1. Why can Jehovah’s speaking to his prophet be likened to a lion’s roaring?
HAVE you ever heard a lion roar? Its roar is said to be louder than the sound of a jackhammer. What would you do if you heard a lion roar nearby in the stillness of the night? Probably react without delay. Amos, one of the 12 prophets whose writings we are considering, used this analogy: “There is a lion that has roared! Who will not be afraid? The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has spoken! Who will not prophesy?” (Amos 3:3-8) If you heard Jehovah himself speak, would you not react as Amos did? He immediately took action and prophesied against the ten-tribe nation of Israel.
2. (a) How can you imitate Amos in fulfilling the commission to prophesy? (b) What are we going to consider in this chapter?
2 You might say, ‘But I am not a prophet!’ You may feel rather unqualified because you have not received formal training as a prophet. Yet, remember Amos. When confronted by the calf-worshipping priest Amaziah, Amos said: “I was not a prophet, neither was I the son of a prophet; but I was a herdsman and a nipper of figs of sycamore trees.” (Amos 7:14) Though his background was humble, Amos was willing to fulfill his commission as a prophet for Jehovah. How about you? Do you realize that you have been given an assignment similar in some respects to that of the 12 prophets? You are to declare God’s message for today as well as to teach and make disciples. How do you view that serious assignment? What is the message you are to proclaim among the nations? How thorough are you in accomplishing that assignment? What determines whether your work is successful? Let us consider the answers.
‘THE YOUNG BULLS OF YOUR LIPS’
3. How can you be involved in a work similar to that of the prophets whose writings we are studying?
3 Are you really involved in a work like that of the prophets? You may not have heard the lion roar in the sense that you have been directly inspired by Jehovah. You have, though, heard from his Word, the Bible, the urgent message about the impending day of Jehovah. As we noted in Chapter 1 of this book, the words “prophet” and “prophetic” have a variety of meanings. Although you may not be a prophet in the sense that Amos or the other ancient prophets were, you can still speak out about the future. How? You can declare the prophetic messages that you have studied in the pages of the Holy Scriptures, including those of the 12 prophets. Now is the time for doing just that.
4. In what sense is the prophecy at Joel 2:28-32 being fulfilled today?
4 Look at the matter from another standpoint. Jehovah God told the prophet Joel of a time when people of every sort would prophesy, so to speak: “After that it must occur that I shall pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy. As for your old men, dreams they will dream. As for your young men, visions they will see.” (Joel 2:28-32) On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter applied this passage to the pouring out of holy spirit upon those who were gathered in an upper chamber in Jerusalem and to their subsequent preaching of “the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 1:12-14; 2:1-4, 11, 14-21) Now consider our time. Joel’s prophecy has been undergoing its major fulfillment since early in the 20th century. Spirit-anointed Christians—male and female, old and young—began to “prophesy,” that is, to declare “the magnificent things of God,” including the good news of the Kingdom, now established in the heavens.
5. (a) What privilege do we all have? (b) What does offering “the young bulls of [your] lips” mean to you and for you?
5 Though not begotten by holy spirit to be sons of God, “a great crowd” of “other sheep” are telling the anointed followers of Jesus Christ: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.” (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16; Zechariah 8:23) Whether you have the hope of everlasting life in the heavens or on the earth, you have the privilege of offering “the young bulls of [your] lips.” (Hosea 14:2) What does that expression in Hosea’s prophecy mean? “Young oxen . . . were the best animals for thank-offerings,” says Bible scholar C. F. Keil. The apostle Paul referred to Hosea 14:2, writing: “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Yes, the expression “the young bulls of our lips” refers to the very best of our lips, the words we speak in praise of Jehovah.
6. Why should we examine the quality of our sacrifices of praise?
6 You bring to Jehovah sacrifices of praise when you offer heartfelt prayers to him, make appreciative comments about him at Christian meetings, and talk to others enthusiastically in the public ministry. Each of us might ask, though, ‘When I participate in such activities, what is the quality of my offering?’ From what you have studied, you have no doubt come to disdain the priests of Malachi’s day who blatantly brought defective animals to God’s altar. Jehovah through Malachi had to emphasize to them the poor quality of their sacrifices, for they did not feel that they were despising the table of Jehovah. (Malachi 1:8) Accordingly, we do well to examine the quality of our sacrifices to ensure that they are the very best and are not defective in some way.
