Session 35: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12-13
Key verses: Hosea 1:2; 2:19-20; 3:1; 11; Joel 2:12-27; Amos 3:1-2; 5:24; Obadiah 1:3
Key personalities: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and the evil northern kings
Timeline: 795 B.C.-- 415 B.C. The period of 2 Chronicles through Nehemiah
The Minor Prophets. There are 12 minor prophets who lived in the best of times and the worst of times, each with a major message of God’s Truth and a call from God to the people to “rend your heart to repentance”. This section of Scripture is also part of the ‘Writings,’ proclaiming God’s Word of grace, mercy, and judgment if there is no repentance. They were not minor in importance or influence; rather, the term is referring to the length of the books as compared to Isaiah and Jeramiah. They each had a close relationship with God, knew His decrees and precepts of God’s Divine justice, mercy, holiness, comfort, grace, forgiveness, love, and judgment. They were able to bring their intimacy with God into their lives, the turmoil, and their teaching (Heb. 1:1-2).
Canonical order (how they appear in the Bible): Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Chronological order (how they line up in order of happening): Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Obadiah and Joel were the Jewish Prophets who minister in Judah during the 9th Century B.C. prior to the fall of Israel to the Assyrians. They warned the people to get right with God or calamity beyond imagination will befall the entire nation.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah who warned Judah to have mercy to others or prepare for impending doom unless they repent.
Jonah, Amos, and Hosea lived and worked in the northern kingdom of Israel in 8th Century B.C. and passionately pleaded for them to get right with God, but the kings were evil and refused to repent; it fell into captivity 150 years prior to Judah.
Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk, were contemporaries of Jeramiah who preached faith and pleaded with the kings and people in the seventh and 6th Century B.C. to repent or fall and lose everything to Babylon.
Daniel and Ezekiel worked during the Babylonian exile and are called the ‘Exilic Prophets.’
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are considered the ‘Postexilic Prophets’ who worked after the exile when the Israelites were restored to their land and life. Their call was to reform Israel back to God and keep them on the path of faith and obedience.
The Book of Hosea. 8th Century B.C. Have you ever wondered how God feels when we sin and ignore Him? Hosea tells us. This Book is about a Prophet to the northern kingdom, God’s spokesman, who was native of Israel. He was focused on God’s mercy and was called the "Prophet of Divine Love," because he was infused with the knowledge and feel of God’s love that never dies. Yet, as he preached love and mercy, he lives a harsh and bitter life and, through it, learned of love want and love lost, what it meant to have love, lose love, want love and not get it and how God feels when we betray Him. God demonstrates His one-sided love as He loves us, when we do not deserve it or love Him back!
The Book of Joel. 9th Century B.C., Joel ministered in the northern kingdom and has been seen as the Holy Spirit-encounter Book with Joel, the "Prophet of Pentecost", because of his prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to those who will be saved by Christ as recorded in Acts in what is called as being fulfilled at Pentecost. He warned his people about a devastating plague of locusts resulting in extreme famine; it will illustrate God’s judgment unless they repent. This book is also about what happens when we ignore God’s directions and the consequences of losing everything. Even in this message of desolation from a locust plague, the exhortation of God to repent there is hope, the promise that God will restore (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16).
The Book of Amos. 8th Century B.C., in the northern kingdom. Amos was from the south Judah and went north as the prophet of God’s voice for the poor and oppressed. He was concerned for social justice and the government's responsibility for right actions, because God cares for people and hates people oppressing other people. Thus, his focus was God’s changing the statutes to justice in contrast to Hosea’s call for mercy, bookends of God’s Truth. Amos was a shepherd, a man of the earth like Elijah and John the Baptist as he courageously condemned the people's sin with rustic boldness or face the judgment of God. Yet, he still shows them hope and a future restoration in God.
The Book of Obadiah, 6th Century B.C., a contemporary of Daniel and Ezekiel, he ministered to the Edomites, the descendants of Esau who lived in the rocky hills and thought they were invisible and were prideful. This is shortest of the prophetic books, with only 21 verses, warning the people to lay off Israel or face God’s judgment and be destroyed. Grace was extended, hope was given, yet the people refused and were laid to waste by the Babylonians. For them, their real enemy was pride and the enemy of my enemy was my enemy too. This is a Book on the importance to listen to God and not be arrogant. A promise is given that "the kingdom shall be the Lords."
