Prophetic History: Obadiah – Zechariah 14

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

As in last week’s post, it will help to see how these various prophetic books fit in the timeline of history. They begin before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and span the fall of Jerusulem until years after the exiles returned.

Before the Exile

Jonah was sent to preach to the Assyrian capital of Ninevah about 750 BC, even as the Assyrians threatened to defeat Israel and Judah (thus his reluctance to go). Ninevah was overwhelmed by the spirit of God, and repented for a season, but 30 years later they destroyed Israel and then fell to Babylon after another century passed.

Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, foretold the coming invasions of Assyria and Babylon, but he is most famous for his prediction of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. He also laid out God’s desire for the righteousness of all people, “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Nahum prophesied the fall of Assyria and its chief city, Ninevah, writing about 100 years after Jonah. Assyria’s fall is an example for all times of God’s rendering judgment on violent oppressors, as well as his offer of refuge to all who come to him humbly.

Zephaniah spoke to Judah about 630 BC before the reforms of King Josiah began, warning of the Day of the Lord which would fall terribly on Judah because of its sin. The prophet condemned all the godless nations around Jerusalem, but his fiercest judgments were reserved for Judah. He promised that the whole world would be burned in the fire of God’s jealousy, but this fire would not destroy God’s chosen people. Instead it would purify and restore them.

As Exile begins

Habbakuk writes about 600 BC, ten years after the death of Josiah, Judah’s last good king, and only five years after the first of the exiles were deported to Babylon. He cries out, “how long?” as he waits for God to act and then, “why?” as he sees God’s plan to use Babylon to punish Judah. In the end he learns to trust God and gives us the proclamation that birthed the Reformation, “the just shall live by faith.”

Obadiah pronounces judgment against Edom, Israel’s neighbor across the Dead Sea. Though the Edomites had a common ancestry with Israel through Esau, they badly mistreated their cousins when they were under the duress of an invasion (most likely Babylon’s attack). Obadiah then takes the example of God’s judgment of Edom and expands it to encompass all nations. “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.” “But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance.”

After the Exile

Haggai preached to the exiles rebuilding Jerusalem in 520 BC, nearly 70 years after the destruction of the city. The reality of their efforts was pitiful in comparison to their glorious hope. Haggai stressed two things that were lacking in order to make their effort successful: making God’s work a priority as exemplified by rebuilding the temple, and purifying themselves so that the work would be blessed rather than cursed.

Zechariah also ministered among the returned exiles. He gave some of the most startling visions of God’s work in his own time and in the age of Messiah to come. The first seven chapters of dreams and visions close with a question from some of the returning exiles. Is now the time to stop mourning and celebrate the coming of God’s kingdom? Zechariah doesn’t answer their question but instead asks them if their mourning and fasting is any different from the insincere rituals of their ancestors whom God judged. Then he goes on to describe all the blessings God is planning to pour out on his people. Along the way he gives many specific descriptions of the life of the coming Messiah, both in his first and second comings. He tells of the triumphal entry, the victories that usher in the Millennium, Jesus’ betrayal, the repentance of all the Jewish people over the death of God’s son, and the geologic cataclysm that reshapes the Holy Land at Jesus’ return.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Obadiah – Zechariah 14. Next week I will write about Malachi – Matthew 14. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Obadiah – Zechariah 14.

The reluctant missionary: Jonah

Can this be fixed? Micah

The end of Assyria: Nahum

The Just shall Live by Faith: Habukkak 2

Putting God first: Haggai

Better get ready: Zechariah

The King is coming, and coming again: Zechariah

Godly or Godless: Daniel 7 – Amos 9

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

The prophetic books in this week’s readings are a varied lot on the surface. Three prophets and a visionary. Two before the exile, one during the exile, and one most likely after the exile. But all deal with the certainty of God’s judgment and the promise of renewal. Together they show us the contrast between the godless person (or nation) and the one who follows after God.

