Hosea, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi
“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2, CSB).
By Todd Alexander
Promises from God such as this are the fact-based evidence that we may use to test our assumptions and to support our commitments to Him. God’s desire expressed by Malachi is that we reverence His name. God invites us to engage him as a scientist (reverence) and then as a child (playfully jump).
We will consider a few of God’s promises delivered through His messengers: Hosea, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Malachi. These “Israelites indeed” answered God’s invitation by reverencing God and living sanctified lives. God’s prophecies by their mouths provided pieces of truth which, when connected, reveal more detail of the far-off fulfillment of the healing, rising sun of righteousness that will heal the world of mankind as God promised to their father Abraham.
Hosea — 767 BC
In his marriage to Gomer, Hosea endured an experience that surely developed his character and kept him close to God. Hosea’s obedience was a living epistle of his faith. Hosea gives us a unique allegory of the wayward Israelitish nation in their marriage to God (Hosea 1:2-3). Although as a nation, the Israelites were wayward; there were “Israelites indeed” like Hosea among their number.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:14-15).
While God’s blessings upon natural Israel were conditional upon their obedience, in His wisdom, He provided this far-off, unconditional hope of restoration; yearned for by generations of families and authorized by His unconditional promise to Abraham.
An Israelite’s faith in this promise of coming back to their land was in proportion to their trust and hope in God as Israel’s “husband” (Hosea 2:16). In 1878, believing Israelites, with faith in this prophecy, established the colony of Petach Tiqvah (Hebrew for “door of hope”) in the Promised Land. In God’s timing, Hosea’s “door of hope” prophecy was fulfilled many centuries after it was given, in the restoration of the nation of Israel.
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (Hosea 13:14).
The Apostle Paul quotes this prophecy and applies it to the far reaches of the Millennial Age when Adamic (hereditary) death would be eradicated (1 Corinthians 15:55). But there was also a tangible benefit in the mere hope of this prophecy: the hope of redemption. A hope which had the power to uplift the faith of every believing Israelite who considered it.
Perhaps these faithful Israelites are the intended recipients of the lessons of faith and perseverance in the book of Job, an allegory for the benefit of all those people of God who cannot reconcile their life experiences in the context of His promises (Job 14:12-17). In Job’s tumultuous life experiences, God gave him peace by teaching him to trust Him. The injustices and inequities that Job suffered focused his spiritual mind on his new struggle: discerning the righteousness of God and submitting to it. The same thing God asked of the Israelites.
God may ask us to endure difficult experiences also, perhaps as a means to bring us closer to Him. Like Job, when we are properly exercised by our experiences, there may be a larger blessing for those who are watching us. Our endurance, through struggle, is the “patience of the saints” (Revelation 14:12). Let us develop a discerning faith that gives us entrance into the rest of God (Hebrews 4:1-10).
As in Job’s case, the Abrahamic Promise demonstrates that the timing of God’s blessing is the actual “proof” of it. Though the benefits of the promise were far off into the future, each prophet, like Job, simply needed to focus on the righteousness of God before them.
Zephaniah — 640 BC
“Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:14-20).
Zephaniah’s prophecy was another point of light, a prayer of hope recited in Israelite synagogues and faithful homes ever since. It promised the restoration of the nation of Israel, the protection, the love and the admiration of their mighty God. It promised their regathering, and finally their exaltation among all the nations of the earth. It was a promise that their suffering would end. It was an “all-in-one” promise that included the restoration of Israelites back to God. It would begin with their return to the Promised Land, which we see happening today.
“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:8-9).
This powerful message was another clue that Israel’s salvation would be part of a larger plan for the salvation of all the families of the earth. The opportunity for Israel to become “a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” (Exodus 19:5) was a primary part of God’s unconditional promise to Abraham. And God confirmed it by speaking directly to the Jewish people through the words of this prophecy.
The Israelites would be familiar with this larger concept of salvation as it was concealed in their Jubilee law. In the Jubilee picture, the Israelites would know that the land has always been God’s land (Leviticus 25:23). Therefore, it would return to Him from His lease to the Gentile nations, but not until the process of their destruction at the beginning of Israel’s exaltation. Only then would God return the land to the regathered nation of Israel; the apple of His eye. This process began in 1914 AD, over 100 years ago!
Jeremiah — 627 BC
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah … I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Atonement was a concept that was ritualized for the Israelites every year in the Atonement Day sacrifices of the Tabernacle. This passage of scripture, more than any other, promised atonement for the Israelitish people with God. It goes further to detail how it will be executed — by changing the hearts of the Israelitish people.
It is difficult for a Gentile to imagine the identity crisis that existed in each Israelite as they hoped for this promised New Covenant. If they really were God’s chosen people, why did He let His people suffer so severely throughout history? Were they still being punished for their sins? (Leviticus 26:14-46). The gap between God’s promises and observable reality has shipwrecked the faith of many Israelitish people.
