1, 2. (a) To what vital theme do all 12 prophets point? (b) How did some of the 12 prophets make direct mention of the day of Jehovah?
“THE great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.” (Zephaniah 1:14) God’s prophets time and again warned of the approaching day of Jehovah. Usually, they pointed out how its coming should affect people’s daily life, their morals, and their conduct. Urgency was always attached to their proclamations. If you had heard these messages with your own ears, how would you have reacted?
2 In reading the 12 prophets, you will find that they all, directly or indirectly, spoke of the day of Jehovah.* Thus, before considering in the following chapters the valuable information that these prophets delivered, think of the recurring theme: the day of Jehovah. Six of the prophets directly used that expression or similar terms. Joel graphically described “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 2, 30-32) Amos told the Israelites to get ready to meet their God, for the day of Jehovah would be one of darkness. (Amos 4:12; 5:18) Later, Zephaniah spoke the words quoted in paragraph 1. And near the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, Obadiah warned: “The day of Jehovah against all the nations is near.”—Obadiah 15.
3. Why can we say that the prophets after the exile dealt with the topic of Jehovah’s day?
3 You will also see that two prophets who were sent to the Jews after their return from exile used similar expressions. Zechariah told of the day when all nations coming against Jerusalem would be annihilated. He described vividly what would take place on “one day that is known as belonging to Jehovah.” (Zechariah 12:9; 14:7, 12-15) And Malachi alerted God’s people to the coming of “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.”—Malachi 4:1-5.
4. How do some of the 12 prophets refer to the day of Jehovah?
4 Though not using the expression “the day of Jehovah,” the others of the 12 alluded to that day. Hosea talked of Jehovah’s settling accounts with Israel and later with Judah. (Hosea 8:13, 14; 9:9; 12:2) These messages often related to what Jehovah did back in those days. For example, Jonah proclaimed God’s judgment on Nineveh, and Micah described what would happen when God acted against rebellious peoples. (Jonah 3:4; Micah 1:2-5) Nahum promised that Jehovah would take vengeance on His adversaries. (Nahum 1:2, 3) Habakkuk cried out for justice and described “the day of distress.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4, 7; 3:16) Some messages in these books definitely pointed to developments that would involve true Christians. For instance, Haggai, one of the postexilic prophets, foretold the rocking of the nations. (Haggai 2:6, 7) The apostle Paul quoted from the words of Haggai 2:6 to urge Christians to be in a fit condition when God removes the symbolic wicked heaven.—Hebrews 12:25-29; Revelation 21:1.
THE DAY OF JEHOVAH—WHAT IS IT?
5, 6. According to the prophets, what will the day of Jehovah be like?
5 You have good reason to wonder what the day of Jehovah will be like. You may ask, ‘Does the day of Jehovah have any bearing on how I live now and on my future?’ As the prophets indicated, the day of Jehovah is a period when Jehovah acts against his enemies to execute judgment, a day of battle. That fear-inspiring day will likely be a day of celestial phenomena. “Sun and moon themselves will certainly become dark, and the very stars will actually withdraw their brightness.” (Joel 2:2, 11, 30, 31; 3:15; Amos 5:18; 8:9) What will happen on the earth, where we live? Micah stated: “The mountains must melt under [Jehovah], and the low plains themselves will split apart, like wax because of the fire, like waters being poured down a steep place.” (Micah 1:4) This description may be figurative, but we can conclude from it that God’s acts will bring disastrous effects on the earth and its inhabitants. Not on all humans, though. The same prophets pointed to abundant blessings for those who “search for what is good” and thus keep living.—Amos 5:14; Joel 3:17, 18; Micah 4:3, 4.
6 Others of the 12 prophets painted more graphic pictures of the day of Jehovah. Habakkuk vividly portrayed how Jehovah will smash “the eternal mountains” and bring low “the indefinitely lasting hills,” fitting representations of human organizations, which might seem enduring. (Habakkuk 3:6-12) Yes, the day of Jehovah “is a day of fury, a day of distress and of anguish, a day of storm and of desolation, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick gloom.”—Zephaniah 1:14-17.
7. What scourge is foretold, and how might it be fulfilled?
7 Imagine what a scourge will come upon those fighting against God! “There will be a rotting away of one’s flesh, while one is standing upon one’s feet; and one’s very eyes will rot away in their sockets, and one’s very tongue will rot away in one’s mouth.” (Zechariah 14:12) Whether this vision will be fulfilled literally or not, you can tell that it portends tragedy for many. At the very least, the tongues of God’s enemies will rot in the sense that their defiant speech will be silenced. And any vision of taking unified action against God’s people will be blurred.
WHY A GOD OF LOVE ACTS
8, 9. (a) To understand why Jehovah acts against the wicked, what should you consider? (b) How is your loyalty in daily life linked to Jehovah’s taking action?
