Habakkuk Who? Five Reasons We Need the Minor Prophets Today
By Beth Stovell - Associate Professor of Old Testament - Ambrose University
While as Christians we like to talk sometimes above valuing all of Scripture, some parts of Scripture get read less often and preached even less frequently.
This is particularly true of the Minor Prophets. When I tell people I'm writing a commentary on the Minor Prophets, I often see one of two things:
1. A blank face trying to remember what the Minor Prophets are
2. A stammering response on why these books might be valuable.
Yet the “Minor” Prophets is a misnomer. The Minor Prophets may be small in size, but they aren’t actually “minor” at all.
When the Minor Prophets are referenced in our services, we like to quote the comforting bits: Based on this way of appropriating the Minor Prophets, we might think they had this message throughout:
God is gonna sing over us because he loves us.
God will marry us and draw us close to him because he loves us.
These ideas are certainly present in the Minor Prophets, but they are located in the midst of the day of God's judgement. With these verses alone we run to the problem of eliminating huge portions of the material in the Minor Prophets and with them, the value that we might actually gain by reading them.
So I want to suggest five reasons we need to read the Minor Prophets today:
1. Minor Prophets help us with our need for lament.
A student came into my office crying about how she had experienced mistreatment. Later in our time she apologized for not being her normal cheery self. My response was to point to the Minor Prophets. Western culture values happiness and appearances, putting on a happy face. The Western Church has bought into this lie. The Minor Prophets proclaim the need for lament. For example, Joel calls upon the people to weep and mourn when they see the hurt of the world around them and call out for God.
2. Minor Prophets help us with our need for justice.
The Minor Prophets openly critique false worship, which leads to injustice against one another. For example, Amos calls us to love what is good and hate what is evil, while Micah reminds us that what God requires of us is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
3. The Minor Prophets help us to see God in new ways.
In the Minor Prophets, there is a balanced image of restoration and reconciliation in the context of judgement. Yes God loves us, but he also asks us to repent before him when we have sought after "other loves" like greed or fulfillment in things other than God. If we only see the picture of God as our buddy, we miss the call to repent that actually draws us closer to God and leads us towards a deeper holiness.
4. The Minor Prophets provide us with a starting place for seeing Christ.
When the New Testament writers read the Minor Prophets, they saw God’s promise of who Jesus Christ would be everywhere. Christ is the one who "on that day" will reconcile all of Israel (Hosea 2 in Galatians 3). Christ will come into the city of Jerusalem as her true king (Zechariah 9 in John 12). Christ suffered for our transgressions (Zechariah 12 in John 19). If the New Testament authors thought the Minor Prophets gave a fuller vision of who Christ is, maybe we should too.
5. The Minor Prophets show us a glimpse of the Holy Spirit at work.
The Holy Spirit appearing is not a New Testament only event. In fact, in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples present, the author of Acts points to the fulfillment of the promises in Joel. Throughout the MP, the Spirit is working to transform God’s people and is the promise that God has more of the Spirit for them to experience.
The Minor Prophets are more than those little books near the end of our Old Testaments with weird names. They provide us with new visions of the Triune God who longs for our hearts to mourn with him at injustice in the world and longs to restore his people through his great transformative love!