The Gospel of Zechariah

Of the twelve minor prophets, just two are mentioned by Jesus in the New Testament Gospels. Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah as a foreshadowing of the resurrection after three days in the tomb. And in his last confrontation with the religious leaders not long before Jesus was arrested, he holds them accountable for the murder of Zechariah the prophet.

And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Matthew 23:35

Zechariah, whose name means “The LORD remembers,” was both prophet and priest, common to the major prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai, plus both prophets are mentioned in Ezra 5 as contemporary with Zerubbabel, leader of the exiles who returned from Babylon, and Joshua the high priest.  The main focus for all these leaders was encouraging the rebuilding of the temple.

Similar to Haggai, the first part of Zechariah is precisely dated. His ministry began in 520 BC in the fall of the year. The eight prophetic visions came on February 15, 519 BC.  Almost two years later, December 7, 518 BC, Zechariah gave another message, calling the people to repentance and giving them hope of future restoration. The rest of the book is not specifically dated, but probably extended for some years, some suggesting that Zechariah was very young when his ministry began and perhaps some forty years older at the end.*

The book is mainly focused on the future, beginning with a series of eight visions, during the night I had a vision. These vision seems to be in uninterrupted flow, a continuous sequence. While the theme of judgment is present, the overall purpose seems to be encouragement, not only to build the temple in the immediate future, but the promise of a glorious future for the people of God.

What about the Gospel in Zechariah? Continue reading “The Gospel of Zechariah”

The Gospel of Haggai

August 29, 520 BC
September 21, 520 BC
October 17, 520 BC
December 18, 520 BC

A unique feature of the prophecy of Haggai, the second shortest book in the Old Testament  is that it is precisely dated, not just generally as “during the reign” of a certain king, or even just the year, but five prophecies are declared on four very specific dates. These prophecies when the word of the LORD came to Haggai are all given in less than four months.

Haggai was a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah, the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest, Joshua. It was when the exiles to Babylon from 70 years earlier were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra provides the history of this time.

After completing the foundation of the temple, celebrated in the record of Ezra 3:8-11, the work began to stall out due to multiple factors. Initial enthusiasm was dampened by the response of the older people who compared it with Solomon’s temple, seeing that even the foundation was going to mean a far less glorious building.  Additionally, there was outside opposition from those who accused the Jews of planning a rebellion (Ezra 4). Thus, the work was suspended and nothing done for fourteen years. Even after political opposition was formally resolved, the project did not proceed.

Haggai’s emphasis is that the main problem was not outside opposition, but mixed up priorities, elevating personal interests for their own homes above the spiritual priority of building the LORD’s house.  Continue reading “The Gospel of Haggai”

The Gospel of Zephaniah

If any of the writing prophets is more obscure than Nahum, it is probably Zephaniah.  And I’m just as weak in my knowledge of this prophet as anyone.  So this post is virtually all fresh research.

The opening lines actually give more information about Zephaniah than almost any other prophet, His lineage is traced back four generations, including a Hezekiah. No absolute proof that this is the good king Hezekiah of Isaiah’s day, but why would his great great grandfather be mentioned at all unless he was someone well known from Israel’s history? If so, and I believe likely, then he was from an upper crust family and more familiar with current political realities that most.

Zephaniah prophesied in the days of the King Josiah, the last good king of Judah, If he is a descendant of King Hezekiah, then he was a cousin of Josiah and may have had access to the king’s ear, perhaps influential in the reforms and revival under Josiah as described in 2 Kings 22 and 23. Revival is no doubt an overstatement as it probably didn’t widely affect the nation as a whole, but was restricted to palace and temple, and faded quickly after Josiah’s death.

A contemporary of Jeremiah and Nahum, Zephaniah’s primary theme was the unpopular but vital message of the coming day of the LORD. Continue reading “The Gospel of Zephaniah”

The Gospel of Habakkuk

Will a man argue with God?  How about a prophet of God?  Will he object to God’s plans?  Habakkuk did.

This little known prophet is not mentioned outside of the book that bears his name. There is no hint of his hometown or family of origin.  He was probably a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, serving in or near Jerusalem in the late 7th, early 6th century BC when Babylon was coming to prominence and the main threat to Judah and Jerusalem.  He experienced the devastation of the good king, Josiah, being killed.  He saw the decline under King Jehoiakim.  He knew of the Babylonian occupation and the first taking of exiles to Babylon, the group that included Daniel and his three friends.

