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The Minor Prophets: conclusion

All summer we’ve been going through some of the minor prophets, in a bible study I wrote two years ago (learn more about the background of this study in the introduction). We’re going to close the series with some of the conclusion I wrote for the original study guide.

Here’s a brief look at some of the topics we’ve covered while studying these six books:

Obadiah

  • Pride deceives
  • The good  you DON’T do is sin
  • Deeds return on your head (the Boomerang Effect)

Joel

  • Crying out to God
  • Turning your heart toward God
  • God’s gifts satisfy fully –and more!
  • God is both Judge and Protector
  • God is present with us

Zephaniah

  • Seek God
  • Seek God together
  • Trust God to deal with injustice
  • God is faithful when we are not
  • Serving shoulder-to-shoulder

Habakkuk

  • When sin goes unpunished
  • Trusting God when life doesn’t go to plan
  • Watching for God’s answers
  • God’s heart for the exploited
  • Lament worship

Haggai

  • Serve God first – trust Him to take care of the rest
  • Obeying (not procrastinating)
  • God’s presence makes the temple great
  • Offerings of faith
  • Tools chosen by God

Malachi

  • What would your life be like without God?
  • Priest offering sacrifices
  • Breaking faith/keeping faith
  • Trusting God’s timing
  • Robbing God
  • Unity affects God

There’s a LOT packed into these six short books. One thing I love about reading the Bible is that no matter how many times I read the same book, there’s always SO MUCH MORE to learn. I discover new treasures every time as I turn my heart to God.

  1. These lists reflect some of the things that are special to me in each of these books. I encourage you to make your own list, of the things that spoke to you from each book.

I hope that you have enjoyed taking a brief look at some of the minor prophets. I pray that you have a deeper understanding of the character of God, and his passionate love you his people – his passionate love for YOU.

I also hope that you have been recording your thoughts, your insights, your questions. These are the things we need to share with each other! This is how we strengthen our faith – gathering together, sharing together.

I’m going to close with a beautiful prayer from Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

God is truly beyond comprehension, beyond imagination.

He is greater than all our wildest dreams.

I pray he will be glorified through me, through you – through us, as we continue to seek him together.


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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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The Minor Prophets: Obadiah, part 2

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

(Click here for part 1 of the Obadiah study)

STRUCTURE

There are three clear sections in Obadiah:

  1. The first 9 verses are about what God thinks of Edom (Obadiah 1-9)
  2. The next 5 form God’s case against Edom (Obadiah 10-14)
  3. The final 7 verses are a prophecy of what’s going to happen to Edom (Obadiah 15-21)

Section 1 – Obadiah 1-9

KEY VERSE: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (verse 3)

Pride deceives. The Edomites were proud and self-reliant. They were so caught up in their pride and independence that they were blind to the disaster coming upon them. Their pride deceived them. It has been suggested that the lack of evidence of a God of Edom (in stark contrast to other nations of the time) means they had NO gods. No idols, no gods of fertility or harvest, and certainly no reverence of the One God, the God of their ancestors Abraham and Isaac. A nation with no gods was unheard of. Even having one god (like the Israelites) was rather odd.

God’s power is absolute. Nothing, and no one, is greater than him. He is omnipotent – ALL powerful. There is nowhere beyond his reach. No matter how well I stack up against another human being, I’m nothing next to God.

The sin of pride is thinking too well of yourself – believing you really are better than others. It is a form of deception, and that’s one reason why it’s so dangerous. If you start swallowing lies about yourself – even pleasant ones – you set yourself up for greater deception.

The Edomites were to be betrayed by those they counted as friends. They didn’t see it coming. This is the danger of great pride – we get so caught up in ourselves, swallowing the lies, that we become blind to reality. Pride deceives us. Pride deceives me. Pride deceives you. At some point reality WILL catch up with you, and if you stay caught up in self-deception, you won’t see it coming.

Pride deceives. One way to combat pride, therefore, is with truth – seeing things clearly.

  1. What areas of pride are you able to recognise in yourself?
  2. How can you inject some clarity, some truth, into these areas? (This isn’t about thinking you’re no good – that’s just buying into a whole other set of lies!)
  3. Self-reliance and independence were a way of life for the Edomites. Have cultural ideals of such as self-reliance or independence affected the way you interact with God?

Pride deceives. One way to combat pride, therefore, is with truth – seeing things clearly.


