled the land. Jerusalem was condemned but a remnant would remain. Ch 2 v 7. One day God would pour out His love on them. There is a promise of a return to the Land in chapter 3 v 20. There is judgement on Israel’s local enemies, which was fulfilled literally in those days. Proud scoffers will be put to shame. Let them laugh now. They will pay a dear price later when they stand before Jesus on judgement day. The people of Moab and Ammon will be punished for their boasting that they would seize the land of Israel. Ch 2 v 9. Moab will be like Sodom. Ammon will be like Gomorrah. The nations will be judged and the people of Israel will be restored. There is a hope for the people of Israel receiving their ultimate deliverance and restoration when God will dwell in their midst. However, repentance must precede deliverance.

The prophecy is at different levels and speaks to different times. There is a warning to the World. If God has punished His own people Israel, will He not also punish the rest of the World? Learn the lessons of history. Judgement will be total and final. Ch 1 v 2-3. Man is not to worship what has been created but the Creator Himself. v 5. God will not share allegiance with other gods. Justice will fall like a sword. Self-confidence is a danger to a nation as well as to an individual. Those who worship Baal caused distress to God. He would wipe them away. Ch 3 v 7. Surely the people will see what is going wrong and seek God! But no – they do not see it.

This is not a picture of local judgement but of World-wide judgement. There are disasters facing mankind. The Philistines were the perpetual enemies of Israel. Their five cities were Gath, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gaza. One day Israel will rule the Philistines. This is happening today. Since the wars in Israel the Jewish people have been the rulers of the Palestinians in the Disputed Territories. Israel reminds the World of God. Those who are hostile to Israel were really hostile to God. It is the same today. Many believers do not know the significance of the role of Israel in the plan of God. Many Israelis do not know either but the Devil certainly does know and is determined to overthrow and destroy Israel to prove that the Bible is wrong. The Scriptures teach that God would restore the Jewish people a second time to the Land He promised to them. This is not because they deserve it but it is for God’s own name and glory. Jerusalem was the first to be judged for her sin. She should have known better. Believers are also under judgement. They should know better. 2 Sam ch 6 v 7. Uzzah died because he should have known better than to touch the covenant box. The covenant box was to be carried on poles by the priests alone. David also should have known better. Many things are done in Churches where the leadership should have known better from the Scriptures. Sin by believers is even more serious than by non-believers.

v 6. Those who used to worship God but do not do so now. There was no fear of the Lord’s presence in the land. They worship the one-eyed god in the corner. Repossessions.
Ch 1 v 2. God swept away everything in Israel and can do the same in any country. What has happened in the once prosperous Zimbabwe could happen anywhere. Could it happen today? Syria,
Priests who worship false gods. Concerned for their image before men. Lottery- talks about soaps and TV shows.
Nineveh has collapsed as prophesied. City of London in trouble? How secure is it? God did not spare Jerusalem. Ch 3 v 8. Evil nations are gathered for judgement.

The fact that Israel will be restored and that the Lord will be in their midst does not mean a trouble-free time. Perhaps it will be the reverse. The enemy will increase his attacks. There is major teaching on eschatology. Is chapter 3 v 12 literal or spiritual? Is verse 20 happening today?

Zechariah

ZECHARIAH.

The Prologue. Chapter 1 v 1-6.
The name Zechariah appears about thirty times in the Old Testament. However this is Zechariah the prophet. Zechariah began prophesying in the year 520 B. C. – the same year as Haggai. Zechariah summed up the whole course of Old Testament prophecy. There is an enormous stress on the Word of God. “God is speaking – is man sure that he is listening? Take heed – this is a spiritual challenge. Turn away from evil ways and actions.” Before the Exile the people had not listened to God. Because of their disobedience God threatened to remove them from the Land and He had carried out His threat. It is dangerous to ignore the Word of God. The people had been in exile in Babylon and were dispirited. The exile was over in that Cyrus by an edict in 588 B C had allowed the Jewish people to return to Judah. Only a small percentage returned. Most lived on in Babylon. Again God was calling on His people to repent with a new sense of urgency. He was about to pour out His grace upon them.

Zechariah means: “whom God remembers.” His Father‘s name – Berechiah – means: “God blesses” His grandfather’s name – Iddo – means: “at the appointed time.” So the message from Zechariah could be said to be: “God remembers to bless at the appointed time.” Zechariah was a prophet and the prophet is God’s mouthpiece to the people. When he started to prophesy the spiritual condition and general morale of the people was not good. Some who had returned were not ready for the enormity of the task ahead and were disillusioned. The land was in poor condition. The people had spent time and energy on building their own houses and did not have any energy left to build the Temple. They needed to be reminded that it was by the grace of God that they were back in their own land. A man needs to rebuild his life after a time of shaking – either by God or by Satan. The book is full of encouragement. This word was timely for the Jewish people and it is timeless. Ezra gave the word to go back to Jerusalem. Haggai pointed out that the people were concerned more for their own houses than for God’s temple. Zechariah commands the people to build the Temple. God is jealous for Jerusalem. He has been angry with His people and now calls them to return to Him. They had gone too far and their wound was deep, although not too deep to heal. The people had reaped a sore harvest of misery for their disobedience. Now God was coming to them with comforting words. The first eight chapters are in prose, while much of the later chapters are in poetry. The later chapters may well have been written years after the earlier chapters. The message of the book is that God’s people will be protected and brought to the final consummation of God’s plan for them in a future Kingdom and that this will take place through the Cross and the second Coming of Jesus. The New Testament often confirms that a particular prophecy has been fulfilled.

Zechariah was given a series of eight visions for His people. Ch 1 v 7 – ch 6 v 15.
1. God’s Patrolling Horsemen. Chapter 1 v 7-17. God is in control and is looking after Jerusalem. God is sovereign over the affairs of men. The name “Jerusalem” embraces the word “Zion.” It came to be used for the people of Judah who may never have lived within Jerusalem itself and for all of Israel. The vision was relevant to the people. There is a man riding on a red horse among the myrtle trees in a hollow ravine. Isaiah ch 41 v 19. The Hebrews loved the myrtle tree. Myrtle speaks of fragrance – something good coming to Israel after 70 years. A red horse speaks of war. A white horse speaks of peace. The rider of the red horse is bringing judgement. There was a time of peace in the World. The Persian Empire was a World-wide Empire. Like the Pax Romana it brought peace. Although there was peace on the Earth there was a lack of any initiative about putting things right. The wise man builds his house on the rock in a time of peace and not during the storms of life. Israel and Jerusalem had not been fully restored. The visions do not convey the message in themselves. The Persians sent out horseback policemen to see that everything was well. All the Earth remained at rest but it was an unhappy one. Jerusalem and the cities of Judah had still to be restored. Jerusalem was still a devastated area. God is looking after the interests of Jerusalem.

v 15. The other nations have fulfilled their role in punishing the Jews and now God plans to re-establish His throne in Jerusalem. The Babylonians took the city but then the Edomites came in and pillaged it. Isaiah ch 10 v 5f and v 10f. God will use Assyria to punish His people but then will punish Assyria. God declares His mercy to Judah in v 16 – with compassion in v 17. The Lord will again comfort Zion.
v 16. There had been some loathsome practices going on in the Temple. So the glory of God had moved out of the Temple onto the hill eastwards. Ez ch 10 and 11. God would still be amongst His people in Babylon. Jerusalem would become the centre of God’s purposes once more after 70 years of exile. v 12. Although they had been put out of the Land for breaking the Covenant, they had not been abandoned by God. In this way God demonstrates His sheer mercy.

2. Four Horns and four Smiths. Chapter 1 v 18-21. This concerns defeat of Judah’s enemies and the importance of spiritual strength. God defends Jerusalem against her enemies.
God protects His people. Today the nations of the World are lined up against Israel. They have forgotten that he who touches Israel touches the apple of God’s eye. When an attempt is made to touch a man’s eye the eye-lid comes down to protect it. So it is with God and Jerusalem. The eye-lid of God will come down to protect His people. Israel is still the apple of God’s eye. Deut ch 32 v 10. The horn is a symbol of strength. Daniel sees beasts with horns in ch 7 v 8. The suggestion is that the four horns represent four enemies of Israel, one from each point of the compass. South – Egypt. West – Philistines. North – Mesopotamia. East – Moab, Ammon and the Amalekites. The smiths are workmen who go to work on the horns to de-horn them and remove their power. Isaiah ch 41. Cyrus was used as an instrument of God. God is well able to protect His people and He will go to work on His enemies. Godless people will face judgement one day. The anger of the enemies will be returned to them. God protects His people. He will be roused like a lion.

3. The Measuring Line. Chapter 2 v 1-13. Jerusalem will be too big to measure. The size of Jerusalem today is far greater than it has ever been in the past. The Old City in the centre of modern Jerusalem is tiny by comparison with the present boundaries of Jerusalem. The measuring line is the work instrument of the surveyor. Language of building is often used in Scripture. Isaiah ch 28 v 16-7. The plumb line. Mat ch 7. The measuring line is literal – to measure Jerusalem. Each city had a wall. Beyond that the people lived in villages but went to the walled city for protection when necessary. Some cities had a second wall to accommodate the overflow population. God is saying that there will be many people – so many that a wall could not be built. God has a great plan for the city. He will be like a wall of fire around the city as the protector of the people. The people will be living in an un-walled village. Ezekiel ch 38. The messages are addressed to different people. This one is to the Jews who had come back. They have a future. The Land of the North in Scripture usually means Mesopotamia. When these people invaded they came from the East, round the Crescent and down from the North. Isaiah ch 41 v 25. So the Land of the North probably refers to Babylon. There is a message to those in Zion in v 10-12. The glory of God will be in the midst of them. The Covenant will be extended to other nations who shall also be God’s people. Isaiah ch 2 v 1-4. Is ch 19 v 18-25. Isaiah ch 42 v 6-7. As the people return the Lord will make His home there. God has great plans for Jerusalem. In v 13 there is an address to the whole World. Heb ch 2 v 20. Ch 2 v 8. It is serious to stick a finger in a person’s eye. It will result in a furious response. God is committed to Jerusalem. He is offended when the nations attack and criticise Israel.

4. The High Priest Re-clothed. Chapter 3 v 1-10. The judgement of God on sin and the removal of sin.
Joshua is the central figure. There is the promise of the Messiah. He is a leader of the people – the High Priest. The priests were hereditary rather than moral or spiritual leaders. There was corruption of the priests in Amos ch 7. Joshua had inherited a God-given office. He is represented as clothed in filthy rags. The line had defiled itself. He was the representative of the whole people. He symbolised the state of the nation as well as the priesthood. Satan is in the vision. His name means adversary or enemy. Satan is right there with a job to do accusing the believers. The representative was being discredited and so therefore were the whole people. Satan sought to stop the rebuilding of the Temple. The accusation of Satan is of a general nature. The re-clothing speaks of grace and the renewal of the relationship between God and His people. Garments are filthy but God will clean them up. Romans ch 13 v 14. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a message to Joshua that the priests are not free to go their own way. He was responsible. Some of the language in the visions went beyond the post-exilic period. All will be fulfilled in Jesus, who will cleanse His people from their sin. v 9. “I will remove the sins of this land in a single day.” Is this the same day referred to in Ezekiel ch 39 v 22? “The house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.” The word “behold” always introduces something important, which God has to say. He will provide the political and religious leader. The brand is rescued from the flames of Hell.

5. The Lampstand and the Olive Trees. Chapter 4. Success in rebuilding comes from the Spirit of God. There is to be renewed worship. God gives a promise of things to come. The light of the World is coming. There is fresh revelation. Zerrubabbel means born in Babylon. There is a challenge to man: “What do you see? Do you see what is happening in the World?” The people are like a lamp-stand but need the oil of the Holy Spirit to enable them to shine. The problem is never too big for God to resolve. v 6. He will do it not by the might of man but by His Spirit. There was a small beginning but God was in it. A man should not despise a small beginning, if God is involved. The Church started with 12 men. A man’s efforts are often despised as small and insignificant.

6. The Flying Scroll. Chapter 5 v 1-4. A curse on sin – sin in restored Israel. Get cleaned up morally and spiritually. God’s Word is flying in the Heavens. His curse is on the land. The people are accepted but God is still concerned about sin and the people need to take the law seriously. There is a curse by God on the people who are involved in stealing and telling lies. This prophecy like all others is partially fulfilled now but will be fulfilled at a later date. If the rebuilding of Jerusalem is to be completed, sin must be banished from the land. This is so for any society. If it is to be successful, stealing and lying must be banished. Rev ch 22 v 15. Righteous leaders exalt a nation. Sin is like having dry rot under the floor.

