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November Lectionary Background

The seasonal canticle for November is Moses' and the children of Israel's song sung to the Lord after their deliverance from Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea. (Handel, incidentally, has set this to some beautiful music!) As we read or sing it, we think of our deliverance from sin for Christ's sake in the waters of Holy Baptism.

November's readings begin by finishing off Hosea, the first of the "Book of the Twelve" or "minor prophets". Then, we move on to other prophets in their Old Testament (but not chronological) order. Unfortunately, space does not permit more than a cursory comment about each here.

Joel's prophecy, most likely to Judah, centers on the theme that "restoration and blessing will come only after judgment and repentance" and provides the text for St. Peter's Pentecost sermon about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (2:28-29, 32).

In his work primarily in Israel, Amos proclaims a great deal about God's judgment, but he finishes his book with the beautiful promise of the Messiah and His Kingdom.

Though we are not sure exactly when Obadiah prophesied, his book tells of the ongoing conflict between the descendants of Esau (Edom), to whom he prophesied, and Jacob (Israel and Judah), but he also ends with the promise of deliverance.

In Jonah, God makes especially clear that His grace is meant for all people. Jonah was a reluctant preacher of repentance, but his three days in the belly of the great fish gives us a type of Jesus' death, three-day burial, and resurrection-a type to which Jesus Himself points (Matthew 12:39-41).

A contemporary of Isaiah, Micah preaches about the destruction of Israel and Judah, but he also provides one of the more famous Messianic prophecies: that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (5:2; Matthew 2:5-6).

Nahum tells of Israel and Judah's destruction at the hand of the Assyrians, but he also tells that the Assyrians in turn will be destroyed.

Habakkuk's last chapter is especially well known, for it contains an often-cited clear expression of the principle of salvation by faith (2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

Zephaniah prophesies words that Jesus uses to refer to his second coming (1:15; Mt 24:29). As the church year winds down in November, you will also note an emphasis on Jesus' return in glory.

Haggai was one of the first prophets given to the people of Judah after they returned from exile in Babylon, and Haggai encouraged the people to rebuild the temple.

The book of Zechariah, a co-worker of Haggai, has many prophecies Jesus fulfilled, especially with the events of Holy Week. For example, see Zechariah 9:9 and John 12:15.

Malachi is generally regarded as the last prophet before John the Baptizer and provides words John uses. Back from exile, the people of Judah again fell into sin, and Malachi condemns several specific sins.

From November 17th to the end of the month we read the Gospel according to St. Matthew. This reading is fitting after all those Old Testament prophets, for Matthew's account more than any other emphasizes Jesus' fulfilling the Old Testament promises of the Savior of the world. Matthew well records Jesus' teaching about the end of all things, fitting for this time of year.


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