Before the Exile

Both Hosea and Amos spoke to the northern kingdom of Israel. In Hosea Israel was the adulterous wife whom God promised to buy back from her enslavement, but she would be enslaved nevertheless. In Amos Israel was the bullseye in concentric rings of judgment moving from the outer pagan nations through Judah and into the northern kingdom. Israel was a basket of ripe fruit ready to be picked and destroyed.

During the Exile

Daniel’s visions and life experiences are full of beasts. Nebuchadnezzar becomes an animal in his proud insanity. Daniel must face the lions who turn out to be less deadly than his human enemies. His visions foresee coming kingdoms in the form of animals leading up to one final beast who overthrows all others and makes war against God’s people until he is destroyed by God. Daniel and his three friends set a shining example of overcoming faith, but those who reject God are shown to be nothing but animals.

After the Exile

Joel wrote about two invading locust swarms. One was a physical invasion of insects that ravaged the land and brought destitution. The second was an army led by God which threatened judgment, the Day of the Lord, on all the nations that rejected God. God’s people faced judgment as well if they did not repent. But for those who did repent God promised abundant restoration and an outpouring of his spirit. The apostles said this promise was fulfilled at Pentecost.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Daniel 7 – Amos 9. Next week I will write about Obadiah – Zechariah 14. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Daniel 7 – Amos 9.

An outline of the end: Daniel 7-9

Pulling back the curtain – on spiritual warfare: Daniel 10

He changed my name: Hosea 2

Farming for the soul: Hosea 10

After the Day of the LORD: Joel 2

False vs. True Worship: Amos 5

Starving for God’s Word: Amos 8

Image by William Blake

A future David, a future threat, a future temple: Ezekiel 34 – Daniel 6

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You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

In Ezekiel 11 God promised that he would restore Israel after he judged Jerusalem. His promises of condemnation proved true when an escapee from Jerusalem informed the exiles of the destruction of their beloved city (Ezekiel 33). Now it was time for God to reveal his rebuilding program, but he didn’t have wonderful material to work with. The exiles were just as sinful as their counterparts in Judah, so a miracle of grace was needed.

First God promised to give them a new David in the model of a perfect shepherd to replace the immoral shepherds who had been leading the nation. To make his people fit for this new shepherd God would need to remake them. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones brought back to life by the spirit of God showed how God would accomplish this miracle of spiritual rebirth. It looked forward to the day when followers of the new David, Jesus Christ, would be reborn. It also envisioned a day still to come when the whole of the Jewish nation would be reborn to eternal life through faith in Jesus.

Next God revealed how he would deal with the nations opposed to Israel. When the exiles returned to the promised land, which the vision of Gog assumes, they would still face opposition and warfare. But in the end Gog and his hordes, representative of the whole world, would be completely and eternally defeated by God.

Finally God details how the secure and free Promised Land will receive the benefit of all his promises to the Jews. In a time that fits best with the Millennial reign of Jesus on earth, the temple worship is restored with priests and sacrifices in a drastically reshaped Jerusalem. A river of life flows out of the city restoring everything it touches. The city is even renamed, “The Lord is There,” and the new David rules there.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Ezekiel 34 – Daniel 6. Next week I will write about Daniel 7 – Amos 9. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Ezekiel 34 – Daniel 6.

What leaders should do: Ezekiel 34

A coming invasion: Ezekiel 38-39

A new temple: Ezekiel 40-42

The Eastern Gate: Ezekiel 43-45

The power of living water: Ezekiel 47

Living a life that glorifies God: Daniel 1-3

The insanity of pride: Daniel 4

Idolatry, theirs and ours: Ezekiel 16 – 33

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You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

It is a familiar prophetic refrain: judgment against Jerusalem and judgment against the nations. Ezekiel picks up that torch and carries it all the way. Fortunately, judgment was only half of God’s plan. We know from Chapter 11 that God also planned restoration.