7. The Woman in the Basket. (Barrel) Chapter 5 v 5-11.
The woman is symbolic of wickedness. She tries to escape and spread her sin but is not allowed to do so. Sin loves a companion. The basket is transported to Babylon (Shinar). The woman represents Pagan wickedness. Paganism is the worship of other gods. Pagan worship has no place in Judah. Storks fly very high when they are in flight –some as high as 20,000 feet over the Himalayas. The message is: “Make sin remote.” The people of God ought to hate sin as He does and seek its banishment. Babylon is the centre of wickedness. It will fall one day and what a fall it will be. Ezekiel ch 8. God cannot inhabit Jerusalem as long as sin persists in the city.

8. Four Chariots. Chapter 6 v 1-16. God is in control. Messiah – priest and king.
The red horse symbolises war. The black horse symbolises famine. The white horse symbolises peace after victory. The dappled horse symbolises a confused state between war and peace. These are coming out on God’s business in association with the reading of the law. The enemies of Israel came from three directions: the south – Egypt – the north – Babylon and Assyria – and the west – Philistines. The north was always the chief source of danger. The horses are the agents of the Holy Spirit. God’s purposes are being fulfilled. The horses were straining to get going. The troubles of the north have now been settled. God is looking after the international situation. So trust in God and get on with the building of the Temple. Joshua represents the Messiah – the Branch. v 11. While in ch 3 the priestly functions of the Messiah were referred to, now in ch 6 it is the kingly functions. Like Zechariah the Messiah will grow up in His place and build the Temple of the Lord. Christ is the supreme temple builder in the Bible because He builds the spiritual temple in His body. v 15. Joshua gets the crown for a while as a type of Christ. Those who are far off – the Gentiles – shall come to help to build the Temple. All the visions speak of Jerusalem, the Temple and the Messiah. The prophecy will happen on condition – that the believers are obedient.

9. Fasting or Feasting. Chapter 7.
This revelation requires a man to use his mind’s eye. The book has moved on from visions to issues. Bethel had a bad past. It had been the centre of apostate worship in the past. The question asked was this: “Should we continue to fast now that the temple is being rebuilt?” The fasts had been inaugurated following the situation in Jeremiah ch 52 v 6-16. It had become a meaningless ritual. The question of motive arises in ch 7 v 4-14. Jesus often asked questions back to establish the motive. Zechariah is asking if the motive for fasting is reverence of the Lord and His Word. Sometimes the motive can be to try to force a blessing out of God. i. e to persuade God how righteous a man is. God had never asked for the fasts. They were empty religion like so many rituals today in religions. It was a form of religion without power. 2 Tim ch 3 v 5. Ritual is no use, if the motive is wrong. It is a changed relationship, which matters most. The people were sorry for themselves. There was remorse but not repentance. The kind of fast God requires is stated in Isaiah ch 58 v 6-7. God wants His people to look after those who are exploited. God had already spoken on the matter but the people did not want to hear then or now. They had their fingers in their ears and would not listen. Acts ch 7 v 51. The leaders saw the evidence with their own eyes. As before they had stoned the prophets. v 11 and 12 remind the readers of the rebellious response of past generations and the consequences. God is calling a halt to rebellion by Israel. The people were calling to God as a result of the calamities they had caused and not out of contrition.

10. Fasting changes to Feasting. Chapter 8 v 1-23.
There follows a series of brief oracles. The words oracle, vision and prophecy all mean the same.
(a) The zeal and passion of God for Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the only capital city, which has a spiritual reason for its existence. God has a burning purpose – a passion, which makes the face red. God indicates how deeply He feels for Jerusalem. v 1 and 2. He will not share His city, people or Church with anyone.
(b) God promises His presence in Jerusalem. v 3. Ezekiel saw the glory leaving the Temple but now God is to dwell among His people. Isaiah ch 1 and 2 is fulfilled in this passage.
(c) When the people returned from Babylon very few elderly people came back. v 4 and 5. It was a very difficult journey. Zechariah is now promising that there would be a whole age range in the city. An atmosphere of peace, with children playing in the streets and the elderly and young living happily together in a safe and secure environment.
(d) God means every word He says even though it is difficult to believe at times.
(e) v 7 and 8 speak of a future day when God would gather His people to Himself. It will be a Covenant situation. It reads with Jer ch 31 v 31-4. Jerusalem has been known for its corruption in the past. In a future day it will be known as a city full of truth. This will only happen if the people are determined to banish lying, stealing and gossip. If they love truth, then they will experience peace.
(f) There is a call to courage and strength in the Lord. Joshua ch 1 and Deut ch 31. Seven times Joshua was told to be strong. God was with them when they entered the Land. God was with them when they returned from exile. God came in the flesh and was with His people. In the last days they will need to be strong again as God lives in their midst.
(g) God’s promises of blessings are to be fulfilled as surely as His warnings of judgement. He purposes to do good to Jerusalem. “I am the God who always does what He says.” God expects this from His people.
(h) The oracles are building up to a climax. ch 8 v 18-19.
God is going to turn fasting into feasting as there will be a time of joy for Israel. Thereafter there will be love, truth and peace. Rescued from the House of Bondage the believer should be a different person. There ought to be gratitude in his heart.
(i) Jerusalem is seen as the focus of the whole Earth. v 20-22. “Let us go to Jerusalem” People of many nations will go there to worship God. There are record numbers of tourists in Israel today.
(j) Ten men shall take hold of the garment of a Jew – for God is with them. In scripture ten is the number for completeness. The complete number will seek to hold the coat-tail of one Jew – Jesus the Jew. The woman with bleeding touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.

Zechariah speaks to people who are saved but who face difficulties. They had not foreseen falling away into worldliness. The people at the time were disappointed, disillusioned, discouraged and no better after the Exile than they had been before it. They are in need of encouragement to face the future and to be aware of God’s overall plan. They need to take their eyes off their own problems and focus on the Lord. Faced with problems it is easy to forget about God. It is primarily a book of encouragement but it includes a warning for those who ignore God. He is in control. Zechariah could not have envisaged the second return in the twenty first century. There is no mention of sacrifice for sins, which suggests that this is after Jesus has made the perfect sacrifice for sins.

11. The Lord and His King and Shepherd. Chapter 9 v 1- chapter 11 v 17.
This is an oracle, which is a heavy burden to discharge. It deals with the immediate future, the time of Jesus, the end times and the last days.
A. The divine victory march south to Jerusalem. Ch 9 v 1-10.
There is a word primarily of judgement on the nations and cities along the Mediterranean Sea, who would not listen to the Word of God through the prophets. It is against the land of Hadrach – Damascus and Tyre and Sidon and the cities of Judea and Samaria and then against Jerusalem. v 8 and 9. It is a march of triumph over enemies. Isaiah ch 10 v 27-32. God is taking the root of many a conqueror. Tyre was very resistant to enemies. It was well fortified by land and by sea. It thought it was invincible. Material prosperity was its god. Alexander the Great sacked the city at a later date. He did not touch Israel.

The area of Philistia was transformed. Ekron relied on the olive oil trade. If Tyre was bankrupted, there would be no ships to take the olive oil from Ekron to Egypt. David had allowed the Jebusites to live in the area of Jerusalem and they had been incorporated into the people of God. The people ate food offered to idols. God deals with Egypt and Assyria. But God will look after Jerusalem. He takes over from the human shepherds. In v 9 a King is introduced. Mat ch 21 v 5 and John ch 12 v 15. There was no king in Zechariah’s day. He is to be a victorious King, yet of humble demeanour. He does not come in the usual manner but riding on a donkey. Jesus chose the donkey to fulfil this prophecy. It was shocking for a king to ride on a donkey. It would be like Queen Elizabeth going to a special function is an old second hand car. Alexander the Great rode a horse. The King was to be more like David than Solomon. There is a picture of worldwide domination as He brings peace to the nations.

B. There will be victory and prosperity for God’s people. Chapters 9 v 11 – chapter 10 v 1.
The basis of His dealing with His people will be a structured formal relationship. It will be a covenant based on blood. There was to be a double blessing for the House of Ephraim. The Jews had had a lot of trouble from the Greeks. Gen ch 10 v 2. Javan. Alexander the Great’s domains were divided up. The Selucid Kingdom was centred in Syria with Greek rulers. In the Maccabean Revolt the Jews revolted against the Greek rulers in Syria. The Greeks wanted to impose paganism on the Jews. God is active in supporting His people – like a storm cloud over them. v 14. A lack of rain is associated with the departure of the Lord and plenty rain speaks of His return to bless His people. The people were prisoners of hope. There was a battle then as there is now between the sons of Zion – believers in the Word of God and the sons of Greece – believers in secular humanism. Humanism says that what man did yesterday is not necessarily true today. It speaks of making the Bible relevant for the twenty first century. Humanism is a strong negative force. God intervenes personally to accomplish things in His Kingdom.

C. The victorious warriors and the restored flock. Chapter 10 v 2 – chapter 11 v 3.
There are mixed metaphors. No one analogy can fully describe any one spiritual fact. There are different dimensions to each one; e.g. were believers born into God’s family or adopted into it? The people are both warriors and sheep. There is a tension in the language and interpretation of it. The Lord of Hosts cares for His flock and makes them like proud steeds in battle. There is an emphasis on strength. Judah is going to be strong. The Messiah is God’s strong one. God had provided shepherds but they had let the people down. Ezekiel ch 34 v 11. “I shall do it myself.” Either God is a man’s shepherd or someone else or something else will drive his life. Whom can a man trust today? Egypt and Assyria may be symbols of despair for those who are not with their people. Egypt is used as a symbol for a sea of trouble. Sometimes trouble comes in waves. Satan can pile up trouble for a believer. God can calm the trouble and bring peace. Great powers were keeping people back. In Israel the shepherd whistled for his dog. The bee-keeper called for his bees. The time will come when the whole people will be there, enlarged by God, until there is no room for them all. Gilead was in Transjordan i.e. the east. Regularly God says that He will do it. He will accomplish His plans. Ephraim went to Babylon first. God will use them in a special way on their return to the land.

Chapter 11 v 1-3 is like an appendix. Particular trees are represented as areas of land – the cedar is Lebanon. The oak is Bashan – the area of the Decapolis. There were a lot of Jews living there. Lebanon and Bashan were to make room for the Jews and they would be judged in respect of their response.

D. The good and the bad shepherd. Chapter 11 v 4-17.
There are three views as to the meaning of becoming shepherd of the flock:
(a) God is calling Zechariah to take an actual position of leadership over the people. But v 15 is difficult since it says that the good shepherd becomes a worthless one. It is not like God to do that.
(b) It is simply an allegory put into dramatic form.
(c) It is a genuine dated prophecy. This is the most likely. Zechariah went through certain motions himself. So the people saw the prophecy acted out in advance. (Ezekiel ch 4 is also an acted prophecy.)
First Zechariah plays the part of the good shepherd. The flock had been looked after by others in the past. The sheep have been sold for slaughter. He takes two staffs for his work. The good shepherd takes over from the worthless ones. But the flock detested him and rejected him. So Zechariah gave up his work as shepherd and broke the two staffs to symbolise it. He asked for his wages and received 30 pieces of silver. The value of a slave was 30 pieces of silver. Exodus ch 21 v 32. He then assumes the role of a worthless shepherd. The first role seems to be modelled on David – the good shepherd King but it is prophetic of the Messiah. Christ was rejected and sold for 30 pieces of silver. Mat ch 26 v 15. If the Lord and His Christ are rejected a worthless shepherd will take the vacant place. The message is that when God provides a good shepherd He will be rejected and an evil shepherd – the anti-Christ – will take His place. The flagging zeal of the returned exiles was a clear symptom of the deterioration in their spiritual condition. Repent or else you will suffer as your forefathers did.

Leadership in the nation was in a crisis. The leaders were more concerned for their own welfare than that of the people who were under their charge. They were concerned for profit – fattening the sheep for slaughter to get a good price. Promotion and reputation were the goals for the leaders at the expense of the people. The leaders had the task of holding the people together and ensuring social cohesion and not allowing schism. Jesus pointed out that the leaders had been stoning the prophets and refusing to listen to God speaking to them through the prophets. The people did not want what God was providing in His word. As a result the covenant was broken and God gave them up as in Romans ch 1. When the leadership provided by God is rejected the community falls apart – families and countries. Religion is the glue, which holds society together. Jesus came as the Good Shepherd with a true concern for the people. He met the needs of the people.

