Minor Prophets Reading Plans
They are the heavy weights of Scripture. They hit harder than a truck hauling freight and they don’t pull any punches either. Yet, if you can stay in the ring long enough they reveal a side of God’s deep abiding love that will make you feel like a champion.
Heavy Sins Major Grace
They will hold up your sins like desecrated trophies.
Then they will show you the amazing Grace of God.
29-Sep Hosea 2:16-21 My Wife of Righteousness
6-Oct Amos 5:11-15 Justice and Righteousness
13-Oct Jonah 3:10-4:5 God’s Difficult Love
20-Oct Habakkuk 1:12-2:5 When the Good Suffer
27-Oct Zephaniah 1:14-16 The Day of the Lord
3-Nov Zechariah 12:7-13:1 The Coming Messiah
10-Nov Malachi 3:1-5a The Lord is in His Temple
Here is the reading plan for for this weekend Joel and Amos.
Each week expect a new weekend schedule that will take you through the major themes and content of the Minor Prophets. they will be shared in our Newsletter and on our FB page.
I encourage you to take a moment and read the Before you Read section then read the passage of Scripture. Also there are some excellent videos known as the Bible Project. Check them out but it will be VERY helpful to do your own reading and reflection before watching the video.
Thursday October 3rd Reading
Joel Chapter 1-3
Before You Read
The imagery he uses is confusing. It is of literal locust but he transitions into the armies that will come on the Day of the Lord and uses very similar language. Joel is comparing a real plague of locusts as is still seen in those parts today to the army of God that will come one day to punish the wicked. Several clues will point you back the plagues Egypt faced when God punished them to free His people. See if you spot them.
Joel gives no cause for the judgment but he does offer the appropriate response we are called to have True Repentance that affects a change of heart and action. Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 remarks.
John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Spirit and truth here refers to the worship wars the Jews and Samaritans had about the right place and way to worship God. Not unlike some arguments about worship today having to be in one form or another to be valid. One group says it must be rooted in tradition to have validity. Another says it must be relevant to today’s culture so that people can connect. To this we must say to each other and to ourselves...no its form it must be done in Spirit and Truth. No matter the form it can be valid and no matter the form it can be false. Joel says the same about repentance. He calls for true repentance that casts off the forms of worship for authentic transformation
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord, your God?
God’s gracious response to authentic hearts
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
Peter in Acts 2:14-31 quotes Joel in the first Christian sermon. When we turn from our sin no matter how deep we fall then God’s love will pick us up!
Joel doesn’t share the reason for their need to repent. His focus is on how to repent. It leaves the question open for every reader to read their own misdeeds and rebellions into the text. It is a call for our repentance AND a expresses the hope of God’s redemptive work.
What is God calling you to turn away from, give up, repent of?
Further Thoughts...if you’d like to go deeper.
In addiction counseling addicts are told to change: People, places and things. Their sin is so all encompassing that all that belongs to that lifestyle must be put away, given up, turned away from. Honestly so is ours its just that the result are perhaps more subtle. Joel’s repentance is very much the same sort of calling to put all the old ways behind and fully reject the sins of the past.
Repentance must be a total and complete scrapping or shredding off of the old. Joel 2:15-17 calls for mothers with newborns, old and young must all come and repent to heal the land. It is a reminder that God's people need corporate repentance but its totality encourages the individual to leave not a section of their life un-examined by God. Joel mentions rending our hearts not our garments. He is pointing to the custom of rending one’s garments to express distress or remorse. But just like a child being forced to say ‘I’m sorry’ this action alone doesn’t have spirit and truth. Asking forgiveness is wonderful but true repentance is so much more. Its a turning away from sin not just a posturing. When our pleas for forgiven do not manifest a change in people, places and things that tempt us then is this true repentance? Not by Joel's standards.
How can our words of repentance carry real spirit and truth in our worship?
What does false repentance look like for you?
Maybe it's a confession to the sin but no action taken to effect real change. You let that bad influence hang around, you allow yourself to be in those places that tempt you most, you keep those things around that draw you from God (People, Places and Things). Bring it all to His alter for prayer and sacrifice! And God may yet bless you with a rain of vindication Joel 2:23-25.
