1, 2. (a) What questions might you ask yourself? (b) In what situation did some of the 12 prophets live, and what attitude did Micah have?
HOW long have you been waiting for Jehovah’s day to rid the earth of wickedness? How long are you willing to wait for it? Meanwhile, what attitude and resulting actions will mark your life? Clearly, your answers will differ from those of churchgoers who are living just as they please, waiting to go to heaven.
2 While you are awaiting that great day, the books that the 12 prophets wrote can be of significant help. Many of those prophets lived when a judicial intervention from God was impending. For instance, Micah served when the punishment of Samaria at the hands of the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. was approaching. (See the time line on pages 20 and 21.) Later in the stream of time, but just as certain, was the day of Jehovah against Judah. Since Micah did not know exactly when God would act, did he conclude that he should just sit and do little, hoping that God would act soon? Here are Micah’s words: “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. My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7) Yes, confident of what was coming, Micah was like an active sentry on a watchtower.—2 Samuel 18:24-27; Micah 1:3, 4.
3. With the destruction of Jerusalem ahead of them, Habakkuk and Zephaniah manifested what outlook?
3 Next, locate Zephaniah and Habakkuk on the time line. Note that these two served in a period closer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. Still, they could not know whether God’s execution of judgment was right at hand or decades away. (Habakkuk 1:2; Zephaniah 1:7, 14-18) Zephaniah wrote: “‘Keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is . . . to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger.’” (Zephaniah 3:8) And what about Habakkuk, who lived soon after Zephaniah? Habakkuk wrote: “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, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.”—Habakkuk 2:3.
4. In what contexts did Zephaniah and Habakkuk prophesy, and with what attitude?
4 The contexts of the pronouncements at Zephaniah 3:8 and Habakkuk 2:3 are revealing. At a time when certain Jews were saying, “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad,” Zephaniah proclaimed “the day of Jehovah’s anger.” On that day both enemy nations and wayward Jews would feel God’s displeasure. (Zephaniah 1:4, 12; 2:2, 4, 13; 3:3, 4) Do you imagine that Zephaniah was fearful of God’s denunciation and anger? On the contrary, he was to keep himself “in expectation.” ‘What of Habakkuk?’ you might wonder. He also was to “keep in expectation of it.” You are right to conclude that Zephaniah and Habakkuk were not casual about what lay ahead, carrying on as if they thought things would never change. (Habakkuk 3:16; 2 Peter 3:4) As noted, though, a significant point that these two prophets had in common was that both were to “keep in expectation.” And you know this: What those two prophets expected became historical fact in 607 B.C.E. So their keeping “in expectation” proved to be the course of wisdom.
5, 6. Given where we are in the outworking of God’s purpose, what attitude should we have?
5 You can be equally sure that “the day of Jehovah’s anger” against the present system of things will come; it will be a fact, actual and trustworthy. Surely you have no doubt about that. Like Zephaniah and Habakkuk, you do not know exactly when that day will come. (Mark 13:32) Yet, come it will, and fulfillment of Bible prophecy in your time strongly indicates that it will come soon. Thus, what Jehovah stressed to those prophets applies to you—“Keep in expectation of it.” And remember this absolute truth: Ours is the only God who “acts for the one that keeps in expectation of him.”—Isaiah 64:4.
6 You can show the proper attitude of expectation, demonstrating by what you do that you are confident that “the day of Jehovah’s anger” will come exactly on time. Your being convinced of that and matching your conviction with fitting actions are in harmony with something Jesus said. He urged the apostles and all anointed Christians: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master . . . Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them.” (Luke 12:35-37) Yes, a proper waiting attitude shows confidence that Jehovah’s great day will come not a moment later than he has purposed.
“IN EXPECTATION” AND “READY”
7, 8. (a) What has been the result of God’s patience? (b) Peter urges us to manifest what attitude?
7 God’s modern-day servants were in expectation before God’s Kingdom was established in heaven in 1914 and have been since then. Their expectation has definitely not meant idleness. On the contrary, they have kept active in their God-assigned witnessing work. (Acts 1:8) Reflect on this, though: If the great day of Jehovah had occurred back in 1914, what would your situation have been? Even if it had occurred 40 years ago, were you then a person of “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion”? (2 Peter 3:11) And what of your family members who are Witnesses or your very close friends in the congregation? Clearly, this period of expectation has opened to you and many like you the way of salvation, as 2 Peter 3:9 shows. The fact that Jehovah did not destroy the entire wicked system immediately after the Kingdom was established has permitted many to repent, even as the Ninevites were able to repent and be spared. We all have reason to echo the apostle Peter’s words: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3:15) And this present period continues to allow individuals to repent or to make adjustments in their life and thinking.
8 Admittedly, a Christian could think of the situation that prevailed in the days of Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk with a somewhat detached interest. “After all,” he might say, “it was such a long time ago!” But what lessons are there for us? We have already mentioned Peter’s counsel about Christians’ needing to be persons of “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.” Right after those words, Peter stressed another need—our need to be “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Peter 3:11, 12) Hence, we should be “keeping close in mind” that day, being “in expectation of it.”