Exodus ch 21 v 32. The people were seeking to pay off Zechariah with the price of an ox when it killed a slave. Jesus spoke the same harsh words against the religious leaders in Mat ch 23 v 13. There had been 400 years of silence after Malachi. He also denounced the leaders. The last section of the chapter may be referring to the anti-Christ. He will be a leader who is spiritually blind. God will allow him to come into a position of leadership because the people of the World have rejected God’s provision of spiritual leaders.

God’s Ultimate Purpose for His People. Chapters 12-14. Psalm 46.
The words “on that day” are used frequently. God is the same mighty God who stretched out the Heavens and created every unique individual spirit. He controls all that He has created. Chapters 12 and 13 are concerned with Christ’s return. Jerusalem will be surrounded by hostility and foreign powers, but God is able to bring strength out of their weakness. There will be a tremendous change of mind, a spirit of compassion and a godly disposition. The nation will repent. Jerusalem will have a great crisis and an ultimate destiny. God says that He will make Jerusalem a heavy stone. It is God who does this and in the process He sets Jerusalem as a trap for the nations. All who come against it will suffer. It is like putting down poison for a rat. The rat cannot resist the poison and in the process is killed. It is Jerusalem, which is the centre of the prophecy from first to last, but it may be symbolic for the nation. The events, which are predicted, are quite exceptional. All the nations will come against her. There are endless U. N. resolutions criticising Israel and Jerusalem. There are to be strange dramatic happenings in the geographical sphere. There is reference to an earthquake and a change in the weather pattern. There will be signs and wonders at the end times. There are always signs and wonders when God is really at work. Survivors of the defeated nations shall come to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles to honour the Lord. This is obligatory or there will be no rain on the land. This may be literal or symbolic for blessings. The whole of Jerusalem will be holy. The word trader was sometimes the same as the word Canaanite. So the reference to no traders in the House of the Lord could mean no paganism there. Overall there is a picture of an old order coming to an end and God will triumph absolutely.

Israel’s army will defeat all the enemy armies. God will bewilder the enemy armies. God will intervene supernaturally. He has already destroyed many leaders of Israel’s enemies. Israel and the Church should never fear. God is in control. As Joseph revealed himself to his brothers physically, so Jesus will reveal Himself to His natural Jewish brothers spiritually. God will do it, because He has said that He will do it. In 2 Chron ch 35 v 22 there is a report of the mourning for King Josiah.

Zechariah had seen the work on the Temple stop and he saw the depressed state of the national character. He witnessed greed and the neglect of religion. Indifference was a clear sign of spiritual decline. He urged them to look beyond the present to the glorious future. He sought a genuine revival among the people. Ignore God at your peril. See what happened to your forefathers. What a man reaps he will sow. God is love but also a consuming fire. Turn to God or else take the consequences. True glory depends on the indwelling glory of the invisible God. All the work of the people and the Church is to be done by the supply of divine strength. God has in operation every species of agency, human and angelic, animate and inanimate, needful for the accomplishment of His purposes. He will send them forth at the proper time.

For the Jews the land was and still is more important to them than land is to other peoples. Life in Babylon had not been too bad for the Jews and most stayed on, despite the opportunity to return. When they returned they did so in unbelief. The same sins still ruled their lives. They had not been restored to God. They were disappointed and disillusioned, discouraged and dispirited, dismayed and depressed. They still needed to repent and trust in God. The land was in poor shape, after being neglected for 70 years. They had to build up communities again. There were tensions with the Jews who had stayed behind. They needed to build homes for themselves to live in. There were no loans available. They were dismayed by the size of the task, which lay ahead. God was not in their thinking. They looked only to their own resources.

Chapter 13. It is true that it is necessary to catch fish first and then to clean them. God has to bring the people back to the land before he can cleanse them spiritually. Even the false prophets must change. They will become ashamed. Deut ch 21 v 18-23. Parents of a false prophet – denoting a rebellious son – should kill him. False prophets always accompany idolatry. 1 Kings ch 18 v 27-29. The false prophets were not called by God and should return to their normal work and do something useful.

8. God is in control of the international scene.
The people had their eyes on the problem and not on the Lord. It is always the doubters who hold the Church back. Discouragement is one of the tools of the enemy – one of the weapons fired against believers. “If you have never been confronted by the Devil, you must be walking in the same direction.” Many believers are disappointed. They have been falsely taught that nothing hard will come to them. “Welcome trials and difficulties.” 1 Peter ch 1 v 6. Many have never learned about spiritual warfare and are held back in their growth by powers, which hover over their lives and are never dealt with in the Biblical manner. Many are never drawn fully into the work of the Church – their basic needs are not being met and so they are discouraged or else they look elsewhere to have these needs met. There is a command of God to encourage others. God had restored them to the land and then He restored them to Himself. Without a vision the people perish. A man needs to set his eyes on the Lord and catch His vision, which embraces his life. The Jewish people took their eyes off the Lord and lost His vision to reach the World.

Chapter 14. The final future of the World revolves round Jerusalem and Israel. The hatred of the World against God will focus on Israel especially when the Church is making little impact on the World. Zechariah is given a few pieces of the jigsaw regarding the end times. Some fights are worth fighting and others are not. The battle for Jerusalem is worth fighting to win. The fact that the World will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord may be spiritual or physical. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for the Lord to come. Another like Elijah will come at the end to prepare the World for the coming of Jesus. On the day of Judgement, when the physical bodies of believers will be caught up in the air, what will happen to the bodies of those who refuse to accept Jesus? It reads like a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon. The non-believers will kneel spiritually before Jesus for judgement. By that time will their physical bodies have disintegrated? Today people pamper their bodies. Then they will be destroyed. They do not see with their eyes and their tongues do not speak the truth. All will be in a state of fear. Common grace will disappear at the end of time. There is a glimpse of holiness in the New Jerusalem. The Canaanite traders will disappear. This chapter relates to the consummation of God’s purposes on Earth.

Jesus appears in various roles throughout Zechariah – as saviour, prince of peace, warrior and judge.

The man Jonah

There are 3 reasons why for many this is a favourite chapter of the Bible.

 

Firstly, Jonah seems to be a very ordinary person. He is called by God to carry out a particular task. He is seen to be engaged in a struggle. He knew what he had to do and he ran away from the task. Eventually he carried it out, but never fully realised the significance of what he had done for the Lord. He did not appear to be satisfied. God has a great plan for this World. A man does not see it all – just that part, which God reveals to him. A man has to trust Him and do what God asks him to do.

 

Secondly, the situation in which Jonah found himself seems so like the World in which man is today. God gives an over- picture of His plan for the World – His common grace and His special grace being worked out.

 

Thirdly, there are some special verses of Scripture, which stand out as so relevant to today.

 

How should Jonah be regarded? A coward or a hero? The verse will become especially real after a visit to the British Museum in London. On the ground floor is the Assyrian Room, housing some wonderful exhibits from the ancient Assyrian Empire. One of the stone tableaus depicts a scene in Assyria after a victory for the Assyrians and shows the King dealing with those who had been captured during the war. The strong ones were being led off in to slavery while others – the weak ones – were clearly being beheaded. Jonah is generally regarded in poor light as a spiritual coward. Many perhaps imagine that given the same task from the Lord they would have gone straight to Nineveh. It is easier now to appreciate the enormity of the task given to Jonah and to look upon him with some considerable sympathy. Jonah knew that he might well lose his head literally in Nineveh. It would be like a believer going to a dictator and telling him to repent.

 

1. Jonah was given a specific task to carry out for God. That was to go to Nineveh. Each believer has his own specific task to do for God in life.

2. Verse two says that God knew how wicked the people in Nineveh were. God was so concerned for the state of the World that He took the initiative to send Jonah to Nineveh. From a human point of view it was a waste of time. How should a man feel toward the wicked – those in prison for murder? Should he write them off or is there compassion in his heart for them? “There but for the grace of God go I.” Jesus died for each one including the thief on the cross with Him. The World is in very much the same state today and God is still in the business of reaching out to sinners and commissioning men and women to do specific tasks. How concerned should a believer be for the lost?

3. Jonah was overwhelmed with the enormity of the task set him. When a believer considers the enormity of what lies ahead of him, it is not hard to realise why he is also guilty of withdrawing from the commission. Jonah was not a coward. If he had been, he would not have suggested that they throw him overboard. After all it was certain death. When a believer considers the famine of the Word of God he may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But God is in control and all he has to do is what God asks him to do.

4. It is not clear what went through Jonah’s mind and why he set out for Tarshish but it is clear that a believer does not need to take a jet somewhere else to avoid his responsibilities to God. One word is enough – “No”. A man conveys most of what he says by body language. Jonah’s body language said: “No.”

5. As soon as Jonah stepped out-with the will of God problems arose in the shape of a storm. Perhaps it is dangerous to spiritualise an event like a storm but it is true to say that often problems arise when a believer steps out-with God’s plan for his life, sometimes as a consequence of sin and on other occasions to direct him back into the right path. Jesus walked on the waves to demonstrate that He is in control of nature. After all, He invented it. The storm was literal but yet contained spiritual truths. Those who are in prison, unemployed and divorced face storms in their life. Sin always lies at the root of the problem.

6. When the storm arose verse 5 say that each cried to his own god. In the World there are so many false gods to whom people turn in the crisis of life. When the earthquake or famine strikes, people turn to different gods for an answer. Who is to blame? Some say education – others say Politicians – others say doctors. Sin is the root of the problem. Where should a believer turn when a real problem arises? “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

7. The sailors tried to save themselves by their own efforts. That was their first instinct. Religious man still tries to save himself rather than turn to the only one who has proved worthy to save him.

8. When the disaster struck and there was frantic activity, where was the man of God? He was asleep below decks. It seems hard to believe that Jonah was unaware of the storm. When the disasters of life strike the nations where are the believers? Too often they are silent. Sometimes it is hard to believe how little concerned some believers are about the state of the nation. At least the sailors were doing something. The man of God did nothing up to this point. Green issues. Pollution. What has the believer to say? Often he seems only interested in salvation. Contrast Paul in Acts ch 27 v 31.

9. The World – in the form of the sailors – challenged the man of God. “The least you can do is to invoke your god.” This was no sign of faith or confidence but purely the thought that there might just be a chance – since desperation was creeping in.

10. It does seem strange that in the midst of a raging storm they should take time to cast lots and stranger still that the lot should fall on Jonah. Or was this providence? God wanted Jonah to act to save the sailors and to reveal His glory. By verse 11 they were desperate. It was obvious that unless there was intervention from some source they would die. There were no rescue helicopters in these days. “Can anything be done?” That is not an uncommon cry these days in the crisis of life. It seems to be established that one American President consulted an astrologer during his presidency.

 

There in verse 7 is a central question for the sailors and for so many today. Why has this suffering come upon us? It is not fair that man should suffer. Man does not deserve this. So often there are such comments after a bomb blast and some innocent person is killed. There was a search for a scapegoat and Jonah was the one. “What is this you have done?”

 

11. Obviously Jonah had told them at the outset that he was a Hebrew and was running from God. It is right to surmise that the sailors were not interested then about what Jonah had to say at that time. They were busy and had their work to do. Anyway the weather was probably what is experienced in the Mediterranean – blue skies and a calm sea. Who was interested in God then? All was well.

12. Only later, when trouble arose and the false gods had done nothing, were they prepared to listen to what the God of Jonah had to say. “Now tell us what we should do?” People are not interested in God when things are going well. That is the time to get right with God and not when in a crisis. Build your house on a rock during good weather.

13. It is at this point that Jonah comes up with the extraordinary statement. “Take me and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down, for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” In other words here is Jonah saying: “Look you guys, you are in a mess and it is my fault.” He might have said: “It’s all your own fault – you should have listened to me earlier.” or “It is your own sin which has brought about the trouble and you have ignored God up till now, so sort out your own problem and don’t blame me.” or “Where are your false gods now?” But Jonah accepts personal responsibility for the problems of the sailors. Even the sailors seem to realise that Jonah is in some way responsible. They asked him what they should do to Jonah to make the seas calm down. Not even then did the sailors accept his advice. They kept on trying to save themselves. Jonah knew that what he said was true and the proof came when the storm calmed down immediately he went into the sea. He also knew that no man can save himself.

 

That verse is very powerful. Whom does God hold responsible for the problems of the World? Not the ignorant, not the lazy. Not those led to worship false gods. But He holds the believers responsible. They are the ones who have remained silent for so long and have let the World drift into the mess. They are the ones who know how serious sin is. They are the ones who know that Hell awaits those who will not bow the knee to Almighty God. When believers fail to do what God expects of them He holds them accountable. Isaiah said the same thing in chapter 26 v 18: “We have been with child and have brought forth wind.” Where is the man of God today challenging the World about divorce, adultery and idolatry, never mind blasphemy? Who has the courage to speak out the word from the Lord as the judgement facing the nation? When do believers hear about the wrath of God?

