The Days of the Minor Prophets
Amos 5:4-13; Amos 7:14-15; Malachi 3:16-18.
Surely, dear brethren, we are living in the last days, which we sometimes speak of as "2 Timothy days." They correspond, in our dispensation, to the days of the Old Testament minor prophets. The days of the patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — had long since gone by, as had the time of Moses and Joshua. It says, "there arose no prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah had known face to face." (Deuteronomy 34:10). And Joshua was signally used of God to bring God's people into the land of Canaan — the land of their inheritance. Then, in the days of Eli, the priestly line of things that God had established in Aaron failed, and a young man named Samuel came to light as a result of godly exercise in his mother, Hannah. And David comes to light, a man after God's own heart, and then Solomon, whom God presents to us as a type of Christ reigning in the Millennial day. Later, we read of these prophets that God used in the time of the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel — men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. But then we come to the time of the minor prophets. The prophecies of these men are fairly short, yet they were needed for the days in which they lived.
So this prophet Amos says that he was no prophet. "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son, but I was a herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit." We read elsewhere, in 1st and 2nd Kings, of "the sons of the prophets." But he wasn't of this line. He was a simple man, just a farmer — a herdman, a gatherer of sycamore fruit. But God must have seen something in Amos. "Jehovah took me as I followed the flock." There is a suggestion there that God saw something pleasing to Himself in Amos, as he followed the flock. At that point, he wasn't any sort of a leader among the children of Israel, but "Jehovah took me as I followed the flock, and Jehovah said unto me, Go prophesy unto my people Israel." Amos thus discounts his past in that way. He acknowledges that God took him as he followed the flock. He acknowledges God's sovereign operations in relation to himself, and he goes forth and prophesies as to the conditions that were current among the people.
Think of how Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, spoke in this book, criticizing Amos' prophecy! He said in verse 12 of chapter 7, "Thou seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there. But prophesy not again any more at Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the house of the kingdom." Amaziah tries to make Amos go away and prophesy elsewhere, rejecting the word of God for the moment through this simple person whom God had taken up as he followed the flock. I think we're living in such a time. Indeed, the minor prophets correspond to the "others also" of whom Paul writes to Timothy: "These things commit to faithful men, such as shall be competent to instruct others also." The others also are not prominent persons; they are just persons like Amos or like Obadiah, whose prophecy is only one chapter in the whole canon of scripture. Yet, it's in the canon of scripture.
So Amos' prophecy in chapter 5 is very sobering. He speaks of how the children of Israel were casting about to certain places — Bethel, Gilgal, and Beer-sheeba. They were looking to various places where the word of God had been known. These places surely have a history: Bethel, the house of God; Gilgal, the place where the people were circumcised; and Beer-sheeba, where Abraham called on the name of Jehovah. Yet God says, "Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought." The footnote reads, "shall come to vanity or iniquity." It is very sobering that this place which was known as the house of God would come to iniquity.
But the prophetic word is: "Seek Jehovah, and ye shall live." The answer to exercises in the testimony is not found in looking from one place to another, even places from which help may have come in the past. The answer is found in our own direct links with God. "Seek Jehovah, and ye shall live." And he says, "Seek him that made the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning." In Genesis, God said to Abraham, "Look now toward the heavens, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them." How Abraham was thus impressed with the greatness of the Creator God! As exercises come up, we may tend to pettiness. We may get so involved in the details of our own little sphere of things, that we forget about the greatness of the One with whom we have to do, the One who made the Pleiades and the Orion, the One who "has created all things" (Ephesians 3:9), the One who "turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: Jehovah is his name"!
How great is our God, the One with whom we have to do! Let us not trifle with our Saviour God, and feel that our own interests and activities are paramount, but consider the One who has made us and indeed has redeemed us. In Revelation 4, verse 11, we read about the worthiness of our Creator: "Thou art worthy, O our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy will they were, and they have been created." Well, that is the God with whom we have to do. It is the God who has made the Pleiades and the Orion. And then in verse 9 of the next chapter: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God, by thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation." Think of the breadth of God's thoughts as to all men, His desire that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth! So we have a chapter as to the Creator God and the next chapter as to the Lamb standing, the One who has redeemed to God. These two chapters are brought in right after the addresses to the seven assemblies for a reason. The "things that are" relate to the seven assemblies of Revelation 2 and 3, ending with a lukewarm state of things in Laodicea. But right afterwards it says, "After these things I saw" and "Immediately I became in the Spirit." Then John gets these impressions of the Creator God, and of "a Lamb standing, as slain", the One who has completed the great work of redemption. Let those two chapters be leverage in our souls as we ponder the sorrows in the testimony.
