by Michael P.V. Barrett
Kindle Edition, 264 pg.
Reformation Heritage Books, 2015
Read: January 3 – 10, 2016
It’s no secret that the Minor Prophets are probably about the least-read and least-understood portion of Scripture today. After describing the problem, Barrett describes his project: help the contemporary reader understand what these particular Minor Prophets are saying and to see how that it’s a modern message as well as an eternal one.
He describes why he’s focusing on the these three prophets:
That God did not speak to another prophet for hundreds of years underscores the importance of what He said through these three. Last words are always important. Malachi prophesied that God would send His messenger to prepare the way of the coming Christ (3:1), and all we have to do is turn the page to the New Testament, in Matthew 3, to find that messenger, John, in the process of preparing the way. The Old Testament was not the last word after all, but its last prophetic messages contribute significantly to our understanding of what God has spoken in these last days by His Son (Heb. 1:2). The next-to-last word—written and spoken by these postexilic prophets—sets the stage for hearing God’s final, ideal, and incomparable Word.
Part 1 describes the Office of a Prophet, and refreshes (hopefully) the reader’s understanding of what’s going on in the land of Judah and with those who were exiled.
Having oriented the reader, he devotes then turns to Haggai, Zecharaiah, and Malachi in turn. He gives each Prophet their due — spending more time with Zecharaiah, as he’s the longest; Haggai gets the least. He doesn’t approach each book the same way — which originally annoyed me, because I liked his approach with Haggai and wanted the same for Zecharaiah. I got over it, because the books being as different as they are, the readers needs to treat them a little differently. Also, if he’d treated each of them the same way, my eyes definitely would’ve glossed over by the time we got to Malachi.
As a quick aside, I appreciated his showing the divinity of the Messiah from Zecharaiah — if I’d read/been shown that beore, I’ve forgotten it.
It’s important to remember that he’s not trying to write a commentary, but rather that he’s trying to provide a framework for the reader to go off and study things on their own. To that end, his suggestions and tips aren’t just helpful to see how to read these prophets, but also for reading prophets in general, the Old Testament, and even the Scriptures as a whole. He’s also very helpful reminding us by example and precept to apply these writings to ourselves.
Barrett is really good at applying each Prophet to contemporary readers. While I’m not typically a fan of questions for discussion/reflection at the end of chapters, Barrett’s seem better than many — as good as you could hope for.
Especially given his topic and the reflex to see it these books as unapproachable, his style is very helpful — he writes with a light tough, not going for laughs, but he keeps it loose while maintaining a respect for Scriptures. Even his word choices — “avers” where most would say “states,” “forlorn” where others would settle for “saddened.” It’s nothing major, it just makes the reading experience more pleasane.
Accessible, approachable, helpful, orthodox, succinct — The Next to Last Word will be a trustworthy aid to understanding this important part of the Older Testament.