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                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

                   Introduction To The Minor Prophets

INTRODUCTION

1. While Christians are not under the Old Testament as a system of 
   justification, the OT is of great value for us today...
   a. Written for our learning, it is a source of comfort and hope 
      - Ro 15:4
   b. Written for our admonition, we learn what mistakes to avoid 
      - 1Co 10:11
   c. As with all scripture inspired of God, it is profitable "for 
      doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in 
      righteousness" - cf. 2Ti 3:14-17

2. This is especially true with regard to "The Minor Prophets"...
   a. A collection of twelve books that make up the last part of the 
      Old Testament
   b. Beginning with Hosea, and ending with Malachi

3. Those willing to study these books will find their lives enriched as
   they increase...
   a. Their knowledge of God's holiness, righteousness, justice and 
      mercy
   b. Their understanding of God's dealings in the nations of men
   c. Their appreciation of the Bible as a literary masterpiece

[With this lesson, we begin a series of studies in which we will survey
"The Minor Prophets". Before we examine our first book, some 
introductory material may prove helpful...]

I. WHO WERE THE PROPHETS?

   A. THE OLD COVENANT HAD DIFFERENT KINDS OF INSTRUCTORS...
      1. There was Moses, the lawgiver - Neh 8:1,14; 9:13-14; Jn 1:17;
         7:19
      2. There were the priests, administrators of the law - Lev 10:
         8-11; Hos 4:6; Eze 22:26; Mal 2:7
      3. There were the wise men, who gave counsel - 2Sa 14:1-24; 
         20:16-22
      4. There were the psalmists, poets who were the "sweet singers" 
         of Israel - cf. 2Sa 23:1; 1Ch 6:33
      5. There were the prophets, communicators of the Word of God

   B. A "PROPHET" WAS A SPOKESMAN FOR ANOTHER...
      1. Like Aaron was for his brother Moses - Exo 4:16; 7:1
      2. The word literally means "to boil up like a fountain"
      3. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, a prophet...
         a. Was a spokesman for God - 2Pe 1:21
         b. Was given something to say, and had to say it! - Jer 20:7-9
      4. A prophet was primarily a "forth-teller", though sometimes a 
         "fore-teller"
         a. God's word often pertained to future events
         b. The fulfilled prophecies of these prophets are therefore a
            strong proof of inspiration
         -- But much of their word concerned not the future, but
            current events

   C. OTHER DESIGNATIONS HELP TO DEFINE THE ROLE OF A PROPHET...
      1. Early in Israel's history they were called "seers" - 1Sa 9:9
      2. Another appellation was "man of God" - 1Sa 9:6; 1Ki 17:18
      3. Also known as a "servant of God" - 1Ki 18:36; 1Ch 6:49
      4. They served as God's "messenger" - Isa 42:19
      5. They were also assigned the role of "watchman" - Eze 3:17; 
         33:7

[The prophets were therefore servants of God, divinely appointed and 
inspired to proclaim His Word. At times, they were messengers of God's 
word as it applied to the present, serving as watchmen of the people of
God; other times, God's message pertained to the future, and as such 
they were "seers" of things to come.]

II. HOW ARE THE PROPHETS CLASSIFIED?

   A. IT IS COMMON TO SPEAK OF "ORAL" AND "LITERARY" PROPHETS...
      1. The "oral" prophets are those who left no writings bearing 
         their names
         a. Such as Elijah and Elisha - cf. 1Ki 17; 2Ki 2
         b. Many others, including Nathan (2Sa 12), Gad (2 Sam
            24:11), Ahijah (1Ki 11:29)
      2. Those who left books bearing their names are called the 
         "literary" prophets

   B. THE LITERARY PROPHETS ARE CATEGORIZED AS "MAJOR" AND "MINOR"
      PROPHETS...
      1. Augustine is credited with being the first to classify them in
         this way
      2. The distinction pertains only to the length of the books
         a. The "major prophets" include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah,
            Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
         b. The "minor prophets" are those twelve books from Hosea to 
            Malachi

[As we consider the works of the "literary" prophets, we should note 
that the order of the books in our Bibles is not chronological.  
Therefore it may serve useful to review...]

III. THE LITERARY PROPHETS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

Please note:  Dating the prophets is not without controversy, and with
some it can be very difficult. What I provide below are the estimates 
among many conservative scholars...