 

Jesus recalled the incident later when He spoke of Jonah being in the belly of the whale. A blue whale has a baby 26 feet long and just as God wanted to illustrate a lesson in vivid action when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, so He used the situation of Jonah to illustrate the resurrection of Jesus. There are always signs and wonders when God is at work – at Sinai – when Jesus ministered – at the end of the World. There is a clear illustration of Jonah being prepared to sacrifice his interests for the interests of others. So he allowed them to throw him into the stormy seas. It is a picture of a Saviour being cast into the sea of divine wrath to save mankind. Is it too much to extend the illustration and suggest that it is only when the believers forget about their own comfortable existence and get involved in the storms of life that circumstances change and God is allowed to work? Verse 12 of chapter 1 of Jonah is a verse, which should live with a believer and keep him feeling uncomfortable and responsible.

 

It is not known what happened to the sailors. Perhaps Jonah met some of them at a later date and told them that he was the one they threw overboard. What a testimony! They made a vow to God in the midst of an emotional crisis. Was it genuine or not? Some people have said that when they were seriously ill in hospital, they read the Bible and promised that, if they made it home, they would serve the Lord. Yet many quickly forget. What task has God given a believer in the past? Perhaps he tackled it in the same way as Jonah and ran away. Perhaps what he did was more significant than he ever realised. He may not find out this side of Heaven. It is not difficult to see that the World is in a mess – a crisis. Those who follow Jesus are responsible. All are failures except Jesus. He alone always pleased His Father and did what His Father wanted.

 

5 lessons.

1. God is in control. Many other passages confirm this.

2. God’s grace to sinners. All are sinners. It is all grace.

3. God has a great purpose in this World.

4. Faith means trusting and obeying. The two go hand in hand.

5. Believers are personally responsible. They must all give account.

Obadiah

OBADIAH.

Hardly anyone reads Obadiah. Market research shows that it is the second least read book in the Bible. There are treasures, which are hidden away in the Old Testament. The Book contains a message, which is not only relevant to everyday life but one, which a man cannot afford to live without in the present day. God addresses Edom but the message is really for His own people. It is common in the Bible to refer to kingdoms by a dominant mountain within them. Mount Esau refers to Edom and Mount Zion refers to Israel.

So many Old Testament prophets are fairly obscure. Absolutely nothing is known about Obadiah. It was not the man who was important but the message, which he bore from the Lord. There was nothing in the man to detract from the message. The name Obadiah means “servant of the Lord”, which is very fitting.

The message is simple enough. It speaks about the Edomite or Idumean people who were the perpetual enemies of Israel. It tells of their character, what they did and their downfall and it is significant for all peoples and for individuals. The Edomites are depicted as a proud, bitter, resentful people, ever seeking an opportunity to harm Jacob’s descendants. Pride often leads to boasting. They enjoyed a golden age as a people during the time the Children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt. Thereafter Israel and Edom were continually at war. The prophecy was that the Edomites would be humiliated by neighbouring nations with whom they had entered into agreements and eventually wiped out. Their pride and false sense of security had misled them into complacency. Their pride came before a fall and their judgement was total. Nothing would be left. Edom would never rise again as a nation and they never did.

The prophecy speaks of five specific crimes committed by the Edomites.
1. They committed violence against Israel. The Hebrew word for violence is Hamas. It often arises out of hatred and extreme wickedness.
2. They refused to help their neighbours when they needed help. They looked with indifference and pleasure at the suffering of the Jewish people.
3. They rejoiced at Israel’s misfortune and jeered at them. They gloated and rejoiced and then mocked and boasted
4. They took a share in the looting. The passage of enemies through the gate of the city signifies a city’s loss of self-rule.
5. Worst of all they hunted the fugitives from Israel and handed them over to their enemy. The Edomites intended that there should be no survivors amongst the Jewish people.

There is evidence of a consistent and determined policy of harassment towards Israel. The Edomites had set their face against the people who were chosen by God. There is a clear progression from an internal attitude to external conduct. Sin proceeds by degrees.

How did this begin? People in the Middle East are known for their long memories. History to them is a part of daily life. The people of Edom were the descendants of Esau. Gen ch 25 v 23. While Rebecca had the twins Esau and Jacob in her womb the Lord spoke to her and said: “Two nations are within you. You will give birth to two rival peoples. One will be the stronger. The older will serve the younger.” The first out was the hairy one called Esau. Then Jacob was born, holding on to the heel of Esau. As the first born Esau had the claim to all the rights and privileges yet he sold his birthright to Jacob for some porridge one day when he was hungry. Esau was a man who liked hunting, shooting and fishing but was not much interested in the more important aspects of life, particularly spiritual matters. He was a rampant materialist. Later he married three local girls from Canaan, one of whom was a cousin, a daughter of Ishmael, who were not related to his father’s family and he failed to secure his father’s blessing just prior to his father’s death. Esau was careless, motivated by animal appetites and was revengeful after the blessings, which had been stolen by Jacob. There are certain things in life, which are important, e.g. the family, honouring parents, traditions and accepting responsibilities as parents and children, leadership etc. Esau was not much interested in these things. He was an action man. However, he lived to regret the blessings, which Jacob received in his stead.

Many today throw away their opportunity of eternal life because they love their car, their career or their hobby, going out for a meal or their holiday. God always comes last. Esau’s descendants were like that. Esau went away from the family’s land in Canaan to live in Edom, which is the mountainous region to the south east of the Dead Sea. Petra was the capital city. Esau is a representative of the carnal, pagan man, who has little interest in spiritual matters and has chosen to abandon the revealed ways of God and the hope of glory in favour of things, which are immediate rather than of eternal value. He is proud of strength and seeks to live without depending on the grace of God. He is seen in Islam, which has rejected the Word of God and the Son of God and is proud of its strength. He stands in contrast to Jacob, who struggled to get a hold of God and despite his sinful ways is the representative of the spiritual man, who inherited the promises of God.

Genesis ch 36 lists all the tribes of the Edomites. One of the clans was the Amalekites. Haman, the Prime Minister of Persia in the story of Esther, was an Amalekite. In Edom Esau nourished a hatred for Jacob, because of the stolen birthright. Although Jacob had stolen it, Esau had been careless in the first place. Otherwise it need not have happened. So Esau transferred his guilt to Jacob and blamed Jacob for his own shortcomings. The technical name for this in psychiatry is “transference of guilt.” A man is always prone to blame others for his own failings. Many even blame God for the problems, which they have brought upon themselves. When Esau asked his father for a blessing, Isaac had told him that he would live in a barren land and that he would serve his brother Jacob, living by the sword. So it was that Esau lived in the barren land of Edom. Gen ch 27 v 39f. Edom was famous for its wise men. It was located on major trade routes and had access to sophisticated ways of thinking.

Esau’s descendants are called the Edomites and they appear in Num ch 20 v 14-21. During the 400 years the Children of Israel had been in Egypt things had gone very well for the Edomites. Four times in their history they were called upon to help their cousins the Israelites and each time they not only refused but they went out of their way to make it difficult for them.

The first time was when the Children of Israel were being led by the Lord to the Promised Land from Egypt and they had to pass through the land of the Edomites. Num ch 20 v 21. Moses sent messengers to the then King of Edom. They reminded the King of the past relationship, of the hardship in Egypt and the fact that it was God who helped them in their hour of need. They asked for permission to go through the land up what was known as the King’s Highway. The King refused point blank! In fact the King threatened to march against them if they tried. He made them go the long way round. For centuries Esau’s descendants had been harbouring a grudge and were waiting for a chance to get their own back on Jacob’s people. It would not have hurt them to let the Israelites through. It would have cost them nothing. They delighted in making it difficult for them. They are the second recorded instance of anti-semitism, after Egypt. Later God asked the Israelites to forgive them. Deut ch 23 v 7. They were still blood relatives. The book of Obadiah is about the particular wickedness of those who have been privileged by their closeness to the people of God and who should have known better than to persecute those people. The arrogant, self-reliant pride of the Edomites constituted a challenge to God. God will bring down those who set themselves up in pride. Hurting God’s people is a very dangerous thing to do.

But there was no lasting peace between the two peoples. Saul had occasion to fight against them. 1 Sam ch 14 v 47. Later as David established the Kingdom of Israel he conquered the Edomites and set up military camps throughout Edom. The people became his subjects. As the Empire of Israel reached its zenith Solomon established a naval base at Elion Geber on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in the south of Edom. There was an important trade route from there to Israel. Solomon also built an iron ore smelter there so he brought industry and trade to the region. Later on the land of Edom was ruled by a deputy appointed by the King of Judah, like a province, but the Edomites were always complaining about home rule and that all the important decisions were made in Jerusalem. They wanted an Assembly in their capital Petra. Petra is the rock fortress situated in South Jordan today.

From time to time the Edomites revolted against rule by Israel and appointed their own King. Then Israel would send in the troops to take control of the occupied territories again and quash the rebellion. 2 Kings ch 8 v 20-22. But the Edomites were always aware of the past, nurturing revenge and looking for an opportunity to hit back. 2 Chr ch 28 v 17. Their secret ambition was to see Jerusalem razed to the ground. Psalm 137 v 7. Several times God’s prophets denounced Edom. Isaiah said in ch 34 v 5-14: “I have doomed the people of Edom.” God warned those who were against Israel. Isaiah ch 63 v 1-6. Edom came within this category. God knew their hearts. Even when forced to co-operate they still sought revenge. Lam ch 4 v 21-22.

The prophets spoke out of a time of judgement coming on Edom.
Jeremiah prophesied against Edom. Jer ch 49 v 7f. “Edom shall become a horror – everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of its disasters. No man shall live there.”
Joel said: “Edom shall become a desolate wilderness for the violence done to the people of Judah but Judah shall be inherited for ever.” Joel ch 3 v 19f.
Ezekiel ch 25 v 12-14. “Because Edom acted revengefully against the House of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance upon them, therefore I shall stretch out my hand against Edom and I shall make it desolate. And I shall lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my People Israel.”
Malachi said of Edom: “If Edom says: ‘We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins’ the Lord of Hosts says ‘They may build but I shall tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the Lord is angry for ever.’ ”
Amos ch 1 v 11 makes it abundantly clear that the Lord’s wrath against Edom was because of her persistent harassment of Israel. Edom had no mercy towards Israel. Whatever Israel’s failings were, they were the people chosen by God and the Edomites knew that. Several times they made life difficult for Israel when life was difficult enough already. Instead of rejoicing that God had rescued them from Egypt and helping them on their way, they had added to the difficulty of the journey.

Four times in a period of 300 years beginning in the ninth century the people of Edom plundered or participated in plundering Jerusalem, i.e. they kicked the Israelites when they were down. Looting is a particularly nasty crime. It is worse than stealing. It is waiting to steal when the party is defenceless – just at a time when the person needs help. Edom’s insensitivity was made worse by the fact that they were the kinsmen of Israel and as such Israel could have expected them to come to their aid. They were the next-door neighbours to whom Israel ought to have been able to look for support. Psalm 41 v 9. The Lord says: “He who touches Israel touches the apple of my eye.” Zech ch 2 v 8. They gloated when Israel fell from grace.

The various prophecies said that the people of Edom would disappear as a distinct people. They did, around the first century A. D. Although the Edomites had been Judaised they never forgot their hatred of the Jews. These people trusted in themselves and not in God. Their allies let them down in the end. It was Arab people – the Nabateans – who finally attacked them and forced them out into the Negev in 105 A. D. There the Maccabees fought with them and gradually the land of Edom disappeared off the map.

Herod the Great, who killed his own three sons and tried to kill the baby Jesus, was an Edomite. Herod and his sons joined the outsiders in condemning and humiliating Jesus. Jesus suffered violence from the very people who should have recognised Him as God’s Son. The Jewish leaders stood by and watched with pleasure as Jesus was humiliated. They mocked, gloated and boasted over God’s Son as the soldiers stripped Him and robed Him in emperor’s clothes. The crowds, the authorities, the priests and those crucified with Jesus all took part in the humiliating mockery of that day.

