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