THE NEXT TO LAST WORD: SERVICE, HOPE, AND REVIVAL IN THE POSTEXILIC PROPHETS, by Michael Barrett

Published on August 31, 2015 by Todd Scacewater

Reformation Heritage Books, 2015 | 264 pages

It’s safe to say that Christians are not generally very familiar with the “Minor Prophets” of the Old Testament. It’s also fairly safe to guess that of the Minor Prophets the “Postexilic Prophets” are less familiar still. Can you even name them? The ministries of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi took place in that period of Israel’s history following the exile. “The tragedy is that certain portions or even whole books of many of those personal copies could be excised surreptitiously, and many Christians would not miss them” (p.2).

It’s also safe to say that the shelves of Christian bookstores are not overflowing with layman-accessible commentaries on these Old Testament prophecies. Michael Barrett writes to help fill that void – he writes not so much for the student in the seminary as for the average Christian in the pew. He suggests, by the way, that we might better refer to these as the “Shorter Prophets,” lest “Minor Prophets” leave a mistaken impression regarding their stature or significance. And his clever title (The Next-to-Last Word) reflects the fact that these prophets were the last before those 400 “silent years” when no word from God was given to Israel until the arrival of Jesus Christ, God’s “final word” (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 1:1). He writes “to consider the message and theology of these postexilic prophets and their particular contributions and advancements of God’s redemptive message.”
 

Overview

Part One (chapters 1-2) addresses “just the facts” – a survey of this period of history and of the nature and function of the prophetic office in Israel and of these three prophets in particular. Parts Two through Four examine, in turn, the message of each of these three postexilic prophets. As Barrett summarizes,

Although Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were equally inspired by the Holy Spirit and shared the same agenda to set things in order for the coming of the Christ in the fullness of time, they were unique personalities with unique approaches. Haggai was a realist whose message was short, to the point, and at times not so sweet. Zechariah was an idealist whose encouraging message focused on the Lord’s ultimate and climactic triumph over all wickedness and over every agency hostile to His purpose and kingdom. Malachi was a logician whose message relentlessly, irrefutably, and precisely identified the hindrances to spiritual life and revival, the obstacles to divine blessing (pp.6-7).
 

Table of Contents

PART 1:  Just the Facts

1.  Facts about Their Job
2.  Facts about Their Times

PART 2:  Haggai: The Realist

3.  Facts about Haggai
4.  It’s Not about You
5.  Appearance Is Not Reality
6.  Blessing Starts Now
7.  The Best Is Yet to Be

PART 3:  Zechariah: The Idealist

8.  Facts about Zechariah
9.  The Foundation of Hope
10.  The Focus of Hope: The Prophet
11.  The Focus of Hope: The Priest
12.  The Focus of Hope: The King
13.  The Fulfillment of Hope: Generally Speaking
14.  The Fulfillment of Hope: Figuratively Speaking

PART 4:  Malachi: The Logician

15.  Facts about Malachi
16.  The Autopsy of Dead Religion
17.  The Answer to Dead Religion
18.  The Antithesis to Dead Religion
 

About the Author

Michael P. V. Barrett is vice president for academic affairs and professor of Old Testament at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids.
 

Endorsement from Dale Ralph Davis

A book like this could be so sketchy that it’s not useful or so exhaustive that one is simply awash in a muddle of detail. But in length and depth Dr. Barrett’s treatment of these three neglected prophets is like Baby Bear’s porridge just right. He nicely balances the what (explanation) and the so what (application), and, while anchoring us in the historical context, he insistently and unabashedly keeps our eyes fixed on the Christ-centered hope they proclaimed. –Dale Ralph Davis, minister in residence, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

Buy the books

The Next-to-last Word: Service, Hope, And Revival In The Postexilic Prophets

Reformation Heritage Books, 2015 | 264 pages