Week 19: Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah

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This week’s readings cover the writings of the final five prophets that God used to warn His people prior to sending them into exile.

Jonah and Nahum were unusual because their message was for a gentile kingdom — Assyria, and its capital city, Nineveh. Jonah’s life is a symbol of how Israel interacted with the gentile world. Just as the life of Hosea (marrying an unfaithful woman who he had to redeem from her debtors) symbolized God’s relationship with Israel. Israel was supposed to be a nation of priests to the gentiles. But they ran from their responsibility just as Jonah ran from Nineveh.

The reason the prophet ran and Israel did not reach out is the terrible way the gentile nations treated Israel. Remember how the Jewish people were enslaved by Egypt, and were attacked by the Amalekites, Moabites, Edomites and others. But God had told Abraham that through him all the people of the world would be blessed. Nineveh responds to a single sentence sermon with national repentance— which displeases Jonah.

Unfortunately for them, the response was not permanent so Nahum is later sent to pronounce judgement on them and the book details how God punishes them and restores Israel. The apostles of Jesus took on the responsibility to reach out to all nations but there is a coming judgement on the whole world where the nations will be judged but all God’s people— Jew and gentile alike — will enjoy God’s blessings.

Habakkuk does not prophecy against Israel but instead questions how God can use one unrighteous nation to judge another? Through their dialogue we learn that God is aware of the sinful nature of the oppressors and that in the future they will be judged for their iniquities just as Israel is being judged for its. In contrast to living in the fear of coming judgement the righteous will “live by faith.” Faith in God’s justice, righteousness and mercy. Faith that allows them to see that God is their strength (3:19) wo they can rise above the awful circumstances they find themselves in— living in a sinful nation being oppressed by another even more sinful nation.

Zephaniah returns us to familiar themes of God judging both His people and their oppressors because of similar sins— pride and idolatry. He states He is sending the “fire of My zeal” to punish but to purify. He wants to purify Jerusalem and the whole earth for the sake of His faithful remnant. A remnant of the poor and outcasts that He indicates He might “hide” in the day of Judgement.

Finally Micah brings a message of hope among the words of judgement. He describes that Messiah will be born in Jerusalem (5:2) and that He will be a “good shepherd” to His “flock.” The “flock” are the faithful remnant of Israel that will be regathered into the land. God will use His faithful remnant to fulfill His covenant with Abraham that through Israel all the nations of the world will be blessed.

Dr. Samuel Abatte is a physician practicing in Wasilla, Alaska. This column first appeared in the Frontiersman, a Wick newspaper serving the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska.