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Zephaniah, Obadiah, and Micah: Prophets During Times of Crises

TitleZephaniah, Obadiah, and Micah: Prophets During Times of Crises
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1963
AuthorsRasmussen, Ellis T.
MagazineThe Instructor
Volume98
Issue Number7
PaginationCenter Insert
KeywordsMicah (Prophet); Obadiah (Prophet); Zephaniah (Prophet)
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Zephaniah, Obadiah, and Micah: Prophets During Times of Crises

THE STORY

In critical times, great prophets have always come forth. When the tendencies of the time demanded crucial decisions, the Lord sent His spokesmen to ancient Israel to warn and guide the people. Those spokesmen gave messages to anyone among them (and among us) who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand.

The times of crisis of old Israel came in waves involving internal weaknesses and external threats. The external threat of the first crisis was the expanding empire of Assyria in 750 to 700 B.C., during which the northern ten tribes were taken away captive. The external threat of the second time of crisis was the spreading empire of Babylon, especially from 620 B. C. to 586 B. C. At that time the remainder of Israel, in Judah (the Southern kingdom), was also taken away into captivity. The internal condition that rendered the peoples of both times vulnerable to conquest was, in one word, corruption. Debasement of motives and morals in every facet of life in which men deal with their fellow men and with God had left them, as it always does in all societies of men, impotent to survive.

To combat trends toward corruption, the prophets have always tried to motivate repentance. They attempt to do so by issuing warnings, making promises, and indicating goals for which men may strive. They teach the way of life whereby to strive to reach the goals, and tell of the redemptive, saving help that the Lord will give to aid men to achieve them.

As three examples of the mission and the message of the prophets of the Old Testament, consider Micah, Zephaniah, and Obadiah. Micah, like Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos, was a watchman giving warning in the time of Assyria's threat. Zephaniah prophesied in the days of Judah's last righteous king before the thirty decadent years that led to captivity by Babylon. Obadiah chastised Judah's cousin-peoples in the rock clefts of Edom, who exalted when Jerusalem was laid waste. What in their prophecies is pertinent to us today?

Micah said that the Lord is a witness, against man, of the transgressions of man's corruption. Micah warned that God will come down and make such corrupt places as Samaria, capital city of old Israel, a heap in the field. It came to pass as Micah had warned.

Micah warned of woe to all who work evil in the night, devising iniquity in the dark that when the morning light is come they may accomplish their designs to take away another's fields and oppress the erstwhile owners. He foresaw that the Lord would not always strive with those who resist His guidance. Because of those who hate the good and love the evil ways, he saw the sun go down upon the prophets and the day was black upon them.

But Micah, like Isaiah, saw that toward the end of days again the House of God would be established as a source and center for His word from His prophets. Indeed His voice from Jerusalem, His law from out of Zion, should bring justice, peace, and plenty at last upon the earth. Micah told how He that is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, should be born in Bethlehem. He plead with Israel not to worship in a pompous way, nor to think that lavish offerings would impress the Lord. He stated, in a few words, the way of true religious people: "Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God."

Zephaniah saw beyond the captivity of Judah to the time when the Lord would utterly consume all things on the face of the earth, when both those who have rebelled and those who say in their hearts that the Lord "will not do good neither evil unto man," shall see their wealth become a booty and their houses desolation. When the great day of the Lord with the trouble and distress in the time of the end is approaching unto men, Zephaniah pleads with those who will hearken, "Seek the Lord all ye humble of the earth: seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger."

Zephaniah saw the day when all the continents and nations shall become part of the Lord's kingdom, when the cleansing shall have been done. Then at last understanding between peoples shall be possible; a pure language will be used so that all may serve in unity when the King of Israel, even the Lord, reigns in power and glory. This Mighty One will save all who qualify.

Obadiah in his turn saw the destruction of Jerusalem; and, in Edom, saw the worldly ones typified who rejoice because the people of the Lord have come to naught. He warned that those who have beguiled, robbed, and oppressed their fellow men shall themselves be oppressed for the violence done to their brothers. He too saw the day of the Lord — and saw the place of Mount Zion as a place of escape. Saviors shall come up on mount Zion, said the prophet, to judge Esau or the wicked; and the earth shall be the Lord's.

In the crisis days of old or in the crisis days today, it is wise for all to hearken to the Lord's messengers. We have Moses and the prophets, and the teachings of the living Lord; moreover in this day of trial and crisis — once again with its temptation and threats — we have living prophets who bring us revelation from God to guide and guard us. It is well to hear the warnings, know the promises, and see the goals beyond all strife and consternation; for this shall be required of all those who want to qualify as members of the kingdom when the kingdom is the Lord's.

— Ellis T. Rasmussen