RAF: The one-word theme of Joel is: LOCUSTS. Joel is probably the earliest of the minor prophets. His ministry was to the southern kingdom of Judah, and it seems during relatively good times spiritually in the nation’s history. He makes no mention of idolatry in Judah for instance. What he does do is see a connection between a dreadful locust invasion to which he was witness. This plague, was a tremendous natural disaster, and Joel is motivated by the idea that such disasters serve to point out God’s coming judgment. Judgment not only on the heathen nations he mentions, but on Israel too. Hence, it is a call to repentance. Hidden sin will not be overlooked in the day of the Lord, either among the nations, nor His own people. The seeds of the idolatry which will erupt openly soon, are already sprouting below the surface. He is calling us to examine our hearts – and not rely on a mere external appearance of fidelity toward our God.
2 – Amos 1:1 (ESV) The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
RAF: The one-word theme of Amos is FAMINE. Prophesying in days of great stability and prosperity, he warns God’s people of the seduction of their prosperity, and how that will be followed by days of great famine – most importantly – a famine of hearing the Word of God. See: 8:11. Note the wording. It is not a famine of the availability of God’s Word, nor of its being preached – but of its being heard. This is a self-imposed famine brought on by the negelct of holy things, compromise and spiritual apathy. When we neglect God’s provision for our souls, we will seek to make up the deficit with other things – career, family, wealth, ease, pleasure, fame, intoxicants, diversions, involvements, etc. It is like trying to sustain life by a diet of nothing but refined sugar. It may taste sweet, and fill us with certain feelings – but in the end, it will bring about our death.
Amos is from the southern kingdom of Judah, but prophesies mainly against the northern kingdom of Israel. He is an unwanted trespasser in their eyes. His ministry thus is unusually hard and destined to be dismissed by many he was sent to – out of hand.
3 – Amos 2:1 (ESV) Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.
RAF: Moab is judged because even after the death of its enemies, it needed to go on and burn the bones of their enemies to lime. They will not let go of their anger even after everything is over. How easily our hearts can carry hurt and grudges and anger far past any reasonble point of termination.
4 – Amos 3:6b (ESV) 6 Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
RAF: Now we are bidden here to consider (as in Joel too) how we are to respond to disasters on a large scale. We are not to simply chalk them up to chance – God is at work. And we are to question what it is God is about. This ought always to bring us back to one chief consideration – disaster is a portent of God’s coming final judgment. We are to seize upon these events as warnings of what is to come. As divine calls to self-examination and repentance. These are not events disconnected from God’s overall purpose and plan – but large scale pleas with mankind. And the Church is to see them as such, and respond accordingly. Yes, we are to lead the charge in our humanitarian efforts, as we see these calls as acts of mercy – announcing the coming judgment before hand. Thus we should show mercy and help those we can. But we need to do more. We need to connect these events directly in men’s minds to God’s voice pleading with them, warning them to turn from their sin. For if they do not, the disaster ahead is of eternal consequnce. From it, there will be no recovery. And, the Church needs to apply it to itself. It is a time for every Christian to examine themselves afresh to see if they are ready to stand before the judgment bar of God. What needs to be put away? What needs to be taken up? What has been neglected? What has been indulged in? Are you prepared to stand before your King? Each and every disaster is, God’s voice asking us that question. Are we hearing it? Or are we in the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord?
5 – Obadiah 1 (ESV) 1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the Lord, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”
RAF: The one-word theme of Obadiah is: EDOM. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. When Babylon came to conquer Jerusalem, the Edomites helped the Babylonians, betrayed their brothers, and took advantage by moving into the devastated areas after the Jews were carried into exile. They were opportunists capitalizing on God’s discipline against the Jews. They had no loyalty toward their brothers. These are very great sins. We do well to flee from them ourselves.
6 – Jonah 1:1 (ESV) Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
RAF: The one-word theme of Jonah is: OUTREACH. United Israel never fulfilled its call to make God’s Temple a house of prayer for all nations; and though God had chosen them out of all the nations of the earth to be peculiarly His – nevertheless, God shows His compassion on the lost outside of Israel. Jonah, part of the now separate northern kingdom of Israel is the unwilling servant in reaching one such pagan city. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, who was eventually to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel for its sin. Jonah would have nothing but hatred and disdain for these people. His dilemma however, was rooted in just how merciful God could be. He didn’t want them to have God’s mercy.
7 – Jonah 1:2 (ESV) 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
RAF: Jonah would have caught God’s meaning here right away. That “their evil has come up before me” is an indication both that Nineveh is exceedingly wicked and about to be subject to God’s judgment. But he would have also understood that it was God’s desire to offer them an opportunity to repent and be spared if they did. This is what Jonah objects to. He wants God to punish Israel’s enemies. He does not want to see God spare them in any way. He especially does not want to be the instrument through which they receive God’s mercy. I wonder, who are we unwilling to be God’s vessel of mercy to? And why?