THE MESSAGE TO BE PROCLAIMED
7. Courage is required to proclaim what aspect of our twofold message?
7 Offering “the young bulls of our lips” in the ministry demands courage, does it not? That is because the message we take to people is twofold, and one of its aspects surely is not a popular one. The prophet Joel told God’s people: “Proclaim this, you people, among the nations, ‘Sanctify war! Arouse the powerful men! Let them draw near! Let them come up, all the men of war!’” (Joel 3:9) As it applies in our day, what a challenge that is to the nations! It is a declaration of Jehovah’s righteous war against God-defying people. Whereas Jehovah instructs his people to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears,” he tells the enemy nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords and [their] pruning shears into lances.” (Micah 4:3; Joel 3:10) Yes, God’s enemies must prepare themselves to meet the Creator of the universe in war. That is no soothing message for us to deliver.
8. Why are “the remaining ones of Jacob” likened to a lion?
8 In the prophet Micah’s message, those who offer ‘the young bulls of their lips’ are likened to a lion. He wrote: “The remaining ones of Jacob must become among the nations . . . like a lion among the beasts of a forest, like a maned young lion among droves of sheep, which, when it actually passes through, certainly both tramples down and tears in pieces; and there is no deliverer.” (Micah 5:8) Why this analogy? In our day, God’s people, with the anointed remnant taking the lead, must show lionlike courage in proclaiming the warning message to the nations.a
9. (a) When do you need to exercise lionlike courage? (b) How can you be courageous in the face of opposition or apathy?
9 Are you courageous like a lion in proclaiming the warning aspect of the message? You may need such courage not only when you stand before people in authority but also when you talk to your peers at school or at work or to your unbelieving relatives. (Micah 7:5-7; Matthew 10:17-21) How can you muster up courage in the face of opposition or apathy? Listen to how Micah was able to accomplish the formidable task of warning about the destruction of both Samaria and Jerusalem: “I myself have become full of power, with the spirit of Jehovah, and of justice and mightiness, in order to tell to Jacob his revolt and to Israel his sin.” (Micah 1:1, 6; 3:8) You too can “become full of power” because you too can receive an abundant supply of God’s empowering spirit. (Zechariah 4:6) By relying on God in prayer, you will be able to declare the words that may cause ears to tingle.—2 Kings 21:10-15.
10. How can we imitate Zephaniah in proclaiming the message about “the day of Jehovah”?
10 You want to be courageous, but you should also be tactful in approaching people with the warning message. We need to be “gentle [or, “tactful”] toward all,” even when the message is about the impending “day of Jehovah.” (2 Timothy 2:24; footnote; Joel 2:1, 11; Zephaniah 1:14) Again, we can learn from the 12 prophets. They boldly declared judgment messages from Jehovah, yet they were considerate of those who would listen. For example, the prophet Zephaniah did not mince words when speaking to the hardened princes (or, nobles) of his day, but he did not include faithful King Josiah in that criticism. (Zephaniah 1:8) When declaring the warning message, can we help people by viewing them as possible sheep, not assuming a negative view of them?—Matthew 25:32-34.
11. (a) What is the second aspect of the twofold message that we bear? (b) How can you imitate the 12 prophets when proclaiming the day of Jehovah?
11 What is the other aspect of the twofold message that we bear? We find that aspect highlighted in Micah chapter 5. “The remaining ones of Jacob must become in the midst of many peoples like dew from Jehovah, like copious showers upon vegetation, that does not hope for man or wait for the sons of earthling man.” (Micah 4:1; 5:7) Because of the good news that they bring to “many peoples” today, “the remaining ones” of spiritual Jacob, or Israel, and their companions are like refreshing “dew from Jehovah” and “copious showers upon vegetation.” We should be able to learn much from the last 12 books of the Hebrew Scriptures about this second aspect of our message, since those prophets proclaimed not only destruction but also restoration. In your ministry, are you emphasizing the positive aspect of the message about the day of Jehovah?
