Book Review: Be Amazed

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship is Warren W. Wiersbe’s commentary on Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi. He covers the rest of the twelve minor prophets in two other books. As I said in an earlier review of Be Concerned, these books are considered “minor” only because they are much shorter than the “major” prophets.

And, as with the previous book, Wiersbe gives a little background of each of these prophets, the times they lived, the kings who were in power at the time, and the prophets’ major messages and concerns, a suggested outline of the books, and his commentary.

There are commentaries much longer and more detailed than Wiersbe’s “Be” series, but these are a nice size, easy to use with one’s Bible study.

Wiersbe says in his introduction:

We should be amazed as Hosea describes God’s jealous love and Joel pictures God’s glorious kingdom. Jonah and Nahum both deal with the wicked city of Nineveh and amaze us with God’s gracious long-suffering. Habakkuk watches the enemy approaching and invites us to be amazed at God’s righteous judgment. Malachi amazes us with his revelation of God’s contemptuous people, weary of serving the Lord.

Too many sleepy saints have lost their sense of wonder. The Minor Prophets shout at us to awaken us and invite us to open our eyes and be amazed at what God is doing in this world.

The Lord Jesus admonishes us “to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24: 25), and that includes the Minor Prophets. May we be faithful to receive and believe their messages and to obey what God tells us to do.

I won’t get into any more of the individual books than that, since there are six of them. But here are a few of the many quotes I highlighted:

One of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way.

The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver.

Until people experience the guilt of conviction, they can’t enjoy the glory of conversion.

In their trials, they turned to God for help, but in their prosperity, they became proud and turned away from God to idols.

Idols are dead substitutes for the living God (Ps. 115). Whatever people delight in other than God, whatever they are devoted to and sacrifice for, whatever they couldn’t bear to be without, is an idol and therefore under the condemnation of God.

But wrestling with these challenges is the only way for our “faith muscles” to grow. To avoid tough questions, or to settle for half-truths and superficial pat answers it to remain immature, but to face questions honestly and talk them through with the Lord is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3: 18).

When God’s people deliberately disobey Him, they sin against a flood of light and an ocean of love.

The one thing that encourages us to repent and return to the Lord is the character of God. Knowing that He is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:13 NIV) ought to motivate us to seek His face.

This sounds eerily like our times:

Their concern was for healing and not for cleansing. They saw their nation in difficulty and wanted God to “make things right,” but they did not come with broken hearts and surrendered wills. They wanted happiness, not holiness, a change of circumstances, but not a change in character.

I’m thankful once again for Dr. Wiersbe’s insights into these books.

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Be Concerned

Be Concerned commentary on minor prophetsThere are twelve minor prophetical books in the Bible. They are not called minor because they are any less important than the major prophets: they are just shorter books. Warren Wierbe divides his “Be” commentaries on the minor prophets into three different books. He didn’t group them in the order in which they are listed in the Old Testament. Be Concerned (Minor Prophets): Making a Difference in Your Lifetime covers Amos, Obadiah, Micah, and Zephaniah.

Wiersbe gives a little background of each of these prophets, the times they lived, the kings who were in power at the time, and the prophets’ major messages and concerns. Then he offers a suggested outline of the books and his commentary.

A few words about each of these prophets:

Amos was a shepherd and caretaker of sycamore trees. He was a layman, not a member of the religious establishment. For those reasons, he would not have been respected or easily accepted. At this time, Israel and Judah were abounding in luxury, but also in sin and injustice. They performed religious rituals that did not touch their heart. Amos had to warn them that judgment was coming if they didn’t turn from their ways.

Obadiah’s book is short, just one chapter of 21 verses. He prophecies mostly to Edom, the nation that descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother. God deals with them about their treatment of Israel (Jacob’s descendants).

Micah’s preaching helped lead to a reformation under Hezekiah (Jeremiah 26:18-19). But at this time, some of the wealthy of the land were buying up the smaller lands of the poor in defiance of Jewish law. Micah rebuked them, foretold the coming judgment under Assyria, and called the Israelites back to true worship of their God. But they didn’t repent. Micah 7 is one of my favorite chapters in the OT, especially verses 8-10 and 18-20. Micah’s name means “Who is like the LORD,” and that’s echoed in 7:18: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

Zephaniah mainly preaches about the day of the Lord, a time of coming judgment. Many of the prophets do, but this day is a major theme in Zephaniah and Joel. Zephaniah 3:17 is another favorite passage.

One advantage of a commentary like this is the background information it provides that you wouldn’t pick up just from reading the text. For instance:

Eight times Amos used the phrase “for three transgressions and for four,” a Jewish idiom that means “an indefinite number that has finally come to the end” (Location 135).

Micah used a series of puns based on the names of the cities similar in sound to familiar Hebrew words. For example, “Gath” is similar to the Hebrew word for “tell.” Thus he wrote, “Tell it not in Gath.” Beth Ophrah means “house of dust.” Thus he wrote, “Roll in the dust.” The people of Shaphir (“ pleasant, beautiful”) would look neither beautiful nor pleasant as they were herded off as naked prisoners of war (Location 1438).

The prophets call people to repentance from their oppression, hypocrisy, idolatry:

To seek the Lord doesn’t mean simply to run to God for help when our sins get us into trouble, although God will receive us if we’re sincere. It means to loathe and despise the sin in our lives, turn from it, and seek the fellowship of God and His cleansing. “A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51: 17 NKJV) (Location 679).

Wiersbe warns, “Whenever a prophet foretold the future, it was to awaken the people to their responsibilities in the present. Bible prophecy isn’t entertainment for the curious; it’s encouragement for the serious (Location 1672).

It’s true in our day as well as theirs that “It’s indeed a great privilege to have God speak to us, but it’s also a great responsibility. If we don’t open our hearts to hear His Word and obey Him, we’re in grave danger of hardening our hearts and incurring the wrath of God. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Heb. 3: 7–8 NKJV; see Ps. 95: 7–11)(Location 321).

The way we treat God’s Word is the way we treat God, and the way we treat God’s messengers is the way we treat the Lord Himself (John 15: 18–21). “God … has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. … See that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (Heb. 1: 1–2; 12: 25 NKJV) (Location 642, emphasis mine).

Most of the prophets say that, despite fierce and righteous judgment coming on God’s people, He will leave a faithful remnant. Wiersbe concludes with a chapter titled “The Company of the Concerned,” with advice for the faithful in our day.

Malachi 3: 16 is a good description of the kind of “company” God is looking for: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name” (NKJV) (Location 2341).

I’m not talking about people motivated by anger so much as by anguish. Certainly there’s a place for righteous anger in the Christian life (Eph. 4: 26), but anger alone may do more harm than good. “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1: 20 NKJV). When righteous anger is mingled with compassion, you have anguish; and anguish is what the “company of the concerned” feel as they behold the moral and spiritual decline of the nation. “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Ps. 119: 136 NKJV). “Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights” (v. 143 NKJV) (Location 2311).

As always, I appreciate Wiersbe’s help in understanding these books.

(Sharing with Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)