Studies in the Prophets Who Still Speak to Today’s World
For many, prophet means fortune-teller. For the prophets of the Bible, this was only a part of their task. In fact, perhaps a better title would be truth-tellers.
Truth about the past, truth about the present and truth about what is yet to come. Truth anchored in the coming new kingdom that is to be ushered in by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Truth is all about the absolutes of a universe governed by The Creator and the way He leads us to live our lives. We discover His truths by observing His creation, learning from His Scriptures and living out His moral principles in our daily lives.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 (ESV)
This series began Sunday, April 24, 2022. Our objective is to challenge each other to read the books of the prophets and to hear their message to us, today, in the light of the cross (2 Peter 3:1-2, ESV).
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Today we conclude our study of the prophets of Israel and Judah with Malachi. Among the final Old Testament prophetic writers, Micah is addressing people who have been going through the motions but have lost their zeal for the Lord. The book answers a series of cynical questions for Malachi that the people have been contemplating and God addresses them one by one.
1) Where is any evidence that God really loves us?
3) How have we defiled the Lord?
4) How have we wearied the Lord?
5) What do you mean when you tell us to return to the Lord?
6) What do you mean when you say we have been robbing God?
7) What do you mean we have spoken against God?
Familiar strains to the Christian community almost 2000 years later. When the time is right God fulfilled his promise in Malachi to send His Messenger to prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus Christ!
The book of Zechariah contains more prophecies about the life and work of Jesus than any other of the minor prophets, combined. It is no wonder that there are so many references to this book in the New Testament Gospels and letters of John, Paul and Peter.
Written over 400 years before the time of Jesus, this book is a grand witness to Jesus, Who said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). This will be our focus this morning.
JESUS – DEAN WOLF
The Jews had heard the warnings of Jeremiah at the beginning of their 70-year exile to Babylon. They tolerated the preaching and visions of Ezekiel while they were there as Daniel served in the king’s court in Babylon. Eventually, the Persian Empire enveloped Babylon and was ruled by Cyrus who would give permission to the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
Years later, Ezra would come to Jerusalem to restore the priesthood, and its sacrifices and offerings. However, the forces working against the reconstruction of the temple and its sacrificial system were working in the background throughout the Jewish return to their homeland.
Soon afterwards, Haggai came to Jerusalem to encourage the residents to resume the rebuilding the temple. It was time to get to work.
God’s judgement of His people had begun with the first invasion of Jerusalem by Babylon. In the end Jerusalem would be completely destroyed. While the Jews were in exile God appears to Ezekiel to commission him to speak directly to His people: “Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern,” (Ezekiel 2:7, MSG) What a job description!
Coupled with his message, however, is his promise of a day when He will remove their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh that will yearn for God (Ezekiel 36:26). Welcome to God’s promises to His people realized through His Son, Jesus Christ!
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Complaining to God about the moral decay of God’s chosen people, Habakkuk has a debate with God that is timely for us today. His answer stands at the center point of the history of mankind, on a cross and in an empty tomb.
Paul tells us that this is “foolishness to those who are perishing,” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV). But, to those who put their faith and trust in Christ, who choose to obey Him as Lord of their lives, God’s answer becomes real even when the world around them is collapsing.
Trusting in God was Habakkuk’s conclusion, even though he was mystified by God’s methods. Even as he hears the hoofbeats of the invading Babylonian army and his legs become weak, he closes his book with these words: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19).
By every modern understanding of fame and success, Jeremiah was a miserable failure. Yet, he was faithful to his calling in the midst of a people who had lost their way. Meanwhile, God was preparing the Babylonian kingdom to completely destroy Jerusalem and carry off the Jews to Babylon for 70 years.
It is in the midst of total devastation that Jeremiah speaks about the New Covenant God will keep with His people.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
With Dean Wolf
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was gone. Assyria had conquered most of the Southern Kingdom of Judah until the angel of the Lord slayed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (see 2 Kings 19 and 2 Chronicles 32). This happened during the reign of Hezekiah.
Unfortunately, this had not stemmed the tide of idol worship until the time of Josiah, Hezekiah’s great grandson (2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35). While Josiah’s reforms had been significant, they were not enough to stay God’s hand of judgement. Zephaniah’s message announced both God’s judgement as well as God’s promise of hope during a very dark time in Judah as the ruthless Babylonians began to rise in power.
At this time in the history of the Jewish people they had forgotten or ignored God’s exclusive claim upon them (see Exodus 20:1-7). Now they saw God as one among many other deities necessitating the unleashing of their holy God’s judgement and wrath.
