This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
About God, Ourselves, and Life
Though many of us may be familiar with the general storyline of Jonah, or at least familiar with the surviving-being-swallowed-by-a-whale thing from Disney’s Pinocchio, much fewer of us are familiar with Micah and Nahum. Perhaps we’ve read them in a read-through-the-Bible plan or heard some reference to the “Jesus will be born in Bethlehem” prophecy, but beyond these cursory glances, why bother with these three books? What purpose do they serve in the life of a follower of Jesus?
Like all of Scripture, each book of the Bible has been given by God to help us learn how to live and love like Jesus. Each book of the Bible has something unique to teach us about God, about ourselves, and about the meaning of life.
In the books of Jonah, Micah, and Nahum, we learn more about our God. We see him as Creator and ruler of the created world. For example, in Jonah he “hurls” a great wind upon the sea (Jonah 1:4); he “appoints” a fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17) and later “speaks” to the same fish (Jonah 2:10); he also “appoints” a plant, and a worm, and a scorching east wind (Jonah 4:6, 7, 8). In Micah, we see creation itself cower before the Sovereign Ruler of the universe (Micah 1:2–4), and Nahum begins with an awe-inspiring depiction of God’s might and power in the midst of his creation (Nahum 1:2–5).
This power of God reveals him as a warrior, a God who defeats his enemies and rescues his people. He stands as a stronghold and refuge in which his people find shelter and safety (Nahum 1:7). His wrath is a fire, and he wields his sword to cut down his enemies (Nahum 2:13); no army can stand against him. He protects the weak and heals them (Micah 4:6-7). And his power extends even over death itself (Jonah 2:1–9).
Incredibly, God directs his power to bring peace to his people. Micah tells us of the coming Shepherd-King who will gather God’s people together; he will rule and lead them (Micah 2:12-13). Through this Shepherd-King, God will bring his people true, lasting peace. This peace will be so permanent, that we will no longer need the weapons of war: swords and spears will be turned into plows and pruning hooks; guns and tanks will be converted into combines and mowers (Micah 4:1–5). On that day, God and his people will live in perfect relationship with God himself as our peace (Micah 5:5).
But these three books don’t just teach us about God, they also show us ourselves and the state of humanity. Tribalism and ethnocentrism lead to contempt of others made in God’s own image. Greed, pride, and jealousy result in oppression and theft. Even spiritual leaders fall victim to the love of money and distort the word of God in order to profit from it.
Graphically, Nahum depicts the sin of Nineveh as a prostitute exposed in her nakedness and covered with filth. The nations look on and taunt her. Is our sin against God really so heinous? When our deeds are revealed at the end of time and even the hidden purposes of our hearts are exposed (1 Cor. 4:5), is this really how God sees sin?
Only when we grasp the full weight and hideousness of our sin will we be able to see the glory and incredulity of our salvation. Only when we see how evil and distorted our hearts really are can we begin to see the incredible love of God for us that rescued us from such darkness. Only when we feel the true weight of our hopeless estate can we begin to love God with all that we are and all that we have.
Only when we grasp the full weight and hideousness of our sin will we be able to see the glory and incredulity of our salvation.
The Meaning of Life
Then, when we have seen ourselves as we really are outside of the saving work of Jesus Christ, and when we have been rescued by the Shepherd-King who gathers us to himself and rules over us in perfect peace, only then do we discover why we are here. We begin to see God’s plan to fix this world and make it right again, to heal the earth through the good news of Jesus Christ. We begin to see God’s own desire to gather the nations to himself, to gather together a single, unified people from every tongue, tribe, nation, and language. We begin to see God’s heart for the outsider, for the downtrodden, for the weak and oppressed.
When we see the hopeless state from which we have been rescued by the incredible love of God to us through Jesus Christ, we then begin to see others as he sees them. We begin to love as we have been loved. We begin to live and love like Jesus.
Kristofer D. Holroyd is the author of Jonah, Micah, and Nahum: A 12-Week Study.