Prophets

Day 26 » Zechariah 13-14

This post was written by James Kim. James is an intern at Georgetown Chi Alpha. He graduated from Georgetown in 2014 and is serving the ministry that helped him grow spiritually during his undergrad years.

This post was written by James Kim. James is an intern at Georgetown Chi Alpha. He graduated from Georgetown in 2014 and is serving the ministry that helped him grow spiritually during his undergrad years.

We near the end of the reading plan today as we finish Zechariah. After reading the Minor Prophets share over and over again about the sins of God’s people, their destruction, and their restoration, Zechariah was refreshing to me.

This book is a turning point for several reasons. The children of those who have lived through the destruction of their homes are given a warning. They are told to remember the sins of their fathers and head towards righteousness. God shows favor to them by protecting this new generation from its enemies. Then, there are the prophecies that are as terrifying and confusing as the ones from the prophet Daniel. Though they include the first coming of Jesus Christ, the book ends with an apocalyptic image.

I am not a Bible scholar. Nor do I aspire to be one. But, as I make my best attempt to understand what God is saying through every part of the Bible, my goal is to figure out what I can do today for God, the things that I can practice in obedience to His word.

So, here are my thoughts from reading Zechariah.

God is very clear and direct about telling us that there will be a point in time when this will all end. All people judged. His people rescued and others condemned. Answering the how’s and when’s are not really my interest. After all, Jesus says that no one knows of the day or the hour (Matt 24:36). What is important is that it is going to happen. It is coming. As I’ve read multiple times throughout the Bible, and especially in the past few weeks, the end is near.

At a first glance, this seems like a scare tactic by God. But, remember, context. It is clear to me from reading Zechariah alone, and even clearer throughout the books of the Minor Prophets and also the Bible as a whole, that God has been chasing after us to warn us about the danger we are heading towards. Being omniscient and omnipresent God, He is fully aware of what He gave us, what we desire, and the consequence of sin. In all the times I read about the end times or God’s judgment, I am reminded that God is pointing to what I should avoid. He provided a yellow sign so that I will turn back in time.

The people of Israel experienced extreme favor from God. From God’s promise to Abraham to the exodus and to the land flowing with honey and milk, God did the impossible for them. But, they were quick to forget and their selfish hearts made the blind and deaf to the prophets’ warnings. God, on the other hand, is faithful. Although there are just consequences for the blind, God is full of mercy to those who repent.

For me, I’ve experience extreme favor from God. I am very thankful for how He watched over me and guided my steps. I am thankful for the brothers and sisters of His family He surrounded me with. I am thankful for the miracle of God coming down to earth as a baby to die on the cross and rise again for my sin. But, I admit that I am quick to forget and give into my selfish desires. If it weren’t for God’s grace, I would not repent. That’s why I am so thankful that in the moments I don’t cling on to God, He is clinging on to me, not willing to let go of my hand.

 

Day 18 » Amos 1-3

Today's guest blog was written by Jenny Herald. Jenny is a graduate of Virginia Tech and wrote this blog all the way in Germany where she works for Wunderlist. The best to-do list app ever. She also does many other impressive things, but if they were all written down there wouldn't be enough room in this blog to contain them. 

Today's guest blog was written by Jenny Herald. Jenny is a graduate of Virginia Tech and wrote this blog all the way in Germany where she works for Wunderlist. The best to-do list app ever. She also does many other impressive things, but if they were all written down there wouldn't be enough room in this blog to contain them. 

Amos is not a friendly, happy book to read. Unlike the prophesies of Isaiah, which are encouraging and inspire hope, Amos speaks of punishment and destruction.

During the time of Amos’ ministry, Israel was a powerhouse—wealthy and influential. One would think that Israel’s prosperity indicated that God was pleased with His nation, but Amos’ words proved just the opposite. God was not pleased. He asked for repentance and if the Israelites would not turn from their sin, they would be punished.

These were the charges brought against the Israelites (Amos 2:6–8):

They sell the innocent for silver,

    and the needy for a pair of sandals.

They trample on the heads of the poor

    as on the dust of the ground

    and deny justice to the oppressed.

Father and son use the same girl

    and so profane my holy name.

They lie down beside every altar

    on garments taken in pledge.

In the house of their god

    they drink wine taken as fines.

