God is not a man that He should change His mind, but we’re not God. I’ve read through the Bible more than once, and each time I come around to a passage, I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned new things, I’ve come to a different place that gives me a new perspective on it. If you’ve been reading the Bible for awhile, you’ve likely had the same experience. And sometimes God shows us we’ve been wrong about something. Our views change, we reject old opinions, and hopefully our new opinions jibe more consistently with the text and the universe as they are. Here on Chocolate Book, we approach the Bible heuristically.
Remember the Day of the Lord? Featured big in the book of Joel? Well, it’s back in Zephaniah. Prophecies about it are back, anyway.
You’ve probably heard countless pastors, speakers, authors, and other theologizers tell you, in one form or another, “Start with God,” and that’s exactly what Nahum does. Right off the bat, he paints us a prophetic picture of God: his character, his actions, and how he engages with his creation. But this isn’t a warm-and-fuzzy Joel-Osteen-style God. His primary aim is not your happiness, and insofar as he wants you to live your best life, that best life involves judgment, trial by fire, and grave consequences for any sins you may have committed. This God might conceivably be your friend–but he’s certainly not your buddy.
This chapter of Micah has stuck in my mind over the years. Matthew points to it as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6), and I think it may have been Matthew’s reference to Micah that originally brought me here. I remember reading the verses in the lower-left corner of the page in the blue-covered Bible I had at the time, reading the lines, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (2). That idea struck me as incredibly cool: Jesus Christ’s work in time and space and his involvement in our human world were ancient, primeval, reaching even further back than his appearance on earth two thousand years ago.
Welcome to Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament. We’ll be saying goodbye to it before we know it, but in the meantime, let’s see what we can dig up. It’s primarily a prophecy of judgment against the nation of Edom, although it also mentions the southern kingdom of Judah.
Remember Psalm 139, the “birthday psalm,” so called because it’s about God creating King David in his mother’s womb? I’m pretty sure Amos 9–the final chapter of the book of Amos–directly refers to it. As the chapter begins, Amos sees the Lord standing next to an altar. Perhaps Amos is still in Vision Mode, or perhaps this constitutes a full-blown theophany in the vein of Genesis 18. But more important than how the Lord appears to Amos is what he has to say to the prophet.
A few days ago, I happened across some item from my school days. No, I don’t remember what it was. And while I could make this post more interesting by making up some specific item, we here at Chocolate Book are all about truthfulness over entertainment value. Anyway, whatever this item was, it amazed me to think that there were twelve years of my life where I spent one-fourth of the year not working. No obligations! But now those days are gone forever.
Amos certainly likes his patterns. We started off with the “For three transgressions and for four I will not revoke” of the first two chapters, then we had the torrent of God’s rhetorical questions welcoming us to chapter three, and now in chapter four, we’ve got the mantra “Yet you have not returned to me.” The latter half of the chapter comprises a litany of disciplinary judgments intended to bring Israel back to their Creator, each punctuated by God’s observation that it didn’t work.
If you’ve made an appointment, you walk together. It’s what you do. If you’re a young lion who’s captured something, you growl from your den. It’s what you do. And if the Lord God has spoken, you prophesy. It’s what you do.
I’m pretty sure the only reason Amos 1 and 2 aren’t a single chapter is to keep the chapters short enough to read in under two minutes. Remember the formula from the first chapter? “For three transgressions of Nation X and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they did Terrible Thing Y, so I will send fire upon the wall of Nation X and it will consume her citadels, garnish as necessary with additional judgments?” In this chapter it continues. However, it only runs through one foreign nation (Moab) before turning to Israel and Judah. Yes, that’s right. For all the attention God gives the heathens abroad for the abuse they’ve heaped on his people, now he’s turning his attention to his people’s own biggest abusers: themselves.