“I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Ezekiel 11:17-21

But judgment comes first. Ezekiel records a long list of Israel’s sins. Jerusalem is the abandoned, adopted baby girl who is unfaithful to her loving parent. Her kings are young lions that are carried away, first to Egypt and later to Babylon, because of the sins of the nation and their own rebellion. Though Jerusalem complains that she is suffering for the sins of her ancestors, God makes it clear that each person suffers for their own transgressions and will be judged accordingly. The repeated sin of Israel and Judah, portrayed as two sisters, is their spiritual prostitution exemplified by their idolatry and by their alliances with pagan nations. The sins of the nation are so great that the exiles are forbidden to mourn for the Jerusalem and its people. God makes this clear to them by forbidding Ezekiel to mourn for his wife when she dies.

You can read these illustrations and easily write off the condemnations as meant for someone long ago and far away. But the history of Israel’s idolatry is meant to teach us at least two important truths:

  1. No human being or nation, except for the God-man Jesus Christ, has succeeded in keeping covenant with God by obeying the Law. Only grace offers us hope.
  2. Even modern day believers perform spiritual prostitution when they put God below greater loves of power, pleasure, or possessions, or seek their security in any other place than God’s grace.

God’s judgment doesn’t stop with the Israelites but reaches all the nations that have interacted with them. Israel was judged for failing to keep the covenant. The pagan nations are condemned for their pride, cruelty, and so that they will know God. Finally, in Chapter 33, Ezekiel and his fellow exiles receive the message from an escapee that Jerusalem has fallen. Once again God’s word is proven true, and both we and the exiles learn that God’s promises are trustworthy.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Ezekiel 16 – 33. Next week I will write about Ezekiel 34 – Daniel 6. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Ezekiel 16 – 33.

God’s Old Testament Love: Ezekiel 16

You can’t blame others for your sins: Ezekiel 18

No one stood in the gap: Ezekiel 22

Adultery and anger: Ezekiel 23

A great ship sinks: Ezekiel 27

Ezekiel 28: A prideful king, or Satan?

Hearers, but not doers: Ezekiel 33

God in Exile: Jeremiah 51 – Ezekiel 15

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You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

Who are the true exiles in the history of Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem? Are they not those who were captured and sent away from the Promised Land to that far country? Among them were Daniel, Ezekiel, and two kings of Judah. Are these the true exiles?

What about those who were left behind in Jerusalem? According to Ezekiel they considered themselves the choice part while those in Babylon were the castaways. But God showed them that they were no choice part and they would not remain in Jerusalem.

“This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be the meat in it; I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” Ezekiel 11:11-12

Perhaps those left behind were the true exiles. They were certainly exiled from the presence of God and from the city they loved. Lamentations is a detailed and painful account of the suffering the people experienced when God withdrew his presence and his protection. In this reckoning, those left behind were the true exiles, while those carried away from Jerusalem were the fortunate ones who would be gathered up by God and returned to the land. Lamentations closes with a confession of God’s abandonment and honest doubt about whether he will return.

Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure. Lamentations 5:20-22

But read the heart of lamentations, chapter 3, to see how this doubt is resolved.

There is one more exile in this week’s readings, and it is God himself. Lamentations shows the results of God’s self-imposed exile from Jerusalem, and Ezekiel vividly describes God’s departure as the prophet pulls back the curtain and shows the spiritual reality.

Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them…The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:23

Now we and Ezekiel know why the glory of the Lord appeared in the far country of Babylon at the beginning of Ezekiel’s book: God was in exile from his own Promised Land.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Jeremiah 51 – Ezekiel 15. Next week I will write about Ezekiel 16 – 33. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Jeremiah 51 – Ezekiel 15.

