Today, every inch of the earth’s surface is visible to satellites and viewable to Google Earth. But in ancient times, certain sections of the globe remained unexplored and unknown. To fill in these mysterious regions, medieval mapmakers drew fearsome creatures such as griffins, sea monsters, and dragons, warning would-be explorers to stay away, for “Here there be dragons!”
For many Christians, the Bible also contains unexplored, unknown regions, which are sometimes similarly associated with fearsome creatures such as winged leopards, horned beasts (Dan 7), and “the sea monster” Leviathan (Isa 27:1). Much of this mysterious land lies between Daniel and Matthew, in a section of Scripture known as the Minor Prophets.
The Minor Prophets are no less inspired than the Gospels. Therefore, they are profitable for all believers, including kids. When courageous explorers sailed into uncharted waters, they found astonishing wonders, which greatly enriched the world with knowledge. We want to help our kids sail through biblical waters so they can discover the astonishing wonders waiting to enrich them. Here are three reasons it’s worth braving these biblical waters together, rather than remaining in more familiar territory.
First, the Minor Prophets are inspired revelation to equip us. That’s why Paul wrote that “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17 NET). If we don’t know the Minor Prophets, then we are less equipped for good works. If we didn’t need what Jonah and Nahum shared through their writings, God would not have inspired them to write down their prophecies. But since he did, we know that we need these prophecies, and therefore we must study them and learn from them.
Second, the Minor Prophets contain God’s warnings to sober us. “‘Turn to me,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘and I will turn to you’” (Zech 1:3 NET). Sin separates us from God and provokes his judgments. Sin is the source of suffering and death. Yet our diabolical enemy, our fallen nature, and this wicked world tempt us to sin, deceiving us and our kids into thinking we can sin without consequences. Written in the context of divine judgment, the Minor Prophets provide a powerful antidote to deception. They compel us to repent of our sins, return to God, and live in obedience to his wise and good commands, that we might enjoy the life our heavenly Father intends for us.
Third, the Minor Prophets are divine instruction to encourage us. Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope (Rom 15:4). God preserved the Minor Prophets as essential parts of Scripture to encourage us to persevere and not lose hope. The prophets wrote these books during darkening days of impending judgment and daunting obedience; the writings are filled with divine instruction about what God is doing and why, and about what he intends to do someday to right wrongs, restore his people, and renew creation through his Messiah. The Minor Prophets bring us encouraging promises from an eternal perspective that provide hope during our own darkening, daunting days.
Guiding Young Explorers
As we invite our children into a relationship with God, we must model for them our love for Scripture and the habit of reading God’s Word and connecting it to every aspect of our lives. We find an example of parents navigating God’s Word with their children in a Jewish text from the intertestamental period. A mother addresses her seven sons about their deceased father, focusing on what he had read, taught, and sung at home: the Holy Scriptures. By citing various scriptural passages, the mother hopes to comfort her sons:
While he was still with you, he taught you the Law and the Prophets. He read to you about Abel slain by Cain and Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering and about Joseph in prison. He told you of the zeal of Phinehas, and he taught you about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the fire. He praised Daniel in the den of the lions and blessed him. He reminded you of the scripture of Isaiah, which says, “Even though you go through the fire, the flame shall not consume you.” He sang to you songs of the psalmist David, who said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” He recounted to you Solomon’s proverb, “There is a tree of life for those who do his will.” He confirmed the query of Ezekiel, “Shall these dry bones live?” For he did not forget to teach you the song that Moses taught, which says, “I kill, and I make alive; this is your life and the length of your days.” (4 Macc 18:10–19 NRSVUE)
Teach and comfort your children by highlighting God’s glorious purposes for all nations and peoples. Paint a picture of God’s plans for the future—for God intends his salvation to reach to the ends of the earth. Or, as Habakkuk 2:14 puts it, one day in the future, “recognition of the Lord’s sovereign majesty will fill the earth just as the waters fill up the sea.” Point your kids to Christ and the establishment of his forever kingdom through the New Covenant.
When studying the Minor Prophets together, remember to ask the basic questions—who, what, when, where, why. Highlight specific words and phrases. Show your children the contrasts and comparisons. Connect your reading with other parts of the Bible. Incorporate prayer. Emphasize community. Sail with your kids through the uncharted waters of the Minor Prophets, and be astonished and enriched by its wonders. Jesus modeled using “all the Prophets” to teach about himself (Luke 24:27). The early church did likewise (Act 10:43), as did Christian families in the first century (2 Tim 3:15). Will you?
About the Contributors
Brian J. Wright earned his ThM from DTS and a PhD from Ridley College (in Melbourne, Australia). He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus, The Rhythm of the Christian Life, and Inspired Questions. Brian is the senior pastor of Redeemer Community Church in Pensacola, FL, and also teaches part-time at various universities and seminaries. Brian and his wife, Daniella, have five children.
John R. Brown earned his ThM from DTS, and is the founding pastor of Denia Community Church in Denton, Texas. Previously he trained missionaries and taught international pastors.