Friday October 4th Reading
Before You Read
Amos begins with judgments upon Judah’s and Israel’s surrounding nations but he saves his greatest condemnation for His own people. Jesus also reflected this trait choosing to heavily criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees over Romans, sinners, and tax collectors. In the end it is the redemption of Israel that also redeems the nations around them. Consider as you read why God and His son often save their harshest judgments for their own?
In Amos 2:6-8 lists his charges against Israel
- The poor are sold into slavery.
- The needs of the poor are neglected.
Sandals where a means one's word and pledge (Ruth 4:1-10). As Boaz in Ruth uses his sandal as a pledge to redeem Ruth the Israelites use their sandals for the exact opposite selling their disadvantaged poor into slavery.
- Sexual sins (likely associated with the worship of foreign gods.)
- Idol worship (garment pledges where one's honor and identity. They are throwing their identity in with any god they come across.)
- Gain acquired from the oppression of the poor and disadvantaged is used for service to God.
God fumes at these things because God’s chosen people ought to know better. In Amos 2:10 and Amos 3:1-2 he points out that God has redeemed and called Israel who now turns from Him. They are to be healing of the nations as God has healed them and YET they use their blessings to bless themselves not God and others. Consider what God has done for you. What is your response? Are your blessings used to bless the poor and even the nations (outsiders) or are they used primarily to build up your own kingdom?
List your blessings from God and ask yourself this:
What blessings have kept for myself?
How can I begin using that blessing for God and others?
God it is easy to see these people and their sins as so long ago and unconnected to the life I live. But I know that I have blessings you have given me that are meant for others. I’ve used them for self gain forgive me. Let me be ever more mindful of the poor among us, and to head the warnings of Amos.
Further Thoughts...if you’d like to go deeper.
Do we use our wealth as Boaz did laying it down to redeem the vulnerable foreigners among us? Remember Ruth was an alien in that land and looked down upon. Ruth 2:8-9 reveals that as an alien she was vulnerable economically and physically. She had no food and had to glean the leftovers a provision for the poor mandated in Lev. 23:22. Boaz encourages her to stay close to his servants for protection and provision. This is Amos’ sandal reference found in Amos 2:6. Israel should be looking out for the weak and vulnerable instead of profiting from them. Today many of the products we enjoy come from unfair systems that oppress the poor in the very same way. Many of the produce take right from the fields here in America and even Indiana take advantage of migrant workers who are vulnerable to exploitation.
When Boaz takes Ruth as his wife he is also taking the name of his deceased kinsman Elimelech. That was a huge deal in Boaz’s day. This is why Boaz is also known as the Kinsman Redeemer and why the first in line refuses to take on the responsibility Ruth 4:5-6. He doesn’t want a Moabit for a wife or for his wealth to be associated with another's name. Boaz gave up a lot to care for Ruth. But because of his actions his name is now record in the lineage of King David and Jesus (Matt. 1:5). Oh, by the way Boaz’s mom Rahab was also a foreigner. Maybe that explains the softening of his heart towards Ruth.
Saturday October 5th Reading
Before you Read
Amos continues with a hard litany against Israel. It can be easy to lock this into a time and place and be glad we aren’t them. But take time to pray before reading these passages. Ask the Spirit promised to us in Joel 2:28-29 to search and reveal to you the heart of God in these passages and how you might be living out values that like the Israelites do not reflect God’s values.
In verse 5:14 and 15 Amos makes the simplest of calls to repentance...Seek good and not evil...hate evil and love good. It's a simple call but a hard road. Often the prophets like Jesus himself aren’t hard to understand they are hard to follow. Loving your enemy, putting others first, and caring for the poor instead of gaining for the self are all massive challenges. These aren’t hard concepts to grasp but they are hard to live out. But if Amos is to be believed we who call ourselves by God’s name had better live up to these values.
In 5:11 Amos speaks of stone houses a luxury of the day being built while the poor suffer.
What stone house are you building when God has called you to consider the poor? (Remember I told you this series would be tough!)
What do you need to give up to good and not evil?
What should you change to show you love good and hate evil?
Further Thoughts...if you’d like to go deeper.
