Just as a good coach is pivotal to the success of a professional sports team, the prophetic voice is crucial to move the people of God towards His divine purpose and promises. As we wrap up the reading of this Old Testament books in this week’s journey, today we will shift our eyes and focus our attention on the prophets who spoke like and truth to the Israelites as they found their way back to the Lord returning from the land of exile.
At the end of Ezra, chapter 4, we read that, due to opposition, “the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:24, NIV). How disappointing this must have been for the Israelites and their leaders. They had found great favor initially in rebuilding the temple but suddenly they were completely halted from pursuing their purpose.
It was during this juncture that we see the prophets Haggai and Zechariah arising and prophesying to the people and their situation (see Ezra 5:1; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1).
So, let us take a closer look at how these prophets ministered to the situation.
The opening verses of Haggai opens our eyes to see the truth of the situation. When the Israelites faced opposition, they became complacent. They procrastinated and told themselves that “this isn’t the right time to rebuilt…the Temple of God” (Hag. 1: 2, The Message) all the while building their own houses (Hag 1:3-4). Haggai calls out this hypocrisy. Furthermore Haggai goes to pinpoint that the reason they have not been prospering in their personal affairs is because they have neglected the rebuilding of God’s Temple.
This creates a turning point in the hearts and mind of the people causing them to obey the voice of the Lord (Hag. 1:12) and soon afterward the rebuilding picks up again.
Haggai then speaks to the people on 3 more occasions (2:1; 2: 10; 2:20), all the while encouraging the people with words such as ” be strong”, “I am with you”, “I will fill this house with glory”, “I will bless you”, “I have chosen you”.
What a comfort!
When the prophet Zechariah speaks to the people, the first half of the book gives us a glimpse of his messages that are more allegorical as he narrates the different visions he saw even though the central theme remains similar to what Haggai has to say. He urges the people to “return to the Lord (Zech. 1:3), assures them that the Lord’s house will be rebuilt (Zech. 1:16), ensures the people of God’s incredible love for them, his promises to dwell with them and to purify them. He also exhorts the people towards justice and mercy (ch. 7).
Then we see the second half of the book filled with numerous messianic promises as well as the future glorious state of Jerusalem and God’s everlasting reign.
Finally looking at the words of Malachi, who actually arrived on scene some 100 years after Haggai and Zechariah, we see a lot of warning towards the Israelites in the form of six disputes. One can only concur that it is oh so easy to slip back into sinful habits forgetting the lessons of the past. But God in mercy continues to send reminders to warn, encourage, uplift and spur His people so they can keep pressing on. I am sure as you and I read through the book of Malachi, we too will be able to resonate with the familiar pattern of repeated failures but can arise in hope knowing that the King of kings continues to pursue us and woo us towards Him.
So, I invite you this week to take some time to reflect on your own heart and affections as you read through these three prophetic books.
The Lord continues to call His people to return to Him and encourages them with reminders of His promises for the present and for the future glory of His kingdom.
Weekly Reading Plan
And now here is the weekly plan for you to read through these books.
If you want to dig deeper here are some of my suggestions:
- Use the above schedule to read through all of the text
- Optional (if you want to really read through the Bible in a year): Read Psalms 94-96.
And that is it for week 33!
Happy Bible Learning!