How should we approach preaching the Minor Prophets? Should we move through the text chronologically, thematically, book by book, several books per sermon? A friend of mine posed these questions to me, and I thought I’d put my replies here in case they might help others as well.
The Chronological approach would be difficult to nail down, I think, because we don’t have kings listed at the beginning of each one establishing when the prophet ministered – so we’re not exactly sure when Jonah or Joel or Obadiah prophesied.
So without a statement from the author, the chronological approach moves us into historical considerations, and since the author doesn’t make clear historical statements, we’re inching away from authorial intent.
I prefer to stay with authorial intent, and we can say that the author intended to present what he actually said (and in these cases he didn’t say anything about dates or chronology . . .).
So for me the two preferable options would be either to (1) follow the author’s own structure in seeking the structures for your sermons–so you base the sermon or series on the structure of the books themselves (the sections in GGSTJ on these books give my attempt at their structure), or (2) choose a set of themes that you want to teach through–see for example the chart on p. 232 in GGSTJ.
If you look at GGSTJ 229–34, you’ll see that I think the 12 have been arranged to comprise one “book” that communicates a unified message. On p. 234 I summarize Paul House’s description of that message.
If you wanted to do three sermons that covered the whole 12 prophets, my recommendation would be do follow the three bullet points I give on p. 234 that come right out of a book Paul House wrote – he’s footnoted on that page.