1, 2. (a) Why might some feel that no one is in control? (b) How do the 12 prophets portray Jehovah’s personality?
MANY people feel that their life is spinning out of control. And from news reports they have read, they conclude that the whole human race is on a downward spiral. Efforts to remedy the world’s ills seem merely to complicate a hopeless situation. It is noteworthy that some of the 12 prophets that we are considering faced comparable concerns, and they provided messages of hope that we ourselves can benefit from and that we can use in comforting others.—Micah 3:1-3; Habakkuk 1:1-4.
2 A central idea that you will find in these prophetic books is that Jehovah, the Sovereign of the universe, is in full control of human affairs and is keenly interested in our welfare. In fact, each of us can say, “He is interested in my welfare.” The 12 prophets paint an appealing portrait of “Jehovah of armies.” God can ‘touch the land, so that it melts,’ yet he assures his people: “He that is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (Zechariah 2:8; Amos 4:13; 9:5) Does it not warm your heart to read passages that illustrate how God’s dealings are governed by love and how he manifests mercy and forgiveness? (Hosea 6:1-3; Joel 2:12-14) Granted, the writings of these prophets do not explore every aspect of God’s personality; all 66 books of the Bible are needed for that. Still, these 12 provide an excellent window through which we can see God’s appealing personality and his dealings.
3. How is it made evident by the 12 prophets that Jehovah is a God of purpose?
3 The writings of the 12 prophets can reinforce our confidence in Jehovah’s trustworthiness as the Foreteller of the future and the unfailing Fulfiller of his purpose. They confirm that he will ultimately bring about an earthly paradise under divine rulership. (Micah 4:1-4) Some of those prophets describe how Jehovah prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah and for the ransom that would free humankind from sin and death. (Malachi 3:1; 4:5) Why is knowing all of this vital?
A LOVING SOVEREIGN IN FULL CONTROL
4, 5. (a) What fundamental truth about God do the 12 prophets stress? (b) How are you affected by Jehovah’s almightiness?
4 Remember the challenge hurled against God regarding his right to rule, as discussed in the preceding chapter. Rebellion against Jehovah’s authority—and suspicion as to his motives—led some in heaven to disobey God and wreak havoc on earth. So it is clear that respect for and submission to Jehovah’s sovereignty are necessary for full order in the universe and for peace among humans. Therefore, Jehovah is rightly determined to vindicate his sovereignty. Let us review how the 12 prophetic books can help us to see this more clearly.
5 As Jehovah’s messengers, the prophets stressed his exalted position. For instance, in magnifying the name and sovereignty of the Almighty, Amos uses the designation “Sovereign Lord” 21 times. This shows that the true God is infinitely great and that nothing is beyond his reach. (Amos 9:2-5; see the box “Jehovah the Almighty.”) Jehovah is the only rightful Sovereign of the universe, incomparably superior to lifeless idols. (Micah 1:7; Habakkuk 2:18-20; Zephaniah 2:11) Jehovah’s position as the Maker of all things gives him the inherent right to exercise sovereign power over all. (Amos 4:13; 5:8, 9; 9:6) Why is that important to you?
6. How is every human involved in the fulfillment of God’s purpose?
6 If you have ever suffered discrimination, injustice, or prejudice, take comfort in knowing that the loving Sovereign cares for all. Jehovah had a special relationship with one ancient nation, yet he announced his determination to benefit people of all nations and languages. He is “the true Lord of the whole earth.” (Micah 4:13) God promised that his name “will be great among the nations.” (Malachi 1:11) As our heavenly Father impartially makes himself known, “men out of all the languages of the nations” eagerly respond to his invitation to become his worshippers.—Zechariah 8:23.
