When you are having your devotions, it is tempting to neglect the Latter Prophets. After all, there is a great deal in Isaiah to Malachi that seems quite confusing to us living all these years later.
But, as I am sure is true with neglecting any portion of our Bibles, our failure to read and understand the message of these books is going to have an impact in our ability to understand the message of the whole Bible. It is even going to make it more difficult to really appreciate what is going on with Jesus in the gospels.
It’s not usually all that helpful to just quote random verses without context or much explanation, but I thought I could give you a taste of the hope and encouragement you can find in these prophets by sharing the final verses in each book.
The first of the major prophets of course is Isaiah. And even though his book is ultimately about God’s great salvation, it ends with a devastating word of judgment.
Isaiah 66:24: “And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
And yet of course, even this word of judgment gives hope because Isaiah is telling us there will be no more sin in the new heavens and the new earth. Judgment will be completed.
Jeremiah’s ending is a little less graphic, but perhaps a bit more obscure. He tells us how Jehoiachin was living while he was in Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:33,34: “So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king according to his daily need, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.”
This of course doesn’t seem very exciting to most of us, at first, until we realize that Jehoaichin represented the Davidic line, and the Davidic line represents our hope for the coming Messiah, and what we are seeing is that even in the middle of this judgment, God has not lost sight of the promise He made to David, and that the King, is coming.
If you have read Ezekiel, you know it begins with a stunning and confusing and beautiful description of the glorious presence of God. In the first chapter, the glory of God is on the move. The final chapter ends with the best of all possible news, telling us of a day coming in the future, when this glorious presence of God will come to stay, filling Jerusalem and eventually the whole universe with the beauty of His holiness.
Ezekiel 48:35: “The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, ‘The Lord is There.'”
Hosea is a book about God’s love for His people. As we read Hosea, we are given an illustration of how much God loves His people from Hosea’s own life, as he marries an adulterous woman, and keeps on pursuing her even as she keeps on rejecting him. After this heart wrenching display of love, it’s appropriate I think, that Hosea ends with an exhortation to work at understanding it.
Hosea 14:9: “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, but the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”
Though Joel is about God’s judgment, it ends with a glimpse of God’s great future Kingdom plan.
Joel 3:20,21: “But Judah shall be inhabited forever and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.”
Amos 9:15: “‘I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.”
And Obadiah reminds us that it’s not just that Israel will have the land and their enemies will be punished.There’s a day coming when God’s sovereign rule will be perfectly visible for all to see.
Obadiah 21: “Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”
All this talk of God judging His enemies might cause some to wonder about His compassion, but Jonah will not allow us to think like that. We see in the book of Jonah that God is much more compassionate than we could ever be, as he cares for the pagan city of Nineveh, even as Jonah wishes He would bring them judgment.
Jonah 4:11: “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 sons who don’t know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
The key thing to remember is, God will keep His promises.
Micah 7:20: “You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”
All of them. Even the promises of judgment. Though God reached out to the Assyrians and felt compassion for them, they ultimately persisted in their evil ways, and were bringing pain and destruction to many people all around them. And though, God is slow to anger, He does have anger for those who rebel against Him and abuse others, and He will punish, the way He did the Assyrians.
Nahum 3:18,19: “Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria, your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?”
Obviously, as God saves and judges and goes about accomplishing His plan, there are many things that confuse us. His wisdom is just so high above ours. But we can’t allow those things that confuse us to cause us to turn from God, instead, they should cause us to run to God, and if we run to God, He will strengthen us, the way He did Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 3:19: “God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
The big ultimate goal in all this judgment is more than just relief for a few years for us, but peace on earth, and we are going to see God accomplish that as He rescues Israel, and establishes Jesus as King over every nation.
Zephaniah 3:20: “‘At that time I will bring you in, at that time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,’ says the Lord.”
Haggai’s ending is a little more difficult for me to understand, personally. I need to think about it some more. But obviously Haggai is also talking about this great day in the future when God establishes Jesus as king and destroys His enemies, and He seems to be giving us a picture of this man, Zerubabbel, who was a descendant of David, and a representation of God’s great promise, as being like a ring that the divine Messiah would wear on the day God accomplishes this great salvation.
Haggai 2:23: “On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you O Zerubbabel my servant the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
However exactly this promise to Zerubbabel is meant to be understood, it’s clear there is a day coming in the future, when God will keep all His promises to Israel, and restore Jerusalem, and make it not just a great city, but a city that is characterized from top to bottom by holiness. In other words, it’s not just another city, this city is going to be like a temple, where God’s presence dwells.
Zechariah 14:20,21: “And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.”
And how will we know that day is coming? What sign will God give us? Malachi explains.
Malachi 4:5,6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter desolation.”