Zephaniah makes it clear that God is weighing all nations by His Own Divine Sovereignty. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He asked the question, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
With Dean Wolf
Time is up for the northern kingdom of Israel. Judgement Day is coming and there will be no turning back.
Living in a time of great prosperity and wealth, the nations of Israel and Judah had become arrogant, believing that their good fortune was because of who they were.
The problem was that they forgot that they were who they were because of God’s sovereign choice, not their genetic heritage. God being sovereign means just as He can choose to bless a nation, so also He can destroy a nation. Israel had come to a point of total devastation and Judah was not far behind. Hosea’s story makes God’s sorrow over His decision more human and real to us as it should have to the people then.
Is anybody listening?
While Amos is primarily focused upon God’s judgement upon both the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms of the Jews, God’s perspective is much broader. This is also addressed in Amos’s prophetic preaching and writings.
Whether or not a nation is made up of God’s chosen people, God discerns when a country arrives at a point of moral failure from which it cannot recover. Indeed, all of the nations of the middle-eastern region surrounding Israel and Judah have achieved moral bankruptcy and are on God’s chopping block. A repeating refrain, “Because of the three great sins of _____________ —make that four—….” Amos drives home the point that the time is up on God’s calendar. “Prepare to meet your God,” Amos says to Israel.
Joel details how God’s people had undergone a horrible plague of locusts that had devoured everything in sight. For most people this is a terrible event of starvation, death and destruction that leads everyone to wonder about the cause. Climatologists analyze the weather conditions. Entomologists analyze the life-cycles of the locust. Agriculturalists study the produce to discern any correlations between food crops and insect infestation. For the followers of God, however, they recognize such catastrophic events as opportunities for remembering our absolute and total dependence upon God for everything we are, all that we have and everything that we do.
Devastation is an opportunity to return to our God, to recognize our brokenness before Him and to realign our lives with His glory and grace. For all people everywhere, at all times it is always appropriate to repent. This was the message of John the Baptist. Jesus began His ministry proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). When the disciples announced the coming of the kingdom to the crowds of Pentecost, Peter answered the people’s question, “What are we to do?” saying “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” in Acts 2:38.
Worried about the events that are transpiring in our world today? There is one thing that all can do anytime, anywhere: repent!
God’s plans will not be detoured, changed or canceled by man. Knowing of the open hearts of the Ninevites in Assyria, God commissioned Jonah to preach about the need to repent and turn to God before it is too late.
Is anybody listening?
Obadiah was among the earliest of the writing prophets and his book is the smallest of the Old Testament. The descendants of Esau were known as the Edomites and their history with the descendants of his brother, Jacob, were never good. For example, see Numbers 20:14-21.
Years later, Obadiah has one message for Edom: “You thought you were so great, perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain, thinking to yourself, ‘Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!’ Think again. Even if, like an eagle, you hang out on a high cliff-face, even if you build your nest in the stars, I’ll bring you down to earth.” God’s sure Word.” (Obadiah 2-4, MSG).
For those who think they are invincible, rejoicing at the calamity of others, God promises Edom and the nations at large, ““The day is near when I, the Lord, will judge all godless nations!” (Obadiah 15, MSG).
Justice is coming, Jesus promised (Luke 18:7-8). These words of warning are good for all who take comfort in their ‘secure’ place in the world. Our security is not in this world’s kingdoms. Our security is in God and His purposes!
The book of Isaiah stretches over the longest period of time in the prophets. The first half of Isaiah (chapters 1-39) address both Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) punctuated in the middle by the Exile. The Exile was the time when Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah’s captives were taken to Babylon for 70 years before their return.
The second half of Isaiah (chapters 40-66) picks up the story of Judah after the Exile and points to the time of Jesus to the end of time. Our focus will be on the moral and ethical teaching Isaiah gave to Israel and Judah in order to make application of his teachings to us, today. Our primary focus will be on a grand summary of God’s message in Isaiah 58-59 using the Message translation.
Speaking for God to a world that had lost its way, the prophets have striven to convict people of their need to return to the light of God’s love before it is too late. The prophets would convict people of their sin and call them to repentance.
At the same time they would shine a light of hope upon a new age through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Frequently, Jesus and His apostles would refer to the writings of Moses, the Law and the prophets to explain the advent of the Kingdom of God. A common theme to which God has always called His people to is to be a light to the people around them (Isaiah 42:6). Today, we call His command, The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).