These chapters describe the utter ruin of Israel. If one can escape into the place of death God will pull them up to punish and though they mount the heavens he will pull them down to pay (Amos 9:2). And though God has railed against them by the prophet with utter devastation for 9 painful chapters it all turns on a dime in Amos 9:11-15. Like a Father’s heart melt mid lecture when his daughter struggles to hold back tears. All he can do is scoop her up and reassure her she is his and he will love her always. God restores Israel and all the nations become blessed by Israel (God’s original plan which Israel failed at). So great will be the bounty of God’s blessing that those harvesting will be overtaken by those planting and steams of wine will poor forth form the vineyards.
What messes do you fear the consequences of?
Have you stolen from the mouths that God has called you to provide for?
Have you hated your neighbor because of their skin tone, nationality, or political affiliation?
What un-confessed sin or unknown sin has the Spirit of God revealed in your heart just as the prophet revealed to Israel? Your next step will make all the difference. Amos 9:13 The time is surely coming...for those who persist the devastation of chapters 1-9 are their fate. But for the remnant who, like Joel encouraged, offer true repentance...they will experience the transforming blessings found in Amos 9:13-15 says the LORD.
Thursday October 10th Reading
Reading The book of Obadiah
Before you Read
This is the shortest book of the OT so you can read an entire book of the bible in 5 minutes! And feel like a champ. The people of Edom to whom the book offers its curses are the descendants of Esau, also known as Edom or red for the color of his skin. If you recall from Genesis 25-27 Jacob and Esau were twin brothers born to Rachael and Isaac and Jacob tricked Esau out of his birth rite. Now Isaac is the son of Abraham and who God made his covenant with to bless the world through. That blessing was part of Esau’s birthright which he sold for a bowl of soup. He didn’t take this real seriously but when his brother tricked their father into thinking he was Esau he took it seriously then. Christians today establish their spiritual heritage back to the trickster Jacob through whose lineage Christ came. Those of Islam trace their literal and spiritual heritage back to Esau.
Now with that backdrop in mind the descendants of Jacob the Isralites have just been conquered by Babylon. Many went into bondage like the stories we hear about Daniel, Shadraq, Meshaq, and Abednego. But many escaped fleeing into the countryside and some to Edom for help. In their escape the Edomites (Esua’s descendants) treated them harshly and took advantage of their plight. They robbed, took advatgage of, and sold many into slavery. All of the Minor Prophets but Jonah and Obadiah deals with the sins of Israel and Judah God’s people. But Obadiah reveals God’s fierce protective love for those who belong to him...even when they like Israel had gotten off course and Jonah reveals God’s love for those we may despise. Our God is a hard one to figure out...
God’s prophets bring a message of condemnation and call to repentance for God’s people. And now in Obadiah to the Nations. (The Nations are the surrounding people groups who follow differing set of values and gods.) He specifically aims at Edom but soon broadens the judgement to include all such nations that behave this way. Israel itself was paying a price for this same behavior. They oppressed the poor and disadvantaged among them but when the table was turned Edom took advantage of them. Israel paid a terrible price under the strong hand of Babylon’s armies which the prophets portray as God’s judgement. But Edom goes to far. After their fall they have no recourse they are the poor and destitute and Edom takes advantage of them. It seems no matter who calls themselves by God’s name it is the poor, the weak, the vulnerable to whom God is most protective.
At first the curses are aimed at Edom but soon the circle is widened to an archetype of the oppressors of the world. Oppressors are proud and see others as less than them. They use the hardships of others to build their profit. They trust in their own might and position to save and secure them. In essence might makes right and they are above those they can oppress. All people and nations that build their power and wealth off the backs of the poor will pay a horrible price on the Day of the Lord (Obadiah 1:15).
God one day will remove all who behave as oppressors be they within the house of God or part of the nations that mill about. Joel and Amos both envision a future were God’s redeemed people will call others out from the nations. In fact Revelation 21:24 paints a similar picture. In the New Jerusalem established by God’s people the nations will enter. In Obadiah the wicked are utterly consumed and a few will become part of the New Jerusalem.
God defends the poor and vulnerable and punishes those who take advantage of their position. Has there been a time when you felt vulnerable and those who had power did not offer you the help you needed?
Who might God be calling you to come to the aid of? God did not desire to punish Israel or Edom but when they took advantage of the exposed God vindicated the poor. Today God calls His church to build His Kingdom. In light of God’s heart revealed in Obadiah what might it mean to expand His Kingdom?