7. Why is the meaning of Jehovah’s name significant?
7 Knowledge of what God is like and what he will do is closely linked to his name. (Psalm 9:10) When Micah lived, Jehovah’s name was maligned because many bearing His name were grossly disobedient. The prophet was inspired to stress “the superiority of the name of Jehovah” and to point out that “the person of practical wisdom will fear [God’s] name.” (Micah 5:4; 6:9) Why? Any reliable hope that you have for an enduring future involves the rich meaning of that name: “He Causes to Become.” Why not read Joel 2:26 and think about how pleased you can be to bear that name and to tell others about the one God who can become whatever he needs to become for the benefit of all his creatures? God has proved to be the one with unlimited ability to make things happen. You can find evidence of that in the fulfillment of scores of prophecies proclaimed by the 12 prophets.
8. In what ways has Jehovah’s name motivated you?
8 Millions have been affected positively by learning that Jehovah can cause to be done or fulfilled whatever he chooses. Joel indicated that in the famous words quoted by Christian writers: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) Do we see ourselves in Micah’s affirmation, namely, that “we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever”? (Micah 4:5) Yes, during periods of persecution or in times of personal distress, we can confidently “take refuge in the name of Jehovah.”—Zephaniah 3:9, 12; Nahum 1:7.
9. How extensive is God’s control over human rulers?
9 As you read these prophetic books, you can reaffirm your conviction that Jehovah has control even over human rulers and powerful decision makers. He has the ability to move them to act in harmony with his will. (Proverbs 21:1) Consider the case of Darius the Great of Persia. Enemies of true worship sought his help to stop the rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Exactly the opposite happened! About 520 B.C.E., Darius revived Cyrus’ decree and supported the Jews’ building work. When further obstacles came along, God’s message to Jewish Governor Zerubbabel was: “‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a level land.” (Zechariah 4:6, 7) No obstacle will block Jehovah’s destruction of this wicked system of things and his establishing of a paradise for his worshippers to enjoy.—Isaiah 65:21-23.
10. How far-reaching is God’s control, and why is that noteworthy?
10 Consider also that Jehovah controls the forces of nature, which he can use to destroy his enemies if he chooses to do so. (Nahum 1:3-6) Emphasizing how Jehovah can protect his people, Zechariah used figurative language: “Over them Jehovah himself will be seen, and his arrow will certainly go forth just like lightning. And on the horn the Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself will blow, and he will certainly go with the windstorms of the south.” (Zechariah 9:14) Will it, then, be difficult for God to prove his supremacy over ungodly nations in our time? Not at all!—Amos 1:3-5; 2:1-3.
A RELIABLE KEEPER OF PROMISES
11, 12. (a) Why was Nineveh considered invincible? (b) How did things turn out for Nineveh, in line with God’s prophetic word?
11 Imagine that you lived during the ninth century B.C.E. in what is now known as the Middle East. Which great city would you probably have heard about? Nineveh, of course. It was a prominent Assyrian city on the east bank of the Tigris River, about 550 miles (900 km) northeast of Jerusalem. Reports might have reached you about its impressive size—some 60 miles (100 km) in circumference! People who visited Nineveh said that it rivaled Babylon for splendor, with royal palaces, temples, broad streets, public gardens, and an impressive library. What is more, military strategists spoke of its massive, impenetrable outer and inner walls.
12 “Invincible!” Many people must have said that in describing Nineveh. But some prophets from the tiny nation of Judah insisted that Jehovah had condemned to destruction that “city of bloodshed.” As a result of the people’s response to Jonah’s message, the city was for a time spared God’s judgment. However, the Ninevites returned to their old wicked ways. Nahum foretold: “Nineveh . . . , a sword will cut you off . . . There is no relief for your catastrophe.” (Nahum 3:1, 7, 15, 19; Jonah 3:5-10) About that same time, God used Zephaniah to foretell that Nineveh would become a desolate waste. (Zephaniah 2:13) Would the invincible political reality of the day be overturned in fulfillment of Jehovah’s word? The answer came in about 632 B.C.E. when the Babylonians, Scythians, and Medes besieged Nineveh. Sudden floods eroded its walls, and the attackers penetrated its defenses. (Nahum 2:6-8) The once mighty city quickly became a mound of ruins. To this day Nineveh remains desolated.* “The exultant city” was not able to stand in the way of the fulfillment of God’s word!—Zephaniah 2:15.