The Edomites made several mistakes:
1. They never accepted that God chose Jacob and not Esau. Although God blessed Esau also it was never good enough. He had been careless but wanted the full blessing without the full commitment to God. Jealousy was at the root of the problem.
2. They trusted in themselves and not in God.
3. They ignored the Word of God consistently. They knew of God’s judgement yet chose to reject the warning. The same principle applies to all nations and people. The people laughed at Noah.
4. Love your brother. Cain said: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes! Man judges himself by his treatment of others for he knows how he likes to be treated by others. He longs to be forgiven, if he has offended or made a mistake. He hates lies or gossip about him but he gossips about others and destroy their characters. So he heaps judgement on himself. Edom gloated over the fall of Jerusalem. Does a man weep when others are in trouble or does he gloat? “It serves them right.” Does he resent the happiness of others? Is he indifferent to the pain of others? Is he contributing the pain of his neighbour?
5. Revenge is not a man’s business. It belongs to God. He will deal with those who reject Him and His people.

What foul sort of animal is a human being who does not want the well-being of his neighbour but is indifferent to, pleased by or even adds to the distress of his neighbour? Twelve destroyers have their home in the hearts of men:
7 deadly sins – pride, coveteousness, lust, envy, gluttony, rage and sloth.
3 false reactions – fear, guilt and anger.
2 basic evils – boredom and malice.

From these proceed all forms and degrees of lovelessness, all failure to live the way of the Lord Jesus Christ as described in 1 Cor ch 13 v 4-7. Suddenly the words of Titus ch 3 v 3 no longer seem overstated: ‘For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.’ This is life as an Edomite, life as a sinner. It is mean and squalid and hateful.

And now the beauty of a life of real love is all the more attractive.
What if there was someone who lived the opposite of Obadiah v 10-14?
What if there was someone who was not indifferent to the distress of others but who really cared? What if He gave himself to deal with that distress?
What if there were someone who did not just stand there watching but came to the place of sin and suffering and wept, who went to the place of wickedness and condemnation and died?
That would be amazing.

What if there was someone who took upon Himself the crushing, cursing punishment each man’s filth deserves?
One who knew none of this sin but was made this sin for him, who bore the wrath man calls down on himself by living this way? Who embodied and enacted 1 Cor ch 13 v 4-7, who was patient and kind, who did not envy or boast, who was not arrogant or rude and who did not insist on His own way? Someone who was not irritable or resentful, did not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoiced with the truth, who bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things and endured all things?
That would be no Edomite false brother, that would be a Saviour true brother.

And what if His resurrection life were strong enough by the power of the Spirit to change man, to rid him of the unloving selfishness by which he has lived and to plant his own love inside the man to work itself out in lives of self-forgetful service to others and to continue to grow every day of his life?

If there were such a one, men would love Him. They would throw themselves on Him for mercy and give themselves to Him for the rest of their lives. They would spend their lives under His authority and for all eternity praise Him. There is such a one. His name is Jesus. Consideration of the sins of the Edomites in Obadiah v10-14 has brought me to the feet of Jesus.

How does the message of Obadiah apply today? A man will be judged by the degree of concern for his neighbour. The only way to be rid of an enemy is to make that person a friend. While man was yet a sinner Christ died for him. So all men will be judged by their response to the love of God, which they experience. The message hammered out on the anvil of the history of says that, if a man sets his face against God and His People, destruction will be his lot. The result of un-repented sin is to be totally cast out of the presence of God.

Judgement is not a popular message today. People ask accusingly: “How could a loving God allow a child to die?” God knows about suffering since He allowed His own dear Son to die the worst death imaginable for sins that were not His. Man knows a lot about judgement as he spends his life passing judgement on others. God will judge each man for everything he has done in his body. Like a good teacher God hammers home this message and no more forcibly than in the Book of Obadiah. God is patient and long suffering but there is a limit to His patience. The Edomites simply ran out of time and opportunities. They knew that what they did was wrong but for centuries they would not acknowledge their sin, and in the end they were wiped out as a people. So it is for each individual and each nation before God. The first time Jesus came to save. The next time He will come to judge. Jesus speaks more about Hell than any other person in the Bible.

Jesus knew of the day to come and the urgency of the situation. It is not a day He is looking forward to with much satisfaction but it has to be done. Millions of people whom He has created have mocked and ignored Him and He will have no alternative but to consign them to Hell. His Word says so and He is bound to act accordingly. Many play a game of blind man’s buff. They pretend that they cannot see God and that He cannot see them. But when the buff is removed all will be revealed.

Why is Obadiah so lacking in popularity? It is not that it is a long book. In fact it is one of the shortest. It is not that its message is too complicated. There are no visions or difficult doctrines. It is because the message is not one man likes to hear. Judgement. Believers and non-believers put forward all sorts of excuses to explain away their poor response to the Word of God. God looks to His People to serve Him and accomplish His purposes. Those who have been saved are the only ones to fully appreciate the danger which others are in. If the Church stops working – the show is over. But the believers suffer too. They are caught up in a Godless society and the consequences. Judgement is for believers too. The command to “love your neighbour”, which Jesus gave was hardly new. It is simply a repeat of Leviticus ch 19 v 18. But then the Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible. So when He said in the Sermon on the Mount: “So whatever you wish that a man would do for you, do so to him” He was only repeating what His Father had already said centuries ago. There is no need to apologise for repeating the warning – all men will be judged for what they do in their bodies. Most people in the World are living as if there is no tomorrow – let alone a day of judgement.

Obadiah saw the judgement of the Lord on Edom. Believers see the judgement of the Lord on the unsaved. Most people have no fear of what God has said He will do. No one will have an excuse on Judgement Day. Paul put it so simply in Rom ch 1 v 28: “Although they knew God they did not honour Him as God or give Him thanks but became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” How does the message of Obadiah apply personally? Scripture is not to be studied as an academic exercise but as a life changing experience. There are four important lessons to be learned from Obadiah.

1. It is helpful to see the consequences of those who resist the grace of God. There really will be a separation of the sheep and the goats. Judgement will come. Wait for it. Do not be discouraged by the success of the neighbours who live ungodly lives. It reinforces the principle that rejection of God’s ways brings punishment and that there is a limit to God’s patience.

2. It is the reverse side of the coin. On the one side is the Gospel as Jesus taught – “do unto others as you would that they do to you.” On the other side – “As it is done by you to others so it will be done to you by others.” v 15. Some may suggest that it does not matter how a man behaves towards others. Remember the message of the Edomites. It does not pay in the end. If a man is mean to others, the time will come when others are mean to him, because that is how they have perceived him acting in similar situations and they will give him a dose of his own medicine, with a “it serves him right” attitude. Natural man does not do good to his enemies and thinks that the idea is nonsense. He pays back like for like – plus extra.

3. This Book highlights one of the ways of the World. All men tend to assume that others think as they do. This is not so. It is hard to imagine that someone is plotting to harm a man, if that man chooses to forgive his enemy. Most people operate on the basis that they will do to others as they would expect them to do to them. They expect no favours or forgiveness so they show none to others. The result is that relationships break down and reputations fall apart. Trust goes out of the window.

4. The second century Church and the modern Church have replaced its Jewish birthright for a bowl of Greek philosophical pottage and in doing so lost its true understanding of the Scriptures and of the Jewish Messiah. Without drawing on the Jewish roots of Christianity, the Church is open to false teaching and eventually to anti-semitism. A Church severed from its roots will eventually die.

As Obadiah contemplated the events of history concerning these people the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him and he saw what he had not seen before. v 15. As it was done by the Edomites, so it would be done to them. They showed no mercy and would receive none for themselves. They would receive just what they deserved. Just as God can make “some-things” out of nothings, He can make nothings out of “some-things.” The grace and patience of God has its limitations and the Edomites would one day be wiped out in the fullness of time. The principle is established: All the nations will be judged by God in light of the revelation of Himself through Israel and her Messiah. All those who aligned themselves with Edom in its sin will be aligned with Edom in its punishment. So Obadiah in just 21 verses, written 2,600 years ago, has such a lot to teach a man today, if he has a mind to learn the lessons.

Nahum

NAHUM.

The Book is in the form of a poem. It is probably the most neglected book in the Bible. It records the conflict between a loving God and the cruel defiant World. The theme of the book is the doom of the apostate. There are 12 minor prophets. Three of them are known as the 7th century prophets – Nahum, Zephaniah and Habakkuk. Nahum received a burden from the Lord and faithfully discharged it.

Nahum is an obscure person. Hardly anything is known about him. His name means: “comfort.” He came from Elkosh, which was situated in Galilee. It is probable that Nahum witnessed the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib and the destruction of the Assyrian host (2 Kings chs 18 and 19) when 185,000 died in one night. Assyria had destroyed Israel and threatened Jerusalem about a century earlier. When Israel was deported by Assyria, Nahum escaped into Judah, from where he wrote the book. This was after Jonah’s mission to Assyria. In the time of Jonah God had had compassion on Assyria. He had sent Jonah to preach repentance to the people. To Jonah’s surprise and annoyance there had been repentance but the change of heart did not last long. While Jonah records the city’s reprieve, 150 years later Nahum predicts its destruction. Some people make a commitment to Jesus but fall away soon afterwards.

Chapter 1 v 11. All plots against God end in futility and destruction. At the time of the prophecy the might of the Assyrian Empire seemed absolutely invincible – yet it fell as prophesied by Nahum. Nineveh was the great capital city of Assyria, in the way that Tokyo symbolises Japan. Nineveh was one of the northern cities founded by Nimrod after he left Babel, following the building of the Tower of Babel. Excavation in 1845 A. D. suggests that its origins were in 4,500 B. C. At the time of the writing by Jonah Nineveh was involved in great occultism. The city was named after Nina – a goddess. There were hundreds of statues of Nina in the city. She was shown as a full frontal nude with her stomach lying open and a fish inside. Jonah had arrived in Nineveh, having come out of a fish. This may have had great meaning for the Ninevites, especially those who were superstitious. Chapter 2 v 11. The lion denotes the ways the Assyrians devoured people. There were many sculptures of lions in Nineveh.

In 612 B. C. the Chaldeans (Babylonians) and the Medes finally closed in on Nineveh and laid it to waste. The siege lasted two years before it fell. Nahum describes the siege, destruction and defeat in great detail, speaking of it like an eye-witness 86 years ahead of the event. The mantlet in chapter 2 v 5 is a siege-engine armed with a battering ram. v 7. The reference to mistress may be Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of love and war. A canal led 30 miles from a dam on the River Gomel to lead water into the city. The city was flooded when the attack took place, after the river defences were breached.

Chapter 3 v 1. The Assyrians were a cruel people. On occasions they beheaded, burned or impaled their enemies. This might explain Jonah’s reluctance to go there. Nineveh was known for its ruthless bloodshed, its lies, plunder and stolen goods, its idolatry and its pride and self-confidence. A life of luxury lured men to Nineveh. Assyria was now to be destroyed by another people. Nineveh fell quickly into ruin after 612 B. C. leaving no trace. The repentance at the time of Jonah had not lasted but had been replaced by a complete and deliberate apostasy from God. Apostates were worse than backsliders in that they deliberately rejected and challenged God in a haughty way. A life or an empire built on violence and oppression perishes in the same way.

Chapter 3 v 8. God reminds Nineveh of the fall of Thebes. This was a great city 330 miles upstream from Cairo. It was seemingly impregnable but yet it fell to the Assyrians in 663 B. C. The city had been plundered. It was taken by force and the people were slaughtered. What had happened to Thebes would happen to Nineveh. Nahum could draw no more lurid comparison. Nineveh was being treated as she had treated others. As a man does to others, so it will be done to him. As a man sows, so he reaps. The spiritual laws of cause and effect must prevail and vindicate the timeless principles of justice and equity. Sin and wickedness yield a harvest of destruction. But God operates on His own time scale.

No one would weep for Nineveh. The Assyrians were hated in Western Asia. Pride is one thing, which everyone dislikes. It makes everyone sick, except the one who has it. The book is also a cry of estranged humanity against the evil of the Assyrians. “Free us from the tyranny of our enemies. Let there be justice in all the Earth.” God still punishes cruel nations, which follow inhuman policies and brutal practices. Chapter 2 v 13. The sins of national leaders are known to God and they are eventually judged by Him.

God may forgive a man but others will hold grudges and seek to get their own back. God is a jealous God. He is jealous for His land, His people, His Word, His reputation, His glory, His name and the worship and honour, which is due to Him. Jealousy is a sin, if it means being envious of what others have and wanting to possess it. Jealousy is a virtue, if it means cherishing what a man has and wanting to protect it. A man should be jealous for his wife. Wrath is an integral part of the character of God. Chapter 1 v 2 and v 9. Vengeance belongs to God, because He is a just and holy God. He cannot see evil people flouting His law and do nothing about it. God’s anger is a holy anger. It is a righteous indignation against all that defiles His authority and disobeys His law.