9. Why is ‘keeping on the lookout’ appropriate for us?
9 Whether we have been serving Jehovah for a few years or for many decades, are we ‘keeping on the lookout and showing the same waiting attitude’ that Micah showed? (Romans 13:11) Granted, as humans, we might long to know when the end will come and how much time remains until that event. Yet, we simply cannot know. Recall Jesus’ words: “If the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matthew 24:43, 44.
10. What lessons do you learn from the apostle John’s life and outlook?
10 What Jesus said sounds very similar to what Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk wrote. Yet, Jesus was making the point, not for people of ancient times, but for his followers, for us. Many devoted Christians have truly applied Jesus’ counsel; they have ‘proved themselves ready,’ remaining in expectation. The apostle John was a good example of this. He was one of the four on the Mount of Olives who asked Jesus about the conclusion of the system of things. (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3, 4) That was in the year 33 C.E., but John could not look at any time line to determine just how soon things would happen. Now, in your mind, move ahead some 60 years in time. John had aged, but he did not become weary and lose his sense of expectation. On the contrary, when he heard Jesus say: “Yes; I am coming quickly,” John responded: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” John did not regret how he had spent his years. He was convinced that when Jehovah executes judgment, He would also reward each one according to his works. (Revelation 22:12, 20) Whenever that judgment would be, John wanted to be “ready,” as the Lord Jesus had advised. Do you feel the same?
“IN EXPECTATION” OR “SATISFIED”?
11. How did people of Micah and Hosea’s day differ from those men?
11 Consider another lesson that we can draw from the prophets who lived in a period when the executions of Jehovah’s judgments, first against Israel and then against Judah, were approaching. While Micah ‘kept on the lookout and showed a waiting attitude,’ many around him did not. They became “haters of what is good and lovers of badness.” Micah warned that if they would not change, they could ‘call to Jehovah for aid, but he would not answer them.’ (Micah 3:2, 4; 7:7) Micah’s contemporary Hosea used farming vocabulary when urging those in the northern kingdom of Israel: “Sow seed for yourselves in righteousness; reap in accord with loving-kindness. Till for yourselves arable land, when there is time for searching for Jehovah.” Despite that, most would not listen. They “plowed wickedness,” so unrighteousness is what they reaped. (Hosea 10:12, 13) They condoned or shared in corrupt practices, ‘trusting in their own way’ rather than in Jehovah’s way. Some today might wonder, ‘How could that happen to true worshippers living right there in the Promised Land?’ Hosea showed that their problem centered on an attitude like the attitude that we need to guard against if we are to keep in expectation of Jehovah’s great day. That is, of becoming settled and “satisfied.”
12. (a) Hosea identified what undesirable development among the Israelites prior to 740 B.C.E.? (b) The people’s becoming “satisfied” was manifested in what ways?
12 After God’s people entered the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they enjoyed considerable prosperity. How did they react? Hosea conveyed Jehovah’s words: “According to their pasturage they also came to be satisfied. They became satisfied and their heart began to be exalted. That is why they forgot me.” (Hosea 13:6) Centuries earlier, God had warned his people of that very danger. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14; 32:15) Nonetheless, by the days of Hosea and Amos, the Israelites succumbed—“they became satisfied.” Amos gives us specific details. He notes that many had luxurious furnishings in their houses, and some families even had second homes. They had the best of foods, drank fine wine from select vessels, and applied “the choicest oils” to their skin, perhaps as scented cosmetics. (Amos 3:12, 15; 6:4-6) You likely recognize that none of those aspects of life were improper in themselves, but giving them too much importance was clearly wrong.
13. What basic defect was found in the Israelites, whether they were prosperous or not?
13 Granted, not all in the northern kingdom became prosperous and “satisfied.” Some were poor and had to struggle to make a living and feed their family. (Amos 2:6; 4:1; 8:4-6) The same is true today in many parts of the earth. Did God’s counsel found at Hosea 13:6 apply to even the poor in ancient Israel, and does it apply today? Yes, indeed. Jehovah was showing that whether a true worshipper is prosperous or not, he needs to guard against becoming so focused on the material aspects of life that he ‘forgets God.’—Luke 12:22-30.
14. Why is it fitting for us to reflect on our sense of expectation?
14 From our vantage point in time and with so much Bible prophecy now fulfilled, we have added reason to be alert, ready, in expectation. What, though, if we have been in expectation for some time, perhaps decades? In the past we exerted ourselves in the ministry and made personal decisions that reflected our conviction that Jehovah’s day was not far off. But it has not yet come. How is our sense of expectation holding up? To make it quite personal, ask yourself, ‘Is my sense of expectation still intense, or has it cooled off considerably?’—Revelation 2:4.