13. What evidence of fulfilled prophecies can you find in the 12 prophets?
13 What happened to Nineveh is but one example of prophecy fulfilled. Look at a modern map of the Middle East. Can you find Ammon, Assyria, Babylon, Edom, or Moab? Hardly! Despite the fact that at one time such nations were prominent, the 12 prophets foretold their demise. (Amos 2:1-3; Obadiah 1, 8; Nahum 3:18; Zephaniah 2:8-11; Zechariah 2:7-9) One by one those nations disappeared as distinct entities. Jehovah said that they would vanish, and they did! And what these prophets foretold about a remnant of Jews returning from captivity in Babylon was fulfilled—it happened!
14. Why can you confidently build your life around Jehovah’s promises?
14 How is your confidence affected by such evidence of Jehovah’s prophetic ability? You can be certain that Jehovah will keep his promises; he is the God “who cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2) Furthermore, through his Word, God informs us of what we need to know. You can build your life around the doing of Jehovah’s will and the surety of his prophetic words. The prophecies in the 12 books are not mere examples of predictions fulfilled in the past. Many of the prophecies are now in the course of fulfillment or are soon to be realized. Thus, the record in these 12 books can strengthen your confidence that prophecies about our time and the future will be fulfilled. Take them seriously.
A FATHER WHO CARES
15. When you struggle with personal issues, how can Micah’s experiences help you?
15 God’s trustworthiness involves more than what will happen to nations or on the overall world scene. Jehovah foretells and fulfills in ways that can touch you personally. How so? Well, you may sometimes struggle to handle personal issues. You realize that it is not just a matter of finding someone who understands—you need to find someone whom you can trust to help you. In the eighth century B.C.E., Micah must have felt quite lonely as he faced the proud people of Judah. It may have seemed that he was the last faithful person on earth, that he could not trust even his family. Wherever he turned, he found bloodthirsty, deceitful, and corrupt people. Nevertheless, Micah was reassured by God’s promises to take care of His faithful ones no matter what others might do. You too can take comfort in that, especially if as a worshipper of Jehovah, you find yourself in the minority or alone, surrounded by those who do not honor God.—Micah 7:2-9.
16. Why can you be sure that God takes note of corruption and oppression and will deliver the righteous?
16 As is often the case today, the wealthy and the powerful in Judah and Israel became greedy and unfair. Illegal slavery was the result of overtaxation and land grabbing. The poor were treated with indifference, even cruelty. (Amos 2:6; 5:11, 12; Micah 2:1, 2; 3:9-12; Habakkuk 1:4) Through his messengers, God made it clear that he does not tolerate corruption and oppression and that he will punish persistent wrongdoers. (Habakkuk 2:3, 6-16) He foretells that he will “set matters straight respecting mighty nations” and that his approved servants “will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.” (Micah 4:3, 4) Imagine the resulting relief! God has foretold and then fulfilled many other things. Can you not be sure that this promise too will be fulfilled?
17, 18. (a) Why does God hold out hope for people? (b) How should we view Jehovah’s discipline?
17 Jehovah does not fulfill his promises simply to show his ability to predict, as if to impress humans. His actions spring from principled love, for “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Call to mind the case of Hosea, who lived in the eighth century B.C.E. As Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him, so the Israelites were unfaithful to Jehovah. Their idolatry was like adultery; they mixed Baal worship with the pure worship of Jehovah. They also figuratively “committed fornication” with Assyria and Egypt. How would Jehovah react? Hosea was to pursue his unfaithful wife to bring her back. Jehovah pursued his people, out of love. “With the ropes of earthling man I kept drawing them, with the cords of love, . . . and gently I brought food to each one.” (Hosea 2:5; 11:4) If they would respond with sincere repentance, they could experience God’s forgiveness, making restored relations with him possible. (Hosea 1:3, 4; 2:16, 23; 6:1-3; 14:4) Are you not moved when you note Jehovah’s affection? Ask yourself, ‘If Jehovah showed such affection in the past, can I not be sure of his love, his tender, loyal, unchanging, and undying affection?’—Hosea 11:8.
