It is doubtful the poor peasants of Judah ever had a stronger champion than fellow countryman Micah, the powerful preacher. Though neither as intellectually gifted as his contemporary Isaiah nor as popular as his peer to the north Hosea, Micah nevertheless defended the downtrodden with vigilant zeal. He cared for his people and warned them of certain punishment if they refused to repent. For this reason, we should not minimize Micah’s importance or regard him as a mere shadow of the great Isaiah. No way!
Who hasn’t heard of Jonah? As the brunt of numerous jokes and the classic example of a rebel, he's the most well-known prophet. His story—familiar to young and old alike—has been proclaimed, analyzed, criticized, and assaulted for centuries. Viewed by critics as something between parable and fable, the veracity of Jonah’s book has suffered greatly. To most scholars, it’s merely a myth, little more than a humorous legend that originated in the mind of some creative soul in antiquity. Nevertheless, it remains preserved by God…because it was inspired of God.
In the section of the Bible known as the Prophets, there are four points of interest that are interwoven together:
Israel (the northern kingdom) was steeped in religiosity, immorality, compromise, and complacency. The same evils plague much of our world today. In Israel, as is true today, a strong voice was needed—a determined, disciplined, courageous man of God to proclaim the truth and denounce sin. Amos was just the man! Born of humble means, raised to work with his hands, rugged and unflappable, Amos became one of the most colourful personalities among the prophets. God’s severe predictions of judgment had to be delivered by a man who modelled that message.
The name Joel is a combination of two divine names in Hebrew: Jehovah and God. Together, they mean “Jehovah is God.” And the prophet with this name believed Jehovah was God without reservation. God called Joel to interpret the contemporary events of his nation as well as predict some cataclysmic events of the future. Joel knew repentance must precede revival. Recently in Judah (the southern kingdom), a plague of locusts had devoured every green thing, leaving only desolation in their trail. Joel announced his conviction that God had sent the plague because of the sin of His people Judah.
With Hosea’s story we begin the study of the 12 books commonly referred to as the Minor Prophets. They are “minor,” not because they are insignificant, but because their books are short compared to the Major Prophets. Hosea was a prophet to the 10 northern tribes called Israel. His contemporaries were Amos, Isaiah, Jonah, and Micah. Hosea’s was a pathetic, tragic life. In fact, few men in Scripture inspire such pity as Hosea.
It is doubtful that any Old Testament prophet played a more significant role in the history of Israel than Daniel. Taken from his homeland while still a teenager (he was no more than 15) and pushed through a highly competitive crash course in a foreign culture, Daniel emerged as the premier prophet during the reigns of several monarchs of the captivity era. In this person, we find a model of integrity, flawless to the core. And in his prophecies, we discover a panorama of truth regarding God’s plan for the Gentile nations outlined nowhere else in such clear detail.
Stuart Briscoe chose an apt title for his little book on Ezekiel: All Things Weird and Wonderful. You can’t read the prophet Ezekiel’s writings three minutes without encountering the strange, the phenomenal, or the wonderful. In his own unpredictable manner, Ezekiel told his readers about the Lord; he genuinely desired that people understand who God is. How needed are his words in our own day! Ezekiel wrote, preached, dramatized, warned, and prophesied for more than two decades.
Most of us have never been involved in the mop up after a battle or following a calamity. But those who have can testify that it is one of the most painful and pathetic experiences a human can endure. The ravages of war and the consequences of disaster are usually beyond belief or description. Few are those who can capture the tragic scene in words. Jeremiah was one of the few. His brief, biting journal of what he saw and felt following the fall of his beloved nation is contained in this short book.
Jeremiah wasn't the brightest among the prophets; Isaiah held that distinction. And the book of Jeremiah isn't the most difficult to understand—that award probably goes out to Ezekiel. Neither is Jeremiah the most influential (that’s Daniel) nor the most notorious—Jonah, without a doubt—or even the most to be pitied (hello, Hosea). But of all the prophets, for sure, Jeremiah was the most heroic. He was as a “pillar of iron” and “walls of bronze” (Jeremiah 1:18).