15. What are some indications that our sense of expectation may have waned?
15 We might gauge our sense of expectation in many ways, but why not use the very aspects found in Amos’ description of people of his day who “became satisfied”? As we examine that, we can analyze whether we detect in ourselves any tendency toward ‘becoming satisfied.’ A Christian who in years past reflected his sense of expectation in his thinking and actions might begin to strive to have a more luxurious home or automobile, the very latest style of clothing, expensive cosmetics and jewelry, or choice wine and rich food. The Bible nowhere suggests that we must be ascetics, deprived of reasonable pleasure. The man who works hard “should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13) However, the danger exists of a Christian’s focusing ever more on food, drink, and personal appearance. (1 Peter 3:3) Jesus noted that a shift in focus occurred with some anointed ones in Asia Minor, proving that this is a danger for Christians. (Revelation 3:14-17) Has something similar happened in our case? Are we ‘becoming satisfied,’ perhaps preoccupied with material things? Has our sense of expectation waned?—Romans 8:5-8.
16. Why would it not be in our children’s best interests to encourage them to strive for a “satisfied” way of life?
16 A dampening of our expectation of Jehovah’s great day could reveal itself in the advice we give to our children or to others. A Christian could reason within himself: ‘I chose to forgo educational or career possibilities because I felt that the end was very close. Now I want to be sure that my children get the training that will allow them to have a comfortable life.’ Perhaps some in Hosea’s day had similar thoughts. If so, would their giving parental advice that centered on a “satisfied” lifestyle have been in their children’s best interests? And if children back then had in fact pursued a “satisfied,” or comfortable, way of life, what would their situation have been in 740 B.C.E., when Samaria fell to the Assyrians?—Hosea 13:16; Zephaniah 1:12, 13.
LIVE WITH VALID EXPECTATIONS
17. In what way should we imitate Micah?
17 Like true worshippers of old, we can be confident that what God promised will be fulfilled on time, at his appointed time. (Joshua 23:14) The prophet Micah was wise to show a waiting attitude for the God of his salvation. With our historical perspective, we can look at a time line of his period and see how near Micah lived to the time when Samaria was conquered. What about us and the time in which we live? When we look back on our life, will it be clear that we made wise choices, such as those about a secular career, a lifestyle, and the full-time ministry? Granted, we do not know “that day and hour.” (Matthew 24:36-42) There is no question, though, that we are acting wisely if we cultivate an attitude like that of Micah and act accordingly. And when Micah is rewarded with life in a restored earthly paradise, how pleased he will be to know that we have benefited from his prophetic message and faithful example! We will have become living proof that Jehovah is the God of salvation!
18, 19. (a) To what coming calamity did Obadiah point? (b) How did Obadiah hold out hope to Israel?
18 Our confidence has a solid basis. Think, for example, about the short prophetic book of Obadiah. It centered on ancient Edom, setting out Jehovah’s judgment against that people who mistreated their “brother,” Israel. (Obadiah 12) The foretold devastation did take place, as we discussed in Chapter 10 of this book. The Babylonians under Nabonidus conquered Edom in the middle of the sixth century B.C.E., and Edom as a nation ceased to be. There is, though, another important thought in Obadiah’s message, a thought that bears on our keeping in expectation of Jehovah’s great day.
19 You know that the enemy nation (Babylon) that devastated Edom had also carried out God’s punishment of his unfaithful people. In 607 B.C.E., the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Jews off into exile. The land then became a desolate waste. Did matters end there? No. Through Obadiah, Jehovah foretold that the Israelites would repossess their land. At Obadiah 17, you can read this encouraging promise: “In Mount Zion is where those escaping will prove to be, and it must become something holy; and the house of Jacob must take possession of the things for them to possess.”
20, 21. Why should Obadiah 17 be comforting to us?
20 History confirms that what Jehovah said through Obadiah did occur. God foretold it, and it happened. Thousands of exiles from Judah and Israel returned in 537 B.C.E. With Jehovah’s blessing, the repatriates transformed a wasteland into what became a verdant paradise. You have read at Isaiah 11:6-9 and 35:1-7 prophecies of that marvelous transformation. Of key importance was that true worship was reestablished, centered at a rebuilt temple of Jehovah. Thus Obadiah 17 can serve as another proof to us that Jehovah’s promises are reliable. They are always fulfilled.
21 Obadiah concluded his prophecy with these emphatic words: “The kingship must become Jehovah’s.” (Obadiah 21) Trusting that, you are awaiting the glorious time when Jehovah through Jesus Christ will rule with no opposition in the entire universe, our planet included. Whether you have been in expectation of Jehovah’s great day—with resulting blessings—for a short time or for many decades, you can be absolutely sure that such Bible-based expectations are going to be realized.
22 It is appropriate, then, to repeat Habakkuk’s assurance, which certainly applies in our time: “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, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3) Even if from a human standpoint it might seem that Jehovah’s great day has delayed, his day will without fail come on schedule. Jehovah promises us that. Thus, those who have served God for years and those who have taken up his worship recently can move forward together with confidence like that expressed at Micah 4:5: “We, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.”