1 – Micah 1:1 (ESV) The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
RAF: The one-word theme of Micah is: WICKEDNESS. At a time of high prosperity in Judah, he exposes both their wickedness and that of Israel to the north. The underlying sins of self-idolatry (living in greed, lust, self-advancement, oppression of those less fortunate etc.) will eventually manifest themselves as full-blown idolatry in both nations. A contemporary of Isaiah, he saw the siege and destruction of Israel during his lifetime. His sense of how sin ends is personal, and sharp. However severe his warnings, like his fellow prophets, there are amazing words of hope in the God who is full of mercy and grace – the One who will send His Redeemer.
2 – Micah 1:5 (ESV) 5 All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
RAF: Israel’s sin? The pursuit of the worship of God apart from His appointed means in the Temple.
Judah’s sin? The perversion of Temple worship so that it became virtual idolatry and separate from heart holiness. So we can err in these same two arenas. It is easy for many to say they have no need of the Church and God’s people, to worship as one as a testimony to the world. And for others, public worship has left behind the consideration of how it is God wants to be worshipped for our own innovations and/or the pursuit of mere formality as acceptable to God.
3 – Nahum 1:1 (ESV) An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.
RAF: The one-word theme of Nahum is: NINEVEH. Around 100 years after Jonah, Nahum confronts Nineveh’s sin again. This time they do not repent. God ultimately destroys them. The book seems out of place in the midst of all these prophecies focused upon God’s people. But it serves a good reminder that God is at work in the world around us. He is not unmindful of others. His Church is His bride-to-be, the object of His special love, but this does not mean He has no regard for others at all. Israel seems to have often forgotten this. The Church can too. We can cultivate such a dismissive attitude toward the lost as to virtually relegate them to the realm of the incidental. But none made in the image of God are to be regarded as such. Hence the Apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV) “16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.” We dare not see any as mere “flesh”, but as living souls. Souls which must stand before the judgment bar of God. Souls who need to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
4 – Habakkuk 1:1 (ESV) The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
RAF: The one-word theme of Habakkuk is: DIALOGS. These two short dialogues and a prayer find Habakkuk talking with God over his difficulty with God.
First, he wonders how God can let the sin of His people go on without addressing it.
God says He will address it, and will do so by sending Babylon to take Judah captive.
His second question is about how God can send a pagan nation against His own nation? Aren’t the Jews more righteous than the Babylonians?
God says He will use Babylon, and that they will be punished for their own sins too – in due time.
Then Habakkuk prays to see arm of God move once again, like when they were taken out of Egypt.
5 – Zephaniah 1:1 (ESV) The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
RAF: The one-word theme of Zephaniah is: TOO LATE. Though he prophesies during the reign of Josiah when there is pervasive, national revival, yet he reminds Judah that God has still pronounced a judgment which is yet to come to pass. A judgment which is typological of the final “Day of the Lord” – when He will judge all the earth. Yet God’s people will still be blessed. God’s judgment will still come upon all the earth, no matter how many alternating seasons of revival and failure occur in the intervening years. He is patient and ever seeking those who will forsake their sins and seek His face. Nevertheless, since the Fall of Adam, the Day of The Lord has been fast approaching. Paul will remind his listeners on Mars Hill it is nearer now since the One to judge has been slain, and risen from the dead. The day of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Now is not a time for complacency or compromise – now is the time to cast off every weight, and the sin that so easily knocks us off course – and run so as to obtain the prize. How little urgency in light of the coming Day of The Lord characterizes God’s people in our own day.
6 – Haggai 1:1 (ESV) In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
RAF: The one-word theme of Haggai is: PRIORITIES. Prophesying after Judah’s return from the Babylonian captivity, Haggai confronts the people over the fact they have returned by God’s mercy and grace, and have taken time to build their own nice houses, while the Temple remains un-restored. It makes us all ask – what are our priorities? Are we more concerned with our own physical houses, with our own self-interests than the condition of God’s people – His Temple now? Given our place in human and redemptive history, what are we focused upon? What claims our best gifts and energy? Are we a people, blessed by God with a Church to be a part of? Or are we God’s people, set for His glory and the fame of His name and the advancement of His kingdom, in which, we find our dwelling place?
7 – Zechariah 1:1 (ESV) In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,
RAF: The one-word theme of Zechariah is: ENCOURAGEMENT. Like Haggai his contemporary, Zechariah’s ministry too was to Judah after the exile. He encourages them to keep to the work of rebuilding. And not to stop at just rebuilding the Temple and the city, but to engage in all forms of social reform too. To beware that they not fall into the same sins as their forefathers. If they return to Him, He will certainly return to them. The work of rebuilding was begun amidst much opposition, massive obstacles of clearing out the rubble, with little wealth, many half-hearted workers and even corruption still in the leadership. There was disarray all around. But it was God;s work, would enjoy His blessing and came with His promise of completion. So the Church. Since the Fall, the work of rebuilding has been beset with every problem imaginable. But His promise remains true – and the glory of what is yet to come in the Church made fully into the image of Christ, will be even more glorious than the Eden from which we fell. Press on!