The book starts by declaring who God is and His attributes. Nahum states the verdict – Assyria is condemned to extinction. The name of Assyria was to be blotted out for all time. There is a warning to Judah that they would be dealt with in the same way. The principle applies to all peoples. There is a limit to God’s love. He is patient but not forever. All that God can do with an apostate nation is to destroy it. Hebrews chapter 6 v 6 warns that it is virtually impossible to restore apostates to repentance. They may be saved but do not enjoy life as children of God. Throughout the Bible there are forty chapters dealing with the judgement of God on the nations of the World. God is also the God of the nations. He brings them into judgement. The three chapters in Nahum are part of the scriptural teaching concerning judgement of the nations. Chapter 1 v 3. God shows His power in the cyclone and the storm. There seems to be an increasing number of storms and hurricanes. They appear to be growing in intensity. If God is not in charge of the weather, He is not sovereign over the affairs of this World. Earthquakes are also increasing in number year after year.

The delay in the judgement demonstrates the patience of God in dealing with sinning nations. Mat chapter 26 v 52. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. God is against such ways and He also denounces dishonest merchants who acquire wealth by devious means at the expense of morality and honesty. The economy had been built on slave labour. Slavery is still rife in the World today. All over the World the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Chapter 3 v 4. The god of materialism had turned the people away from compassion for one another. There is a universal cry for justice. Sinful man falls and ends in disaster. But for the grace of God any man also could end his life in disaster.

Chapter 1 v 15. Feet are not thought of as being beautiful, but they are when they enable a messenger to carry good news that God has defeated a man’s enemies. When an enemy or a bully is destroyed it is good news. Chapter 2 v 8. The once loyal soldiers desert when they see the way the battle is going. Many soldiers can be bought by more money from the enemy.

Chapter 3 v 5. It is a dangerous thing for a nation to have the Lord against it and for an individual to have the Lord against him. God’s patience has limits. The Assyrians stank with sin. God is against those who are against His chosen people – Israel. They are really in rebellion against God and His decision to choose Israel for a difficult task – to reveal His glory to the World. Nations who were against Israel are no more e.g. Assyria. God takes revenge – as in Obadiah. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. It is slow to come but when it does, it is thorough. This was because Nineveh sold herself to the enemies of God. Each nation has to look at itself to consider where it stands before God. Nahum accuses the Assyrians of crimes against humanity, which they knew instinctively to be wrong. Chapter 3 v 10. Today fighters in many civil wars kill babies and children and use this as a weapon to defeat the parents of the children. Chapter 3 v 15. The Assyrian king died in the flames of his palace set on fire by his enemies. Those who have never heard of the Ten Commandments still know that it is wrong to be barbaric and cruel. If a man does not learn from the lessons of history, he repeats the same mistakes. History books demonstrate the principle that God raises up nations and brings nations low. Empires have come and gone over the centuries. Daniel chapter 2 v 21.

Chapter 3 v 19 is a key verse in the book. There comes a time when God says: “Enough is enough.” There comes a point of no return when the wound is too deep to heal. Micah chapter 1 v 9 repeats the warning. God hammers out His message on the anvil of history. Sin and wickedness yield a harvest of destruction. The fall of Assyria is seen as the judgement of God on a cruel and arrogant nation. The enemies will rejoice and show no mercy. Assyria was a bully. No one is sad when a bully gets what he deserves.

Nahum’s tomb can be found on the West Bank of the River Tigris today. Capernaum, a town in Galilee was named after him. “Caper” means “village” and “naum” means “Nahum.” Luke chapter 10 v 15. It was this village among others, which received condemnation from Jesus. As with Nineveh they refused to hear the Word of the Lord. Like the once-great city of Nineveh, Capernaum lies in rubble today. Tourists go to see the ancient synagogue.

Micah

MICAH.

Micah came from Moresheth, near Gath, some 30 miles from Jerusalem. He wrote at the same time as Isaiah. Micah’s theme is “Learn from history or it will happen to you too. Mend your ways.” Micah ministered during the reigns of Jotham (a good king), Ahaz (a bad king) and Hezekiah (a good king). He spoke to both Israel and Judah, referring to them by their capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem. He lived near the coastal road over which traders, pilgrims and soldiers had passed for hundreds of years. He saw the corrupting influence of dealing with Egypt. In the Bible “Egypt” is always associated with the World. Prophets always have a hard time to persuade the people to listen to them, since the people do not want to hear their message. It is relatively easy to preach what the people want to hear. Micah resorted to sackcloth and ashes to put his message across. He howled like an ostrich and walked through the streets naked, in order to get his message across to the people. He may not have been totally naked since nakedness is always regarded as a deep sin in the Bible. He probably wore a loin cloth. Ch 1 v 9. The message was that they had gone too far and sinned too much. The wound was too deep to heal. (Nahum said the same thing in Nahum chapter 3 v 19) Terrible punishment was coming to them. The enemies will taunt them and God will give them over to their enemies, putting them out of the Land promised to them. The people simply did not want to hear that message any more than people want to hear a message about judgement in Britain today. The leaders of the people come in for some harsh words. They knew better and should have been aware of their responsibilities.

The Book presents a contrast between sinful man and a Holy God. By his sin a man destroys all the good things provided by God. By His grace God restores and rebuilds for an undeserving people.
There are 5 themes.
1. Judgement on Israel and Judah.
2. Restoration and the reign of the Messiah.
3. Hatred of injustice.
4. Hatred of ritualism.
5. Punishment by God and mercy by Him.

CHAPTER 1. There is a severe warning concerning God’s anger towards Israel and Judah and the suffering, which is about to befall them both. v 8. Micah resorted to walking naked and barefoot to get the attention of the people. Micah was distressed at the condition of his people. How concerned are the people of God about the state of their nation? 2 Kings ch 17 v 1-18 tells of the fulfilment in the take over of Israel by Assyria
v 9. There comes a time when the wound is too deep to heal. The city will be reduced to a pile of rubble. This has happened time and again throughout history. v 16. The little ones will be snatched away – taken as slaves to lands far away. The children pay the price for the sins of their parents. Children of parents, who are drug addicts and alcoholics, suffer – as do children of broken homes. Many children are being trafficked as sex slaves in other countries.

CHAPTER 2. Micah condemns apostasy and injustice. v 6. The people do not want to hear from God.
v 9. “Do not preach at us.” Is the Church prepared for a message about judgement or the wrath of God? There is more in the Bible about the wrath of God than there is about the love of God. The widows and children are neglected as men look after themselves. James ch 1 v 27 repeats the same challenge as to the role of the true believers. In many countries the men drink alcohol and desert their wives and children. Luke presents Jesus as the ideal man – the one to whom all men should look as an example. v 12-13. There is a glimmer of hope for the future when the Good Shepherd will come to gather His sheep.

CHAPTER 3. Micah denounces the leaders who have a special responsibility and who are leading the people astray. The genius of leadership is to meet the needs of the people and to bring the best out of every person under their leadership. That is a challenge to Church leaders. Paul addresses the problem in Titus and 1 Timothy chapter 3. There have always been leaders in the Church. The demand on leaders today is the same as it has always been. The leaders make the people to sin. The government of a nation does this when it passes legislation, which is contrary to the laws of God, such as permitting abortion and same-sex marriage.
v 11. The love of money is at the root of the corruption.
v 12. Because of the failure of leaders to lead Jerusalem will end up a pile of ruins. Past blessings and deliverance gave the people of Israel a false sense of security. They thought that it could never happen to them – but it did. No one is secure forever. Some believers think that demons cannot touch them, because they are children of God. But they can.

CHAPTER 4. Micah predicts captivity in Babylon. At that time Babylon was only a vassal of Assyria. The day will come in the future when God’s name is revered in Jerusalem. The people of Israel will be re-gathered and the nations will join together against Israel. This is happening at the beginning of the twenty first century. God will rule the World from Jerusalem. There is a picture of utopia with every Jewish man sitting under his own fig tree and vine. Due to overcrowding in the land of Israel most Jewish men live in an apartment in a tower block. This utopia cannot be literal as long as there is sin on the Earth.
v 5. All men are religious and will worship some god. If not the true God of Israel, it will be a false god.
v 6. There is another prophesy of a time in the future when the Lord will bring His people back to Israel.
v 13 speaks of the strength of Israel in the latter days. The army of Israel will be used by God to trample on many peoples. This will only increase the hatred of the nations of the World towards Israel and the Jewish people. Israel has the third best army in the World.

CHAPTER 5. Micah saw far beyond the moment of his ministry and he predicted the birth of Jesus – the Messiah – in Bethlehem – ch 5 v 2. v 5. The Son existed long before His birth in Bethlehem. 1 John ch 1 begins with these words: “Christ was alive when the World began.” Man is incurably religious and worships any god. But Israel will worship the Lord. One day the Messiah will rule His people. The people will be purified and refresh the World. Today Israeli inventions in various fields are blessing the nations of the World. Israel will be strong and wipe out and punish her enemies. This was unthinkable for many centuries.

CHAPTER 6. v 8. God has a complaint against Israel. When the nation finally recognises its sin how can it ever put right the past failures? God has blessed them so much. How can they ever put it right? What sacrifice could they make to satisfy God? God does not want the people to offer sacrifices. God pleads with His People: “Look at what I have done for you. In view of that, this is what I require of you. Be fair and just and merciful and walk humbly with God.” He wants justice, compassion and humility. This applies to each individual who turns to God. This is what God has wanted all along. Man cannot get away with sin. There are consequences for sin. v 7 speaks of child sacrifice to Molech. This was strictly forbidden to the Jewish people. 2 Kings ch 16 v 3. Investments cannot provide protection. God can blow them away with an earthquake, a flood or a wave (tsunami). When a nation is opposed to God the people will suffer in their economy with poor returns, inflation and poverty.

CHAPTER 7. Israel is so corrupt that judgement is inevitable. People cannot even trust their own family members. But God is merciful and will lead them back to worship Him again in Israel. The time will come when Israel will be a light to the nations and the light in Israel will be in sharp contrast to the darkness throughout the World. God will pardon His people when they call on Him. Re-gathered Israel will refresh the World. God will take away all weapons, which they depend upon and will take revenge on the nations who are opposed to God. God will bless Israel as before and do mighty miracles for her as of old. Why? It is because He loves to be merciful and also for the glory of His name. The ancient cities will be rebuilt and be bigger than before. God is doing this to demonstrate to the whole World His mercy. God plans to make Israel bigger while the leaders of the World conspire together to make Israel smaller by dividing the land and creating another Arab state.

In Israel property belonged to the Lord and not to individuals or the State. Each one held his property in stewardship for the Lord. The actions of the people did not match their words. They will reap what they have sown. The judiciary as well as the politicians and the prophets were all rebuked for their conduct. They were all in it for the money. They paid lip service to God. The rot had permeated the whole of society – bankruptcy in both the moral and spiritual realms. Friendship and family count for nothing. Micah was a watchman – v 4 to warn the people. In many countries the attitude prevails: “We are a Christian country – God must be pleased with us. We uphold democracy and freedom. We are not like these other people. We are good and civilised.” God is not impressed. Democracy was never God’s intention. In a democracy the majority dictate the laws of the land. God always wanted a theocracy.

The warning was severe. The unthinkable happened. Yet for a time the people did heed the message in Hezekiah’s day and the enemy was turned away. But this did not last for long. There was a period of grace since God is long-suffering. While the book denounces Israel in the first three chapters, there is also a consolatory note in the remaining chapters. There is always a message of hope. God will triumph in the long run. God will show Israel marvellous things as He did when He led them out of Egypt. The nations of the Earth will come against Israel. Micah sees a utopian situation of peace and God’s reign. It is the dream of many but it will only come about when people live as God intended them to live.

What is man to do in the meantime?
1. Walk humbly with his God. 2. Be concerned for justice. 3. Show loving kindness and mercy.

Mat ch 10 v 35-6 quotes Micah ch 7 v 6.
Mat ch 2 v 5-6 quotes Micah ch 5 v 2.
Jeremiah ch 26 v 18 quotes Micah ch 3 v 12.

Jonah 2

JONAH.

There are 3 reasons why for many this is a favourite chapter of the Bible.

Firstly, Jonah seems to be a very ordinary person. He is called by God to carry out a particular task. He is seen to be engaged in a struggle. He knew what he had to do and he ran away from the task. Eventually he carried it out, but never fully realised the significance of what he had done for the Lord. He did not appear to be satisfied. God has a great plan for this World. A man does not see it all – just that part, which God reveals to him. A man has to trust Him and do what God asks him to do.

Secondly, the situation in which Jonah found himself seems so like the World in which a man is today. God gives an over- picture of His plan for the World – His common grace and His special grace being worked out.

Thirdly, there are some special verses of Scripture, which stand out as so relevant to today.