18 The 12 prophetic books can also help you to see that God’s love may include correction. Jehovah assured his errant people that he would “not completely annihilate” them. (Amos 9:8) When punishment was necessary, God did not withhold such, but what a relief it should have been to know that his punishment would be temporary! Malachi 1:6 likens Jehovah to a loving father. You know that a father may discipline his beloved children in order to correct them. (Nahum 1:3; Hebrews 12:6) Yet, our heavenly Father’s love makes him slow to anger, and Malachi 3:10, 16 confirms that he will generously reward his servants.
19. What self-examination is appropriate?
19 Malachi begins his book with the assurance: “‘I have loved you people,’ Jehovah has said.” (Malachi 1:2) As you reflect on that divine assurance to Israel, ask yourself: ‘Am I doing anything that may hinder me from enjoying God’s love? What is there about God’s love that I want to know and experience more fully?’ By deeply sensing God’s love, you can be increasingly assured of his eternal affection.
FORGIVENESS OPENS THE WAY TO SALVATION
20. How does divine forgiveness open the way to salvation?
20 In reading these prophetic books, you will note that sometimes Jehovah foretold calamities. Why? Often, it was to move his people to repent. To that end, he allowed foreigners to destroy Samaria in 740 B.C.E. and Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. What God foretold was fulfilled, but later he allowed repentant ones to be restored to their land. Yes, these books stress that God graciously forgives and restores those who turn from sin and come to him. (Habakkuk 3:13; Zephaniah 2:2, 3) Micah was moved to proclaim: “Who is a God like you, one pardoning error and passing over transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? He will certainly not hold onto his anger forever, for he is delighting in loving-kindness.” (Micah 7:18; Joel 2:13; Zechariah 1:4) The fulfillment of prophecy confirms that.
21. (a) What did the 12 prophets indicate about the Messiah? (b) What Messianic prophecies do you find interesting?
21 As to a permanent legal basis for lasting forgiveness, Jehovah foretold the coming of the Messiah, who would sacrifice his human life as “a corresponding ransom” for sinful mankind. (1 Timothy 2:6) Amos pointed to a restoration that the Messiah, the son of David, would bring about. (Amos 9:11, 12; Acts 15:15-19) Micah even pointed out the very birthplace of Jesus, the one to appear with life-giving benefits for all who would exercise faith in His sacrifice. (Micah 5:2) And Zechariah spoke about the “Sprout,” Jesus, who would “sit down and rule on his throne.” (Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, 13; Luke 1:32, 33) Your faith will undoubtedly be strengthened by examining more of such prophecies.—See the box “Major Prophecies About the Messiah.”
22. How is your confidence in Jehovah enhanced by what the 12 prophets reveal about him?
22 As you read the messages of the 12 prophets, your confidence in God’s final victory will grow. Jehovah is our Champion, and he will bring about true justice. God’s word endures. He remembers his agreements with his people, cares for his servants, and delivers them from all oppressors. (Micah 7:8-10; Zephaniah 2:6, 7) Jehovah has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) How reassuring it is to know that God faces no dilemmas or barriers as to fulfilling his purpose! When he says that his day of judgment will come, it will come. Therefore, keep on the watch for Jehovah’s day! “Jehovah must become king over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will prove to be one, and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:9) He foretells that; he will fulfill it.
In November 2002, before the war in Iraq, Professor Dan Cruickshank visited the region. He reported on BBC television: “On the edge of Mosul stands the vast ruined city of Nineveh, which—along with Nimrud . . . was enthusiastically excavated by British archaeologists from the 1840s onwards. . . . The exploration of these Assyrian cities meant no less than the discovery of a long lost—almost mythical—civilisation that was known only from brief, enigmatic and far from flattering descriptions in the Bible.”