The Israelites perverted justice even though they were entrusted with administering it. They oppressed the poor when they were instructed to be generous. They were involved in incestuous affairs, an act that was considered abominable and unclean in the eyes of God. And instead of offering sacrifices, as they had been taught (to show their devotion to God), they only put on the appearance of worship.

As I read through the first chapters of Amos, I wondered, what does any of this have to do with me? How can I possibly relate to any of this?

God has given the Israelites and us–Gentile descendents/inheritors of the promise—a framework by which to live.

God tells us to do good.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

    when it is in your power to act.

Do not say to your neighbor,

    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—

    when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27–38)

How often do we have the power to act upon something and decide instead, by our actions or (more likely) our inactions, to withhold good?

God instructs His people to help the poor.

If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. (Leviticus 25:35)

When someone is in need, how willing am I do offer aid? Will I take time out of my busy day to even bother finding out if and how I can help those around me?

God has spoken time and time again against sexual immorality and specifically finds incest abhorrent.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1)

Is my mind clear of unclean thoughts? And when my mind wanders to places that it ought not to go, like filthy places, do I even try to take hold of them and submit them under obedience to God?

Samuel spoke about God’s view on offerings and sacrifices—to God, to obey is better than sacrifice.

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

    as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

    and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Do I give God lip service? Or do I live a live that is in accordance with God’s word?

Amos’ words hit close to home. Sometimes, with the busy-ness of life, we neglect those things that God has charged for us to do. We think that because things are going great, things are great. Amos reminds us to take stock of our spiritual condition, acknowledge our sin and repent so that we can be made right with God.

Perhaps for you that means you need to do (more) good, be (more) generous, get your mind out-of-the-gutter or sincerely give God your all (both in your private and public life). Whatever it is, know that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). And because of that, we can be who He asks us to be—holy (1 Peter 1:13–16).

Day 1 » Avoiding Some Minor Confusion

This post is written by Bonnie Duncan. Bonnie is the Director for Georgetown Chi Alpha. 

This post is written by Bonnie Duncan. Bonnie is the Director for Georgetown Chi Alpha. 

Let’s address the elephant in the room: the Minor Prophets seem a bit harsh (spoiler alert). God seems a little bit mean and a lot angry. Some of the Prophets seem a bit overdramatic (looking at you, Jonah). There are definitely plenty of more uplifting books in the Bible to read, but context is everything. And if we censor ourselves from the tough books, then we miss the fullness of God’s message for us through His word.

It’s easy to read about Jesus feeding the multitudes with bread and fish, and Paul writing to say what a great job the Thessalonians are doing.  It’s much harder to understand how a gracious God could bring total destruction on entire cities.

If we want to truly understand God’s unending love and pursuit for his people, if we want to grasp the miracle and cost of our salvation, then the Minor Prophets are a vital part of the story.

Here are some things to remember as you dive into the Minor Prophets:

  • The Major and Minor Prophets are separated not because of their importance, but by their length.
  • The Minor Prophets remind us of God’s promises, pursuit, and unending love for His people.
  • Not sure what a prophet is? Check out Deuteronomy 18:9-21 for a nice definition.
  • It’s helps in times when you might question God’s character to think of the passage as part of the larger story that God is writing. How do this actions help restore the relationship between God and his people? Think back to The Thread series: how are these stories pointing towards Christ? Also consider, not everything written is pointing to Jesus. In fact, most of the prophecies don’t. Which brings me to my next point:
  • Historical distance is a factor here. Like a lot of instances in the Bible, the people these words were spoken for likely had a much better understanding of what they meant than we do. For obvious reasons: they knew the context and—even if they didn’t care—were the nonetheless aware of the situation. While difficult, it’s important that we attempt to understand the culture and times the best we can. One of the fundamental rules of good exegesis (the study of scripture) is that the passage cannot mean something to us that it didn’t mean for the people it was written to.
  • Biblical scholars often use the phrase sensus plenior when studying the Prophetic books—the idea that passages may have a deeper meaning intended by God, but not intended by the human author.

There is a lot of imagery to wrap our heads around. On the occasions when the prophet’s messages are clear and concise, the words weren’t always what the people wanted to hear. Yet God selected these particular prophets to remind Israel of the covenant they made with Him as His people. The prophets delivered news of abundant blessings, consequences, or great things yet to come—like the promise of Christ.

And if you needed any more motivation to keep with the plan, most of these books are pretty short. So you can knock out these 12 books in no time. 28 days to be exact. And that’s a win in my book.