Key Happenings, God’s Judgment and God’s Restoration!
Hosea ministered during the northern kingdom’s darkest hour. The sin and apostasy of his own people was breaking God’s heart; Hosea felt that pain. Israel was being disloyal to the point of apostasy. God charges Hosea to marry a woman, Gomer, who will become a prostitute even though was against the law of God. He was to stick it out as she will be unfaithful; then, he was to love his adulterous wife and be faithful when she is not, even when she left him to become a prostitute. God then called him to divorce her, for the people to see that as much as God loves Israel, God will divorce Israel. Then calls him to love her, as God still loves them, and reconcile and pursues her as God will do with Israel, too. This is an illustration of how it pains God when we betray him, like a spouse betrays the other and all the hurt and dysfunction that results. Then, instead of a divorce, God calls Hosea to restore by pursuing her and to love her when she does not deserve it, as He pursues Israel with a covenant of love as Israel was like an unfaithful spouse committing adultery against God. The lesson also contains the truth that as Gomer is restored, so will Israel be when they repent (Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 32:12; Lev. 19:29; Prov. 2:16-19; Hos. 1:1-5; 2:1).
Hosea took a heavy toil in life, as his wife was unfaithful and God allowed it to be a lesson to others, and people came against him. He names his son in response to what God is doing. Like Jezreel means, ‘God will punish.’ And his daughter, Diblaim, means ‘no more mercy’, a second son called, ‘I am not your God’. A prophet's role was a favor and esteem of God; yet the toll on their lives of affliction was extreme. The people did not listen, and they were taken as plunder to Assyeria. In the crucible of life’s bitter experience, Hosea came to know God deeper and know a love for Him and His sinful children. So, he spends his life's work pleading people to repent and surrender themselves to and in God’s divine and a love and the forgiveness and compassion that He will not let Israel go if the people repent (Hos. 1:3-8; 2:14-23).
Hosea’s main themes are of restoration and reconciliation--love is about how God is faithful and peruses us when we do not earn or deserve it. God is faithful, when we are not. This pursuit of love is also predicated in the themes of life’s agony and turmoil of personal loss and anguish. In the midst of a nation under evil kings who pursue sin, rely on pride and seek to destroy what God loves, people of faith ( Hos. 1:2; 2:19-20; 3:1-5; ch. 11).
Joel was the visionary kind of prophet who could glimpse God’s eternal wonders in his temporal life. He ministers as God’s spokesman during a devastating locust plague, which took everything--those bugs ate all the crops, ruining the economy and starving the people only because the people lusted for their sins. He uses this occasion to warn them of the foreboding “Day of the Lord” when God would act directly, punishing the people, which He did when they went into captivity. God’s love and His judgments go together, because we can repent and He allows us to come back. He is not petty, and He blesses us both in the material and in His steadfast Love and robust spirituality (Psalm 30:5; Joel 2:12-13, 28-31).
Day of the Lord means the Lord's deliverance and salvation for Israel, and this is the final Day of Judgment where God settles all accounts and injustices. For Joel, it was a warning of what will come, which it did in the captivity. For Amos, it was God’s hope to come when repentance was given. Just as the climax was in 722 B.C. and 586 B.C. But, as Joel showed us God’s mercy and Amos God’s judgment, there is hope. God will have His faithful remnant as Joel pointed out, a victory over darkness and sin will be achieved after God intervenes in the world with judgment and destruction to His enemies, and rewards and blessings to those who are in Him. For us, this Day started with the resurrection of Christ and His victory over sin and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It comes to its consummation and fullness after Christ's Second Coming and Judgment--the anticipated eschatological climax of the events of life, time, and space (Isa. 2:11-20; 13:9-13; Joel 1:15; 3:14-21; Amos 5:18-20; Luke 1:68; 1 Thess. 2:1-3; 5:2; 2 Peter 3:9-11).
