by Colleen Donahue
In our last study we looked at a "portrait of man" drawn by the minor prophets.
The minor prophets are those men who wrote the last 12 books of the Old Testament. This portrait was not a pretty one, as we saw how men in forgetting God had also forgotten his high calling - i.e. we are made in the image of God and are meant to live for Him.
Without a love and respect for God we saw how quickly this led to a lack of love and respect for fellowmen. Soon the picture of the society as a whole was on such a downhill slide that God's verdict was simple."it is an evil time."
There is one aspect of the portrait painted in the last study that we didn't cover. It deserves a study on its own because so much space is given to it. Man in his neglect of God had become religious.
"What! you say, I thought it was good to be religious! Doesn't God want us to do certain things for Him like go to church or say our prayers? " I hope that you'll be able to answer your own question after this study. Certainly God loves the praise and worship of His people. But we'll soon see that man likes "to do his own thing" while appeasing God at the same time. So, the real question for us to be honest about is this
Usually a change in behaviour can first be traced to a change in attitude. You may not be totally aware that your attitudes have changed but you can be certain of it when your actions are different than from what they once were.
We find in our studies that Israel as a society had changed a great deal. Let's look at what changed first on the inside.
Day 1 In what way were they becoming like their forefathers? Zechariah 1:2-4 / Zechariah 7:11-13
Day 2 What kind of people did their speech reveal them to be? Zephaniah 3:9,11b
Day 3 Their pride and superiority had led them into complacency and indifference. This verse is a word picture of idle men "thickening upon their lees" who don't think the Lord will do either good or bad.Notice that these men are only thinking these words. Often an attitude is not spoken but real nonetheless. Zephaniah 1:12
Day 4 There was really no sense of sin on the part of the worshippers. Read how God tried to get the people's attention through a variety of means and "yet they did not return to him." They did not return because they never thought they had left! Amos 4:6-11 / Haggai 2:17
Day 5 The fact was that sin had distorted their thinking so much that they imagined their sin to be right conduct. At this time they actually desired "the Day of the Lord" - ie. the day of reckoning. In their minds they thought on this day that God would return in judgement punishing sin and setting everything right. Their enemies would be judged while they would be blessed! Amos assures them that it will be anything but this! Amos 5:18-20
Day 6 The book of Malachi speaks very clearly to this change in attitude. The people in their pride had begun to think themselves superior to God. They wanted to measure God by their own yardstick. This attitude is expressed by the word "How?" Each time they ask "how" they are challenging some statement that God has made and demand that He give an accounting of Himself in human terms.
A. Read Malachi 1:2 - They ask this first question because God had not prospered them as they thought they deserved. They were a weak nation. But they were satisfied with a formal, empty religion and God was not!
B. Malachi 1:6-7a - "How have we despised Thy name? " God demands our best but here the priests were offering Him their leftovers.
C. Malachi 1:7b-8 - "How have we polluted it?" (i.e. the sacrificial altar). By sacrificing to God animals that were blind, lame and sick they were despising God and violating the holy altar that was to only have the best of animal stock offered upon it. God challenges them to present that to their governor to see if he would be pleased!
D. Malachi 2:17- "How have we wearied Him? " The people had been faulting God for His management of world affairs. They thought that those who do good (i.e. themselves) were the ones who suffered while those that did evil (i.e. everyone else) were blessed. They did not see that they considered themselves righteous but, they were acting wickedly!
E. Malachi 3:7- "How shall we return? " What they really mean here is "How can you say return when we are already close to you? "
F. Malachi 3:8-10 - "How do we rob you? " They thought they were models of spiritual accountability. Not only were they cheating God in their sacrifices but also by not giving Him one tenth of their income.
G. Malachi 3:13-15 - "How have we spoken against thee?" All along the people had been questioning, despising, defiling, attacking, and withholding. But they were so self righteous that they considered their actions were justified.
Day 7 There is a sense in which the attitude expressed in Malachi is a mirror of this present secular world AND the church world in it. There are thousands of self-righteous church going people who consider themselves upstanding in God's eyes and the world's eyes, but when trouble comes they blame God and hold Him accountable. These people have a form of godliness without the power and often lead the most corrupt lives. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Pride, indifference, complacency and religiousity had their effect in day to day life. As individual behaviours changed so did society as a whole. It could not but affect their worship and life with God.
