hot water beach, hahei, new zealand
For the past several months, my small group has been studying the books of the twelve Minor Prophets. Yep, all of 'em: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and soon, Malachi. I like to think of them as Grumpy, Grouchy, Crabby, Sleepy, Bashful...only kidding!
But these "small" books certainly share big messages of not-so-pleasant subjects (God's Wrath, anyone?) and worst of all, true to Old Testament form, they sometimes leave us hangin'. Loose ends, abrupt endings; no happily ever after here...
I admit that this has been a challenging topic for our study - we are self-taught, self-guided, and composed of 20-something girls who lack scholarly Seminary backgrounds- and we are often left staring blankly at the page at the end of a chapter, trying to find someway to make sense of what we read. Never mind that the minor prophets were all poets or persons of prestige and well-versed in 6th-century B.C. literary styles- something public schools have long omitted from their curriculum. But, I always think that if God hadn't intended me to read this, it wouldn't still be in my Bible. So read I do.
whangamata, new zealand
One thing that the M.P.'s have done is help me to better understand the context of the historic period in which they are writing about in light of the political and social state of Israel at the time. Wars were raging, political leaders were corrupt, people were fleeing for their lives and fighting for the few freedoms they had- hmmm, sound familiar?- but the prophets focus on the promises God made his people and how he is fulfilling prior prophecies. I am a wannabe-history buff and a big fan of footnotes, indexes, diagrams, and commentaries that help clarify important, and often absent, details like names, places, dates, etc. that can better explain the who/what/when/why/where of what I'm reading.
I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make as Christians is settling for ignorant interpretation...For some reason we think that our goal in reading scripture is to find someway, some how, it can relate back to us! "Who am I in this story?", "What in my life represents this?"... Well for starters, a lot of the M.P. authors made sure to include specific details - like the days, years, even hours events took place, and who was involved in them- so I can probably assume that the destruction of an entire region and the displacement of millions of people, probably has very little to do with anything I'm dealing with... Maybe this story isn't even about me... maybe it's an example of God's faithfulness, the hope of his people, the historical events that fulfill prophecies from hundreds of years before.
hahei, coromandel penninsula, new zealand
This morning I read Zechariah 10,11, and 12 which appear to be in total contrast to one another - but only because I still expect the Bible to read like a novel, one chapter flowing seamlessly into the next, not taking into consideration that they are often letters written months, even years apart. In a word, they go something like this: Hope, Wrath, Hope. Thanks for the consistency, God. But something that struck me the most was a sentence in one of my study-books:
"Zechariah, looking far into the future, saw the Messiah of the days to come as one person, in two aspects. First, he saw him in humiliation and suffering, and again in majesty and glory. The unbelieving person who does not see Jesus as the Messiah ignores the Christ of the Cross. The believer often ignores the Christ of the Crown. Both are wrong!"
God (Jesus) is both... Christ of the Cross, who sought the lost, befriended the lonely, healed the lame, loved the lowest of the lows... and Christ of the Crown, the King of Glory, ruler of heaven, divine judge, almighty power. So often, I keep these two faces of God separate, which is why I think it makes me so uncomfortable when I read about the two extremes of God's character. God is sovereign, the Prince of Peace. In Zechariah 12, we see the shift in God's promises for his people. When describing a city rebuilt and a kingdom surrounded by unyielding walls, he's no longer speaking of an earthly structure "armed for war", but an eternal kingdom "ruled by peace". Here is the prophecy of Jesus in Zechariah:
9:9 - See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.
11:11- the Good Shepherd
11:12- betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
12:10- he was pierced
13:6- he was wounded in the house of his friends
14:10- his coming and coronation
That is my God. "The Lord who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of a man within him"(Zech.12:1). Who has flattened empires and knit together the desires of my heart. Who conquers evil and brings comfort to his children. I will not be ashamed of God's sovereign wrath or of his suffering. Whose character is beyond my comprehension.
outside of rotorua, new zeland
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.