“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” Heb. 1:1 (NIV)
It’s not unusual for companies to employ individuals to interface with the public to share information about their company and its activities. Countries appoint ambassadors to communicate their foreign policies and opinions with regard to world events. In this nation, it is the presidential press secretary who frequently convenes press conferences with the media to communicate key messages from the White House. Such positions, though not unusual, pale in comparison with a special groups of individuals called by God to speak His Word. As we continue our teaching series, “When God Speaks”, we focus that unique group, the Old Testament prophets.
The Nation. The people of Israel had become a nation. They had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and given the Law to guide their activities as God’s chosen people (Deut. 7:7-9). God fully expected them to be committed to a life of obedience to those laws and to honor the “call” He had made on their life. Unfortunately Israel constantly fell down in their calling. God’s Law no longer proved effective in shaping Israel and the society in which they lived.
Also Read: “Why Did God Choose Israel as His Chosen People?”
The Need. The people’s slackness had grown into forgetfulness (Deut. 8:11-14). Sometimes the fault was a result of the wrong priorities. Other times, the people had allowed themselves to be pulled into the culture and worldview of their times, resulting in idolatry and sinful practices. Even the nation’s religion was corrupted into “non-moral ritualism”—“having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).
The Notice. The prophets were men raised up by God to put Israel on notice—they were to return to God or suffer the consequences. In examination of both the Major and Minor Prophets, God’s message remained consistent and sure: The Lord is Ruler of all history and He calls all to repentance. The prophets’ pronouncements always included a blend of judgement and hope, reflecting God’s heart and His desire that all would come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). If Israel repented and returned, God would extend mercy and receive them to Himself once again.
The prophets did not share in their writings much about how they received their instructions from God. We simply read: “Thus says the Lord” or “the Word of the Lord came” (Jer.47:1; Ezek. 17:1; Zech. 8:1). Came translates the Hebrew verb “to be” meaning “the word of the Lord became a living, present reality.” In examining the historical books of the Old Testament and other writings from ancient historians, i.e., Josephus, Philo, it is clear that, when God spoke, things happened.
So how does God speaking through the Old Testament prophets relate to us living in the 21st century? My first observation is that for both believers and unbelievers, the view of our current world strongly resembles that expressed in “The Need.” For believers, God still expects those He has chosen (Ep. 1:4-5) to follow His Word. It is God’s moral instruction for living; for by it we are both warned and blessed (Ps. 19:11). Old Testament prophecy provides for believer’s “blessed assurance” that God is still sovereign ruler of all history, including the 21st century. For the unbeliever, the words of the prophets offer an opportunity for restoration with the God who sees and knows all—in time and in eternity. For the unbeliever, it’s time to “come and see” Jesus (John 4:29) and accept His offer of salvation. When God spoke through the prophets, His Word did not return “void” but accomplished all that it was sent to do (Is. 55:11). Even today it is still critical to listen as God speaks through His prophets.
SELAH: The Old Testament prophets spoke of the salvation we have received. Read 1 Peter 1:10-12.