Study 0 From the Book of Zephaniah is: The Introduction of the book Zephaniah
Zephaniah prophesied in the reign of Josiah, and probably in the early years of that reign, before Josiah began his religious reforms. For when Zephaniah delivered his message, idolatrous, customs, which Josiah abolished, were still openly practised (cf., e. g. 1: 4, 5 with 2 Ki. 23: 4, 5). Zephaniah was therefore a contemporary of Jeremiah and possibly began his ministry somewhat earlier. If the Hezekiah from whom his descent is trace (1:1) was, as many think probable, the king of that name, then Zephaniah was related to the royal house.
The theme of his prophecy is the day of the Lord, which was about to break. It is pictured as a day of terrible judgment, under the imagery of war and invasion, in which Judah and Jerusalem would be thoroughly purged of those who practiced wickedness. But, the judgement would embrace all nations; it was to be a day of universal judgement.
When the judgment was completed there would be a remnant of Israel, a lowly but upright people who, trusting in the Lord would rejoice in His favour. Zephaniah foresaw also that other nations, would ‘call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord’ (3:9). His message is marked by breadth of view and profound insight, and charged with an ardent vehemence of moral passion.
Zephaniah’s word received a striking fulfillment in the fall of Nineveh, and a quarter of a century later in the fall of Jerusalem. But, the fulfillment is not yet complete. The final day of God’s judgment has yet to come.
Study 2 From the Book of Joel is: Joel 2: 18 – 3: 21
With this lesson, we end the book of Joel. Tomorrow we start the book of Zephaniah
- What is God’s reaction to His people’s repentance? What principle does this teach?
- How has the prophecy of 2:28, 29 been fulfilled far more wonderfully than Joel foresaw?
- Chapter 3 is a vision of mercy upon Israel, and judgement on her enemies. In what ways had the nations angered God by their treatment of Israel, and what judgment would fall on them? What according to 3:17 and 21 is the supreme blessedness of God’s people?
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Study 1 From the Book of Joel is: Joel 1:1 – 2: 17
Two addresses on the plague of locust, both describing in different ways its severity, and summoning the people to repent.
- What teaching is given in this passage on the need for corporate repentance for national sin? What essentials of true repentance are given in 2:12, 13?
- Gather together the teaching on ‘the day of the Lord’ in this passage. What is its significance?
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Study 0 From the Book of Joel is: The Introduction of the Book of Joel
Nothing is known of this prophet beyond what is stated in the first verse of this book, and the evident fact that he prophesied to Judah. It is generally agreed that he was either one of the earliest of the prophets, or one of the latest. The date is not important for the study of his message.
The occasion of his prophecy was an unprecedented plague of locust, apparently accompanied by drought (1:18-20). He summoned the people to national repentance and self-humbling, and on their doing this, he was authorized to declare the speedy departure of the locusts, and the restoration of the land.
But, the prophet was given also a more distant vision. The plague of locusts was a symbol of the approaching day of the Lord, and Joel foresees the outpouring of the Spirit, and the gathering of the nations to answer for their misdeeds towards Israel. The Lord will triumph and Israel be blessed.
Study 2 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah 3 and 4
With this study, we end the book of Jonah and will start the book of Joel tomorrow.
- God is unchangeably consistent in His attitude to men. What moral action is necessary to avoid judgement and find mercy? Cf. Joel 2:12-14. Acts 10: 34, 35. How did Jesus commend the Ninevites’ actions? Mt. 12:41.
- Jonah the patriot almost hides Jonah the prophet. How do 4:2b, 4, 10 and 11 rebuke his attitude? Contrast the attitude of Jonah with that of Jesus the Jew. Cf. Mt. 23: 37, 38; Mk. 10 45.
- What aspects of the character of God stand out in this short book?
- 3:3. ‘An exceedingly great city’: The administrative district of Nineveh, which could be referred to here (as distinct from the city alone), was thirty to sixty miles across.
- 4:2. ‘Repentest of evil’: the Hebrew root means ‘to breath heavily’. A change of mind is not so much meant; the thought is almost that the Lord takes a deep breath of relief that He does not have to act in judgment as the consistency of His character would otherwise demand.
- 4:6. ‘A plant’ a fast-growing, trailing or climbing plant with broad leaves.
- 4:9-11. ‘Jonah (for selfish reasons) pities the insignificance plant for which he was not responsible. Should not God much more (and unselfishly) have pity on the poor ignorant inhabitants with their cattle in the evil city of Nineveh?
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Study 1 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah 1 and 2
The key to Jonah’s flight is found in 4:2. He feared the tenderness of God. If he went to Nineveh as commanded, Nineveh might repent, and be spared (cf. Je. 18:8) to become later the destroyer of Israel. If he did not go, God’s judgment would fall upon Nineveh, and Israel would be saved.
- ‘But Jonah’ (verse 3); ‘But the Lord’ (verse 4). Cf. Acts 11:8, 9 (where the context also concerns Gentiles). Of what truth had Jonah lost sight? Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4. How did the Lord retain control of the situation? With 1:7b cf. Pr. 16:33, and notice ‘appointed’ in 1:17.
- Jonah (like Adam and Eve, Gn. 3:8-10) tried to escape from the presence of the Lord. (1:3, 10; cf. 2:4). Why was this impossible? In the light of this passage, look up Ps. 139:23, 24 and apply it to yourself.
- Jonah’s prayer, remarkable for its lack of direct petition, speaks of distress and passes into thanksgiving. What was the fundamental cause of his distress? What caused the transition?
- 1:3. ‘Flee…from the presence of the Lord’: this amounted to renouncing his vocation, for the prophet stood in the presence of the Lord (cf. 1. Ki.17:1).
- 1:17. “three days and three nights’: cf. Mt. 12:40. According to Jewish reckoning this may mean one full day with the night before and the night after.
- 2:7. To the Hebrews, ‘remembering’ could be much more than a bare mental process; he could mean recreating to the imagination the historic deeds of the Lord; the use of the word repays detailed study. With this passage cf. Pss. 77:11, 12; 105:4-6; 143:5.
- 2:9. The vow was probably some sort of sacrificial thank-offering. Vowing is a biblical practice; but the Old testament counsels against hasty (Pr. 20:25) and empty (Ec. 5:5) vows.
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Study 0 From the Book of Jonah is: Jonah Introduction of the Book of Jonah
Jonah is mentioned in 2 Ki. 14:25 as having predicted the victories of Jeroboam II by which the borders of the kingdom of Israel were greatly enlarged. If Jonah prophesied at the beginning of Jeroboam’s reign, he would precede Amos by about twenty years only. At that time Assyria was already a great power, and had begun to reach out westwards: in fact, Jeroboam’s victories were partly due to Assyrian raids upon Damascus and neighbouring states, which weakened these kingdoms. It would seem that Jonah was afraid of Assyria, whose cruelties were well known, and whose power was dreaded.
To this man came the commission to go to Nineveh and cry against it. One might have thought that such a commission would not be unwelcome, but to Jonah it was so hateful that he resolved rather to resign his prophetic office than obey it. The book is the story of what happened. It is one of the most remarkable books in the Bible, and rich in spiritual teaching.