But Habakkuk’s complaint was against God. Why? Continue reading “The Gospel of Habakkuk”

The Gospel of Nahum

A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. Nahum 1:1

Of all the minor prophets, Nahum is among the least recognized. His hometown, Elkosh, not easily identified, is the name of a small village in northern Galilee on the Lebanese border, founded in 1949 by immigrants from Yemen. That is not likely Nahum’s home area. Other locations are a town on the Tigris River, not in Israel, but closer to Ninevah. And a third interesting possibility identifies Nahum’s town as Capernaum (Caper Nahum, the village of Nahum), the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The first words, a prophecy concerning Nineveh, establish the theme, God’s judgment on the Assyrians, the nations that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC.  Nahum’s prophecy is dated in the middle to late seventh century BC, prophesying the fall of Ninevah which occurred in 612 BC as she was defeated by the Babylonians.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Who can withstand his indignation?
    Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
    the rocks are shattered before him.
Nahum 1:2, 7

Where is the good news in this?  Is the prophet gloating over Israel’s conqueror facing a similar fate? Continue reading “The Gospel of Nahum”

The Gospel of Micah

He has shown you, O man, what is good,
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 7:8

This is probably the most familiar passage from the prophet, Micah, contemporary of Isaiah, who prophesied in the 8th and early 7th century BC. during the reigns of  [Uzziah]*, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  Isaiah 1:1; Micah 1:1.

Like virtually all the prophets, Micah’s message is judgment because of the sins of the house of Israel. Micah 1:5. But in the midst of this message of judgment, there are powerful statements of hope, promises of deliverance from sin and the provision of righteous leadership. That sounds like Good News!  Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “The Gospel of Micah”

The Gospel of Jonah

Jonah stands definitively apart from all the other writing prophets (those whose prophecies are collected in a defined book of the Bible) in that his is the only book of the prophets that is primarily a narrative and is biographical, possibly autobiographical.

The closest to Jonah is Hosea, whose marriage is the story behind the prophecy.  But while Hosea’s story gives way to several chapters of prophecy, Jonah is a story about the prophet from beginning to end.  And Jonah is one of the great stories of the Bible that interests both adults and children, the only one to find a place in a children’s book of Bible stories.  Continue reading “The Gospel of Jonah”

The Gospel of Obadiah

I’ve been anticipating all year that when I came to Obadiah, I would have a challenge finding the Gospel.  We won’t find specific promises concerning the Messiah or any details of the heart of the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So what Good News is to be found in Obadiah?

Obadiah is a common name meaning “servant of the LORD.” The name is found twenty one times in the Bible, but nothing necessarily links the prophet to any of the others by the same name. His prophecy is just one lonely chapter of twenty-one verses, the only singular chapter in the Old Testament and only matched in the New Testament by Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. Continue reading “The Gospel of Obadiah”

The Gospel of Amos

About forty years ago when I was in seminary, I heard a sermon based on the prophecy of Amos, chapters one and two.   

Thus says the Lord“For three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, Because they … Amos 1:3a NASB  

This is followed by the specific reason for this judgment on Damascus, the capital of Syria (known also as Aram), and the specific acts of judgments that will be carried out against her, both the city and the whole nation.

This sequence of listing the sins of a people and the consequent judgment is applied to several cities and nations around Israel.

First, Syria to the northeast of Israel; then Gaza (Philistia), southwest of Israel along the Mediterranean; then Tyre, to the west and northwest of Israel, also along the Mediterranean; then Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea; then Ammon, east and southeast of Israel; then Moab, south of Israel on the east side of the Dead Sea.

Each of these six surrounding nations were condemned for their sins and subject to divine judgment.  In the sermon I heard forty years ago, the speaker postulated that the prophet was probably cheered after each section of judgment on Israel’s enemies.  They liked this preacher.  He had his listeners hanging on to every word with delight as he preached against their enemies. Continue reading “The Gospel of Amos”

The Gospel of Joel

Is there “justice for all” in America?  In the aftermath of the Grand Jury investigation in Ferguson, Missouri clearing Officer Darren Wilson of all charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown, that is the unresolved question for many. Unfortunately, the larger issue of inequality in America has clouded this case so that opinions were formed apart from facts.

Ironically, the emphasis on judgment in the Old Testament prophets is what gives hope in this world of injustice and inequality. This is Good News, part of the Gospel, that one day, there will be justice for all. God is the judge of all nations and all people. No injustice in any society will be left unresolved on the day of God’s final judgment. Continue reading “The Gospel of Joel”