But Jeremiah was the messenger of another couple of promises from God. These prophetic promises would answer the importance of patience and timing in God’s plan for the salvation of the world through His love for His chosen, Israelitish people.
“Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve” (Jeremiah 50:20).
These two prophecies reveal that there would come a time when the nation of Israel’s sins would be forgiven, and God’s favor would return to them. But for the average Israelite, these promises were difficult to string together in a semblance of order to provide a context for their faith; a faith which could overcome the seeming injustices and inequities in their difficult reality.
Daniel’s life was the perfect case study that validated hope for every believing Israelite. Captured as a child, the injustice of his captivity robbed him of his formative years among his own people in his own country. Daniel could have viewed his capture as a tragic waste of an otherwise promising life. Instead, he earnestly studied the prophecies of Jeremiah and prayed for the growth of his faith and knowledge in the detail of God’s promises.
Daniel asked God for an understanding of Jeremiah’s 70 years prophecy, and God answered him by pouring out a rich blessing (Jeremiah 25:11, Daniel 9:1-2). Similar to the story of Job, Daniel’s life experiences served as another example of the faith which God sought in the heart of every Israelite.
Ezekiel — 597 BC
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:27,28).
Wow, every believing Israelite wanted to feel this spirit of God within them. But when would it be? Ezekiel prophesies that God will put His spirit within the nation of Israel, and this infusion of His spirit would then compel them to obey God’s laws and to keep His judgments.
How could God get the nation of Israel to do anything good in unison? Perhaps by blessing them as a nation and making His blessing obvious to the rest of the nations that God is with Israel!
Zechariah — 520 BC
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Israelite, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
Every believing Israelitish mother hoped for this to be true. She would gently guide her children in the idealism of this promise and encourage each to develop the best parts of their character in righteousness, to be ready to receive and share the favor of God.
The reality of this promise is that the rest of the world of mankind will need to go to Israel to receive the blessings of the New Covenant. With God’s favor, the nation of Israel will be at the top of the nations, but the nation of Israel will also be at the top of the hierarchy of power on earth in God’s Kingdom. God’s promise to Abraham was that all nations of the earth would bless themselves through his seed. One of the ways they will bless themselves is by coming to Jerusalem to receive the benefits of the promised blessings.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD” (Zechariah 8: 20-22).
Jerusalem will be a city of truth and light that all nations will come to and receive the blessing of the Abrahamic Promise. Ironically, this blessing will primarily come from a government with leadership that will include the recipients of the original promise: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (Zechariah 12:5-6, Micah 5:5).
“And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong” (Zechariah 8:13).
The Israelitish people will be saved and strengthened to be a blessing and thus be part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to their father Abraham.
Malachi — 420 BC
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:10, 12).
This is one of the last promises to the nation of Israel before the Messiah would come some 450 years later. It is the promise of great blessing to Israel for simply obeying God. God pleads with the nation of Israel to “prove” him by testing the truth of this promise. We should test the truth of this promise too (Isaiah 1:18).
Now, in the spirit of Israelitish tradition, a bit of self-reflection. Has the Abrahamic Promise changed the way we live our lives, like Abraham? Do we focus our faith on the righteousness of God over the struggle of our own disappointments, like Job? Does the Abrahamic Promise satisfy all of our longings (1Chronicles 28:9)? Is it strong enough in our heart’s heart to answer our hopes and our dreams for our loved ones and for the world of mankind?
Are we trusting in God’s timing, like Daniel? If so, we have entered the very peace of God and He will give us the rest of faith (Hebrews 4:9-11). We are blessed to live on the very cusp of the grand fulfillment of this beautiful promise for the salvation of all!
The tension of any individual Israelite’s faith throughout history was the struggle with what each knew to be true: what they heard from the prophets and what their king and their Rabbis shared with them. They experienced economic struggles, societal struggles, struggles for faith and hope. God wanted the Israelites to trust in Him: in His justice to judge them, in His love to keep them, in His mercy to forgive them, and in His power to save them.
For any Israelite to be successful, they would have to first understand their personal contract with God (Micah 6:8) and then understand Israel’s Law Covenant with God (Exodus 19). Furthermore, they would need to look past the idiosyncrasies of each prophet, king, or rabbi, to “hear” the truth of the word of God with their spiritual ear of understanding.
“And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi [Husband]; and shalt call me no more Baali [Master]. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:16, 23).
Sometime after God made His unconditional promise to Abraham, the nation of Israel became disobedient, recalcitrant, and self-willed. God watched over them as a “master.” But just as God promised to one day be Israel’s “husband,” He also provided His only begotten son to be our husband. Just as He gave His prophets a work to do, He gave us a work to do – to be His mouthpieces as His priests and kings in His holy Kingdom.
Let us sanctify God in our lives, let us discern His righteousness and let us answer His pleadings for our trust in His promises (Psalms 1:2-4)