Jonah is the book of love for strangers. Jonah was sent to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, to warn them of judgment and to preach repentance; but Jonah did not want to go. He found a ship and fled down to Tarshish, fleeing from the work of the Lord. After the Lord dealt with Jonah, he went to preach to the people of Nineveh. When God spared the people, we find Jonah sulking and displeased. Jonah teaches us that we should have a love for those who are strangers to salvation, to those who are heading for judgment. There should be prayer for all and preaching to all because there is provision for all (1Tim 2). Oh, that we might have a love for those who are strangers to God’s grace!
Micah is the book of consistency. He tells Israel that although they were bringing their sacrifices and offerings, their lives were not right, for their lives were not in keeping with the sacrifices; thus, their sacrifices were not acceptable to God. Micah says in chapter 6:8 that the Lord required of them to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God. We might regularly attend the meetings and be active in the work of God, yet our lives might not be consistent. We need to heed the lesson of Micah and have real sincerity and be marked by consistency of life.
Nahum is a book of judgment. He speaks of the judgment of Nineveh. Now when Jonah went and preached to Nineveh they repented, but they soon settled into sin again. About 200 years after Jonah’s time Nineveh was destroyed. Nahum prophesied about the judgment of Nineveh but, blessed be God, he also prophesied of good tidings and the publishing of peace (1:15). This verse is quoted in Romans 10:15, telling us that for all who believe in Christ there is salvation. Thus, Nahum teaches us that although there is judgment for the ungodly, there will be salvation for all who trust Christ and the Lord will dwell in their midst. Although Nahum is a book of judgment it is also a book of security for those who believe.
Habakkuk is a book of justification. He has a great problem because he knows God is going to judge His people by the Chaldeans; there will be judgment upon Judah because of their sins. The problem is that the Chaldeans are more sinful than Judah. Then God says, “The just shall live by his faith”(2:4). You may not understand or be able to enter into the dealings of God; but know this, that the just shall live by faith. These words are quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38). Habakkuk would teach us that whatever the problems or difficulties, God knows those who are right before Him.
Zephaniah tells us of God’s delight in His people. He tells us that God will rejoice over them, He will joy over them with singing, and will rest in His love (3:17). It is wonderful to know that we who are saved by grace, cleansed by precious blood, and born of the Spirit, are the people in whom the Lord delights and that we are loved of Him,loved with everlasting love, led by grace that loves to know. Zephaniah teaches us that we are the Lord’s delight.
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi all spoke after the return from Babylon. Haggai tells the returned remnant that they were building for themselves but neglecting the House of God. Thus, his message to us today is that we can go in for material things and neglect the things of God. We can be occupied with the things of this life while neglecting spiritual things; we can be energetic in earthly pursuits and neglect the house of God, the local assembly. What an important message that the Lord’s interests, spiritual things, should be placed first. We should seek to enrich the Lord first. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33). Six times Haggai repeats, “consider,” which means in the Hebrew “set your hearts.” He is seeking to stir up the hearts of Judah that they put the Lord’s interests before their own. It is a book of rebuke for the neglect of the things of the Lord. Thus Haggai’s message to us is to put the Lord and the Lord’s things first in our lives.
Zechariah is a book of vision. In the first six chapters he deals with nine visions he received in one night. Then, in the next eight chapters, he seeks to interpret the visions. He speaks to two individuals, Joshua the high priest (ch 6) and Zerubbabel (ch 4); the message to them is to be encouraged, to trust in the Lord. They are seeking to rebuild the temple and God determines they will rebuild it and “bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying grace, grace” (4:7). The grace of God will help us in all our work for Him. However, the secret is unfolded in chapter 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”
The message of Zechariah to us is that whatever work we are engaged in for the Lord we must trust in the Lord, we must lean upon Him and not be fainthearted. By the power of the Spirit we will accomplish that work. His grace is sufficient for us and the Spirit’s power is available to us.
Malachi is the book of the messenger. The meaning of Malachi is, “My Messenger.” He speaks of John the Baptist as a messenger; he speaks of our Lord as a messenger, and he speaks of Elijah as a messenger. His book is the last message of the Old Testament to the people of God. He tells them they are giving to God only their second best or what they don’t want and what was not in keeping with the Word of God and the law (the torn and the lame and the sick – ch 1:13). They were offering to God what would not be acceptable to the Governor.