8 You may have heard people ask: ‘How can a loving God bring such a disaster upon his enemies? Does God have to wreak havoc on the earth? Did not Jesus urge continuing to love even enemies and thus proving to be sons of the Father in the heavens?’ (Matthew 5:44, 45) In response, you might direct attention to the very beginning of mankind’s troubles. God created the first human couple in his image and likeness—they were perfect. Yet, they introduced sin and death into the human family and thus into our life. They took sides with Satan the Devil on the issue of who has the supreme right to rule mankind. (Genesis 1:26; 3:1-19) Over the centuries, Satan has tried to prove that if humans are given an incentive to do otherwise, they will not serve Jehovah. You know that Satan has failed. Jesus Christ and many other servants of Jehovah have kept integrity to God and have shown that they serve him out of love. (Hebrews 12:1-3) Can you not think of many by name who are thus serving God loyally?
9 Moreover, you are involved in this issue that will end in Jehovah’s eliminating wickedness. For example, as you read these 12 books, you will note that some of the prophets drew attention to the luxurious lifestyle of people who were neglecting the worship of Jehovah. The prophets admonished God’s people to ‘set their heart upon their ways’ and to transform their lives. (Haggai 1:2-5; 2:15, 18; Amos 3:14, 15; 5:4-6) Yes, the prophets were showing the people how to live. Those who accepted that exhortation showed that Jehovah is their Sovereign, thereby proving Satan a liar. Jehovah will prove loyal to such ones when he annihilates his enemies.—2 Samuel 22:26.
10. How does what Micah observed add reason for Jehovah to take action?
10 There is another reason for God to act. Turn your attention back to the eighth century B.C.E. when Micah prophesied in Judah. Speaking as if he were the nation, he likens the situation to a vineyard or an orchard after the harvest, with no leftover grapes or figs. That was how it was in Judaean society, where upright ones could hardly be found. Israelites were hunting their fellow citizens, lying in wait to shed blood. Their leaders and judges were out for selfish gain. (Micah 7:1-4) If you lived in that kind of situation, how would you feel? Likely, you would feel compassion for the innocent victims. Thus, how much more Jehovah feels for the oppressed! Today Jehovah scrutinizes mankind. What do you think he finds? Oppressors are viciously taking advantage of others and violently attacking their neighbors. As for loyal ones, they are relatively few compared with the world population. But we need not despair. Out of love for the victims, Jehovah will render justice.—Ezekiel 9:4-7.
11. (a) The day of Jehovah means what to those who fear him? (b) How did Jonah’s warning message affect the Ninevites?
11 Clearly, Jehovah’s day means destruction for his enemies and deliverance for those who fear and serve him.* Micah foretold that nations would stream to the mountain of Jehovah’s house, resulting in worldwide peace and unity. (Micah 4:1-4) Back in that time, did the fact that the prophets were proclaiming the day of Jehovah make any difference in people’s lives? For some, it did. Recall that when Jonah proclaimed a judgment against Nineveh, the violent, wicked inhabitants of that city “began to put faith in God” and “turned back from their bad way.” As a result, Jehovah refrained from causing calamity then. (Jonah 3:5, 10) The message about the impending day of Jehovah’s judgment did affect the lives of the Ninevites!
HOW DOES THAT DAY AFFECT YOU?
12, 13. (a) About whom did the 12 prophesy? (b) Why can we say that the prophetic words of the 12 pointed considerably forward in time?
12 ‘But those prophets lived centuries ago,’ someone might object. ‘What do their messages about Jehovah’s day have to do with me?’ Granted, those prophets lived many years even before Jesus’ birth, yet we should consider how their words about Jehovah’s day are relevant in the 21st century. What practical benefits can we derive from what they said about Jehovah’s great day? There is a key to seeing the relevance and benefiting from their message. It is our recognizing that the prophets warned of Jehovah’s day against Israel, Judah, surrounding nations, and certain world powers of the day.* The point is that such prophecies were fulfilled! The Assyrians did invade Samaria, Judah was desolated in 607 B.C.E., and the surrounding hostile nations were soon devastated. Eventually, the Assyrian and Babylonian world powers fell, all in fulfillment of specific prophecies.
13 Now turn your thoughts to the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., long after many of those prophecies saw their first fulfillments. On that day, the apostle Peter applied Joel’s prophecy to the pouring out of God’s holy spirit. Then Peter quoted from the book of Joel: “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and illustrious day of Jehovah arrives.” (Acts 2:20) This shows that there would be still further fulfillments of the prophecies about the day of Jehovah. As for Joel’s prophecy, it had a second fulfillment in 70 C.E. when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem, certainly a time of darkness and blood.
14, 15. (a) Why can we say that the prophecies about the day of Jehovah concern us today? (b) When can we expect the day of Jehovah to take place?
14 However, Joel’s prophecy and other prophecies about the day of Jehovah are yet to have a final fulfillment, which applies to us living in the 21st century. How so? Peter admonished Christians to keep “close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” The apostle went on to say: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:12, 13) No new heavens (a new theocratic government) with a new earth (a society of righteous people under that government) was established right after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. So the prophetic words about the day of Jehovah must have another fulfillment. Yes, these prophecies concern us today, who are living in “critical times”!—2 Timothy 3:1.