The nations that trampled His people in Joel and Amos are invited to the Kingdom, His people that trampled the poor He calls to repent. We will see in Jonah that God indeed has a heart even for the oppressors. He desires to redeem all. But if they do not turn a horrible end will come to them. Are there portions of your life where you behave more like an oppressor than Kingdom builder? What oppressors in your life do you need to learn to forgive and pray for salvation for? Maybe it's one that oppressed you or a group you have a hard time hoping God will redeem?
I remember watching long held hurt and hatred fall away from a my grandfather. He was a man of God and the best you'd hope to know in so many ways. A veteran of WW2 he'd lost family and fiends in that war and none to more than the Japaneses Imperial Army. One Sunday morning before the church he offered up a praise request. After nearly 60 years God has cleansed my heart of hatred for for the people of Japan. What hatred might you need to let go of and heal to discover the abounding love and mercy of God? I hope Simon found it one day. We don't know if Jonah ever did either. The author wisely leaves Jonah's response to God's reprimand in Jonah 4:9-11 unanswered. As Amos said, the wise remain silent. But I think the silences is more than Jonah being without words. We are being asked to respond to God's gracious mercy towards those whom we may rather see consumed by his rage...Jonah missed it do we? God deviled Jonah because of his compassion. The very nature of God that saved him Jonah is angry at for sparing those he despised. If we accept God's compassion for us lets realize He has that same love for others...yes even them!
Friday October 11th Reading
Before you Read
The book of Jonah is a comedy. Jonah a disgraced prophet from 2 Kings 14:23-25. There we seem him prophesying in favor of Jeroboam 2 a wicked King of Israel. But in Amos 6:13-14 that prophecy is undone. Jonah at the time of writing this text is as a disgraced prophet who subverts God’s truth for a King’s favor. So the book starts as a bit of a surprise to start with and it only gets more and more surprising from there. Jonah has to learn a hard lesson and God’s people through him must learn the same one.
Jonah’s calling from God triggers the opposite response of a true prophet. He flees from God’s call. Called to Nineveh a hated enemy of God’s people Jonah heads the other direction. The Bible recounts many faithful and daring people and many that opposed God but here in Jonah we see a unique figure who daringly disobeys God’s while remaining in relationship with Him. This is not the behavior of a prophet. But we know Jonah’s reputation is a bit thin to start with. And it only gets worse.
God chases Jonah with a storm. He is so oblivious to God he sleeps soundly in the belly of the ship. Yet these sailors call to their gods for aid. The book says each to their own implying a variety of nationalities among these guys and each behaves as Jonah ought to be. This only emphasizes the point being made here...the prophet is unfaithful while these sailors show more reverence for their false gods than Jonah does for the One True God. In Jonah 1:7-10 we discover that these sailors even have more fear of Jonah’s God than Jonah does.
Can we get too comfortable with God? Do we get comfortable with telling Him no fearing no negative repercussions. Jonah caved in 2 Kings to the favor of a wicked King named Jeroboam the 2. I’m sure he justified it in his mind. What good will I do on his bad side then he will never listen to me. I really don’t know what he was thinking but I know it can be easy to compromise our integrity for the favor or good opinion of others. This is dangerous because it paves the way for us to say no to God like Jonah.
Luke 9:26 cautions us about hiding God’s convictions in our hearts before others. We can find ourselves accepting questionable convictions to remain a part of the group, or to remain in the favor of someone we admire or care about.
The Sailors fearing God more than Jonah does are even reluctant to toss him overboard for the wrath that God might place upon them. It soon however becomes apparent there is no other way so over Jonah goes and a great fish swallows him whole.
Jonah offers a prayer in chapter 2. Now the prayer affirms God’s might and his nature to deliver but ironically it will be this very nature that Jonah rages against in chapter 4. Jonah seems to pledge to fulfill his obligation with these words in Jonah 2:9 but when he does he does so barely and only in response to God’s ‘gentle’ nudging. Jonah has to be awaken from the belly of a ship to see God’s wrath and later has to be taken from the belly of a fish to express God’s mercy. Does it seem he is more willing to face God’s wrath than God’s mercy?
God shows his favor towards Jonah’s prayer by vomiting him out. Yes this is meant to be funny. Jonah isn’t all the way there yet but he does know God and promises to do his job. But what comes next reveals that while Jonah does what he is asked he barely does so...
