Alison Lo notes that the Minor Prophets resonate strongly with our contemporary church and society, with their themes of ‘social justice, religious corruption, financial impropriety and social and political unrest’.
They offer rich material for the preacher, then, and the following principles will help. I summarise:-
- Consider the historical and cultural context. Each prophet spoke into a specific situation: sometimes this is indicated by the heading of the book (Hos 1:1; Amos 1:1; Mic 1:1, etc.).
- Consider the genres and literary features. These include symbolic actions (Hos 1:2-11), reports of visions (Amos 7:1-8, Zech 1:8-17), Judgement oracles (Obad 15f), salvation oracles (Amos 9:11-15; Mic 4:1-4), woe oracles (Nah 3; Hab 2:6-19), oracles against the nations (Zeph 2:4-15; Amos 1:1-2:3), lawsuits (Mic 1:2-7), and dirges (Amos 5:1-13; Mic 1:8-16).
- Highlight the central theme of each book. To take Hosea as an example. ‘The portrayal of Yahweh as a husband and a father to Israel demonstrates God’s covenantal love to his people, a love that tolerates no rivals.’
- Trace thematic coherence among the books. For example, the first four books (Hosea – Obadiah) share a common theme of the ‘Day of the Lord’.
- Keep a balance with other Minor Prophets. In both Joel 3:16 and Amos 1:2, ‘the Lord roars from Zion’; but one declares salvation, whereas the other pronounces Judgement. Jonah preaches repentance to Nineveh, and its inhabitants were spared. A century later, when Nahum preached, Nineveh did not repent and thus faced God’s Judgement. Reading the Minor Prophets as a whole, therefore, offers a balanced theological diet.
- Preach Christ from the Minor Prophets. We must interpret them in the light of redemptive history, which moves towards Christ. We must recognise that prophecy sometimes has multiple fulfilment, and may therefore not only have a short-term and local meaning, but also point towards the first and second comings of Christ.
- Preach to individuals, society and the world. Preachers can follow the Minor Prophets in addressing issues of ‘social injustice, Religious formalism, corrupt leadership, dishonest trade, violence, war crime, Military armament and slave trafficking.’ And they can do so, as the prophets themselves do, by addressing individuals as well as communities. But what can individuals do about, global evils such as, say, the slave trade? – ‘Responses may include: praying for the situations, educating the public, buying traffic-free products, joining campaigns, raising funds, ministering to the slaves, intervening on government policies, and so on.’
‘Preaching the Minor Prophets’, in Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching, pp 197-206.