The story of Jonah is well known to many people, even those that have never attended church or read the story. It’s application is clear…how often do we run away from God and what he wants of us? Our running never turns out very well, just like Jonah.
Jonah has also taken a lot of hits as to whether it is fact or fiction. I have always allowed myself to question, but after much thought and study, I have no problem with the validity of the story. Jesus seems to have no problem with it in Mathew 12. One thing that helped me was when I discovered that neither Greek nor Hebrew have a word to distinguish between a fish and a whale and if a whale is possible, this story is more than plausible.
The irony for me is when people use this story to give themselves license to disbelieve what God says in the Scriptures. It sounds like they use the story of Jonah to be a kind of Jonah of their own!
We know very little about the prophet Obediah or the date of the book but the message is very clear.
There is a long history of enmity between Edom and Israel. The sad thing is that the two nations originated out of two brothers—Esau and Jacob. The hostility began in an argument over the birthright, but during the time of Obadiah it centered around trade routes. The kings highway (show on map) ran all the way from Damascus to Egypt. Whoever controlled the highway, controlled the flow of goods and became wealthy.
The book is written at a time when Edom helped an enemy attack Jerusalem and Edom took the opportunity to take over control of part of the Negev. Edom should have been Judah’s ally, instead they encouraged the Babylonians. Obadiah is writing to show that God is going to judge Edom for what she has done.
I love the book of Amos because he is a regular guy and I can relate to that.
Sometimes we think we are a "just-a"! We are just-a salesman, teacher or housewife. Amos would be considered a "just-a." He wasn't a prophet or priest or the son of either. He was just a shepherd, a small businessman in Judah. Who would listen to him? But instead of making excuses, Amos obeyed and became God's powerful voice for change.
God has used "just-a's" such as shepherds, carpenters, and fishermen all through the Bible. Whatever you are in this life, God can use you. Amos wasn't much. He was a "just-a." "Just-a" servant for God. It is good to be God's "just-a."
Joel is an interesting book for a few reasons. Fist off, we don’t know anything about this prophet. We have his fathers name and that’s it. There is no other mention of him in the Old Testament, which brings us to the other interesting fact; we have no idea when it was written. The book leaves us very few clues for dating it. The only clue is that Joel mentions and knows about the “Day of the Lord” so he must have been familiar with Isaiah, Amos and Ezekiel, but that is just an assumption.
A huge plague of locusts is coming and the darkness of the locusts against the sun characterizes the darkness of the day. Repent, repent, repent!
God has many charges against Israel.
1. Lack of knowledge about God
2. Breaking Vows
6. False Worship
7. Idol Worship
These charges have real consequences.
1. Land Mourns
2. People waste away
3. Animals, birds and fish disappear
4. Sin increases
5. Drought and Famine
When I look at the two lists, I see many similarities in our world today. Our culture lives as if there is no God and no consequences for our actions. If I’m honest, I do as well. When I read through the Old Testament, I get so frustrated with the stupidity of the people, always turning from God. It’s very easy to point to the issues of others. When I take inventory of my life, I find that my pattern looks very much the same as Israel’s.
One of the most shocking stories in the Minor Prophets is the story of Hosea. Again and again, God asks his prophets to endure terrible and uncomfortable experiences to illustrate what “we” are doing to God. God starts off asking Hosea to marry a prostitute so that he will experience her cheating on him and bearing children through the act of prostitution. It is in this way we are to see how our actions are similar to God. When we turn against God and turn to materialism, comfort, power or any other god, we are like the prostitute bearing children through that horrible act. Can you imagine that?
Many of the prophecies in the book of Daniel have a macro and a micro aspect to them. There are events that are going to happen during Daniel’s day and connected events that will happen during the end of days. It’s like the antichrist. This is a specific person, prophesied in Revelation and here in Daniel 7. Now think of Hitler…does he fit the image? You bet! But since he is dead and the totality of the events of the end times didn’t happen, maybe he wasn’t the antichrist. 1 John helps us out,”1 John 2:18 Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come.” Some of these events have and are happening on a smaller scale, but they will come to full fruition at the end of days.
I love the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity. I can still remember hearing this story in Sunday School when I was about 8 years old. I could picture his arrogance as he looked over his kingdom and then I would picture a metamorphosis (probably inspired by the 1970 hit series “The Hulk”). I could picture his hair growing out and his nails twisting as they slowly extended from his crooked fingers. He starts to hunch over and then there is a bolt of lightning as he finches with that evil “I’m going to take over the world” laugh that every evil villain used on the Justice League.
Do we need God or have we done everything on our own. Do we give him token credit or are we willing to let it all go because we know everything is his and he can replenish our storehouses if he wants to or not?
Daniel turns out to be quite the dream interpreter. He is able to interpret the King’s strange statue dream. A little history work and we can uncover the nations of the statue. The gold is the Babylonian Empire (that’s the easy one), the silver chest and arms are the Medo-Persian Empire, the bronze belly and thighs are the Greek Empire, the iron legs are the Roman Empire and the iron/clay feet is the revived Roman Empire at the second coming of Christ.
Daniel was deported from Jerusalem to Babylon and wrote to the Jews in exile. It is a book of piety but also a book of prophecy. Much of this book is connected to the book of Revelation. Right off the bat we see Daniel and his three friends make some dietary choices as not to violate God’s laws. They are only allowed this if they can prove that they can still be strong. The young men surpassed all of the others!
This blog was originally written by Pastor Doug Bartel of Hillcrest Church, starting in Spring 2009. Keep that in mind if you read anything that doesn't quite add up to the time of year.