How should Jonah be regarded? A coward or a hero? The verse will become especially real after a visit to the British Museum in London. On the ground floor is the Assyrian Room, housing some wonderful exhibits from the ancient Assyrian Empire. One of the stone tableaus depicts a scene in Assyria after a victory for the Assyrians and shows the King dealing with those who had been captured during the war. The strong ones were being led off in to slavery while others – the weak ones – were clearly being beheaded. Jonah is generally regarded in poor light as a spiritual coward. Many perhaps imagine that given the same task from the Lord they would have gone straight to Nineveh. It is easier now to appreciate the enormity of the task given to Jonah and to look upon him with some considerable sympathy. Jonah knew that he might well lose his head literally in Nineveh. It would be like a believer going to a dictator and telling him to repent.

1. Jonah was given a specific task to carry out for God. That was to go to Nineveh. Each believer has his own specific task to do for God in life.
2. Verse two says that God knew how wicked the people in Nineveh were. God was so concerned for the state of the World that He took the initiative to send Jonah to Nineveh. From a human point of view it was a waste of time. How should a man feel toward the wicked – those in prison for murder? Should he write them off or is there compassion in his heart for them? “There but for the grace of God go I.” Jesus died for each one including the thief on the cross with Him. The World is in very much the same state today and God is still in the business of reaching out to sinners and commissioning men and women to do specific tasks. How concerned should a believer be for the lost?
3. Jonah was overwhelmed with the enormity of the task set him. When a believer considers the enormity of what lies ahead of him, it is not hard to realise why he is also guilty of withdrawing from the commission. Jonah was not a coward. If he had been, he would not have suggested that they throw him overboard. After all it was certain death. When a believer considers the famine of the Word of God he may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But God is in control and all he has to do is what God asks him to do.
4. It is not clear what went through Jonah’s mind and why he set out for Tarshish but it is clear that a believer does not need to take a jet somewhere else to avoid his responsibilities to God. One word is enough – “No”. A man conveys most of what he says by body language. Jonah’s body language said: “No.”
5. As soon as Jonah stepped out-with the will of God problems arose in the shape of a storm. Perhaps it is dangerous to spiritualise an event like a storm but it is true to say that often problems arise when a believer steps out-with God’s plan for his life, sometimes as a consequence of sin and on other occasions to direct him back into the right path. Jesus walked on the waves to demonstrate that He is in control of nature. After all, He invented it. The storm was literal but yet contained spiritual truths. Those who are in prison, unemployed and divorced face storms in their life. Sin always lies at the root of the problem.
6. When the storm arose verse 5 says that each cried to his own god. In the World there are so many false gods to whom people turn in the crisis of life. When the earthquake or famine strikes, people turn to different gods for an answer. Who is to blame? Some say education – others say Politicians – others say doctors. Sin is the root of the problem. Where should a believer turn when a real problem arises? “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
7. The sailors tried to save themselves by their own efforts. That was their first instinct. Religious man still tries to save himself rather than turn to the only one who has proved worthy to save him.
8. When the disaster struck and there was frantic activity, where was the man of God? He was asleep below decks. It seems hard to believe that Jonah was unaware of the storm. When the disasters of life strike the nations where are the believers? Too often they are silent. Sometimes it is hard to believe how little concerned some believers are about the state of the nation. At least the sailors were doing something. The man of God did nothing up to this point. Green issues. Pollution. What has the believer to say? Often he seems only interested in salvation. Contrast Paul in Acts ch 27 v 31.
9. The World – in the form of the sailors – challenged the man of God. “The least you can do is to invoke your god.” This was no sign of faith or confidence but purely the thought that there might just be a chance – since desperation was creeping in.
10. It does seem strange that in the midst of a raging storm they should take time to cast lots and stranger still that the lot should fall on Jonah. Or was this providence? God wanted Jonah to act to save the sailors and to reveal His glory. By verse 11 they were desperate. It was obvious that unless there was intervention from some source they would die. There were no rescue helicopters in these days. “Can anything be done?” That is not an uncommon cry these days in the crisis of life. It seems to be established that one American President consulted an astrologer during his presidency.

There in verse 7 is a central question for the sailors and for so many today. Why has this suffering come upon us? It is not fair that a man should suffer. The man does not deserve this. So often there are such comments after a bomb blast and some innocent person is killed. There was a search for a scapegoat and Jonah was the one. “What is this you have done?”

11. Obviously Jonah had told them at the outset that he was a Hebrew and was running from God. It is right to surmise that the sailors were not interested then about what Jonah had to say at that time. They were busy and had their work to do. Anyway the weather was probably what is experienced in the Mediterranean – blue skies and a calm sea. Who was interested in God then? All was well.
12. Only later, when trouble arose and the false gods had done nothing, were they prepared to listen to what the God of Jonah had to say. “Now tell us what we should do?” People are not interested in God when things are going well. That is the time to get right with God and not when in a crisis. Build your house on a rock during good weather.
13. It is at this point that Jonah comes up with the extraordinary statement. “Take me and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down, for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” In other words here is Jonah saying: “Look you guys, you are in a mess and it is my fault.” He might have said: “It’s all your own fault – you should have listened to me earlier.” or “It is your own sin which has brought about the trouble and you have ignored God up till now, so sort out your own problem and don’t blame me.” or “Where are your false gods now?” But Jonah accepts personal responsibility for the problems of the sailors. Even the sailors seem to realise that Jonah is in some way responsible. They asked him what they should do to Jonah to make the seas calm down. Not even then did the sailors accept his advice. They kept on trying to save themselves. Jonah knew that what he said was true and the proof came when the storm calmed down immediately he went into the sea. He also knew that no man can save himself.

That verse is very powerful. Whom does God hold responsible for the problems of the World? Not the ignorant, not the lazy. Not those led to worship false gods. But He holds the believers responsible. They are the ones who have remained silent for so long and have let the World drift into the mess. They are the ones who know how serious sin is. They are the ones who know that Hell awaits those who will not bow the knee to Almighty God. When believers fail to do what God expects of them He holds them accountable. Isaiah said the same thing in chapter 26 v 18: “We have been with child and have brought forth wind.” Where is the man of God today challenging the World about divorce, adultery and idolatry, never mind blasphemy? Who has the courage to speak out the word from the Lord as the judgement facing the nation? When do believers hear about the wrath of God?

Jesus recalled the incident later when He spoke of Jonah being in the belly of the whale. A blue whale has a baby 26 feet long and just as God wanted to illustrate a lesson in vivid action when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, so He used the situation of Jonah to illustrate the resurrection of Jesus. There are always signs and wonders when God is at work – at Sinai – when Jesus ministered – at the end of the World. There is a clear illustration of Jonah being prepared to sacrifice his interests for the interests of others. So Jonah allowed them to throw him into the stormy seas. It is a picture of a Saviour being cast into the sea of divine wrath to save mankind. Is it too much to extend the illustration and suggest that it is only when the believers forget about their own comfortable existence and get involved in the storms of life that circumstances change and God is allowed to work? Verse 12 of chapter 1 of Jonah is a verse, which should live with a believer and keep him feeling uncomfortable and responsible.

It is not known what happened to the sailors. Perhaps Jonah met some of them at a later date and told them that he was the one they threw overboard. What a testimony! They made a vow to God in the midst of an emotional crisis. Was it genuine or not? Some people have said that when they were seriously ill in hospital, they read the Bible and promised that, if they made it home, they would serve the Lord. Yet many quickly forget. What task has God given a believer in the past? Perhaps he tackled it in the same way as Jonah and ran away. Perhaps what he did was more significant than he ever realised. He may not find out this side of Heaven. It is not difficult to see that the World is in a mess – a crisis. Those who follow Jesus are responsible. All are failures except Jesus. He alone always pleased His Father and did what His Father wanted.

5 lessons.
1. God is in control. Many other passages confirm this.
2. God’s grace to sinners. All are sinners. It is all grace.
3. God has a great purpose in this World.
4. Faith means trusting and obeying. The two go hand in hand.
5. Believers are personally responsible. They must all give account.

Joel

JOEL.

Nothing is known about the man. The message is about the value and importance of repentance. Joel predicts terrible destruction for Israel. His mission was to point out the sad condition of the spiritual life of the nation. This was the reason why the plague of locusts was sent. God wanted a national repentance. The locusts will strip the land bare. The Lord pleads with the people to repent and turn to Him. He is anxious not to punish them. There is a challenge to the priests, who have special responsibility.

A wise teacher will get the attention of the people by referring to something, which they are all concerned about. In Joel’s day it was the economic crisis. It was the responsibility of the prophet to call the people back to the Lord whenever they strayed from His law. In a crisis the optimists will say: “The crisis will soon be over.” The pessimists will say: “It is going to get worse.” The scoffers will say: “What does it matter anyway?” Joel was a realist. The truth is seeing things as they really are. In a crisis it is essential to get to the truth of the matter. What is causing it and what should be done about it? He addressed (a) the elders and citizens (b) the drunkards, including those who were asleep spiritually (c) the farmers and (d) the priests. Mostly people drift along from day to day, taking their blessings for granted, until God permits a natural calamity to occur and reminds man of his total dependence upon Him. In a crisis a man discovers the poverty of his artificial civilisation and his throwaway society.

There were three days of the Lord envisaged. Ch 1 v 15. “That day” denotes a decisive day of intervention by God in history.
1. The immediate day of the Lord. An invasion of locusts. The locust grows rapidly from larva to winged adult and at every stage its appetite is insatiable. There is no green thing left after it has been. The swarms are driven by the wind from Arabia. There are 24 references to locusts in the Old Testament. It is an object lesson of God’s judgement. Nothing will be left after God has condemned the sinner to Hell. There is a promise of restoration for those who repent.

2. The imminent day of the Lord. This was the day when the Assyrians would invade Israel. This happened in 701 B. C. Locusts look like miniature horses by the shape of their heads, but the Assyrians would ride real horses and conquer the land. The locusts are a picture of a more terrible invasion, which will destroy the land. The heathen will swarm all over the land. God will intervene swiftly to save Israel from annihilation.

3. The ultimate day of the Lord. The invasion of locusts was only a type of another more terrible invasion – the swarm of heathen soldiers who would invade the land in the last days. There is a picture of a future day when an army from the north will swarm over the land. This has happened when the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans invaded the land. There is also a distant picture of the end times, when the nations of the World will come in the same way. One prophecy can speak to several different events in the same category – the present, the future and the distant future. The prophecy comes to life at the right time. It was probably a spoken prophecy to the peoples of the day. The outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit is also to happen on different occasions – once in Peter’s day and again in the end times. It cannot be confined to one event only. Judgement is always pronounced as an opportunity to repent. Reference to the “heart” means the mind rather than the emotions.

The time will come, near the end of the World, when the Lord will have pity on the people of Israel and do mighty things for them as He did before. Only God’s intervention could save Israel. He will make up for the years the locusts have destroyed. After the restoration and the rains there is the promise to pour out the Holy Spirit before the day of judgement comes to the Earth. The armies of the World will come against Israel. God will lead them there to punish them. This may be the same event as spoken of by Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39 – the war of Gog and Magog. There is a warning to the Palestinians in ch 3 v 4. They will be paid back for what they did to Israel. They will serve Israel. The Book concludes with a picture of Armageddon in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. God will deal justly with the nations of the World for the way they have treated His people Israel and His land. The Gentiles have scattered the Jewish people among the nations. They have sold them into slavery. They have treated them like cheap merchandise. They have stood back and watched while leaders have sought to exterminate them. Pharaoh tried to drown the Jewish children and was himself drowned in the Red Sea. The Assyrians and Babylonians exiled the Jews and were themselves wiped out. Haman tried to exterminate the Jews and he and his sons were hanged on their own gallows. Although God used certain peoples to discipline the Jewish people, these people went beyond what was required of them. God knows what the nations have done – even in secret – and will settle accounts. When the Lamb becomes a lion, the nations of the World will tremble in fear. God will intervene swiftly to save Israel from annihilation. All who deal badly with Israel will be dealt with by God in the same way. God will judge the nations. The prophecies are remarkable for their scope, extending from Joel’s own day to the end of time.

The book foreshadows that God will judge the Jewish people and the people of the World. The judgement of the Jewish people is like what will happen to the World. Plagues of locusts are known today throughout the World. In 1988 locusts were recorded for the first time in the West Indies, carried from Africa by the prevailing winds. It is a warning of the approaching judgement. Joel called for prayer.