What person, group or ideology’s approval might you favor over the calling of God?
Would you rather risk God’s anger than live out the calling He has for all Christians to bless our enemies, even love them and spread His Kingdom?
Jonah was content to hide in God’s Kingdom and wrap himself in it to pass judgment on the wicked of the world. Would we rather pass judgement than serve the hurting and lost? Do enjoy the moral high ground more than you enjoy your God’s heart for the broken and hurting people of the world?
Do you have a group whose opinions and acceptance matter more to you than God’s? Ask the Spirit to search you and reveal the deficits of your heart. Pray that God might revive your concern for His favor over the favor of others.
Jonah wanted an US vs. THEM ideology. God's people on one side and all the rest condemned to fire on the other. God wanted Jonah to see His love for all people and Jonah would rather die then accept a God whose compassion encompassed those he despised. Jonah wanted to maintain superiority so he could continue to despise and look down upon the Ninevites who in the end showed more sensitivity to God’s call then Jonah himself. Israel was suppose to rule the world by justice and righteouness. We know from Amos this means equity for the poor, generosity for the destitute, compassion for the disadvantaged. And when a nation starts to define the other in negative terms...when they do not head Deuteronomy 14 and 15's call to not harbor a grudge for the needy neighbor when they divide in categories and language of hate they fall. And the prophets call this out over and over again.
In chapters 3 & 4 We will learn that Jonah liked being a part of the favored people of God but he missed what that really meant. And we will ask...what might we be missing?
Saturday October 12th Reading
Before You Read
Take a moment to read Luke 7:36-50. Note Simon the Pharisee’s response to Jesus’ compassion toward the sinful woman. Then note her response to the very presence of Jesus even before forgiveness is offered. Do you see any similarities between this story and Jonahs?
Do you see any similarities between Luke’s story and Jonah’s?
If you attached a character in the story to Jonah who would it be?
Who might the woman represent the most? The Sailors, the Ninivites?
Jonah’s ability to pout is matched only by his audacity towards God. We can see in the Scriptures examples of those who question God for all sorts of things. In Malachi they wonder where God’s Justice has gone? In the Psalms often a cry for why He delays, in others like the prophet Elijah we see a wonder at why God allows evil people to prosper. But nowhere else can we find a person angry at God for His compassion! Perhaps in Jonah alone do we find one who is angry at God for His merciful behavior. Well and I suppose we see in the Pharisees a people who disdained Jesus compassion for the outcast, sinner, and even oppressors as he shows compassion to those of Rome. God’s favor falls where it will and this is upsetting for Jonah and the Pharisee alike!
In Luke 7:36-50 Simon is a man of good standing who questions Jesus for the mercy he shows a woman of ill repute . After telling a parable of forgiven debt verses 40-43Jesus asks Simon who would love more. Simon says the one with a greater debt. While Jesus position the woman as one who loves more of course we must assume Simon’s heart needed as much healing as this woman if not more. She at least knew her sin and need while Simon could not see it. Jonah cannot see the mercy he needs and has already received from God while the Ninevites in mere hope of God’s forgiveness repent...even their livestock become part of the fast (Jonah 2:6-9)! They like the woman assume nothing but give honor where it is due. Jonah assumes on his position a right that is bold and blasphemous to accuse God and despise ones own life when confronted by a God who does not hate our enemies as we do.
The Book of Jonah challenges us in many ways.
First it questions our attitude towards those outside God’s covenant community. For us that is those outside the church. Are they enemies to be consumed? Or lives God dearly cares about? Maybe even more reverent than ourselves?
Jonah was arrogant enough to write off the worth of those outside his particular community. The sailors fear God more than Jonah and the Ninevites repent more fully than Jonah. Jonah could learn a lot from these despised lost people...can we?
The Book challenges us to not assume by virtue of our position that we are more virtuous. It's the same challenge offered in Luke 7 at Simon’s dinner table by Jesus. We might know God's nature more than others as Jonah did but it doesn't mean we have accepted it more then they have.
Jonah slept while the sailors prayed. In his comfort with God he is almost flippant about his remarks which cause dread in the sailors hearts. What assumptions about our spiritual lives can be dangerous? God wants us to know Him deeply and to call Him our Father in Heaven but He does not want us to be complacent or flippant in that relationship. Do you think Jonah had become complacent? Have you?