I wasn’t in a good place. I didn’t desire Scripture or time with God in prayer. My time in the desert yielded the fruit of disobedience: bitterness, impure speech, and a poverty of love for my family and friends. I knew I needed to take a step back from the demands of life and ministry. And so, I forced myself to spend a morning in the Minor Prophets. These twelve books at the center of our Bibles may be minor in size, but I was reminded that they are anything but minor in their ability to diagnose the human heart. In my tour of the Minor Prophets, God taught me three important truths in a season of waywardness.
Idolatry is the Root of Disobedience
First, idolatry is the root of disobedience. Israel and Judah’s continual struggle with idolatry is a constant refrain that runs through the prophets. For example, Hosea 4 outlines God’s grim indictment against Israel. She attached herself to idols resulting in rebellion. Sin is always a child of idolatry. To say it another way, our struggle with sin results from a privation of worship. If idolatry is always beneath the surface of disobedience, then we need to be able to discern the idols we are most prone to pay homage.
We don’t often connect sin with idolatry. When we think of idols, we think of archaic objects made of wood or stone. But idolatry is just as pervasive today as it was for Israel and Judah. Idols have an incredible ability to take on different shapes. Today they resemble bank accounts, social media profiles, and prized possessions. So, if we only think of sin as a behavior issue and not a worship issue—a love of idols—we will never get to the root of the problem. The call of the prophets is to see beneath the surface.
Idols have an incredible ability to take on different shapes. Today they resemble bank accounts, social media profiles, and prized possessions.
The Judgment/Grace Dissonance
Second, there is a tension in the prophets. On the one hand, God takes the sin of his people seriously. He does not let them off the proverbial hook or overlook their disobedience. For example, read Amos 4-5 and Micah 3. These prophets do not hold back in their language or tone. On the other hand, the grim tune of Micah 3 turns into a majestic song of victory in Micah 4 as the prophet paints the picture of a restored people committed to the Lord,
“Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.” (Micah 4:10 ESV)
When we stumble in our own disobedience we need the tension in the prophets—that God both takes our sin seriously and shows incredible grace. This double-sided theme of judgment/grace strikes a note of dissonance at the end of our Old Testaments—a dissonance waiting for a resolution.
Christ Brings the Resolution
In the Minor Prophets there is a constant refrain of unmet expectation. There was the hope that God would act, that God would dwell with his people, that God would deal with idolatry, and that God would sit on Jerusalem’s vacant throne in a renewed kingdom. But at the close of the fifth century when the last prophet rolled up the parchment, Judah was worshipping idols, the temple was a pale reminder of its former glory, and the throne was awaiting a king. The aura was one of unmet expectations.
At the turn of the millennium, the cry of a mother in labor in a humble village on the edge of the Judean hill country announced that the hope of Micah 5:2 had arrived. Jesus Christ brings the harmonic resolve to the centuries of waiting. Jesus dealt with the sin issue once and for all, and he was the long-awaited king.
In my reading of the Minor Prophets, God reminded me that ultimately my disobedience is not a behavior issue, it is a worship issue. When I sense my heart stirring toward disobedience, the prophets remind me that idolatry is lingering just beneath the surface. And only Christ can conquer the idols in my life.
Second, God takes my sin seriously. He does not simply overlook sin or choose to ignore it. On the flip side, the prophets also remind me that God shows incredible grace. The only one who can bring resolution to this tension is Jesus Christ. In Christ God has dealt with my sin and idolatry and extended incredible grace. If you are in a season of disobedience, I invite you to turn to the Minor Prophets. As you read, may you see beneath the surface to the seriousness of your sin. But may you hear the glorious tune of redemption and renewal offered in Christ.
Tucker Anderson has served at Calvary Church since 2015. He is a graduate of Bethel Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His passion is helping people develop a biblical worldview by understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament.