Sunday, October 04, 2020

Mining the Minors: A Belated Explanation

Andy Stanley’s Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (2018) was a bit of a grenade in the baptistery. In it, Stanley argued that modern, mainstream Christianity is fatally flawed, fragile and indefensible in the public square because we have anchored it to an “old covenant narrative and worldview”. Stanley contended Christians need to “unhitch” ourselves from the Old Testament to become relevant to the world.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree. A new ongoing Saturday morning Bible study series entitled Mining the Minors will be my second attempt to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak (the first being a 55-part study of the book of Ecclesiastes posted here under the series title Time and Chance). Andy Stanley is not wrong that the books of the New Testament are intended to be the primary source of nourishment for believers today. However, “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come”. Surely it is not merely the history of Hebrew apostasy that was written down for the instruction of Christians, but all the Law, Prophets and Psalms. Though fundamentally Jewish, they are the foundation on which our faith is built. They serve as parables, if you like, to illustrate the explicitly Christian teaching of the epistles.

Why do we need parables when we already have explicit teaching? Good question. Well, David certainly needed a parable when he sinned in the matter of Uriah the Hittite and his wife. The great king of Israel was surely well aware of his own guilt even before he consummated his relationship with Bathsheba, and most definitely immediately afterward, but he did not truly feel the moral wretchedness of his own behavior until Nathan the prophet revealed it to him in parable form. He needed a divinely crafted illustration to punch him in the heart and make the word of God real to him. That’s one very good reason the Lord Jesus spoke so often in parables, and I believe it’s one of the reasons so much of the Hebrew scriptures have been preserved to this day.

So then, the Minor Prophets. Even the name gets us off on the wrong foot. After all, what is a “minor” prophet? Presumably a man who speaks for God in a way that is less worthy of our attention than others. I suspect that is not that case. If it turns out I’m wrong, at least it won’t be for giving these books inadequate attention. I am going to attempt to set each of the prophets in their historical contexts, proceeding chronologically rather than in the order we find the books in our Bibles, then attempt to exposit the the text, and finally, attempt to make whatever application may be made to our present day. If you are not familiar with the Minor Prophets, you may be surprised to discover just how relevant they remain.

You may notice my repeated use of the word “attempt”. It’s a big project. Who knows, it might even keep me busy until the Lord returns. Hope you find it worthwhile.

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