You may have heard of certain books of the Old Testament being among the "minor prophets" - we're talking about guys like Joel, Hosea, Obadiah, Micah and Amos (among others). We never hear talk about the "major" prophets, though; we just call them prophets. These are guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah. And it's probably easy to see why the distinction is made - the books of the "minor" prophets are much shorter than the works of the prophets, and we hear them preached from far less regularly.
The reason, I suppose, is that the work of the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah is understood to be broader and more far-reaching than the work of the minor prophets, who often had very specific insights to share about this or that. Isaiah and Jeremiah paint with a wide brush on grand canvases, creating pictures of the greatness of our God and all of His promises. And we can't seem to get enough of that. We can't seem to get enough of that Big Story God with all of His grand design.
But the minor prophets....
Man, this is what I love about the minor prophets - while the prophets paint these pictures of the greatness of God, the minor prophets seem to whisper the goodness of our God.
They just...get down into my heart more and connect with that place inside of me that needs to be loved by God. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for the Isaiahs and Jeremiahs and Ezekiels of the world; there absolutely is. But think about all the crazy stuff God asked them to do, about all of the weird demonstrations they made to His people. Lie on your side for a year or so, then roll over and lie on your other side. Eat this scroll. Make a spectacle of yourself. They're just way out there and making all these giant statements, and it's easy to walk away from them knowing the power and control that God has in the world and how He's orchestrating everything just the way that He wants it.
But then the minor prophets speak, and it's like fresh water pouring through the soul. It's all this quiet little stuff about the real kinds of lives we're living. Just all these quiet little things that...almost don't seem like anything in the grand scheme of God and yet, they are something amazing. They are so meaningful. I cannot read any of the minor prophets without God playing my heartstrings like a violin.
When I'm reading the prophets, I'm trying to put the pieces together, but when I'm reading the minor prophets, I'm trying to hold myself together because God is just doing a number on the deepest parts of my being.
Some have said that the minor prophets are minor precisely because their prophecies were so small and specific, because they didn't have those broad, world-managing implications that Jeremiah and Isaiah had. Because they seem to apply in a very specific place at a very specific time. And yet, they were given to us in our Scriptures and not by accident. They show us something that all the grand canvases in the world cannot contain: the intimate love of God.
And the key to reading them is not to try to identify with the people. It's not to try to find yourself in the circumstances that are happening. It's not to try to correlate the events of the day with today's world. If you read the minor prophets with human eyes, you'll miss everything important in them. The key to reading the minor prophets is to look for the heartbeat of God. That's the essence of them. Literally every breath of these guys is a new beat of His heart. If you read through the minor prophets and don't feel the weight of God's love wrapping around you, you're missing it. You're just missing it.
Just look at some of the images and encouragement we get from them. Amos cries out to let justice roll down like a river. Hosea reminds us of a healing we've received but haven't accepted. Micah calls us to "live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."
Isaiah and Jeremiah, they tell us about a coming Jesus and the way that God is working the world together for our good and His glory. But the minor prophets, they tell us about this flesh that we're living in. Right now. The very flesh we've been in since God first bent down and pulled it together and breathed life into it.
The minor prophets...they aren't really minor at all. Not by a long shot. They are so important, so vital to our faith. We really ought to spend more time in them.
Maybe we'll start this week.