God and the Kingdoms
Today we read the last of the major prophets (Daniel) and the first three minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, and Amos). Each book has its own unique emphases but all depict God as sovereign over earth’s kingdoms—whether those kingdoms acknowledge Him or not.
Daniel—The Most High reigns over the kingdoms of men
Daniel was written long after Hosea, Joel, and Amos, and foretells events hundreds of years beyond Daniel’s lifetime. Two key words in Daniel are kingdom, which occurs far more in Daniel than in any other book of the Old Testament, and Most High God, Daniel’s signature designation for God. These two key words work together to lift up the Most High as King over all earth’s kingdoms. Even mighty Nebuchadnezzar had to confess he was no match for the Most High: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (4:35, NKJ).
In fact, the Most High will bring an end to the kingdoms of men and establish His kingdom—what some have called the Fifth Kingdom—and turn over the dominion of it to one “like a son of man” (7:13). This does not mean that all is easy for the followers of the Most High during the kingdoms of men. We sometimes read the stories in the first half of the book (chs. 1-6), like the fiery furnace and the lions’ den, and forget that in the latter half of Daniel not all those who stood for God were delivered (7:21; esp. 11:33). Their deliverance, and ours, lies ahead in the Fifth Kingdom.
Hosea—God’s love for Israel’s kingdoms spurned but constant
Hosea dates to the divided monarchy of Judah and Israel. Hosea’s message indicts both kingdoms for their practical rejection of God’s love. By embracing a lifestyle contrary to God’s law and worshiping idols, they have forgotten the God whose love brought them into existence. Yahweh is the one who trained Ephraim to walk (11:3)! In Hosea, God’s heart is broken by His people’s unfaithfulness (see 11:8)—much as Hosea’s heart must have been by His promiscuous spouse. Using vivid imagery and metaphor throughout, Hosea graphically portrays Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithfulness. For example, God’s faithfulness to Israel includes discipline, so Hosea pictures a God who tears like a lion but whose commitment to restoring the relationship is as sure as the rising of the sun at dawn and the rain showers in the spring (5:14-6:3). God’s love will ultimately win the day and secure the heart of His people, convincing them that He alone is their help (13:9) and their fruitfulness (14:8).
Joel—Time for the Kingdom of Judah to seek the Lord!
Repeated references in the book of Joel to the house of Yahweh suggest that it is addressing the Kingdom of Judah. A key concept in Joel is the Day of the Lord. A locust plague (1:2-4) serves as a harbinger of that future, fearful Day and as a good opportunity to consider seriously one’s status before the Lord. (Epidemics, plagues, famines, wars, and natural disasters should all remind us that now is the time to learn repentance!) Joel, in fact, contains one of the most beautiful descriptions of repentance in the entire Old Testament (2:12-14). God’s people responded to Joel’s preaching of repentance and, oh, what blessings God poured out and will pour out still on His people (2:18-3:21)! Like church discipline in the New Testament, God disciplines not in order to destroy but so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5).
Amos—A prosperous kingdom is not necessarily a God-blessed one
Amos is a farmer from Judah sent by God to excoriate the sins of Israel, Judah’s neighbor to the north. Other than its closing verses (9:11-15), the book of Amos contains virtually no words of cheer. God commissions Amos to preach in Israel during a time of material prosperity and national expansion. But such outward affluence sometimes hides the real character of the times. Amos is God’s hand to pull back the veil on Israel’s sins. He focuses on Israel’s mistreatment of others but also addresses Israel’s idolatry, especially the shrines where golden calf worship and similar syncretistic worship took place (4:4-5). Israel seemed blissfully ignorant that the famine, drought, blight, mildew, and plagues that she had been experiencing are God’s attempt to get her attention (4:6-10). Instead, Israel seems to have assumed that the act of bringing sacrifice was enough to appease the “Man Upstairs,” regardless of one’s other actions. But God sees to the heart of such phony religious motions. The coming day of judgment was for them, not for someone else! They should prepare to meet their God (4:12)!
In the end, though, God does have a plan to repair the fallen kingdom of David (9:11-12). Not one of God’s true “pebbles” will be lost, but every sinner will be flushed out and destroyed (9:9-10). God’s judgment is exact, impartial, fair, and infallible. Amos’ advice for his neighbors to the North is good advice for everyone: Seek the Lord and live (5:4).
Do you really think you will live if you disobey the One who made the Pleiades and Orion, turns darkness into dawn, and pours out the waters onto the face of the earth? His name is Yahweh (5:8; also 4:13)!
Review & Application:
About the Author
Timothy W. Berrey is the author of Planning Your Life God's Way and From Eden to Patmos: An Overview of Biblical History. He is the director of Graduate Studies at Bob Jones Memorial Bible College in Metro Manila, where he has lived with his wife Laura and six children since 2005.