No one need suffer, since all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. The outpouring of the Spirit on Israel foreshadows the outpouring on the World. Acts ch 2 v 16-18. The nations will be punished for their response to the people of God. A solar eclipse can make the Moon red. There will be two blood red moons in Israel in 2014 and a further two blood red moons in 2015. When Israel is restored she will not be despised again. Moses mentions locusts as a means of judgement. Deut ch 28 v 38-9.

Ch 1 v 3. There is an obligation to tell the new generation about what God has done in the past. v 5. Sin leaves a man like a drunkard, unable to appreciate what is going on around him. v 12. The physical withering away is a picture of the spiritual withering. It is unseen, yet equally real. Even the domestic animals and wild animals are affected. When God’s grace is removed the World is a sorry place, lacking in joy and prosperity. It could be said to be God-forsaken.

Ch 2 v 1. The trumpet was symbolic of warning. v 2. Darkness means a time of suffering and distress.
The locusts in chapter one are foreshadowing the army to come in chapter two. v 4. Joel refers to locusts as horses. Joel is not talking about captivity for Judah. The captivity in Babylon had already taken place and the people were returning to the Land. It could refer to the Roman army in A. D. 70. However, ch 2 v 10 suggests that the event will be at the end times of the Earth. When the enemy attacks unhindered by God there is a relentless destruction as in many societies today. The social order crumbles away. Ch 2 reads as Gog and Magog in Ezekiel chs 38 and 39 when the hoards over-run the land of Israel. Fear gripped the people, as it will then. Then God will fight for the people of Israel. Ch 39 v 22. At last they will know that He has saved them and that He is their God.
v 13 reveals something of the character of God – gracious, merciful and slow to anger.
v 16. Nothing is more important than getting right with God – not even a wedding night.
v 18. Repentance will be followed by great blessing. Rain will come and fruit and crops will reappear.
v 20. God will do a great miracle for His people. He will not allow His name to be mocked by the people who mock the Jewish people asking: “Where is this God of yours? How weak and helpless He must be.” God does everything for the glory and honour of His name.
v 25. “I shall restore to you the years, which the swarming locusts have eaten.” What a promise!
v 27. This will be the last time the Jewish people will be put to shame. The World will know that God is in their midst. Then the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the people. This happened after Jesus had been in their midst. It will happen again when the people look upon Him whom they have pierced. Zech ch 12 v 10. This is a spiritual looking upon Him. The word is looking upon Him or looking up to Him i. e. respecting and acknowledging Him. There will be signs in the sky – as there were when Jesus died on the cross.

Ch 3 looks to a time in the distant future. Could this be soon? As the nations did to Israel, so it will be done to them. Germany. Romania. Austria. Russia. Britain. Ch 3 v 4. The Palestinians are accused of getting back at God through the Jews. God will make them the servants of the Jews one day. They will be sent away to a far land. The P. L. O. were banished to other lands within recent years. God appears to be drawing the nations into conflict in the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
v 17. God will reveal Himself to the World. The enemies of Israel will be confounded when a spiritually revived Israel enjoys God’s blessings in the land, which He has given them.
The punishment is severe for those nations who seek to divide up “my land.” In Ch 3 v 2 God declares Judea and Samaria as His land. This includes what is today termed “the West Bank.” God has leased it to Israel as He is entitled to do. God chose the Jewish people for a specific purpose as He is entitled to do. Other nations cry out in protest when they are dispossessed from their land. God has set the boundaries of the nations. In the end days Israel is once again the focus of God’s attention.

Hosea

HOSEA. The principle of a man returning to the Lord.

This book teaches about Israel’s ignoble condition, the ransom price paid for her, the terrible results of the fall from God’s grace, her penitent cry, the Lord’s probing of her wounds, His final appeal to Israel and Israel’s final restoration. Instead of trusting in God, the people placed their trust in relations with Assyria and Egypt. Immorality was rife. The three children are given symbolic names, which proclaim Israel’s unfaithfulness. Hosea, whose name means “salvation,” preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel after the prophet Amos and during the troubled time before the fall of Samaria in 721 B. C. The particular concern during his 72 years of ministry was about the idolatry of the people and their lack of faithfulness towards God. This lack of faithfulness was pictured in Hosea’s own disastrous marriage to Gomer. God’s people had deserted Him. Even so there is a strong message of hope that God’s love for the people would overcome and bring restoration of the people to the land and to God. The people are pictured as a wife to God who is their husband. Hosea came on the stage of history at a critical time in the life of Israel. Israel was rotten at the core at the time. Marriage is a covenant and not just a contract, which can be broken. A covenant is based on trust and on unlimited responsibility. While a contract can be set aside by mutual agreement, a covenant cannot be broken, even if new circumstances arise. If a man is not serious about his marriage vows, how can he expect God to be serious about His vows?

CHAPTER 1. While God clearly intended for Hosea to marry Gomer a prostitute, it does seem out of character for God to ask him to marry in this way. In all probability Gomer was not a prostitute when Hosea married her. God knew what was in her heart and Hosea realised afterwards when he wrote his book that He had been asked to marry a “potential” prostitute. God knows the end from the beginning. God knew what she would do. He used the situation to teach a spiritual message. This was an action sermon. Hosea acted out what God was saying to His people. God had a problem with His marriage to Israel and needed the help of Hosea. God wanted Israel to see a picture of God’s undying love for Israel. It was a vivid picture of what the people of Israel had done to their God by prostituting themselves to idols and committing spiritual idolatry. Prostitution is symbolic of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God. Like Gomer Israel began as idolaters, married God and eventually returned to her idolatry. Salmon married Rahab the prostitute, who was an ancestor of Jesus.

Hosea was not even sure if his last two children were fathered by him. The first child is called Jezreel, which means to avenge the blood of Jezreel. The second child is called Lo-ruhamah, which means not pitied. A man’s enjoyment of the love of God is conditional and depends on his faith and obedience. The third child is called Lo-ammi, which means not my people. Instantly the prophet adds the comforting words, which came to pass in the twentieth century when God has brought the people back under one leadership. The judgement was immediate but the restoration was with the eye of faith at a future date. Hosea saw a day when the divided nation would one day be united. The three children teach about the grace of God. Hosea was prepared to put the divine interests before his own interests. Believers who have not learned how to obey, whom to obey and when to obey miss out on the great revelations of God. The desire for an affair springs out of the need for a close relationship. The closer a couple are in marriage, the less easily they can be pulled apart.

Israel was guilty of worshipping the gods of the pagan nations around them, especially the Canaanite god – Baal. Whenever there was a drought the Israelites turned to Baal for help and not to the Lord. 1 Kings chs 18 and 19. Pagan worship involved sensual fertility rites, for which both male and female prostitutes were provided. Idolatry meant prostitution. According to Hebrew law adultery was a capital crime. The Church is always tempted to turn to the ways of the World to solve its problems. Man is told not to love the World or to be conform to the World. God provided the rain for the land but the Israelites gave credit to Baal. It is the same today, if God blesses and a believer puts it down to Gad – the god of luck. Every good gift comes from God. He and He alone should receive thanks. Isaiah ch 65 v 11.

CHAPTER 2. God had every right to abandon His people but He chose instead to discipline them. That is the grace of God at work. If a believer is not using a spiritual gift of God in order to bring glory to God, He will remove that gift. God will not allow a man to enjoy His gifts and at the same time ignore the Giver – for that is idolatry. The people celebrated the festivals but their hearts were far from God. This is the same as attending Church and going through the motions but being at heart a humanist and giving glory to man. When God says: “Be holy, for I am holy ” He means exactly what He says. God is seen in this chapter as the true and faithful lover of Israel. Jeremiah ch 30 gives the same message to the southern kingdom of Judah. God loves Israel so much that He:
1. Woos her v 14. He will not force Israel, since force and love are opposites.
2. Gives her promises of a return to the land. v 15.
3. Takes away the mastery of Baal. ch 2 v 16-17.
4. Betroths her. v 18-20. The result will be Israel’s yielding to Jesus.
5. God will respond to Israel. v 21-22. It is a picture of the people and the Lord responding to each other as a bride to her bridegroom.
6. God will plant the people in their land. v 23. In the end it will be as God intended.

CHAPTER 3. Hosea reclaims his estranged wife and acts out a picture of God reclaiming His estranged people. Hosea bought her back. God bought His people at the price of the death of Jesus. Hosea had to wait for a while before having intimate relations with Gomer to make sure that she was not pregnant by another man. God also waits for a while before entering into full relationship with His people, until they recognise Jesus as their Messiah. The word “return” occurs 22 times and is a key word in the book. The valley of trouble can become the door of hope. This is true for any believer at any time.

CHAPTERS 4 and 5. The picture of God bringing men and nations to trial in His courtroom is a familiar one in Scripture. Just as Gomer did not take her marriage vows seriously but went to live with another man, so Israel reneged on her promises to God and turned to pagan idols. People were false-hearted towards God and hard-hearted towards one another. God’s people are meant to be salt and light in society. When they are corrupt, society becomes corrupt. There was no justice in the land. The people were sinking deep into sin and lacked the power to repent and turn to God since their sins had paralysed them. v 8. The priests led the people astray instead of directing them back towards God. God would not meet them, since He had withdrawn from them. The people needed prayer and true repentance but instead trusted in politics and useless treaties. Ch 4 v 11. Wine women and song had robbed the people of their brains. This has always been true. Many people cannot think straight due to alcohol, sex and parties.

CHAPTER 6. The people wanted happiness but not holiness, a change of circumstances but not a change in character. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. A man wants happiness in this life and holiness in the life to come. Jesus commands a man to be holy in this life and guarantees that he will be happy in the next life. They wanted God to deliver them from danger but not to deliver them from their sins. They wanted a quick fix but not deep cleansing. They wanted a push button religion. They wanted God to act on their terms and not according to His holy covenant. They were half-baked but not thoroughly cleansed. They were losing their spiritual strength but mixing with the Assyrians. God’s grace ebbs away slowly until it simply disappears. Few people reject God outright. They quietly ignore Him until they are so far from Him that there is no way back.
v 11. God so wanted to bless His people but they would not come to Him. It is a sorry picture of the wandering Jew. God so wanted to bless His people.

CHAPTER 7. Most people think that God does not know what they are doing and particularly what they are thinking. God knows all the thoughts of a man.

CHAPTER 8. The trumpet was blown to sound the alarm. Israel courted Assyria and Egypt and not the Lord. Where does a man look for guidance and help? People could not trust one another and few were keeping their promises. Therefore they had to sue one another to get what they deserved. The multiplying of laws and lawsuits is one piece of evidence that integrity and credibility are vanishing from society. v 13. The people love the ritual of their sacrifice but to God it is meaningless. The nations did not repent and therefore the judgement fell in 722 B. C. when the Assyrian army invaded the land and the ten tribes vanished from history.

CHAPTER 9 v 17 is a picture of the heart of God as He wrestles in His hurt. He will bless them despite their sins for no other reason than that He loves them. For centuries the Jewish people were homeless among the nations – the wandering Jew. Today they are home in their own land again.

CHAPTER 10. Sin after sin has led to poverty and defeat in war. How different it could have been without sin. There is nothing good to say about sin.

CHAPTER 11. How does a man know that God loves him?
1. Remember the blessings of God in the past. Count the blessings. Those who do not remember the past and learn from it are forced to relive it. God sent Joseph to feed Israel in the future famine. He led the people out from slavery in Egypt. He led them, taught them and fed them in the wilderness. God spoke to them through the prophets. God was long-suffering towards Israel. Yet Israel sinned against a flood of light. God also showed His love in the promise to restore the people to the land at a future date.
2. God disciplines those whom He loves. Punishment is the penalty for breaking the law. Discipline is to do with perfecting the character. In their trials the people had turned to God for help but in their prosperity they became proud and turned away from God to idols.
3. God’s promises for the future. He gives them promises to encourage them to repent. Ch 14 v 4. God will restore the people. Sin acts like a sickness in the body. Actually it is a sickness in the soul. It is like an insidious infection. It grows quietly. It brings a loss of spiritual appetite. It creates weariness and weakness. Then comes the collapse. When a man confesses his sins to the Lord, He forgives him and the germs of sin are cleansed away.

CHAPTER 12. God has longed for His people to return to Him but they would not come. It was the same in the days of Jesus. Luke ch 13 v 34. “How often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks but you would not come to me.”

CHAPTER 13. v 1. It used to be that when Israel spoke the nations shook with fear. In the fields of medicine, agriculture and technology Israel is again speaking to the nations as God blesses them. If God had destroyed Israel there would have been no one to rescue them.

CHAPTER 14. God gives a final call to repentance and return. Through Hosea the Lord has set before the people a choice between life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life. Deut ch 30 v 19. It is not a new message but one, which occurs constantly throughout the Scriptures.