HOW DO YOU PROCLAIM THIS MESSAGE?
12, 13. (a) What is the significance of God’s people being compared to swarms of insects? (b) How do you feel about what you read at Joel 2:7, 8?
12 How, then, are you proclaiming this twofold message? The prophet Joel likened the work of God’s people to a series of plagues by insects, including locusts. (Joel 1:4) But why do we say that Jehovah’s people are like, of all things, swarms of insects? Because, as found at Joel 2:11, God identifies these insects as “his military force.” (God’s people are symbolized by locusts in the book of Revelation as well. See Revelation 9:3, 4.) The work of the insects that Joel described was like a devouring fire, and in their path what seemed like “the garden of Eden” was turned into “a desolate wilderness.” (Joel 2:2, 3) How can you show that you are aware of the significance of Joel’s prophecy?
13 Think about how thorough these little creatures are. Joel put it this way: “Like powerful men they run. Like men of war they go up a wall. And they go each one in his own ways, and they do not alter their paths. And one another they do not shove. As an able-bodied man in his course, they keep going; and should some fall even among the missiles, the others do not break off course.” (Joel 2:7, 8) No “wall” of opposition would deter them and the plague they were causing. “Should some fall even among the missiles,” as has been the case with loyal Christians who have been executed by oppressive enemies, others take over the work, accomplishing the mission that Jehovah has for them. Are you determined to stick to the assignment of proclaiming the day of Jehovah until God sees that it has been accomplished? You may even be carrying on the work in the place of some faithful Christians who have died.
14. In what way can you contribute to the thoroughness of the preaching work?
14 Thoroughness, that is the key. How can you personally contribute to the thoroughness of the preaching work as described in Joel’s prophecy? By participating in the house-to-house ministry and then returning to teach those who have shown interest. You also call again to contact those who were not at home. Thus you demonstrate understanding of this prophetic picture. And when you witness to people on the street, you might meet those whom you could not otherwise reach. Here is another avenue: You may be able to help people in your neighborhood who have immigrated from other countries.b Are you alert to all such opportunities, contributing to the thoroughness of the preaching work today?
WHAT DETERMINES YOUR SUCCESS?
15. What is noteworthy about people’s response to the messages of the 12 prophets?
15 How do people respond to the message about the fear-inspiring day of Jehovah? You should not be surprised to encounter opposition or apathy. Such was the case with many of God’s prophets, most of whom had strong warning messages to convey. (Jeremiah 1:17-19; 7:27; 29:19) Despite that, a number of prophets saw positive results! At least five of them—Jonah, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah—were able to move the hearts of some people to repent of their past sins and change their course.
16. What fruitage did Micah’s efforts as a prophet bear?
16 Zephaniah’s work as a prophet apparently moved King Josiah to initiate a revival of pure worship. Micah boldly proclaimed a judgment message against the head ones of Judah, and King Hezekiah’s actions harmonized with Micah’s words. (Micah 3:1-3) Interestingly, some older men of Jeremiah’s day referred to Hezekiah’s response as a good example when they said that the king ‘feared Jehovah and proceeded to soften the face of Jehovah.’ (Jeremiah 26:18, 19; 2 Kings 18:1-4) Under Hezekiah’s leadership, the people of Judah and willing ones from the northern kingdom celebrated the Passover and the Festival of Unfermented Cakes, even extending the festival for an additional week. What was the result of their return to true worship? “There came to be great rejoicing in Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 30:23-26) Micah had started to proclaim God’s message of doom to the apostate nation under King Ahaz. Yet, the prophet was able to see the fine fruitage of his efforts when Ahaz’ son Hezekiah responded well.
17. What were Haggai and Zechariah able to accomplish?
17 Consider also the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They served the repatriated Jews, who had become apathetic and self-centered. (Haggai 1:1, 2; Zechariah 1:1-3) By the time the two prophets took up their assignments, 16 years had passed since the foundation of the temple had been laid. People were “on the run, each one in behalf of his own house” while Jehovah’s house was “waste.” Haggai called out to the Jews: “‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and work.’” What happened then? Jehovah proceeded to “rouse up the spirit” of Governor Zerubbabel, High Priest Joshua, and “all the remaining ones of the people.” As a result, they were able to finish the work on the temple.—Haggai 1:9, 12, 14; 2:4.
