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
The Just shall Live by Faith: Habukkak 2