By David Faust
Little waves create far-reaching ripples. Small businesses stimulate the economy. Tiny babies bring families great joy. Small groups create environments for abundant spiritual growth. Modest-sized congregations with great faith exert megachurch impact on the world.
The Old Testament ends with 12 books we nickname Minor Prophets because they are short, not because they are insignificant. There is nothing trivial about these books. In fact, there are practical reasons to read them.
The Minor Prophets help us appreciate the contributions of lesser-known servants. Zephaniah and Haggai seem minor compared to biblical persons like Moses and Jeremiah, but in God’s family no one is insignificant and every contribution matters. Amos was a humble shepherd and a fig tree tender (7:14, 15) with no seminary degree to his name, but he had a message from God. Little else is known about the prophet Obadiah except that his name means “servant (or worshipper) of the Lord.” What else do we really need to know?
Gift of Conciseness
The Minor Prophets also remind us to respect the gift of conciseness. Don’t you admire writers, speakers, and discussion leaders who sum up things effectively in a few words? The chairman of my church’s elder team has a unique ability to wrap up lengthy conversations with short summary statements; then before the closing prayer he asks sincerely, “Are all hearts clear?” He has the gift of conciseness.
So did Jonah. In four short chapters Jonah informed us about the peril of running from God, the possibility of second chances, and God’s ability to intervene. He concisely illustrated the life-giving benefits of repentance, the hazards of anger and prejudice, and God’s paradigm-bending love for lost people.
Habakkuk only needed three chapters to raise huge questions about God’s fairness, but in the process he confidently declared:
• “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (2:4).
• “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (2:20).
• “Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17, 18).
Art of Confrontation
Further, the Minor Prophets show us how to exercise the art of confrontation. Amos pulled no punches. God would judge the surrounding nations for their sins—but he would also judge his people Israel (chapters 1, 2). Amos preached boldly against social injustice (5:10-15), religious hypocrisy (vv. 21-24), and materialistic complacency (6:1-7). Micah exposed corruption among the nation’s most influential citizens: “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money” (3:11). Like the prophets, we must find courage to speak truth, even when it’s unpopular.
Yet the last 12 books of the Hebrew canon also reveal how important it is to trust God with the future. Joel ended his book by exclaiming, “The Lord dwells in Zion!” (3:21). Amos closed with glowing promises about the restoration of Israel’s glory (9:11-15). Obadiah ended on an encouraging note: “The kingdom will be the Lord’s” (v. 21). Before Micah concluded, he said God would “hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (7:19). Nahum highlighted God’s wrath; yet Nahum’s name means “comfort,” and he pointed out, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble” (1:7).
The Minor Prophets are short in words but large in significance. By mingling predictions of solemn judgment with authentic reasons for hope, they teach a major lesson—speaking the truth in love.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 13, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Amos 3, 4
Amos 5, 6