Surrender or Fight? Jeremiah 52

Therefore I have hope: Lamentations 3

The high cost of sin: Lamentations 5

A watchman must warn: Ezekiel 3

Have you seen this? Ezekiel 8

God protects the remnant: Ezekiel 9

People may lie: Ezekiel 13

Judgment and Hope: Jeremiah 30 – 50

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You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

While the first half of Jeremiah proclaims the prophet’s sermons to an unrepentant nation, the last half tells a narrative story of events leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction. Jeremiah finds himself caught up in those events in a most dangerous way. First he is imprisoned repeatedly by those who fear his promises of the coming judgment. In the end he is kidnapped and taken to Egypt by the remnants of the Jews left in the land after Jerusalem falls. As God tells Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, there is no shelter for anyone as judgment falls.

“This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” Jeremiah 45:4-5

But sandwiched between the first half of warning and the second half of judgment we find the heart of the book, a message about a heart, or hearts. There is God’s heart of love for his people:

“Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 31:20

And there is the heart of his people, remade by God’s grace:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33

Most significant of all, there is the heart of the Savior who is coming:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” Jeremiah 32:14-16

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Jeremiah 30-50. Next week I will write about Jeremiah 51 – Ezekiel 15. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Jeremiah 30-50.

Throwing away the rule book: Jeremiah 31

Seal the deal: Jeremiah 32

In prison for the Lord: Jeremiah 37

Why won’t we listen to advice? Jeremiah 38-42

Collateral damage in the time of God’s judgment: Jeremiah 45

Why mourn for Moab? Jeremiah 48

Walls will fall: Jeremiah 50

Image by Tim Lucas on Flickr, CC by 2.0

Warnings for the Unrepentant: Jeremiah 4 -29

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You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah was a priest who became a prophet. He began his work during the reign of good king Josiah, a reformer who died too soon and was unable to turn his people back to God. Jeremiah then faced increasing opposition from faithless leaders and a nation unwilling to change. He proclaimed God’s word for 40 years culminating at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction. His message of judgment was fully realized in history, giving great confidence that his promises of restoration would also come true.

  • 627 Jeremiah’s ministry begins; Josiah is king
  • 622 Book of the Law discovered and reforms accelerate
  • 609 Josiah dies in battle and reforms end
  • 608 Jehoiakim becomes king
  • 605 Nebuchadnezzar rules Babylon, which invades Judah and makes it a vassal of Babylon
  • 598 Jehoiachin becomes king but is taken as prisoner to Babylon
  • 597 Zedekiah becomes king
  • 586 Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon
  • 585 Governor Gedaliah killed and Jeremiah taken to Egypt

The first 24 chapters of Jeremiah are full of warning for the people of Judah. Jeremiah gives a series of sermons that accuse the nation of breaking covenant with God, worshiping idols, and failing in their responsibilities as leaders. The sermons are not given in chronological order but jump back and forth through the years leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction.

“ ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.’ ” Jeremiah 7:9-11

Then, in Chapter 25, Judah’s world changes as Nebuchadnezzer takes the throne in Babylon. In the Babylonian king’s first year Jeremiah proclaims that Judah’s time for repentance is over. Had they repented, they could have been reshaped as a potter reshapes a marred piece of clay (Chapter  18). Instead, like a hardened pot that cannot be mended they are bound to be broken (Chapter 19). Jeremiah urges the people to take up the yoke of subjugation under Babylon, but they refuse even this advice (Chapter 27).

Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Jeremiah 25:8-11

Jeremiah will still speak words of hope, but the last half of the book is mainly about judgment and instead of sermons we will read many reports of the harsh treatment the prophet suffered as he faithfully spoke God’s message.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Jeremiah 4-29. Next week I will write about Jeremiah 30-50. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Jeremiah 4-29.

At the crossroads: Jeremiah 6

What does it mean to know God? Jeremiah 9

When the going gets tough… Jeremiah 12

Where are you planted? Jeremiah 17

Before it’s too late: Jeremiah 18-19

Nuggets of wisdom from Jeremiah: Jeremiah 23-25

Life in exile: Jeremiah 29