18, 19. (a) How are people in some lands responding to the proclamation of the day of Jehovah? (b) How will you respond to the need to declare the warning message to all people?
18 Most of the 12 prophets declared messages to the nation originally dedicated to Jehovah. We may be preaching to people who have never known the true God, but we can still learn from the results of the prophets’ activities. Today, too, in many territories, people are responding to the urgent message about the day of Jehovah. We are seeing results such as those foretold by Zechariah: “Many nations will certainly become joined to Jehovah in that day, and they will actually become my people; and I will reside in the midst of you.” (Zechariah 2:11) At present, in a literal sense, God’s people are finding a response among “many nations.” (Revelation 7:9) Zechariah predicted: “Many peoples and mighty nations will actually come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to soften the face of Jehovah.” They are described as “ten men out of all the languages of the nations” who would take hold of the skirt of a spiritual Israelite, saying: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”—Zechariah 8:20-23.
19 Note the reference to “all the languages of the nations.” The Bible and Bible literature are being translated into many languages, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are training ministers to teach people of “all the languages of the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) You may have learned another language to help people in your own area who speak that tongue. And quite a number have been willing to learn a new language or two and to move to countries where many eagerly respond to the good news. Would it be possible for you to move to such productive territories and thus ‘proclaim this among the nations’? Consider that prayerfully. If you are raising a family, make the possibility of such a move a subject of repeated family discussion, keeping that goal before your growing children.
20. What attitude did Jehovah call attention to regarding the people of Nineveh?
20 Another prophet who had a hearing audience, a very unlikely one at that, was Jonah. The men of Nineveh, even the king himself, responded favorably to Jonah’s message, putting faith in Jehovah. God himself asked: “Ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not at all know the difference between their right hand and their left?” (Jonah 4:11) Think about those words in connection with what moves you to proclaim to others the fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. Do you feel indebted to Jehovah for saving you by means of the ransom? Do you feel a sense of responsibility as a dedicated servant of Jehovah? (1 Corinthians 9:16, 17) These are valid reasons for proclaiming the day of Jehovah. In addition, though, do you “feel sorry” for the people to whom you proclaim the day of Jehovah? How happy you can be when godlike mercy moves you to talk to people about that day!
21. What can you learn from the example of Amos in dealing with Amaziah’s threat?
21 We do not know much about the responses received by Joel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi. We do know at least one response that Amos received. Amaziah strongly opposed Amos, accusing the prophet of conspiring against the king and trying to ban Amos from preaching in Bethel. (Amos 7:10-13) Amos courageously met the opposition. Today, too, religionists may try to influence some political leaders to persecute Jehovah’s people or even to ban their beneficial preaching work. Will you imitate Amos in boldly proclaiming the good news despite opposition?
22. Why can you say that the ministry is successful in your territory?
22 Although the 12 prophets experienced varied responses, all fulfilled their commission. The important thing is, not that people respond to the twofold message we carry, but that we bring to Jehovah “the young bulls of our lips,” our very best “sacrifice of praise.” (Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15) Then we can leave the results up to God. He will draw out those who are truly sheep. (John 6:44) Furthermore, you can be successful as a proclaimer of the divine message regardless of how people respond. You can rest assured that “the feet of one bringing good news, one publishing peace,” are beautiful in the eyes of those who appreciatively accept the good news. But more than anything else, they are beautiful in Jehovah’s eyes. (Nahum 1:15; Isaiah 52:7) With the great day of Jehovah so close, be determined to continue doing what Joel foretold for our time: “Proclaim this, you people, among the nations, ‘Sanctify war! Arouse the powerful men!’” That means God’s war against the nations.—Joel 3:9.
a This prophecy may have had its first fulfillment during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the Maccabees expelled their enemies from Judah and rededicated the temple. This made it possible for a remnant of the Jews to welcome the Messiah when he appeared.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:15-22.
b The booklet Good News for People of All Nations, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been successfully used in helping people who do not speak the major language of your area.