The Old Testament priests were the people’s representatives to God. The prophets were God’s representatives to the people. In the Old Testament there are sixteen writing prophets, and their writings are some of the most neglected Scriptures. These men were uncompromising in conviction and zealous for the things of God. They insisted that God was at the sovereign center and that He must be dealt with as He revealed Himself to be, not as He was imagined to be. With them there was no division between the secular and the sacred; everything took place on sacred ground. What follows are some basic thoughts on reading these Prophets, a vast mountain range of God’s revelation.
- The books of the Prophets are unfamiliar territory to most believers. It must be understood that studying them will require exploration, without any thought of domestication.
- You will need a basic understanding of the context and the chronology of the people of God from the time of the United Kingdom of Israel through the post Babylonian exile and the Intertestamental period. The golden age of Israel (the United Kingdom) came to a close and there was division; in the north, ten tribes were called Israel and their capital was Samaria. They eventually went into captivity to the Assyrians in 722BC. They were assimilated into various cultures and emerged in the New Testament as Samaritans. In the south, two tribes were referred to as Judah, and their capital was Jerusalem. The emphasis of the prophets’ writings revolves around this group of people. They went into captivity to the Babylonians in 586BC for 70 years.
- The writings of the prophets included both the telling-forth of God’s truth as well as the foretelling of God’s future plans and purposes for, not only the Jews, but for all nations. Their messages were directed to their contemporaries, to the near future, and to the distant future. Some of what was future to them is now history to us. There were times when the prophet was so sure of the future that he wrote about it as already accomplished. The context will make this obvious.
- The prophets wrote about both advents of the Messiah, which included His suffering then reigning. They were unable to comprehend all that they were writing about, but they realized that they were writing to future generations ( I Peter 1:10-12).
- As you commit to reading the Prophets over a lifetime and in context with the entirely of Scripture, you will discover their rhythm and their coherence.
Next time…reading the Gospels.