Major Messages from Minor Prophets
By Don Ruhl
Hosea 6.6 summarizes the message of the minor prophets,
For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
The prophets comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.
The prophets condemned sin, but they also consoled the people. The reader can see this in Hosea’s marriage, which typified the relationship between God and Israel. Even as Hosea was to remain faithful to his wife, regardless of her adultery, so God would remain faithful to Israel, regardless of her adultery,
“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD.
(Hos 2.19, 20)
Not surprisingly then, the children of Hosea showed the status of God’s people with Him (Hos 1.3–9).
The Book of Jonah is written in third-person narrative rather than poetry. Like some of the other prophets, Jonah spoke to another nation besides Israel, and in his book, we have no message to Israel, as the other prophets had, unless it be that Israel learn to accept the other nations. Also, Jonah did not care for his listeners, unlike the other prophets who did care for the people to whom they spoke. Fascinatingly, the Gentile sailors showed more reverence for God than Jonah did,
Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows (Jon 1.14–16).
Ironically, God showed Jonah mercy several times, but he did not want God to show mercy to Nineveh. God showed mercy to Jonah:
- Saving him from drowning
- Saving him from digestion within the great fish
- Saving him from the Ninevites
- Saving him from the heat of the sun
God concluded by pointing out Jonah’s hypocrisy,
Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jon 4.9–11).
Herman Melville references the Book of Jonah in Moby-Dick.
Amos uncompromisingly attacked the social sins of Israel,
But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Martin Luther King, Junior, referred to Amos as a creative extremist with the quote above (And I might add with other things Amos taught),
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal…” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
This prophet condemned idolaters and false religious leaders without flinching. We remember him for two famous quotes,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
The Jews were living well, but the temple lay in ruins. These prophets rebuked them for it and motivated the people to rebuild the temple,
“Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”’” Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” (Hag 1.2–4).
“Therefore thus says the LORD:
‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy;
My house shall be built in it,’ says the LORD of hosts,
‘And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.’”
Malachi blasted their hypocrisy,
And this is the second thing you do:
You cover the altar of the LORD with tears,
With weeping and crying;
So He does not regard the offering anymore,
Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
Yet you say, “For what reason?”
Because the LORD has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
(Mal 2.13, 14)
The Book of Malachi ends the Old Testament with this magnificent prophecy,
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,
Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel,
With the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”