I can say that as long as I have been a Christian I have heard very little preaching on the Minor Prophets. This is probably true for you as well. You might have heard a sermon on tithing from Malachai, or if your pastor wanted to start a building campaign to get a new “fellowship hall”, you might have heard the message of Haggai calling the people to work on God’s house. Other than that, pastors rarely preach from these prophetic books. Why is this? I will attempt to explain.
First, many pastors never spend time in these books. It is true than many pastors rarely spend time in the Old Testament at all, but I believe the Minor Prophets are probably the last to get their pages turned. How many times have you heard your pastor talking about his devotional reading in the book of Zephaniah? (This assumes that your pastor is being faithful to spend time in God’s Word and share that with others.) Yes, maybe a pastor has read through the entire bible, but has he really invested time digesting the content of the Minor Prophets? I believe there is a reason that pastors don’t spend private time to study the Prophets, but that is in itself the next point.
Second, the message of the Minor Prophets appears discouraging. Many pastors and preachers have a preconceived notion that the Prophets are all about “doom and gloom.” This is partially true. Most of the messages presented by the Minor Prophets seem dark at times, even depressing. There is a reason for this. The Prophets were assigned with the wonderful job of proclaiming God’s disapproval of sin and the judgment that would follow if the people failed to repent. It is difficult for pastors, who already face an onslaught of discouragement in ministry, to give their undivided attention to messages of divine rebuke. Oh, but how encouraging! If pastors would just see God’s grace and love in his rebuke; that he loves his people too much to allow them to continue in rebellion. Also, pastors must remember that with the Prophets there is always a message of restoration.
Third, pastors fail to see the messages of hope in the Minor Prophets. In spite of the promises of destruction that you see in the Prophets, there is always a passage that predicts a future restoration. This usually refers to God pulling together his “remnant.” Pastors often assume that the message of the Prophets is merely negative; such thinking keeps them from preaching and teaching from these books. Not preaching from the Prophets only means that the church misses out on some very important messages from God. People can’t appreciate God’s grace and forgiveness unless they first understand the nature of their sin and what God thinks of it. That is the beautiful balance found in the Minor Prophets.
Finally, pastors do not preach from the Minor Prophets because that would mean they would have to preach about sin. I know what you are thinking: “My pastor preaches about sin all the time.” I understand that most pastors preach about sin as it concerns the sinner in need of salvation, and most will preach in a general sense about sin when preaching texts on sanctification. What I refer to is preaching about sin as it is preached about in the Minor Prophets. The Prophets denounced the sin of God’s people (and at times other nations who did not worship God). The Prophets present us a picture of God’s people, the very ones he has chosen, forsaking him and turning to other gods. The Prophets proclaim that God’s people must turn from their ways or experience God’s fierce wrath. The Prophets are preaching to God’s people. Many pastors are uncomfortable with such talk, as if God’s people, or the church, could never really get that sinful. The Minor Prophets force us to look inwardly and at the reality of our own sin. They cause us to see the devastating effect sin has upon our lives, especially our relationship with the Lord.
Do we not, as God’s church, as God’s people, need to hear such messages? We need the messages of the Minor Prophets to be proclaimed in our churches. Churches need to be reminded of sin and its consequences, and that at any moment God’s people could be drifting away from him. Churches need to hear that God has a plan of restoration and that he is building a faithful remnant.