Day 8 Israel's religion coexisted with widespread moral corruption and injustices of all sorts. In the first passage, Amos calls the upper crust women of Samaria the "cows of Basham". These cows were part of a good breed but they were still cows! Amos 4:1
Day 9 Israel had developed various "cult shrines". In this passage Amos is saying sarcastically, "Go to Bethel and Gilgal and sin!" We are not to focus on a place or ritual in our worship but upon God. Amos 4:4-5 / Amos 5:4-5
Day 10 There was lots of feasting going on as well as solemn assemblies, singing and burnt offerings but Amos 5:21-24
Day 11 Religion had become tied in with the state government. Here we find an example of a priest entrusted with the state shrine at Bethel lying to the king about Amos. He wanted to get rid of Amos so that he could keep his job and his shrine "running as usual!" Amos 7:10-15
Day 12 Most people were living for themselves although they would say they lived for God. Haggai 1:4-9 / Zechariah 7:4-6
Day 13 In their day to day lives the Jews were unwilling to be recognized by their manner of dress as the people of God. As a result they were imitating other nations and putting on "foreign attire". Zephaniah 1:8
They were also beginning to imitate other foreign customs (such as leaping over thresholds) not required by God. Zephaniah 1:9
Day 14 Things that had once been kept exclusively for God's use had become common place articles and used by traders to make money. Zechariah 14:20-21
Day 15 The leadership was corrupt - both the secular and church officials. Zephaniah 3:1-4 / Malachi 1:6-2:2 / Malachi 2:8-9
Day 16 Finally, there had begun to be many "self-appointed" prophets. They looked and acted the part but were not sent by God and did not speak truth. Zechariah 13:1-6
What we have just read about in these past days is a picture of religion. There were plenty of people, places and activities but God was not in any of it. We too live in a time (especially in the Western world) when there are plenty of churches, and plenty of activities. But is the Almighty God there?
If what Israel was doing didn't please God, then what would? What did God expect from them? How should they worship Him? If we can answer these questions for the Israelites then we have answered them for ourselves.
Day 17 Be SILENT! Stop all the noise and doing! Habakkuk 2:20 / Zephaniah 1:7/ Jonah 3:7-9 / Zechariah 2:13
Day 18 RETURN to the Lord. This means that you recognize that you have drifted away from Him. Zechariah 1:3-4 / Malachi 3:7 / Hosea 12:6 / Hosea 14:1-3 / Joel 2:12-14 / Jonah 2:7
Day 19 God wants us to draw near to Him so that we can listen, accept correction when needed and trust in Him. We must SEEK HIM. Hosea 10:12 / Amos 5:4,6a / Micah 7:7-8 / Zephaniah 2:3 / Zephaniah 3:1-2
Day 20 Our worship of God cannot be separate from the way we live our lives. One will affect the other. Make a list from these verses of how we are to live our lives. Notice the recurring themes. Micah 6:8 / Hosea 10:12 / Zephaniah 3:12-13 / Zechariah 7:8-10 / Zechariah 8:16-19
Day 21 Attend to the Lord and His concerns first. Haggai 1:1-15
Day 22 Give to God His FULL due. Malachi 3:10
Day 23 Give God your BEST not your leftovers. Malachi 1:8-14
Day 24 Be faithful in your marriage. Malachi 2:15-16
Day 25 Although this final instruction was meant for the priests, it is certainly for all of us who are parents, or leaders of any kind. We are to honor God so that how we live and what we speak will be true and honorable before men and God. Malachi 2:4-7
Day 26 What God desires from us is quite simple and uncomplicated. Deuteronomy 10:12-13/ Ecclesiastes 12:13 / Hosea 6:6/ Mark 12:33
Day 27 Real love for God will always be practical. How does the apostle James describe religion that is acceptable to God? James 1:27
Day 28 What was true back in Bible times that is still true today? Ezekiel 33:31-32
Day 29 "Zip your lip and walk your talk!" This was a little phrase I had written in the fly leaf of my Bible during college days. It was a helpful way to remember what is most important to God. Mark 7:6 / Titus 1:16
Day 30 Our real work and profession through this life is to DO the will of God and not just talk about it. Matthew 7:21
Day 31 Through these books of the minor prophets we have been given much light and instruction. It is for us to act on what we have learned. We do not want to have to answer this question at the end of our life. Luke 6:46
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