by Jeffrey Hagan
(Tacoma, WA)

Lesson 1: Micah - Listen to those you disagree with.

Micah 2:11, "If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, 'I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,' he would be the preacher for this people!"

This lesson may appear to be the opposite of how this passage reads, but allow me to explain.

There is a possible danger we can face without realizing it. We tend to only accept ideas that support our existing views, that fit within our chosen narrative. This is fine, if our views are perfectly aligned with God’s, but since that’s not always the case, we need to be careful. In Micah 2:11 it states “If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!" This passage shows how the people would have been thrilled to have a person claiming to be lead by God declare things that are in alignment with their sinful desires are okay.

While it may not be to the same extent, believers may find themselves with a similar attitude. When you only listen to those you agree with, you risk keeping the wrong ideas about certain things. Those wrong ideas will keep you where you are causing you to miss out. 

Some may say it’s important to protect one’s self from being led astray by wrong information. That’s absolutely true, but unless you can confirm that the source is not trustworthy, it only means that you are resistant to new ideas. Just like you had to be open to receive Christ, we should be open to other realities and truths even if they make you uncomfortable. But of course we test all things with Scripture.

Lesson 2: Nahum - God brings peace to his people.

Nahum 1:15, "Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off."

The enemies of God do not, and will not, prevail. Perhaps in some of the battles along the way it does feel like enemies prevail, but we know that God wins the war. Perfect peace will come when our ultimate enemy is destroyed. However, even in the midst of trouble we can count on God's promise and experience the peace and confidence that comes because of his faithfulness.

Lesson 3: Zephaniah - Pride brings destruction.

Zephaniah 3:11b-12, "...for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord."

God desires humility. When we compare ourselves to him humility is the only thing that makes sense. The fact that he makes a way for us to be saved and have relationship with him should be overwhelming. We need to always remind ourselves that God is God and we are not. He alone knows what's best, right and true and we are more than foolish to rebel against that.

Lesson 4: Habakkuk - Be honest with God, he can handle it.

Habakkuk 1:2-4, "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted."

What Habakkuk does in this conversation with God is instructive for us. When he is feeling confused, hurt, perhaps even angry about what is happening around him or to him, he doesn’t let those feelings bottle up inside. He doesn’t, at least to our knowledge, complain to other people or try and win the pity of others. He takes his confusion and hurt and anger directly to God. He’s not afraid to be painfully honest with God. This is something you often see when the Bible talks about suffering.

We can be honest with God about what we’re thinking and feeling, and actually, it’s the healthiest way to handle those thoughts and feelings. God already knows that we're thinking and feeling, so why not just talk to him about it. Honesty with God about where we’re at can deepen our relationship with him and can be a vital first step to being able to stand firm in the face of confusion or suffering.

Lesson 5: Haggai - Have your priorities straight.

Haggai 1:4-8, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes."

God promised he would take care of them if they put him first. Jesus reminded his disciples of this in Matthew 6:33. When we put God first in our lives he will take care of our needs. Notice it's "needs" not "wants." There can be a big difference. And he meets our needs in various ways.

One way he does so is by giving us wisdom to better manage our resources. When we fail to put God first we often feel what Haggai describes in this passage.

Lesson 6: Zechariah - God is faithful.

Zechariah 1:3, "Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts."

People give up on a lot of things. They give up on marriages, relationships, dreams, resolutions, goals, work, and sometimes even our faith (at least temporarily), but God never gives up on us. He is ready to bless us again with his presence when we repent and seek him.

Lesson 7: Malachi - God answers even our foolish questions.

Malachi 1:2-3a, "I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau  Jacob's brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated."

Malachi is written as a conversation between God and man. And in those conversations, one of the strange things that reoccur is when God makes a straightforward statement and it's followed by man’s counter-argument in question form, most of the time God answers.

Malachi’s opening lines express God’s love towards Israel. Strangely, the question asked of God is, "How have you loved us?" (1:12) These people were first hand witnesses of God’s mighty hand at work, guiding, rescuing, protecting, and watching out for them. Yet, they questioned God’s love toward them.

Later in chapter 1 when God says that they have despised His name and offered polluted (defiled) food, they respond saying, "How have we despised your name?...How have we polluted defiled You?" (1:6-7)

You would think that these people would have learned by now not to ask snide questions to God after he declares something. There are four more questions, similar to those above, found in the rest of Malachi, which are vague rhetorical questions, reflecting the people’s oblivious nature. They didn’t honor or comprehend what God had done for them, nor had they looked at their own lives and reflected on God’s accusations.

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