Week 41: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

Prepare these questions for Sunday, January 12, 2014.

The political turmoil of Israel's history had an enormous impact on its people and how they related to God. After the split between Israel and Judah, Jerusalem was conquered by the Assyrians who were later conquered by the Babylonians who were later conquered by the Persians. During the Babylonian conquest, the people of Jerusalem were scattered, but when the Persians came to power they allowed the Israelites back into Jerusalem and let them rebuild their temple and city. The last 6 books of the Old Testament are prophesies written during each of these times of turmoil and end with the promise that God will come again.

1. Nahum wrote what appears to be a warning to Nineveh, an Assyrian city about to be conquered by the Babylonians. However, since the audience was probably the Hebrew people it is more likely a reminder to Judah that God can and does punish those who oppress others (like the Assyrians). Habakkuk asked why God would even allow people like the Assyrians to have conquered Israel/Judah in the first place. Why does God allow the actions of "bad" people to be used to teach or correct those who choose to follow Him? How are we supposed to deal with these people in our own lives?

2. In Zephaniah, the prophet gives a message to the young King Josiah of Judah as Assyria is on the verge of collapse. This book is poetic so some of the phrases are overstated or dramatic, but the call to repent is clear. Read verses 3:11-12. What qualities does God say He will allow to live within Jerusalem and restore to prosperity?

3. The prophet Haggai spoke during the Persian rule when the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem and attempt to rebuild their temple and their city (like in Ezra and Nehemiah). In verse 2:14, the Lord says that "whatever you do... is defiled" if the temple of Jerusalem has not been rebuilt first. The people needed to remember God first to gain guidance, direction, and success in their efforts. What are you trying to accomplish in your own life without remembering God first?

4. Zechariah was written during the same events as Haggai. It is a set of series of prophesies. In ancient Hebrew literature it was common to create a kind of mirrored writing with the most important topics in the middle and similar topics in the beginning and end. That is why so much of the Old Testament looks like it is repeating itself to our modern eyes. Zehariah uses this concept in its symbolic visions that were meant to encourage the people to rebuild the temple. Zechariah also addresses the motives of religious actions. Read chapter 7 and identify what actions God really wants from His people in order to glorify Him.

5. Finally, the book of Malachi was written after the temple and walls of the city were rebuilt in Jerusalem and is presented like an argument between the people and God. What qualities does God condemn (unfaithfulness v. 2:15-16, arrogance v. 3:13) and what does He call the people to do?

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