They were an odd bunch of guys, by and large. We might call their behavior at times bizarre; their communications sometimes leave us scratching our heads. They came from varied backgrounds. Some of them moved in elite circles of high influence; others came from more common walks of life, like farming. Most of them were fiercely faithful to God though some struggled with obeying God’s call upon their lives. But they were all mightily used by God at strategic times in the history of His people.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Old Testament prophets of God. Not all of them left written Scripture behind; but those who did fill roughly one-third of the pages of our Old Testament. Their writings have been grouped in a broad category of Old Testament books simply called “The Prophets.” We cannot have any real grasp of God’s dealings with ancient Israel and the surrounding nations without some understanding of the messages of the Prophets.
Quotations of and references to the messages of the Prophets are peppered generously throughout the New Testament, particularly in the life and teachings of Jesus. So to fathom the message of the New Testament requires that we understand what God was saying in ancient times through the prophetic writings.
Sometimes the messages of the prophets took the form of “foretelling.” Often their prophecies had multiple fulfillments regarding the immediate circumstances, as well as the first and second comings of Messiah Jesus. More often, the prophet’s message was more in the line of “forth-telling.” That is, they delivered straight-forward, powerful messages of truth to God’s people in a variety of different situations.
Humanly speaking it was typically not a good sign when one of the prophets showed up. It generally meant that God was about to get in the face of His people through the rebukes and corrections of the prophets. Divinely speaking the appearance of a prophet on the scene was a statement of God’s redeeming love for His people. God’s messages through the Prophets were a sign that He was graciously and mercifully involved in the lives of His people.
On one occasion Jesus raised a dead man to life again. The Gospel account tells us that the people who witnessed this miracle were filled with awe and praise. They said, “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people,” (Luke 7:16). The arrival of a prophet was an encouragement to the people that God had come to their aid.
We live in an age of biblical illiteracy, sadly even among believers. I’m convinced that the average believer is vastly uninformed of the scope of God’s activity among His people through Old Testament events and personalities. As a result we have missed out on an opportunity to understand the character of God and the ways in which He deals with us.
In light of that I feel compelled to embark on one of the most challenging preaching experiences I have ever attempted … to preach a series of messages through the seventeen books of the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. My plan is to preach each week from a different prophet in the Bible. (I don’t recall ever preaching a message from Obadiah!)
In doing this my prayer is three-fold:
- That we will get a better grasp of the historical events that form the context of much of the Old Testament
- That we will grow from the examples of men of God who obeyed Him in difficult times and in the face of great opposition
- That we will see our glorious Savior Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of all the prophets wrote
I look forward to standing before God’s people this Sunday at Travis Avenue Baptist Church with God’s Word in my hand and His love in my heart.