   A. NINTH CENTURY (EARLY ASSYRIAN PERIOD)
      1. Obadiah (ca. 845 B.C)
      2. Joel (ca 830 B.C.)
      3. Jonah (790-750 B.C.)
      -- This is during the period of "The Divided Kingdom" in Israel's
         history; to the north and east the empire of Assyria was 
         beginning to make its presence known in Israel

   B. EIGHTH CENTURY (ASSYRIAN PERIOD)
      1. Amos (755 B.C.)
      2. Hosea (750-725 B.C.)
      3. Isaiah (740-700 B.C.)
      4. Micah (735-700 B.C.)
      -- In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into 
         Assyrian captivity; these prophets were proclaiming God's 
         message as the nation was being threatened from the north

   C. SEVENTH CENTURY (CHALDEAN PERIOD)
      1. Jeremiah (626-586 B.C.)
      2. Zephaniah (630-625 B.C.)
      3. Nahum (625-612 B.C.)
      4. Habakkuk (625-605 B.C.)
      -- Assyria was eventually defeated by Babylon; these prophets 
         served as God's messengers when the Babylonian empire 
         threatened the kingdom of Judah

   D. SIXTH CENTURY (THE EXILE)
      1. Ezekiel (593-570 B.C.)
      2. Daniel (605-536 B.C.)
      -- Like many of their countrymen, these prophets were taken into
         Babylonian captivity; from Babylon they served as God's 
         messengers to both captives and kings

   E. SIXTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES (POST-EXILIC PERIOD)
      1. Haggai (520 B.C.)
      2. Zechariah (520-518 B.C.)
      3. Malachi (ca. 440 B.C.)
      -- After the Jews were allowed to return home from Babylonian 
         captivity, God used Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the 
         people to rebuild the temple; later, Malachi was used to 
         reform the priesthood during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah

[Finally, here are some thoughts on...]

IV. UNDERSTANDING THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS

   A. THREE THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND AS YOU STUDY THE PROPHETS...
      1. Seek to understand the political, social and religious 
         conditions of the times
         a. Any interpretation must consider how the message was 
            relevant for the people to whom the prophet spoke
         b. Secondary fulfillment of prophecy is often found in the NT,
            but this can be understood only when applied by inspired 
            writers of the NT
         c. Guard against making interpretations that are purely 
            speculative
         d. Any application to modern events must be carefully 
            harmonized in light of the NT
      2. Consider God's relation to the heathen nations (i.e., other 
         than Israel and Judah)
         a. The prophets often revealed how God directed their destiny 
            and judged them
         b. This may provide insight as to how Christ rules the nations
            today! - cf. Mt 28:18; Re 1:5; 2:26;27
      3. Note any teaching regarding the Messiah and His coming kingdom
         - Ac 26:6-7; 28:20
         a. The immediate mission of most prophets was to save God's 
            people from idolatry and wickedness
         b. Failing that, they were sent to announce God's judgment and
            the coming destruction of the nation
         c. But many prophets left a message of hope for the future, 
            regarding the Messiah who would come and establish a 
            kingdom that could never be destroyed!
         
   B. SOME OF THE GREAT THEMES DEVELOPED BY THE PROPHETS...
      1. The holiness of God - He is absolutely pure, righteous, just,
         merciful, tender, loving, and longsuffering
      2. The sovereignty of God - He rules the universe and is above
         all
      3. The immutability of God's word
         a. He carries out His promises
         b. One can depend upon Him to act consistently with His Word
      4. The terribleness of sin
         a. God abhors iniquity, and will not tolerate, overlook, nor
            excuse it
         b. But He is willing to forgive those who humbly repent
      5. Repentance and righteousness
         a. This is the clarion call of the prophets
         b. Though severe is God's punishment of the wicked, yet God's
            mercy is great in loving kindness upon the righteous who 
            are of broken spirit and contrite heart
      6. The worship due God - The proper reverence, awe, and respect
         for God will cause one to praise Him and give thanks for His 
         wonderful grace and mercy!

CONCLUSION

1. Why study "The Minor Prophets"?
   a. This question was asked by a dear sister in Christ, when I 
      preached this series before
   b. She did not see the value of Christians studying this portion of
      the Old Testament
   c. Yet, she later remarked how much she got out of our study

2. Why study "The Minor Prophets"? Because in them we learn about...
   a. The nature of God, His holiness, justice, righteousness and mercy
   b. The workings of God, as He dealt with nations, bringing judgment
      upon the guilty
   ...which can help us in our relationship with God today, giving us 
      comfort and hope to face the future, knowing that God is in 
      ultimate control!
   
I hope this brief introduction has whetted your appetite to study "The 
Minor Prophets". Our next lesson will begin the study in earnest with
a look at the book of Obadiah...
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