Section 2 – Obadiah 10-14

KEY VERSE: “you stood aloof” (verse 11)

Those three words, “you stood aloof,” catch my eye (and my heart) every time. How often have I stood aloof, unwilling to make any effort to help someone? Then there’s the rest…

  • Actively harming someone
  • Allowing them to be harmed by others (not intervening – harming them through my inaction)
  • Looking down on them when they’re having a tough time
  • Being happy when things go wrong for them
  • Laughing at their misfortune
  • Refusing to help them
  • Helping others harm them
  • Joining in the harassment, instead of sticking up for them
  • Benefitting from their misfortune

Um, yeah. I’ve done a lot of those things, if not all of them, on one level or another. These are things that deeply offend God! This stuff makes him really mad! Not that God is going to wipe me from existence, but it makes me think. How calloused my heart is to the needs of others?

I don’t want to allow pride, bitterness, resentment, or a grudge, to blind me to the needs of others.

I don’t want to be so caught up in my own “stuff” that I can’t help someone else.

This isn’t just about doing bad things to someone – it’s about NOT doing GOOD things. James 4:17 says it well: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

It’s also clear that it matters to God that Esau and Jacob were brothers – these nations have close blood ties and yet there is no care or concern there. Sometimes we can be most harsh to our family members, when they’re the ones we need to protect and look after the most.

Inaction can be a sin just as much as action can be. If I’m not aware of the needs around me, I can’t respond to them.

  1. Can you think of a specific time where you chose to act, and someone was helped by it?
  2. How can you start to be more aware of the needs of your family and friends?
  3. Is there anyone else you think God’s asking you to be more aware of?

Section 3 – Obadiah 15-21

KEY VERSE: “your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15)

I call this section “The Boomerang Effect”. All the centuries of anger and resentment and jealousy and bitterness than Edomites had harboured for centuries were about to return on their own heads. Hence, the Boomerang Effect. It’s a very Australian illustration, I know, but I reckon it’s okay to pull out a cliché every now and then. Something about the image of throwing a boomerang, and it returning to the one who threw it, spoke to me more clearly than “you reap what you sow” ever did.

Sowing seems a fairly sedate things to me. Throwing is so ACTIVE. You can throw with FEELING. There’s only so many ways to drop a seed on the ground – but there are so many different ways to act toward others. I can act with tenderness, with patience, with boredom, with condescension, with anger, with jealousy, with bitterness…  The Boomerang Effect says that these attitudes catch up with us eventually.

God uses another image – that of drinking. It makes me think of draining – their energy, their lives, will be drained away. They will be drained, just as they drained others.

God is clear that Edom isn’t the only nation who will be punished for the actions, but it seems to me that this book makes a big deal of the fact that they were brothers to Israel, and should have acted like it. They shouldn’t have been just like everyone else – they should have done better.

Ultimately, the Edomites disappeared from history. Pride blinded them, bitterness caused them to stand aloof, and even actively hurt those they should have protected. It all started with a hurt held on to, and ended with centuries of anger and bitterness returning on their own heads. THIS is why forgiveness is so important.

  1. Can you think of something you’ve held onto for a long time? A hurt, perhaps something someone close to you did or said. What feelings come up when you think about it?
  2. How could this haunt you if you continue to hang on to it? How many weeks/months/years of negative emotion are already piled up, ready to return on your head?
  3.  At its simplest, forgiveness is letting go – choosing to leave it up to God to make things right. If you’re ready to let go of the emotion piled up, try just telling God how you feel about it all.
 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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The Minor Prophets: Obadiah, part 1

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction

WHO IS OBADIAH?

We know almost nothing about the author of Obadiah. The name “Obadiah” itself is translated “servant of Yahweh” or “one who serves or worships Jehovah”. This leads many scholars to believe that it was a pseudonym – the pen-name of an anonymous prophet.  It’s assumed that he lived in Judah, and many Jewish traditions hold that the prophet was not an Israelite but an Edomite – it’s a very interesting idea but there is no evidence to prove it.

WHEN WAS OBADIAH WRITTEN?

No one knows for sure, but there are two main schools of thought. One group (which seem to form the majority of scholarly opinion) believe that Obadiah was written at about 845 BC. This was during the reign of King Jehoram (848-841), when Israel was attacked by the Philistines and Arabians, probably assisted by the Edomites.  The date is based on the rebellion of Edom in 845, when they set up their own king. A second group believes that Obadiah was written much later, at about 585 BC – after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

Jeremiah 49:7-22 is very similar to the beginning of Obadiah (compare Jeremiah 49:9 with Obadiah 5, and Jeremiah 49:15-16 with Obadiah 2-4). It can be reasonably assumed that one of the prophets was paraphrasing the other. Jeremiah prophesied around the time of the fall of Jerusalem, so if Obadiah was written in 845 then it came first.