15 The combined description of Jehovah’s day as presented in these 12 Bible books makes us think of Jesus Christ’s words: “There will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” He said that “immediately after” the beginning of that great tribulation, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:21, 29) This helps us to pinpoint the timing of the day of Jehovah. It is just ahead. The Scriptures indicate that the great tribulation will destroy “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. Then, as the climax of the great tribulation, Jehovah’s day will wipe God’s enemies off the face of the earth.—Revelation 17:5, 12-18; 19:11-21.
16. In what major way will prophecies about the day of Jehovah be fulfilled?
16 Jehovah’s Witnesses have discerned the nature of fulfillments of prophecies about Jehovah’s day. Often and in various ways, apostate Jerusalem, renegade Samaria, the hostile Edomites, the violent Assyrians, and the Babylonians prefigured aspects of false religion. All such religion will be destroyed in the initial phase of the great tribulation. In the following “great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” her political and commercial lovers will meet their end.—Joel 2:31.
PROVE YOURSELVES READY
17, 18. (a) Why did Amos pronounce woe on those who were “craving the day of Jehovah”? (b) What would happen to those unprepared for the day of Jehovah?
17 Because the judgment messages apply mainly to false religion, some Christians might feel that they will not be affected by the fulfillment of these prophecies. However, what Amos told the Israelites has practical value to all: “Woe to those who are craving the day of Jehovah!” Some Israelites in Amos’ day thought that Jehovah’s day would mean only blessings for them, believing that it would be the day when God acts for his people. They even craved that day! To self-conceited ones, though, the day of Jehovah would “be darkness, and no light,” Amos continued. Yes, those Israelites were on the receiving end of Jehovah’s wrath!—Amos 5:18.
18 Amos then described what would happen to those who were craving the day of Jehovah. Think of a man who flees from a lion and ends up meeting a bear. Running away from the bear, he takes refuge in a house. Panting for breath, he closes the door behind him and leans on the wall, only to be bitten by a snake. In a way, that is the destiny of the ones who are not really ready for the day of Jehovah.—Amos 5:19.
19. In what practical ways should we prepare for the day of Jehovah?
19 Do you see the practical value this account might have for you? Recall that Amos was directing his words to people who were in a dedicated relationship with God. Still, there were things about their actions and attitudes that needed adjustment. Is it not worthwhile to examine your life to see whether you are proving yourself ready for that vital day or whether some adjustments are in order? How can you prove that you really are ready? Obviously, it is not by building a shelter, storing basic food items, learning how to purify water, or stockpiling gold coins, as some survivalists have done. “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury,” says Zephaniah. So being ready would not depend on the storing up of material items. (Zephaniah 1:18; Proverbs 11:4; Ezekiel 7:19) Rather, we have to be alert spiritually and live day by day as ones who are ready. We need the right attitude—and actions to match. Micah said: “As for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.”—Micah 7:7.
20. What factors do not alter our waiting attitude?
20 If you have this waiting attitude, you will give evidence that you are ready, on the lookout for the day of Jehovah. You will not be concerned about the date on which that day may come or how long you have waited for it. All the prophecies regarding that day will be fulfilled in Jehovah’s due time and will not be delayed. Jehovah told Habakkuk: “The vision is yet for the appointed time, and it keeps panting on to the end, and it will not tell a lie. Even if it should delay [from a human standpoint], keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late [from Jehovah’s viewpoint].”—Habakkuk 2:3.
21. How can you benefit from what is to come in this book?
21 In this book, you will learn how you can show a waiting attitude for the God of salvation. What benefits can you expect? Well, the focus will be on a part of the Bible that may be somewhat unfamiliar to you—the 12 so-called Minor Prophets. Hence, there will be stimulating insights. For example, in Section 2, you will consider how to “search for Jehovah” and keep living. (Amos 5:4, 6) Based on these 12 books, you might discern how to get to know Jehovah better and sharpen your view of serving him, even in expanded ways. With help from these prophets, you will doubtless deepen your understanding of his personality. In Section 3, you will see more clearly what Jehovah expects of you in your dealings with your family members and others. That can help you to be ready for his great day. Finally, in Section 4, you will look into the prophets’ advice on what your attitude should be as Jehovah’s day draws nearer, learning, too, how your Christian ministry may be impacted. No doubt, you will be thrilled as you consider the prophets’ message about what your future can be like.
22. How would you like to respond to the advice found in the books of the 12 prophets?
22 Do you recall the urgent words of Zephaniah quoted at the outset of this chapter? (Zephaniah 1:14) His message affected the life of young King Josiah. When he was but 16 years of age, Josiah started to seek Jehovah. When he turned 20, he set out on a campaign against idol worship, in line with Zephaniah’s encouragement to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34:1-8; Zephaniah 1:3-6) Has the warning about the day of Jehovah touched your daily life as much as it did Josiah’s? Let us see how the 12 prophets can help each one of us.
Both Isaiah, a contemporary of the first group of these 12 prophets, and Ezekiel, a contemporary of the second group, also warned about the day of Jehovah.—Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 7:19; 13:5; see Chapter 2 of this book, paragraphs 4-6.
Some of the 12 prophesied against, not just one nation, but a number of nations.