We may have been involved and occupied with a very small part of God's dealings amongst men, a very small sphere of interests, and God would tell us to enlarge our hearts. The apostle Paul says, "Let your heart also expand itself" (2 Corinthians 6:13). Like Israel in Amos 5, we may get to the point where things are lamentable and broken down, even to where we "hate him that reproveth in the gate" and "abhor him that speaketh uprightly." Indeed, in this chapter, particularly in verses 10 to 12, we read of justice being perverted. Good is called evil, and evil is called good — the turning aside of the right of the needy in the gate.
Now I want to call attention to this exhortation to the prudent: "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in this time; for it is an evil time." We read in Proverbs 22:3, "A prudent man seeth the evil, and hideth himself." Jeremiah writes, "Oh that I had in the wilderness a traveller's lodging-place, that I might leave my people, and go away from them" (Jeremiah 9:2), and we read in Proverbs 21:9, "It is better to dwell in the corner of a housetop, than with a contentious woman and a house in common." These scriptures lend a tone to the truth of separating from iniquity found in second Timothy 2. In these verses, there's kind of a quiet, careful extraction of oneself from the evil line of things that is proceeding. And a corner of a housetop is an unpretentious position, yet one where communion with God is possible, and where we can get God's view of things — at the top of the house!
Well, dear brethren, the prudent seeth the evil and hideth himself. Perhaps in this little setting we have a sense of a hiding place, a lodging place in the wilderness, a place where the Lord Jesus would delight to come and give rest and peace to our hearts in spite of all that's proceeding in this world and in official religious circles. He would simply say, "Come ye apart and rest awhile", as desiring to take us apart from the evil trend of things that there is among men in this world. The disciples said to the Lord in John's gospel, "Where abidest thou?" He says, "Come and see." And they abode with him that day. How precious it is to abide with Christ! These impressions all bear on the same thing, that the Lord delights to come to persons who are pure in heart, to persons who see the evil and hide themselves and are simply apart from the evil that is abroad.
So, those are the conditions at the end of Malachi. Malachi and other minor prophets wrote of the state among the Jews at that time: "The burden of the word of Jehovah to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith Jehovah; but ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?" and so on. You see, they don't appreciate God's love. They don't appreciate what God is doing for them, in His love for them. And further on, "a son honoureth his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is mine honour, and if then I be a master, where is my fear?" There was not the answer that God desired from the hearts of His own. But there were some who responded to Him: "Then they that feared Jehovah spoke often one to another, and Jehovah observed it and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared Jehovah and that thought upon his name."
In our day, that would be persons who are gathered unto His name, the name of Jesus. "For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them." Such persons would correspond to those "that thought upon his name." "And they shall be unto me an peculiar treasure, saith Jehovah of hosts, in the day that I prepare." There were a few that remained in the beginning of Luke — Simeon, Anna, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and "all those who waited for redemption in Jerusalem." There were persons there, four centuries later, who answer to what we read at the end of Malachi: "a peculiar treasure ... in the day that I prepare." "The day that I prepare" looks forward to the incoming of the Lord Jesus, to the way Simeon came in the Spirit into the temple, to the experiences of these other godly men and women, and to John the Baptist's ministry! "Behold, I send unto you Elijah the prophet." How precious were the Spirit of God's activities in that day, the day that God prepared!
Beloved brethren, we're nearing the time when the Lord Jesus will come again. That's another day that is prepared. It is in the Father's hands — that day when we shall be received up and taken to be with Jesus Himself. What a prospect we have before us — to see His face! We shall go no more at all out. How blessed it will be! All the trappings of this world, all the enticements of this world that Satan would bring in to occupy our time, will then be forgotten. May we increasingly have our eye on things above, have our hearts set on things above, where the Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Oh, dear brethren, let us have our part among those whom God can speak of as "a peculiar treasure in the day that I prepare." For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
The Days of the Minor Prophets