Good morning! Today we have two minor prophets as our focus, but one of them is quite well known. Obadiah is a one-chapter book focused on the sins of Edom, a neighboring community to Judah which takes its name from Jacob’s brother Esau (also called Edom). After the chapter excoriating Edom, we get the delightful little book of Jonah, which is worth spending more of your time on today.
Good morning! The prophet Amos’ critique of wealth and ease, with its foretelling of divine judgment, continues today with the remainder of the book (chapters 6-9). Amos uses a variety of visuals to describe the military conquest, plague, famine and death which await the unrepentant people. In addition to these visuals, I also find interesting the prophet’s self-disclosure about where his power comes from, as well as how he undermines the idea that Jews are the only “chosen people”.
Good morning! Today and tomorrow we commune with the prophet Amos, who was one of the earliest prophets, born in Judah around the eighth century BCE but active in Israel. Amos preaches during a time of relative stability in both kingdoms (about fifty years before Israel’s demise), and this book is largely a record of his speeches. Amos’ greatest concern is that the prosperity of Israel does not flow equally to all parties. Elite landowners benefit from many years of peace, but social injustice keeps prosperity from reaching folks on the bottom of the social ladder. Furthermore, Amos denounces the religious presumption by which wealthy people follow the letter of temple law, yet betray its spirit in how they treat the poor. Today in Amos 1-5, the prophet warns of divine judgment on neighboring cities, then on Israel itself, as the punishing “day of the Lord” draws near.
Good morning! Today’s passage is the complete book of Joel, in three or four chapters. (Some translations consider chapter 3 an extension of chapter 2.) It’s quite difficult to date when Joel was written, but the general flow of the book is from an opening description of a locust plague and its consequences, to a theological assessment that the locusts are punishment from God, and finally to a promise of divine deliverance of God’s people.
Good morning! Today we take another big piece out of the final prophets with the second half of Hosea (chapters 8-14). We don’t have any further biographical details about Hosea here. These chapters are assorted sayings that trace back to the prophet directly, or to others writing in his name. What I notice most in today’s passage is how God has two entirely different mindsets when it comes to the people of Israel. We get the expected prophetic denunciations of wickedness, but also divine interludes of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
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Am I the only one who gets around to reading the Sunday paper on the following Thursday? So it was that on Thursday morning I saw a little book review in the business section of last Sunday’s Star Tribune. The new book Progress by Johan Norberg makes the case that, despite headlines and assumptions to the contrary, things are much better for human beings than they have ever been before. Poverty rates globally have been cut in half over the last twenty years. Two hundred years ago, almost 95% of people lived on less than $2 a day (in current dollars). That global poverty rate was at 37 percent in 1990, and below 10 percent in 2015. Furthermore, medical advancements continue at such a pace that even pandemics which would have crippled the globe a generation ago are now handled before they become catastrophic. The reviewer concludes that “not only have people grown much more prosperous; they also enjoy better health than even rich folks did in the past.”
Good morning! Today we begin two days reading one of the earliest prophets. Hosea 1-7 calls us back to the time of the divided kingdoms, before northern Israel had been overthrown by Assyria. Hosea the prophet is active in Israel during the final decades of Israel’s independence, when it is threatened by Assyria’s military incursions but not overthrown. 2 Kings 14:23-17:41 recounts this part of Israel’s history, for those who are inclined to reread a political-theological account of the era. It sounds like a time of religious pluralism and Baal-worship. The desire for fruitful harvests leads people to worship Baal as a harvest god, rather than trust in Israel’s own God, who has brought them out of Egypt. Also, the northern kingdom is churning through monarchs one after another. Each king’s hold on power is threatened by coups inside and marauders beyond, so they spend much energy searching for military alliances that shore up their positions. For the prophet, this reveals a lack of faith in God’s providence.