WHAT IS OBADIAH ABOUT?

Obadiah is the shortest book in the entire Old Testament. It’s not even divided into chapters! The whole thing is only 21 verses long.  The entire book is a prophecy against the nation of Edom. There is no “repent and be saved” clause included, it’s just a straight out “you will be destroyed” message. This is very unusual in Scripture. No other nation gets this sort of treatment – their very own book of doom. Amos, another of the minor prophets, gave messages of doom to a bunch of nations (Edom included – see Amos 1:11-12) but the majority of the book is directed to Israel. Most of the prophetic messages recorded in the Bible are messages to Israel. God disciplines his children, and Scripture contains a clear record of his fatherly correction. So what’s the deal with Edom? Why do they get this sort of “special treatment”? To understand the book of Obadiah it’s essential to understand the long history of the nations of Edom and Israel.

THE NATION OF EDOM

The Edomites descended from Esau, the big brother of Jacob – later known as Israel, father of the Israelites. There is serious history between these brother nations. The story of Jacob and Esau is long and complicated. To understand Obadiah better, I recommend reading the stories recorded in Genesis 25:19-34, 26:34-28:8; 32:1-33:17.

From the very beginning these brothers fought against each other – even before they were born! They had different skills, different strengths, and different temperaments. They were favoured by different parents. Jacob twice got the upper hand over his older, stronger brother through quick thinking – by deceiving (this is even foreshadowed by the meaning of his name).  As a kid in Sunday School I thought of Jacob as the villain of the piece, scheming to deceive his naive older brother, but I’ve changed my mind a bit on that.  Jacob was sneaky – there is no excuse for his deception – but Esau was not blameless.

Esau didn’t care. He gave away what should have been his most precious possession for a bowl of soup. He cared more about his present hunger than about his future inheritance. Even more telling is his response after the fact – “he despised his birthright”. What should have been a blessing to him was instead a curse – his lawful right to a double share of his father’s estate was hateful to him because he had given it away. He held on to resentment and anger. When Jacob then received the father’s blessing from Isaac, stealing that from Esau too, he did get upset, and even cried. Again, though, he soon turned to resentment and anger. He held a grudge, and the bitterness was enough that he was ready to kill his own brother. Esau is used as a negative example (what not to do) in Hebrews 12:14-17 – definitely worth a read.

When the two brothers met up later in life, Esau chose reconciliation over revenge. This peace did not last. The descendants of Esau continued to have issue with the descendants of Jacob. The Edomites hated the Israelites.

Jacob took his family to Egypt while his son Joseph in power there. Eventually they were enslaved by the Egyptians, and centuries after first arriving there God sent Moses to get them out. After 40 years in the desert God was leading the nation of Israel up to the land he had promised to give them and they came to Kadesh, on the border of Edom. While the Israelites had been slaves in a foreign land for centuries, Edom had become a solid nation, holed up in cities they had carved from red cliffs, such as the city of Petra – anyone else remember “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?  Despite the centuries that had passed, the Edomites would not allow Israel to pass through their land. They threatened the Israelites with military might. Instead of welcoming the Israelites as long lost brothers, they watched them warily as enemies. (This story is in Numbers 20:14-22).

Through the centuries that followed there was constant war and rivalry between these brother nations. Israel conquered Edom – the older brother again served the younger, as God had spoken to their mother, Rebekah and as their father Isaac had prophesied. Various Israelite kings lead wars against Edom – Saul (I Samuel 14:47), David
(II Samuel 8:13-14), Solomon (I Kings 11:14-22), Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 20:2), Jehoram (II Chronicles 21:8-10), Amaziah (II Chronicles 25:11-14), Ahaz (II Chronicles 28:16-17). Edom even joined other enemies of Israel, so great was their hatred – it’s even recorded in song, in Psalm 137:7.

As always happens with humans, what’s in our hearts comes out in our actions. Sibling rivalry is often very fierce, but that doesn’t make it at all right. It is something we ought grown out of as we mature. Holding a grudge always hurts ME, not the one I’m angry at. As I hold on, stuck in unforgiveness, that resentment grows and grows until I am so caught up in it I am willing to do things I would never dream of otherwise. Bitterness changes who you are, and ultimately destroys you.

Holding a grudge caused one man to want to kill his own brother.

Holding a grudge caused one nation to desire the annihilation of another.

Obadiah is God’s word to the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, the people of Teman.

Read Obadiah in the NIV
Read Obadiah in the NLT

Continue to part 2 of the Obadiah study

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Bible Resources

 

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