Plague of Locusts. These bugs, like grasshoppers, are a horrific army armed for battle; they are foreboding and strike terror upon the people, merely by their presence. These insects, which have terrorized farmers of all times, eat everything and leave nothing in the wake of their desolation. They do not bother people directly, but their effect certainly does. They are like a loose demonic creature on the rampage; this is why Revelation uses this illustration who are literally “hell bent” to kill, and give devastation. This term is often both literal and for God’s redemptive work to continue, even though it has been ignored, like the plagues of Egypt. Locusts also refer to a terrible invasion of some sort by demons, peoples, nature, or all of the above; this is a real plague and a symbol to repent for God controls and directs. Joel, shows us the desolation that will come so much worse than what the bugs can do with the “day of the Lord.” Locusts sometimes move in vast swarms and can easily strip away all the crops. It is reported that from 1866 to 1869, in the country of Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea, over 200,000 people died from the result of famine from a locust plague. More recently, in June of 1993, locusts were devouring the harvests of Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti. (Exodus 10:1-20; Psalm 148:1-12; Joel 1:2-2:27; Zech. 6:5; Rev. 9:1-11).
Pour out my Spirit. This is God’s fulfillment of His promised to restore. Joel’s Pentecost prophecy is not just about the coming of the Holy Spirit, but what the Holy Spirit was to do--point to Christ—and give us newness of life and restore us. The central reason and purpose for us to have the Spirit working in us, is to be empowered for ministry. That is what is described as a FILLING. This is always associated, in Scripture, with extraordinary power for ministry, doing something to further the Gospel and the cause of Christ. It is never meant to draw attention to us or to put on some kind of show (Joel 2:28-31; John 13:10; 15:3; Romans 8:9; John 3:5; Acts 2)
Amos,a fig-picker called by God, goes to work on pronouncing judgments on the evil nations who would invade Isreal. God will not give a pass to evil people and their evil ways, as He will not ‘Passover’ as he did in Egypt; rather this time will ‘pass through.’ So all the people of the region were getting preached at and justly so (Amos 4:12; 5:15-24; 7:12-15).
Prophets in the Old Testament were in two camps. The ‘seers’ who were professionally trained and hired out to cults and to please the kings and give good reports, and prophets, those who were directly called by God to serve Him. Amos makes the case he is a real one, by his humbleness, in response to allegations that he was corrupt (7:8-15).
Plumb-line. Practical day-to-day illustrations were used by God through the prophets to steer the people straight, so there is clarity and no mistake as to what He calls and desires. The people are to be set on the right path or right order, getting lined up as in a plumb line with God's Way and precepts just as the order of the Mosaic customs had profound meaning that had to be done by God's prescribed plan (Isaiah 28:16-18; Amos 7:1-9; Heb. 9:1-10).
Key Takeaway: The main point of these Prophets’ messages is to tell us to listen to God, to repent of sin. Hope, so as not to be discouraged, but to remain faithful and vigilant. For the Christian, it is also an encouragement and a warning to follow God’s directions or dreadful consequences will result by our own doings. As Christians, we are chosen by Him to be in Him as His possession in love. He called us out of our darkness into His Light by His mercy; He sets us apart to be holy participants in His Kingdom. Thus, we are called to show this wonderful, incredible place we have in Him to others by our goodness, attitude, and deeds-and, if necessary, with words (Heb. 12:14).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Hosea shows us how God pursues us, loves us unconditionally as Gomer’s redemption points us to the redemption of our Lord. Amos shows us that Christ will be sweet to those who put their faith in Him and bitter to those who are arrogant. Each of these prophets point to God’s right to judge and is the One who restores through His redeeming love and care for His people.
Questions to Ponder
- Have you ever felt outside of God’s love and care? How and why? What does the Bible say here?
- Why would God have Hosea marry a woman he knew would cheat on him and tell him to keep loving her no matter what? What does this teach us about God’s pursuit of love and how we are to deal with our relationships?
- How would you like to have a name that indicates God’s Diving doings?
- How had God pursued and loved you? Why is this so important?
- Have you considered that the Holy Spirit’s role is to do point to Christ, give us newness of life and restore us? How is He your FILLING?
- Why and how does hope go alongside with a call to repentance?
- Why does God hate it when we mistreat one another? What does He call us to do? Have you considered social justice not just a liberal thing, but a God thing?
- What needs to take place in your for love and forgiveness and compassion to come?
- Why is it in the crucible of life’s bitter experience great people came to know God deeper and even a love for Him?
- What does Hosea tech us about love and being wise? How do they go together?
- Why God is committed to restoring broken relationships? Why is it so hard for us?
- Christ fulfills God’s promise of restoration; the question these passages begs is this: are we properly ‘plumb-line’ up to Christ?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org